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Review: Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

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Review: Devon Bass Guitars J5 Modern 24

Review of the Devon J5 Modern 24 from Devon Bass Guitars…

The modern 5-string jazz bass market is a mighty tough room to make your mark in. It seems like there are a ton of great offerings from serious contenders new and old, and it can be hard for a great bass to shine, when it’s surrounded by so many solid instruments. So where does one fit in, or better yet, how does one punch “the signal through the noise” and shine as a unique standout among many other great basses, all building off of the venerable 5-string jazz platform? 

For Devon Smullen of Devon Bass Guitars, the answer seems to be a delightful combination of thoughtful design, meticulous execution, a number of unique and innovative features, fantastic playability, and outstanding customer service. After playing this bass, it’s not surprising that Devon has extensive experience in the UI/UX (user interface/user experience) sphere.  No doubt his time spent thinking about how certain choices affect the user’s experience has been put fully into practice in his bass building. You can feel it the moment you pick up the bass. Everything feels so well thought out and perfectly placed, with a cohesiveness that is hard to describe, and rarely seen, even in some of the most well-respected bass brands.  

Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

From a construction standpoint, this bass is flat-out amazingly well built. The fretwork, the body shaping, the neck carve, the finish work: all are off-the-charts. I struggle to find anything that doesn’t look like a slam dunk in terms of execution. The neck and fretwork in particular are extraordinary. This bass showed up with crazy low action, with little to no buzz anywhere on the maple fingerboard. I had to raise the action up for my ham fists, but I still like pretty low action and the bass played like a dream.  Chords and fast runs felt easier than usual on this bass.   

Devon’s trademark rounded fingerboard edges and C-shaped neck was an interesting departure from the slim and fast D-shape I am used to on Jazz basses, but as soon as I stopped thinking about it and started playing it, I was immediately comfortable and felt right at home.  The neck is fast and slim front to back, with a bit of a shoulder, but by no means beefy. It felt great under my hands and played very fast. This profile seems like a great way to maximize mass in the neck without increasing any feeling of beefiness or heft. I loved the thin satin finish on the back of the neck, which felt thin and smooth, almost like a sanded-off neck finish but still protective. The black oval inlays on the maple board tie in beautifully to the oval Delano Xtender pickups, creating a really cool, unique, and somewhat futuristic vibe. 

Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

Devon basses are available with a range of electronic options in Modern (rear-routed) and Classic (pickguard and electronics plate) configurations, with a lot of available customization. This particular bass is outfitted with Delano Xtenders: twin coil humbucking pickups, housed in oval shells, which offer an array of coil tap options. Paired with a Nordstrand 3 band preamp, the controls offer 3 bands of EQ with a push-pull option for the mid-frequency, as well as 3-way switches for each pickup to select front coil, both coils, rear coil settings for both. The result is an impressively varied array of tones.

Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

The more time I spent with the bass, the more interesting and useful settings I discovered. This electronics package is on the modern end of the spectrum, and reminiscent of music man tones, capable of all kinds of muscular and thick modern sounds that really help it stand out in a mix, with a great midrange articulation.   Customers can choose from a variety of popular pickups and preamps, and Devon works hard to meet his customers’ needs and desires around tone preferences and versatility.

Here is the fun part: getting into some of Devon’s signature innovations. Devon’s Modern basses have recessed control knobs, which has a very streamlined and low-profile vibe. Likewise, the tuning machines are slightly recessed into the headstock to help “lock” them in place.

Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

The output jack is something new for many. Instead of a side jack or a front-facing jack, it is inset into the bottom bout of the body, facing “up” at you when playing. This keeps the cable out of the way and works great for either straight or 90-degree angle cables and will never pull out when you step on it like a bonehead in the middle of your only bass solo of the night and get glared at by the drummer, who, couldn’t be bothered to get to the gig in time for soundcheck, but now feels like he can judge you for an honest mistake.  Ahem, just for example.  

Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

Looking at the back of the bass, one immediately notices the perfectly matched control cavity cover, which is held on by strong magnets.

Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

Popping the cover reveals the cleanest control cavity I’ve come across. It looks like it was designed by an OCD Nikola Tesla. Wiring is uber tidy and cable tied into clean runs everywhere. It is a thing of beauty, and in combination with expert shielding, is truly best practice for the quietest operation possible.

Devon J5 Modern 24 Bass Guitar

The battery cover is magnetic as well and houses a nifty proprietary assembly that contains two 9v batteries, with a small handle. This neat system allows for a battery swap in about 5 seconds.  Just another smartly thought out “better mousetrap”, which appears to be par for the course with Devon’s work.

After being lucky enough to spend some time with the Devon J5 Modern 24, I can say with confidence that Devon Smullen has knocked it out of the park on basically every level and succeeded in standing out from the ‘5 string jazz’ pack. My sense is that these days, it’s not enough to make a cool-looking bass. There is no shortage of those. A great bass has to look great, sound great, and play amazingly well. Likewise, as a luthier, you have to have a solid online presence, be responsive to customers’ requests, and keep your timetables shored up for delivery times, so as not to get months behind on promised shipping dates. Unfortunately, there just aren’t too many bass builders that check all of those boxes, but it sure seems like Devon does, and does it while coming in at a VERY competitive price point, given the outstanding quality of the build and componentry.

For more information on the Devon J5 Modern 24, visit Devon Bass Guitars online at devonbass.com

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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