Gear Impressions and Luthier Spotlight With Jake Wolf: Ritter Basses Cora 5-String
Review by Jake Wolf
Email Jake | Read More Reviews
It only takes one look at a Ritter bass to know that you’re beholding something special. Jens Ritter hand crafts his spectacular basses in his small workshop in rural Germany, and in the last couple of years, it’s become clear that Jens is at the forefront of an evolutionary quantum leap in the bass making world. His new world/old world approach fuses high tech materials and modern design with traditional, old school luthiery methods. Impressed not only by his elegant, organic designs and his outrageous wood supply, but also by the fact that almost everything in his basses is built and/or designed by him (including his pickups and preamps) I was able to persuade Jens to send me his latest creation; his new Cora model, co-designed by Josh Dunham, bassist for Prince.
Dunham approached Ritter about building a bass that combines Ritter’s signature look and features with a more straightforward jazz bass layout. Since all Ritters are made by hand to clients’ specifications and can be ordered with a myriad of options, the only thing that really differentiates the Cora from Jens’ Classic or Roya models is the body shape. The Cora still retains Ritter’s signature look, but has a shorter upper horn and slightly downsized body for aesthetic and ergonomic purposes. This particular bass sports Ritter’s own slimbucker pickups housed in Bavarian maple covers, and a preamp custom for Dunham’s specific requests (more on that later). Also, this bass has custom narrow string spacing and a 34.5” scale. To put it mildly, the Cora is visually striking. The Carrera white finish, as Jens explains, is actually white pigment suspended in lacquer, as opposed to more common white paint. Ritter feels that this creates a more stunning pure white finish and I have to say, I never knew “white” could have so much richness and depth! The light tones of the Bavarian maple fingerboard and pickup covers compliment the white finish beautifully. The tuning pegs, bridge hardware and control knobs are coated in distressed 24k gold that Jens calls “Scratchy”. I was quite impressed by the basses’ look of distinction and elegant simplicity. Underneath that lustrous white finish, the Cora features a highly flamed maple neck, and a 1 piece swamp ash body.
Ritter designs the electronics for his basses, and they typically feature extremely high quality components, with options such as “quad coil masterbucker” pickups, and on-board parametric equalizers. This Cora’s electronics however are refreshingly simple, and are laid out in a more standard format. The preamp’s 3 band equalizer offers a unique approach to tone shaping, one that came from a specific request from Dunham for this bass. Its extraordinariness lies mostly in the mid control: because it’s centered at 400 Hz, it essentially functions as a low mid control, compared to the higher mid frequency point of more common onboard preamps. Again, this bass is tailored primarily for Josh Dunham’s particular needs and specifications, and I found the mid control very helpful for wrangling the lower mids, a range that has dramatic affect on where a bass sits in a mix. Unfortunately this comes at the expense of being able to tailor the rest of the midrange very effectively, but as Jens says, ‘any of his basses can be ordered with specs that best serve the client’s needs’.
Playability-wise, when I first strapped on the Cora I was struck with how comfortable it was. I’ve played a handful of Ritters, and this one just seemed to just melt into my body more than the others, which is really saying something, considering Ritter’s knack for ergonomics. Weighing a hair over 9 pounds, it balanced perfectly both on a strap, and seated. The neck shape on the Cora is a little meaty, but in no way is it slow or bulky. It simply has a bit more meat due to its rounded C shape, with slightly thicker shoulders than I’m used to. Both tonally and ergonomically, I appreciated the solidity and heft that the extra wood in the neck added. One interesting aspect of playability that I struggled with has to do with the pickup shape. Because they are elliptical in shape, and not flat on the top edge as most jazz pickups are, I found it hard to anchor my thumb the way I normally would. It’s a small issue, but it made the bass a little tougher to adjust to when playing. Dunham custom spec’d the narrow string spacing, which is notably tighter than most any jazz bass I’ve played. This made fingerstyle playing highly economical, but felt a tad cramped and made thumbstyle playing difficult for me. Basses can be ordered from Ritter with practically any string spacing.
I was amazed by how alive and resonant the Cora felt when played unplugged. The whole bass vibrated acoustically in a clear and lively way. Plugged in, the Cora shows its “jazz bass on steroids” colors. Big and muscular, with a dry focus and some serious upper mid grind and bite, the Cora would have little trouble punching through a busy mix. The low B sounded great and matched the tone of the other strings very well. Like I mentioned earlier, the mid control is centered pretty low by onboard preamp standards. Utilizing the mid and bass control in conjunction actually produces a wide variety of tones in the “money region”. Adding treble brings out some of the basses’ aggressive nature, and is well suited for manipulating its inherently bright nature. Overall, the Cora felt incredibly responsive; it was one of those basses that I like to say “has E.S.P.”. By this I mean that notes seem to jump out of the bass practically before you play them. The Cora also has a mean slap tone; very muscular and punchy, it made slap lines sound great (despite my struggles to slap on such narrow spacing).
The Cora is the most straightforward and “conventional” Ritter bass I have encountered, and I loved its elegant simplicity. Certainly a departure from Jens’ more elaborate and extravagant exotic basses, this particular Cora represents a foray into a more standard market that working pro’s can readily appreciate. Fans of high end 5 string jazz basses now have yet another wonderful and different option to choose from, especially those that aren’t looking for a bass that visually upholds the Fender jazz template. Base price for the Cora model is about $5520 USD.
For more information on this and other Ritter basses, visit them online.
Jake Wolf welcomes your comments and questions… drop him a line