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Review: New York Bass Works Reference Series JayRay

Review: New York Bass Works Reference Series JayRay

Gear Reviews

Review: New York Bass Works Reference Series JayRay

New York Bass Works Reference Series JayRay…

David Segal and David Beasley of New York Bass Works have quietly been making some of the world’s best electric basses for decades, as evidenced by their basses residing in the capable hands of some of the world’s best players, including Richard Bona, Dane Alderson, Cheikh Ndoye, and many others. Segal, one of the New York area’s most well-known electric bass luthiers, repairmen, restorers, and collectors, partnered with David Beasley, a 30-year veteran in the NY area music retail and bass building industry, and their collective experience came together to result in these beautiful instruments.  

NYBW’s lineup is divided into two groups: the exotic Custom line, which includes his flagship Cremona and Osprey models, and the Reference (RS) line, which draws heavily from classic Leo Fender-inspired designs.   I have been a fan of David’s basses for some time, having heard outrageously great-sounding clips of his basses online. When an opportunity presented to check out this bass via Trickfish Amplification, one of NYBW’s select dealer network, I couldn’t resist. 

This particular NYBW came out of the case and immediately struck me as exceptionally well-designed and well-built.

It sports a heavenly-feeling roasted birdseye maple neck and fingerboard finished in a light satin urethane that feels warm and natural, almost like smooth raw wood, but offers the protection and stability of a finished neck. The neck profile on the RS line is slightly on the beefier side but still feels fast and sleek. A flawless high-gloss sunburst finish highlights the gorgeous flame maple top and ash body.

The JayRay’s unique custom electronics package really got my attention. Basses with a J pickup in the neck position and a Music Man-style pickup in the bridge position (J/MM) are not unheard of, but if you look closely at this bass, you’ll notice something unique. The bridge pickup, custom-made by Carey Nordstrand, has one row of Music Man coils and one row of Jazz coils on the bridge side. Via a 2-position mini toggle switch, the pickup can function as a J pickup, roughly in the 70’s position, or something new: a hybrid MM/J pickup utilizing both coils in series.   Not quite as sizzly and aggressive as a Music Man, and certainly more aggressive and fuller than a Jazz pickup, this unique coil combination, combined with the neck pickup, yields a fantastic array of usable and somewhat unique tones.  

This bass features an optional 3-band Trickfish IPA onboard preamp, with a 2-way switch, to toggle between two midrange frequencies for the mid-EQ control, as spec’d by NYBW. Standard equipment on the RS line basses includes the “3 Leaf Audio Anima” (Formerly known as Pike “Shape Shifter”) onboard preamp. Other cool offerings from the RS line include the Mantaray (one MM pickup) and the Beezsting (a single hybrid J/MM wired to a blend pot).

The playability and comfort of the JayRay is outstanding, as you might expect, given Segal’s background as a seasoned player.

The sumptuous feeling roasted birdseye neck, the super low action and flawless fretwork, and the powerful electronics package make for a potent and joyful playing experience. In particular, I was really taken by the versatility and uniqueness of the electronics package and had a great time exploring all of the various great-sounding Jazz and Musicman tones, as well as everything unique in between.  The Trickfish IPA preamp is well matched for the custom Nordstrand pickups, providing remarkably powerful but super usable EQ control. The dual mid frequencies are particularly well suited for the instruments’ voicing, and the bass and treble EQ really bring the jazz/mm footprint to life. This bass is capable of a whole lot of sizzle and spank, and you best believe I loved every minute of it when I brought the bass out to a local funk gig.  

It is not easy to bust out of the mold and create something new and unique while not straying too far from the familiarity of the Fender family tree.

Some basses manage to strike a distinctive balance of traditional and extraordinary, and the JayRay is just such a bass. It’s clear that the partnership of David Segal and Dave Beasley’s collective long history of ample data points, working with some of the world’s finest bass guitars, go into these instruments. You feel a palpable working knowledge and experience when you pick it up, which is obviously missing in some of the beautiful but less-than-practical basses I sometimes see from less experienced builders.     

For more information, visit NYBW online at

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