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Gear Reviews

Carvin, Kot, Delano and Rio Grande : Product Impressions

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It is always fascinating to examine signature instruments to see how an exceptional player’s technical, tonal, and aesthetic desires and concerns are met. Both of the basses on this month’s Top Shelf are the result of intense interactions between player and builder. Likewise, it can be intriguing to discover electronics designed and manufactured by high quality small shops. I’ll look at two lines of pickups that reflect the innovation and excellent output from such specialty shops.

Carvin BB75 PF Bunny Brunel Signature 5-String Fretless. The bass designed in conjunction with the spectacular Bunny Brunel proves once again that Carvin offers an amazing package of features and quality not usually expected at this price. That said, the BB75 PF absolutely stands on its own and should not be thought of as a bargain bass. For starters, Carvin’s custom shop offers a wide range of options, which makes each bass distinctive. The bass we tested had a tight fit and finish and the following noteworthy construction details. The thick, beautifully surfaced fingerboard leads to a deep growl and offers you the ability to set up the instrument with very low action. The substantial Maple neck runs through the body, adding fundamental and allowing for a smooth transition to the body. The BB75 PF’s body is slightly wider than Carvin’s standard, pleasingly modern shape, and the upper horn has been elongated. This helps with balance and keeps the left hand free from weightlifting; in addition, the bass hangs further toward your right side, making big stretches in lower positions easier to intonate. The neck, slightly asymmetrical, is thinner on the treble side, which provides a very comfortable anchor position for your thumb and helps combat fretting-hand fatigue. This particular model had Carvin’s top electronics package: two soap bar magnetic pickups and a piezo bridge. The piezo has trim pots for each string’s output, plus a trim pot for overall piezo gain and overall magnetic gain. External controls include a master volume, a blend between the two magnetic pickups, a blend between magnetic and piezo volume, and a three-band EQ with sweepable mids. Having variable mids allows for tuning the growl and purr to a specific timbre. Players can first balance all the sound sources and then shape them with the powerful, well-voiced EQ, making a huge range of sounds possible from this 5-string. The signature tone is mildly compressed with a smooth, massive bottom end, growling mids, and a nicely defined top end. With its elaborate electronics and solid construction, the BB75 PF is a great desert-island instrument and could easily scratch the fretless itch of a wide variety of players.

Available online at Carvin.com

Kot Basses Signature Singlecut 5 String. This striking bass cuts a bold path through the current field of single-cutaway boutique instruments. The beautiful Pink Ivorywood top is set off from the Ash back with a thin, contrasting laminate and sports an elegant F hole. The neck is a five-piece construction of Maple and Pink Ivorywood. The fingerboard rounds out the drool-worthy wood list, with a gorgeous slab of Macassar Ebony. The transition from the extended, non-cutaway upper horn to the body is achieved with an elegant scoop, which gives easy access to the top frets and doesn’t require altering left-hand position (except for not being able to hang your thumb over the top). Final luxury appointments include matching wooden covers for the battery box and electronics cavity, Pink Ivorywood headstock facing, Ebony knobs, and Hipshot hardware. The electronics are truly a custom package from Bartolini: three (count them, three) Jazz-style pickups that feed a proprietary circuit, three individual volume controls, a passive tone control, and three bands of EQ with a three-position mid-frequency select. The frequency points of the EQ are specific to Kot basses. The addition of a middle (or second bridge) pickup and the ability to blend in whatever amount is desired of each pickup makes for distinctive, new combinations. Other circuit highlights are an active/passive switch, a bypass switch, and a special presence control, which everyone at the shop felt should be left on all the time. The preamp is voiced for a muscular low-mid push to get out on top of the kick drum, and the presence switch adds a different sort of top-end impact than the usual Bartolini transparency (which is still available when the presence switch is not engaged). The Signature Single Cut was one of the lightest, best balanced 5-strings we have had in the shop. The tone struck a fine balance between warm-and-woody and modern clarity. Playability and physicality were a delight to all.

Available online at kotbasses.com

Delano Pickups. A line of pickups tends to have an overall character: the warmth and transparency of Bartolini, the growl and cut of EMG. The Delano brand has a powerful voice of high-fidelity definition and presence, retaining this personality across a deep, diverse line. Standard fare includes six variations on the Jazz bass pickup—most of which are hum-canceling—and soap bars for four- through seven-string basses. Delano also has many flavors of MusicMan-style pickups, including seven 5-string MusicMan models with more than one string spacing. For this month’s review, I will highlight two models: the JMVC FE/PMVC FE series, and the Hybrid system. The JMVC FE and PMVC FE series are hum-canceling J- and P-pickups with 9.5mm pole pieces similar to a MusicMan. These pickups are drop-in replacements for standard routs. They have a stronger attack, rounder bottom-end, and glassier high-end than stock pickups. Many players felt these pickups sounded as if they were being played through a high-quality preamp with a judicious amount of treble and bass boost, even when the pickups were installed as a passive load. The JMVC FE/PMVC FE work very well with active electronics, too. As with the rest of the Delano line, this series is available as either matched sets or as singles designed to function with other Delanos for custom configurations. The most exciting part of the Delano line is the Hybrid system. Delano has attacked the current favorite MusicMan/Jazz combination and the age-old problem of getting more than one usable voice out of an instrument, and come out a winner. The Hybrid system is a remarkable new MusicMan replacement with a matching Jazz neck pickup. The Hybrid MM pickup has one exposed set of large MM-style Alnico 5 pole pieces, and one set of smaller Jazz-style Alnico 5 pole pieces. Under the cover, a second MM coil nests within the Jazz coil. The Hybrid system reproduces the classic voice of both pickup sets more convincingly than other available products because of the proper coil design and pole piece arrangement. The other neat trick in the Hybrid’s bag is a switch that controls the mode. In the dual Jazz mode, the preamp is bypassed, the proprietary treble pot becomes a roll-off, and you get volume, pickup blend, and tone like a classic J-bass. In the MM mode, the preamp is active and you have the ability to blend the neck pickup into the tone. Delano also offers several fine-sounding preamps to mate with this system, including a new preamp dubbed “The Sonar,” which unfortunately didn’t arrive in time for this review. With excellent customer service, a full custom shop, and many more pickups than I mentioned here, Delano is just starting to be a force in the U.S. market and is certain to become one of the top players.

Available online at Delano.de

Rio Grande Bass Pickups. This is a wonderful small shop with a potent line of bass pickups. The overall vibe is vintage with attitude. Two unique offerings are the Pitbull and the Vintage 51 for P Bass. The Pitbull is a replacement for the small-format humbuckers found in Steinbergers, aluminum-neck Kramers, Travis Beans, and B. C. Rich basses. The name is not for show: this pickup is truly fierce. Rio Grande also has a huge-sounding single-coil replacement, the Vintage 51, for early P-Basses. The center of the Rio Grande line is a series of Precision, Jazz, and double-Jazz pickups available either in Vintage output or in the super-hot Muy strength. The Vintage series is articulate and growly and retains a stock look. The Muy series has oversized pole pieces and a huge boisterous sound: think boutique version of the venerable Quarter Pound pickups. Four-string pickups are available in both Vintage and Muy as Precision, Jazz, and Double-Jazz. Five-string pickups come in Vintage Jazz and Vintage Double-Jazz sets. Many Rio pickups can be ordered with fancy covers, such as black pearl, white pearl, and brown tortoise to match pickguards, and toasted nickel and diamond plate. Customer service is top-notch, and build quality is nearly military. Rio Grande is spot-on for players who want a hot vintage sound in their passive instruments—or for those brave souls who would combine them with a preamp.

Available online at riograndepickups.com

Please feel free to email me at chance @ fearlessguitars.com with feedback about this column or items reviewed. If you are a manufacturer and are interested in submitting a piece for review, please contact me.

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

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Gear Review: Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass Review…

Throughout the evolution of music, bass players have sought tools to sculpt and enhance their sonic landscapes, and one indispensable ally in this pursuit has been compression. Origin Effects, a name synonymous with premium audio craftsmanship, introduces the Cali76 Compact Bass Compressor, a pedal that pays homage to the legacy of compression and brings forth a new chapter in bass sonic mastery.

As we delve into the world of the Cali76 Compact Bass Compressor, we’ll explore how Origin Effects seamlessly weaves together the heritage of compression and contemporary bass demands, promising a pedal that not only honors the past but propels your bass playing into the future. Join us on this sonic expedition as we dissect the nuances of the Cali76 Compact and uncover the secrets it holds for bass players seeking the perfect blend of vintage warmth and modern versatility.

For Starters, the Cali76 is a studio-grade FET compressor pedal, based on the classic Urei 1176, but with some features optimized for bass guitar. For those of you who are not familiar with it, a FET (Field Effect Transistor) compressor is essentially a solid-state tube compressor emulation that allows for fast and precise control over the attack and the release parameters; allows for extreme compression ratios; and finally adds the typical 1176 color and character to the sound.

Together with the common controls we see in most compressor pedals – Ratio, Attack/Release, input (just like the original 1176, the threshold in this pedal is fixed), and output (makeup gain). The Cali76 offers two more controls dedicated to us bass players.

A Dry control – This allows us to mix in our dry, uncompressed signal to the pedal output. This is great for when we want to add back some of our playing dynamics to the compressed sound or for when you want some volume back in situations where the compression starts taking away the volume.

A High Pass Filter control – Low frequencies on a bass guitar signal normally overwhelm compressors. This high pass filter allows the compressor to only react to higher frequencies, which helps preserve the natural dynamics of our playing while keeping the low end intact.

Metering on this pedal can be a bit hard to get used to at first. There’s a single LED light on the pedal, that not only serves as an On/Off light, but it’s also our meter. It glows red when no compression is applied and orange for active compression. The brighter the light, the greater the amount of gain reduction. Yellow signifies that the gain reduction reached 27dB and maximum reduction occurs around 38 dB.

In practical terms, it’s all about working with the input and the LED to find the sweet spot (turn the input to zero, start playing and slowly increase the input level until you start seeing the LED glowing orange, which means there’s reduction going on).

With 6 highly interactive knob controls, this pedal implies some degree of compressor knowledge and also some amount of tweaking and experimentation to find the perfect settings. The good news is that it is very hard to make this pedal sound bad…

It can go from very subtle compression settings to very extreme, and it can do everything in between. Also, the team at Origin has been kind enough to add a couple of sample settings in the manual to get players started and to help us understand better how the pedal works.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Dynamic Control is a setting that provides natural compression, balancing dynamics between various playing techniques. It is a subtle compression that will work almost out of the box almost all the time. Having a medium setting for the High Pass Filter ensures an honest translation of the lower string dynamics.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Parallel compression is a popular studio technique, where both compressed and natural signals are blended. We get the sound and feel of hard compression while retaining the natural playing dynamics.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Percussive, lively & Fat is a setting that uses a slower attack time to accentuate the start of any note. Then using a fast release allows the compressor to recover between notes so that the phrases sound more percussive. Ideal for slapping and other percussive techniques.

Finally, I would like to mention the classic 1176 tonal coloration. It’s not a secret that engineers all around would sometimes use the 1176 compressor, without applying any compression, just to get the tonal coloration into the instrument sound.

And the Cali76 compressor is no different, it has such a rich, warm, and full coloration that’s super pleasing to the ear and makes you want to have it ON all the time. So be aware, that if you want a transparent compressor, this pedal is not for you!

All in all, it is easy to understand why this pedal became a favorite of so many bass players around the world. The Cali76 Compact stands as a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship and thoughtful engineering that Origin Effects is renowned for. It seamlessly navigates through the rich history of compression, offering bass players a gateway to the soulful resonance of the past while empowering them to sculpt a contemporary sonic future.

Whether you’re a seasoned bass maestro or a budding virtuoso, the Cali76 Compact invites you to embark on a sonic journey where every note is held in a delicate balance between tradition and innovation. As we bid farewell to our exploration, we do so with the realization that the Cali76 Compact is more than just a pedal; it’s a sonic companion that elevates the artistry of bass playing

For more information, visit online at origineffects.com

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Gear Reviews

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review

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Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review…

Not long ago, I did a review of the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass and I have just been given the honor and privilege of reviewing the Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass. I have to say, another great bass from Spector that is hard to put down! While there are some similarities between both basses, there are also some noticeable differences which is why I believe having both is essential to any bass arsenal.

Spector, widely used by many rock and metal bassists like Ian Hill, Alex Webster, Colin Edwin, Doug Wimbish, and many more, just to name a few, has a long-standing in these genres. Well, that’s about to change! The bass I used for the review, didn’t see any of those genres, matter of fact, I used it on a few classic country gigs and at church too! However, when at home in the studio, I let the funk out. The NS Ethos HP 4 Bass is an all-around great bass for any genre and will not disappoint.

Let’s get into the specs about the bass, and here we will find the differences between the HP 5 Bass and the HP 4.

Forget that one is a 5 string, while the other is a 4, while that is a difference, that’s not one that I feel needs to be noted as both models are available as 4 and 5 strings. The Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass has a 34” scale, 24 fret, 3 piece maple neck through construction with solid alder wings, ebony fingerboard along with centered and side dots and the 12th fret Spector logo inlay with a brass nut.

While the pickups are different as the NS Dimension HP 5 Bass uses the EMG 45DC and the NS Ethos HP 4 Bass sports the EMG 35DC pickups, they are the same pickup configurations, the difference being, one for 4 string, the other for 5 string. The electronics are the same, consisting of a Darkglass Tone Capsule preamp which consists of +-12dB @70Hz for Bass, +-12dB @500Hz for Mids, and +-12dB @2.8kHz for Hi Mids. Controls for Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass consist of Master Volume, Blend, Bass, Mid, and Hi Mid controls. The electronics are powered by a 9-volt battery.

The bridge is a Hi-Mass locking bridge with intonation screws and the tuners are sealed die-cast. All hardware is black. Same as the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass, the HP 4 Bass is available in 4 different finishes, White Sparkle Gloss, Gunmetal Gloss, Plum Crazy Gloss & Black Gloss. The bass also comes with a very nice and well-padded gig bag.

Check out the Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass at a Spector Music Retailer today near you or visit online at spectorbass.com/product/ns-ethos-hp-4/

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Gear Reviews

Review: Italia Leather Straps

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Review: Italia Leather Straps

Italia Leather Straps…

Whenever I get a new bass, I like to get a new strap to christen it and I also like to find one that is “color coordinated” to my new instrument. I recently had a 6-string fretless bass created by a local luthier named Frank Brocklehurst, which started my search for a new strap.

There are a few points that I always look for when searching for a new strap. 

1-Comfort 
2-Width
3-Great color
4-Price

My most recent quest put me in touch with “Italia Leather Straps.” Italia has been in business in California for about 20 years and has been selling factory direct for the past 18 years.

When you order your strap it begins its “made to order” build process and after shipping more than 50,000 straps they certainly have it well in hand!

To answer my 4 questions regarding comfort, Italia uses some of the most comfortable and luxurious leather in a wide variety of colors. I was able to match almost perfectly the color of my bass and the color of the leather.

You can order it in either a 2.5” or 4” width as well as a standard and long model for tall players. I prefer the 4” for all of my basses. 

I received my strap and I must tell you, the leather was soft, supple, and truly comfortable when I attached it to my bass.

I must commend Italia Leather Straps for their attention to detail and beautiful selection of leather. I would say that when you go looking for a new strap, these guys should be on your shortlist.

Call or visit Italia Leather Straps online:
831-324-4277
www.italiastraps.com

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Bass Videos

Review: The Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps

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Review: The Fuchs FBT-300 and FBT-700 Bass Amps

Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps…

Much like our original ODS amps were initially inspired by the legendary Dumble amps, the new Fuchs FBS-1 bass amps have found their inspiration from the iconic Walter Woods © bass amps, but with Andy’s own enhancements.

Andy tapped his years of experience as a working musician, as well as servicing and tweaking guitar and bass amps for many famous clients as diverse as Carlos Santana through jammers like Jimmy Herring, including jazz legends like Dave Stryker for over 40 years as inspiration for our new bass amps. Fuchs’ 20-year list of reviews and endorsers is truly impressive to say the least.

Not unlike the iconic Walter Woods © amps the FBS-300 and FBS-700 amps are designed for maximum power at minimal size and weight. For years, the rare and coveted Woods amps have built a following amongst industry professionals. They were literally the first switch mode class-D style lightweight bass amps ever. Due to Walter being reclusive and now retired, these amps found their way to Andy’s shop to be repaired. While servicing them Andy was able to reverse engineer the preamp and power supply. Mated to a modern lightweight ICE power digital power module we have produced an amp that Woods owners agree, is equal (if not better) than their predecessors.

The FBS-1 bass amps (and our FBT tube bass amps) share identical panels and chassis and are available in 300 and 700-watt models, they feature a solid-state preamp inspired by the infamous Walter Woods © amps, but with improvements like a steep-slope subsonic filter and a DI output using high-speed audiophile op amps and a regulated power supply. The DI output is electrically balanced pre/post switch, ground lift, DI Phase, and a global mute switch.

Small and light, (downright diminutive) at less than 5-lbs and 12 x 3 x 9, they are loud and clean. Want some dirt? Raise the input gain and lower the master volume. Want total clean, lower the input gain and raise the master. They are super easy to operate, and the FBS-1  amps will easily fit in a gig bag, run ice-cold, and feature a well-thought-out, simple configuration for the working musician. A Fuchs gig bag designed for all models is coming soon.

These amps feature an input gain control allowing both passive and active bass use, Baxandall (shelving eq) high and low controls, a parametric rotary midrange control with level and frequency control and an output master volume. With the midrange pot in the ‘0’ position the circuit is flat. In this mode the bass and treble pots emulate the classic Woods and B-15 style amps we know and love. Use the mid circuit for boost and cut of up to 20 db at a fully adjustable frequency.

All models use the industry-standard Ice power modules, which are known for their rock-solid reliability and excellent cool-running, audio performance. These amps feature a buffered patch loop between the preamp and power amp. All amps offer worldwide automatic line voltage selection. Wherever you are, they automatically set their own line voltage. All amps are CE and RoHs compliant.

FBT-300 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis. FBT-700 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis.

FBT-300: 300W at 1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 260W at 0.1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 380W at 10% THD+N, 4Ohm • 450W at 1% THD+N, 2.7Ohm (Approximately ½ half this value at 8-ohms).

For more information, visit online at fuchsaudiotechnology.com

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Bass Videos

Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

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Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

A video review of the Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB-115 Cab from the new Venture Series.

For more on the Venture series, visit online at ampeg.com

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