Gear Impressions and Luthier Spotlight With Jake Wolf: Wood & Tronics Chronos 5 String Bass

Review by Jake Wolf
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Body wood: Alder
Top wood: Indian Apple
Neck type: Neck through
Neck materials: Maple/Ash/Maple
Fingerboard: Macassar Ebony
Scale length: 35”
Nut material: Brass
Truss rod access: Headstock
Pickups: Christolf Dolf dual coils
Preamp: W&T custom spec’d John East U Retro
Hardware: ETS bridge, Hipshot tuners

If you’re as shameless of a gear hound as I am, you’re are always keeping an eye peeled and an ear to the ground for what’s new and special in the little microcosm of cyberspace reserved for boutique custom basses. One day as I was perusing the web (on just such a venture), I happened upon the Wood & Tronics website, where I was immediately taken aback by photos of their beautifully sculpted and original looking exotic basses. After some correspondence with W&T’s Enrico Pasini, this Chronos 5 landed in my lap for review. Enrico admits that his designs were inspired by Fodera basses, for which he has been a distributor in Italy since 1998. Ever since the beginning, Pasini says, his dream has been to build his own basses, and in 2004 with the help of friend and luthier Erik Furlan, Enrico launched W&T basses.

The teams’ impeccable woodworking skills are apparent all over this bass. Each edge and curve is uniformly flawless, every seam and joint perfectly sculpted. This particular Chronos features a lightweight alder body with an understated and classy Indian Apple top, which compliments the overall elegant vibe of the bass quite nicely. A maple and ash neck-through design flawlessly melts into the body with exceptional cutaway clearance for upper register access. The thick Macassar Ebony fingerboard with outstanding fretwork makes for a lovely playing experience. Even with crazy low action, there was little to no string buzz present anywhere on the fingerboard. Likewise, the brass nut was expertly set up. A light satin polyurethane finish protects the wood but feels natural and organic. Looking at the rear of the bass, I loved the magnet system that uses no screws to hold the control cavity cover in place, but I thought it could have been executed more cleanly. Small gaps and inconsistencies at the meeting of the control cavity and the body were apparent. It had no effect on the basses tone, playability or electronic function, and it’s not exactly a big deal, but considering the flawless woodwork everywhere else, it stood out a little bit.

Electronics wise, this bass features some components that many of us bass geeks will be unfamiliar with. The dual coil pickups were made for W&T by Christolf Dolf (www.bassculture.de) and are paired with a John East preamp that was modified from its original design to fit W&T’s specifications. When asked what sets it apart from a stock East preamp, Pasini responded “It’s less restricting in terms of frequency selection, has a broader range, and is more transparent.” The ETS bridge is a fabulous design: it has a very clean look, adjusts wonderfully, and is a nice alternative to the standard high end Hipshot or ABM fare. I was surprised to not see straplocks of any kind on the bass; in my opinion, the delicious flowing lines and uber high-brow vibe are screaming for some recessed straplocks, if not the traditional Dunlop or Schaller type.

The Chronos’ compact body and sleek shape felt wonderful in my hands. It had just the right amount of meat in the neck, yet its shallow D shape still felt very fast and streamlined, with a superb light satin finish. I asked Pasini whether his necks can be ordered with a custom profile or shape, and he responded “There’s no limit, just ask. Regardless of physical type, experience and playing style, there’s never one customer asking for a different neck shape/measurements – we just happen to see each and every customer feel equally at home with our necks”. The body shape just seemed to melt into my lap, with perfect weight distribution and balance.

Plugging the bass into several different rigs and into a high end studio console as well, the bass spoke with a rich, warm, supportive bottom and tons of texture in the midrange. In my opinion, this bass is a fingerstyle monster. The complexity and depth in the midrange frequencies goes well beyond that of similarly built basses I’ve played. Organic, rich and throaty, it has a sophisticated and dimensional tone that is as elegant and distinctive as the bass itself. Couple the Chronos’ natural midrange characteristics with the tone sculpting ability of the East pre’s sweepable mid control and you have an extremely wide variety of fingerstyle tones. It has plenty of solid supportive lows as well, due in part (no doubt) to its rock solid neck through construction and 35” scale. The Chronos handled slap duties admirably enough, but not quite with the same prowess and finesse with which it lends itself to thick articulate fingerstyle playing.

Update: Due to some changes in US distribution, US pricing was currently unavailable at press time.  However, Pasini says he welcomes direct inquiries to info@wtbasses.net.  Regardless of the price, one thing is for sure:  This bass competes fiercely with just about any high end exotic bass on the market.  It’s fit, finish, playability and tone are second to none, and everything about the Chronos is classy and upscale.  It would seem that selling Foderas for years has had a very positive impact on W&T’s design principles.  The Chronos has many of the sensibilities that I love about Fodera’s exotic basses, but with a different and equally impressive aesthetic.  It pays homage to its roots, but does very much its own thing, and does it exceptionally well.  I’m officially a fan of these basses, and I recommend them wholeheartedly to those shopping for a high end bass of this caliber.

Jake Wolf welcomes your comments and questions… drop him a line

Jake Wolf

About Jake Wolf

Jake graduated from the Evergreen State College in Olympia WA, with a degree in music composition, recording, and performance. Jake resides in Asheville, NC where he gigs and records as a freelance sideman around the SouthEast, and also as a solo performer.

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  2. [...] The W&T is a superb bass, basically an Italian Fodera. I'll give you an excellent price on it Jake Wolf actually reviewed this instrument for Bass Musician magazine Wood & Tronics Chronos 5 String Bass | Bass Musician [...]

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