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Barefaced Audio Big Baby 3 Review

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Barefaced Audio Big Baby 3 Review

Barefaced Audio Big Baby 3 Review…

Have you ever heard the old adage in the loudspeaker world: “Loud, Light and Low: pick 2”?  For many years, conventional wisdom said that these 3 desirable attributes were difficult or impossible to achieve at the same time.  You could find a cab with lots of volume and superior low frequency extension but not in a lightweight form factor, because of the size of the cabinet and construction materials needed and the nature of the drivers required to perform in this way. Or you could find a cabinet that was lightweight and loud, but it wouldn’t have the low end extension that many players desire.   To be fair, due to numerous technological advancements in the industry, this saying is less true than ever, but the concept still holds water, and (I find) is still true with a lot of current bass cab offerings.    But if ever there was a product that shattered this notion for me, it’s the Barefaced Big Baby 3.  

Barefaced is the brainchild of English engineer and cab builder Alex Claber. 

Like many, Alex’s entry into the business was born from a lack of satisfaction with the gear that was available to him when he was working as a pro bassist. He wanted something loud enough for a rock band but also had deep lows, as well as clarity for chords and effects. Alex didn’t intend on starting a company, but due to minimum order requirements for parts, found himself knee-deep in producing a batch of cabinets, and the rest is history.  Over the last several years, Alex has been refining his designs and focusing his product line into two distinct series. High performance, “High Accuracy” 12-inch based cabs in the “super twelve” category with eye popping performance specs, and his 10-inch based “vintage inspired” cabs, aimed at improving on the revered sealed “ampeg type” cabs of yesteryear, but with increased clarity and output.    Personally, the 12” based cabs have been piquing my curiosity for years, and I have enough friends who play them and invariably when asked, respond with a sort of “game over” mentality regarding their sound and performance.  So, when I had a chance to review the newest version of the Big Baby, the BB3, I jumped at the chance.

The first thing I noticed when I unboxed the cab was the quality of the finish and build. 

The Big Baby is finished in an exceptionally tough spray finish with a stout metal grille. Then I took it out of the box, and for a moment I wondered if Alex forgot to put a speaker in it. This thing is LIGHT.  With the metal grille, the BB3 weighs just 29 lbs., and feels like an empty box when picking it up (available vintage style cloth grill brings the weight down to a svelte 26 lbs.).  Despite the form factor seeming larger than some other single 12” cabs, the BB3 is quite shallow from front to back.   A large square horn is present as well as an attenuator on the back of the cab and a mystery small slot towards the bottom (keep reading).  Speaking of the back of the cab, I noticed that this speaker is rated at 800w.  I thought surely this must be some kind of inflated hyperbolic spec, like some cab makers tend to use to increase wow factor, measuring specs based on peak power as opposed to RMS power ratings, but nope. This beast will actually handle this much power, with grace and aplomb. 

The BB3 is an update on the (you guessed it) BB2. 

I asked Alex what updates were made with this new model, and he mentioned a few noteworthy points. Essentially, the cabinet uses the same driver, same crossover, and tuning, towards the same design goal.  The cabinet is slightly wider than the BB2, but shallower front-to-back, with the same internal volume, but its dimensions make it somewhat easier to transport than the BB2. These dimensions also stack more precisely with some of the other Barefaced cabs, the Big Twin 2 and 3 (BT2, BT3). The most interesting  difference with the BB3 is the “Supercooler“ tech they’ve developed, which uses Helmholtz resonance to drive an air-cooling system which keeps driver cool, ensuring better sound and better responsiveness. This keeps the cab performing at its peak on loud gigs as the mechanical parts heat up.  The only visible evidence of this system is a small horizontal slit on the back of the cab.  Essentially, the Supercooler uses speaker excursion to pull air through the slot in the back. The air is directed over the cooling fins on the frame of the driver. The harder the drivers are working; the more cooling happens as the amount of air being pulled in increases. 

I brought the Big Baby 3 to a rehearsal with my 11-piece Steely Dan Tribute band, a group that admittedly is a lot louder than one would assume. 

The band is LOUD, in rehearsal and on stage.  With my trusty Eich T-900, I fired up the BB3, and 3 notes, in I was hooked.  This cabinet not only has righteous tone, but it also kicks hard, like REAL hard, for a “1×12 with a tweeter”.    All the way down to a low B, the BB3 was full, warm, super-fast and meaty, with just the right amount of bite.  It was immediately apparent to me how well engineered the Big Baby was, as the note definition, quickness and low end extension seemed to rival cabinets twice its size.  I was especially impressed with how fast the notes came out, and how quick the decay was.  Compared to some other popular cabs I’m very familiar with, the speed at which the notes would stop on a dime really changed the game with regard to my note placement and articulation. It’s hard to describe, but there was no mistaking how responsive the BB3 was, and the result was a supremely enjoyable playing experience.  Like driving a windy road in an exotic sports car when you’ve been making that daily run in a commuter sedan.   

One other sonic attribute I have to bring is up the integration and performance of the tweeter on this cab.  With the attenuator on full, the BB3 is big, full, quick, and super punchy and snappy. There is none of the “gank factor” of a poorly (IMO) voiced tweeter/crossover network, and the cab has tons of air and sparkle in all the right ways.  This cab can do big pillowy lows, full chewy mids and a top end that would make Marcus smile, all at staggering output levels, and all from a little 112 cab.  Pretty remarkable really. 

I asked Alex flat out: “how do you make this thing is so loud and so light?”.

His answer was fairly straightforward and indicative of the thoughtfulness with which he approaches cab building: lots of lightweight low-density materials with intelligent designs.  This requires an elaborate building process with interlocking parts, cut with CNC.  Because of its complex internal construction, the “less cuboid” shape makes it more anechoic and less resonant, which is a very good thing for a loudspeaker.  The other secret sauce here is the proprietary Barefaced 12XN driver. Alex’s goal here was to design a high sensitivity/efficiency, high power handling, high excursion driver that would offer flat frequency response and a flat polar (dispersion) response.  This took mountains of R&D with Eminence before coming up with an excellent OEM driver. 

It’s clear to me that the Big Baby 3’s incredible performance is no fluke. Barefaced has worked tirelessly while adhering to incredibly high standards to achieve the results I’ve been enjoying.

Every design and manufacturing choice has been driven by the desire to make cabinets that sound as good as possible and have the durability to last for a very long time.  I was excited to hear that Alex is working on a bass amplifier, as well as active powered guitar and bass cabinets. The Big Baby 3 isn’t the cheapest 1×12 on the market, selling direct from England at $1,415 (including import tax and shipping at the current exchange rate), but its performance is undeniable, and like most things in like, you get what you pay for.  For more information on Barefaced cabs, as well as a ton of information about bass cabinet design, acoustics and audio engineering, visit Barefaced online.

Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers

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String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as Amazon.com

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

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Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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Gear

New Joe Dart Bass From Sterling By Music Man

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Sterling by Music Man introduces the Joe Dart Artist Series Bass (“Joe Dart”), named after and designed in collaboration with the celebrated Vulfpeck bassist.

Above photo credit: JORDAN THIBEAUX

This highly-anticipated model marks the debut of the Dart bass in the Sterling by Music Man lineup, paying homage to the Ernie Ball Music Man original that all funk players know and love. The bass embodies many of the original model’s distinctive features, from its iconic minimalist design to the passive electronics.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The design process prioritized reliability, playability, and accessibility at the forefront. Constructed from the timeless Sterling body, the Dart features a slightly smaller neck profile, offering a clean tone within a comfortable package. The body is crafted from soft maple wood for clarity and warmth while the natural finish emphasizes the simple yet unique look.

Engineered for straightforward performance, this passive bass features a ceramic humbucking bridge pickup and a single ‘toaster’ knob for volume control. Reliable with a classic tone, it’s perfect for playing in the pocket. The Dart is strung with the all-new Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Flatwound Electric Bass Strings for the smoothest feel and a mellow sound.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The Sterling by Music Man Joe Dart Bass is a special “Timed Edition” release, exclusively available for order on the Sterling by Music Man website for just one month. Each bass is made to order, with the window closing on May 31st and shipping starting in November. A dedicated countdown timer will indicate the remaining time for purchase on the product page. Additionally, the back of the headstock will be marked with a “2024 Crop” stamp to commemorate the harvest year for this special, one-of-a-kind release. 

The Joe Dart Bass is priced at $399.99 (MAP) and can be ordered globally at https://sterlingbymusicman.com/products/joe-dart. 

To learn more about Joe Dart, visit the official Vulfpeck artist site here https://www.vulfpeck.com/.


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Gear Reviews

The Frank Brocklehurst 6-String Fretless Bass Build

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The Frank Brocklehurst 6 String Fretless Bass Build

A few months ago, my Ken Bebensee 6-string fretted bass needed some TLC. You know, the one rocking those Pink Neon strings! I scoured my Connecticut neighborhood for a top-notch luthier and got pointed to Frank Brocklehurst, F Brock Music. He swung by my place, scooped up the bass, and boom, returned it the next day, good as new. Not only that, he showed up with a custom 5-string fretted bass that blew me away. I couldn’t resist asking if he could whip up a 6-string fretless for me. 

Alright, let’s break down the process here. We’ve got our raw materials: Mahogany, Maple, and Holly. Fun fact – the Mahogany and Maple have been chilling in the wood vault for a solid 13 years. Frank is serious about his wood; they buy it, stash it away, and keep an eye on it to make sure it’s stable.  

First up, they’re tackling the Mahogany. Frank glues it together, then lets it sit for a few days to let everything settle and the glue to fully dry. After that, it’s onto the thickness planer and sander to get it nice and flat for the CNC machine. The CNC machine’s the real star here – it’s gonna carve out the body chambers and volume control cavity like a pro.

While the Mahogany’s doing its thing, Frank goes onto the neck core. Three pieces of quartersawn maple are coming together for this bad boy. Quartersawn means the grain’s going vertical. He is also sneaking in some graphite rods under the fingerboard for stability and to avoid any dead spots. The truss rod is going to be two-way adjustable, and the CNC machine’s doing its magic to make sure everything’s just right.

Screenshot

Now, onto the design phase. Frank uses CAD software to plan out the body shape, neck pocket, chambering, and those cool f-holes. I had this idea for trapezoid F-holes, just to do something different. The CAD software also helps us map out the neck shape, graphite channels, and truss-rod channel with pinpoint accuracy.

Once everything’s planned out, it’s CNC time again. Frank cuts out the body outline, neck pocket, and the trapezoid F-holes. Then it’s a mix of hand sanding and power tools to get that neck just how we like it. Oh, and those f holes? We’re going for trapezoids of different sizes – gotta keep things interesting.

Next step: gluing that neck into the pocket with some old-school hide glue. It’s got great tonal transfer and can be taken apart later if needed. Then it’s onto hand-carving that neck-body transition.

For the custom-made bridge, Frank uses brass for definition and Ebony for tonal transfer and that warm, woody sound.

BTW, for tunes, Frank went with Hipshot Ultralights with a D Tuner on the low B. This way I can drop to a low A which is a wonderful tone particularly if you are doing any demolition around your house! 

Now it’s time for the side dots. Typically, on most basses, these dots sit right in the middle of the frets. But with this bass, they’re placed around the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th frets.

Frank’s got his pickup hookup. Since the pickup he was building wasn’t ready, he popped in a Nordstrand blade to give it a whirl.

It sounded good, but I was itching for that single-coil vibe! And speaking of pickups, Frank showed me the Holly cover he was cutting to match, along with all the pink wire – talk about attention to detail!

A couple of things, while it is important for me to go passive, it is equally important for me to just go with a volume knob. Tone knobs are really just low-pass filters and the less in the way of a pure sound for me, the better. 

Finally, it’s string time! As usual, I went for the DR Pink Neon strings. Hey, I even have matching pink Cons…Both low tops and high!

Screenshot

Once we’ve got everything tuned up and settled, we’ll give it a day or two and then tweak that truss rod as needed. And voila, we’ve got ourselves a custom-made bass ready to rock and roll.

I want to thank Frank Brocklehurst for creating this 6 string beast for me. 

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Gear Reviews

Review Transcript: BITE Custom Bass – The Black Knight PP Bass

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Review - BITE Custom Bass - The Black Knight PP Bass

This is a written transcript of our video review of the BITE Custom Bass Black Knight PP Bass originally published on March 4, 2024

BITE Custom Bass – The Black Knight PP Bass Review…

Bass Musician Magazine did a review on a Steampunk bass from BITE Guitars about three years ago, it was an amazing instrument, and we were very impressed. Now we’re happy to bring you another BITE bass, the Black Knight PP.

Everybody needs a P-type bass, it’s the standard of bass. If you’re recording, they want you to have a P bass. So why not have something that gives you a little more by having two instead of one P pickup. That’s the idea of this bass, it’s the first thing that leaps out: the double P pickup configuration.

Installing two of their 1000 millivolt split-coil pickups, BITE then went one step further and wired them up in a 4-way parallel/series circuit, a look at the controls reveal a 4-way rotary selector:

The first position, marked “B”, gives you the bridge pickup by itself.

The second position, marked “P”, gives you the bridge and neck pickups in parallel mode, that’s the traditional J-type circuit, it reduces output due to the physical law of parallel circuits.

Position number 3 is marked “N”, it gives you the neck pickup by itself.

And finally, number 4, marked “S”, gives your bridge and neck in a series (humbucking) mode which adds up resistances and thus boosts output. The other two controls are master volume and master tone.

What’s more, like every BITE bass, this one also has a reinforced headstock heel designed to give it extra output and sustain. The BITE website features a graph and explanation of what they have done to the heel, as compared to traditional headstocks.

A look at the body reveals a beautiful Black Blast body finish and underneath that we have alder wood. The bass has a matching headstock with a 4-in-line tuner setup and the traditional bite out of it, so everybody will know what kind of bass you’re playing. The pickguard is 3-ply black, the neck is vintage tinted hard maple and it has a satin speed finish at the back which keeps your thumb from sticking.

On top of that, there’s a clear-coated roasted black locust fretboard with black blocks marking the frets. The nut is a black Graph Tec nut, we’ve got diamond dome control knobs, and the tuners are lightweight compacts with cloverleaf buttons and a 1:17 ratio precision gear. The bridge is a Gotoh brass bridge with 19-millimeter string spacing.

Overall measurements: we’ve got a standard 34″ scale, a 1.65″ width nut and a C neck profile. This bass weighs 8.2 pounds, or 3,7 kilograms for our metric friends, and it uses standard 18% nickel silver frets.

Taking a closer look at the sound, this bass is a joy to play. The BITE proprietary 1000 millivolt pickups deliver an extraordinary amount of output which is surprising considering this is a passive instrument. You may even want to set your amp to active mode because of all of the juice you’re getting out of this guy.

The tonal possibilities are very versatile, it’s a straight P if you want but also much more with those different arrangements of the circuitry. So why have multiple basses when you’ve got one that can give you your basic P plus a lot more?

To sum it up, the Black Knight PP is an amazing instrument. The attention to detail that BITE puts into their basses is second to none. This bass is also amazingly balanced and gorgeous to hold and feel with the satin neck finish.

For more information, visit online at bite.guitars/product/black-knight-pp

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