Pavel de la Fuente may be a new name to some on the bass scene, but his instruments have quickly and deservedly built a name for themselves and its not hard to see why. Besides his obvious technical prowess for luthiery, his dedication to the concept of truly building an instrument around his customer’s needs has helped him secure a solid foothold in the high end custom bass market. One look at his ever-expanding roster of pro artists (Terrence Palmer, Marcus Miller, and Abe Laboriel, just to name a few) shows that his instruments are serious music making tools. I was very impressed by what I saw and played at NAMM, and was able to talk Pavel into getting me a bass to review.
The Gibor model I tested was built to spec for a customer, and features a lovely mid/lightweight mahogany body topped with a stunning piece of maple burl. The maple/mahogany neck is sturdily bolted to the body and capped with a gorgeous and amply thick cocobolo fingerboard. The fingerboard has a 16″ radius, which feels a little flatter than what I’m used to, but nonetheless feels great under my hands. Nicely crowned and polished frets easily allowed for low action, and coupled with the slim neck profile, the 35″ scale neck felt fast and sleek. The headstock is also capped with that stunning burled maple, and is appointed with Pavels’ simple and elegant logo. A hand carved bone nut adds to the overall high quality vibe of the instrument. Custom Bartolini split humbucker pickups and an 18v NTMB circuit offer great control over the Gibor’s wide tonal range. Hipshot hardware looks great, and functions perfectly, as usual. This Gibor sports a thin satin polyurethane finish which feels protective and solid, and also showcases the natural beauty of the woods used. A high gloss finish is available on this model, but I really dug the way the satin feels and looks.
I was able to take the Gibor to a Latin jazz/flamenco trio gig, a litmus test for 6 string basses for me, since I have been using my F bass BN6 exclusively with this band for the last couple years. The Gibor excelled: its punchy round tone and fluent playability allowed me to hit the ground running. With a set of D’addario XL’s, and playing through a Mesa M6 and Accugroove tri115, the Gibor cut nicely with great focus and definition, it had a sweet top end and full throaty mids. I was impressed by the Gibors ability to stay tight across the frequency spectrum; my experience with mahogany bodied basses is that they tend to lose some low end focus in favor of that characteristic mahogany mid- fatness. The Gibor did have that fatness, but still retained the articulation and tightness needed to sit properly in the delicate band mix alongside an amplified flamenco guitar, (or what I like to call: the soundman’s nightmare). The Bartolini package complimented the Gibors natural sonic tendencies, sounded dead quiet, and allowed for powerful tone shaping capabilities. Shimmery high end, huge buttery lows, angular mids, it was all there, with a few intuitive knob twists. The NTMB circuit ensured that its entire tonal range was all easily accessed and manipulated.
There is not much to criticize about the Gibor, in fact, my only nitpicks are based around the fact that I’m so finicky and would have spec’d things out a little differently for myself. Pavel responded like a true custom builder, saying that many of the details and specs are flexible, and that because he builds basses per order, almost anything is possible. It is obvious from talking with Pavel that customer satisfaction is paramount, he is clearly dedicated to making sure that his customer is going to get the custom bass of their dreams. Whereas some builders operate off of set formulas with high upcharges for even the most basic alterations, Pavel is a true custom shop, and it’s apparent that his process involves the spirit of co-creation with the customer’s specific desires and needs in mind.
The Gibor tested comes out at $5400 list, which puts it right up there with many other high end boutique builders of exotic custom basses. I was very impressed by the playability, fit and finish and stunning good looks of the Gibor. One visit to Pavel’s website reveals that he’s no one trick pony though. His Jazz Pro model was a huge hit at 2009 NAMM, and his creative and inspiring exotic models offer more than just some flash. They have the looks and the brains if you know what I mean. If you’re in the market for a custom bass and have the scratch be shopping in the high end market, I recommend Pavel be on your short list of basses to audition.
For more info: www.pavelmi.com
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