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Conklin Short Scale 5-String Bugout Bass Review

Gear Reviews

Conklin Short Scale 5-String Bugout Bass Review

Conklin basses are highly respected among bassists from around the world.

Leo Fender introduced us to the electric bass as we see it today, Ned Steinberger added great leaps and bounds with his engineering and innovative ideas, and Bill Conklin has brought us the custom architecture and design for basses ranging from 4-strings all the way to basses with over 6-strings. While Bill Conklin may be known for 7, 8, 9-string basses and beyond, his custom 4, 5 and 6-string basses stand out and perform tremendously well, with no detail left untouched. Bill introduced his New Century Series line of standard basses and guitars nearly 25 years ago and now, as a follow-up, he and business partner Mike Apperson have released their Classics and Cutting Edge series. I am honored to be one of the first to review one of these basses, the Bugout Bass.

The Bugout Bass is a 32” short scale headless bass featuring the sidewinder body, which is constructed of Alder wood.

The neck is 5-piece Maple and Purpleheart with a 24 fret fingerboard also made of Purpleheart. The seamless fit of the bolt on neck to the body has allowed me to reach all positions on the neck with ease. The frets are jumbo and the neck also features luminescent side dots, great for those times when the stage is really dark. The electronics are Bartolini pickups for both neck and bridge positions, and a Bartolini 3 band EQ with a mid frequency switch. The mid frequency switch allows you to choose between 250k, 500k, and 800k. There is also a switch for each pickup that allows you to switch between single coil, series, and parallel. When the switch is in the up position, the pickup is in parallel mode, down for series mode, and in the middle position for single coil. In parallel mode, the pickup is brighter, but may have less output. In series mode, the pickup is more focused on the mid-range, and in single coil mode, the pickup will sound brighter and more defined. Controls for the bass are volume, balance, bass, mid, and treble. The output jack is locking, so no more stepping on your cord and accidentally getting unplugged.

The headless unit is all ABM from the 3901 single tuner bridge to the 7011 headpieces.

Each AMB tuner/bridge has complete adjustments for string height and intonation. All of the hardware including the knobs are chrome, with the exception of the toggle switches being black. Recently, I just changed strings on the bass, and removed the old strings; the installation of the new strings was effortless. The Bugout bass is setup for exposed core strings, which really projects the vibration of the string in a more pure way and especially highlight the beautiful combination of the tone woods. Bill has his own brand of strings for the bass called “Snakeskins” and they are available at, The satin finish on the Bugout bass is a really attractive Wineberry color, and just recently on a gig, I got a few shout outs from the crowd on the looks and sound.

The Bugout bass is truly an exceptional instrument.

I’ve performed with it on quite a few gigs and between the choices of modes for the pickups and the mid frequency switch, different tones were very abundant. Years ago I was into headless bases and that love has recently been re-ignited. I also have a fondness for short-scale basses, and the Bugout bass is the best of both worlds. I already received a ton of comments on how the Bugout bass sounds and looks. The Bugout is effortless to play and practically plays itself.

One suggestion I can make is, don’t use a preamp with the bass, it’s not needed.

I also had the opportunity to get with Bill Conklin on a few questions, and it was a true honor to be able to do so, please read on!

What first sparked your interest in building basses and guitars to where you are today?

The first influences that got me thinking about building instruments were all the wild shapes back in the 70’s and early 80’s, such as V’s, Explorers and Destroyers. From there my interest was fueled by articles I had read about early custom shops and builders such as Dean, Hamer, B.C. Rich and Tobias. Those influences got me started on drawing and designing some of my own original shapes and innovations and from then on I was hooked.

You have recently started a new line of standard basses, mainly 4 and 5-string models, can you elaborate a little on the new standard series?

We have had a standard line of guitars and basses called the “New Century Series” for approximately 25 years, but in just the past 4 or 5 years we decided to expand on that and offer a little more diversity in a line we call Classics and Cutting Edge Instruments. The Classics side of the line is a fusion of our modern Sidewinder bodystyle with all its innovative features and retro styling such as vintage-inspired pickguards, simple electronics and old-school finishes. The Cutting Edge side takes things to the extreme with multi-string and multi-scale instruments, headless systems, luminescent inlays, stabilized woods and state-of-the-art electronics.

On your custom basses, what is the typical turn-around time?

All of our instruments are now completely crafted in the USA so there is actually a build time for all orders. Build times fluctuate based on our workload but standard models usually average around 3 to 4 months and full-blown custom pieces range from 7 to 9 months.

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