Charvel So-Cal Style 1

Charvel So-Cal Style 1

Year: 2010

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, one-piece maple neck and fretboard

Electronics: DiMarzio Tone Zone & Evolution humbucking pickups

Controls: Volume, 3-way switch

It’s all about the neck.

This is almost the perfect rock guitar, there’s no other way to put it. There’s nothing here which doesn’t need to be here, it’s stripped back and distilled to the essence of what a rock guitar should be.

When you start with the familiar Strat core, mated with a Floyd Rose bridge and two good quality humbuckers, it really is hard to go wrong. The alder body is light and resonant, routed for HSH underneath the plate. The bridge sits flush on the body, there’s no routing to allow the bridge to raise pitch too much.

The pickups are reasonable output, enough to drive an amp well, but both clean up nicely. The Tone Zone isn’t too far away from the sound of the wonderful JB, which is just fine by me. Really, there’s little to complain about, it’s a great sounding guitar.

Now on to the neck, probably the greatest production neck out there. It’s an amazing shape, supremely comfortable. It’s not a skinny Wizard type, it’s not a chubby traditional type either. It’s somewhere in the middle, but delightfully rounded, even with quite a flat fretboard. It feels just right. The oil finish is smooth and quick. It’s the kind of neck you’d be happy with on any guitar. It’s spectacular.

The mystery is why they made it so you have to take the neck off in order to access the truss rod. A spoke wheel, move it to the headstock, anything but what they actually did. It’s the one infuriating mistake on the almost perfect rock guitar.

Advertisements

Mayones BE4 Africa

Mayones BE4 Africa

Year: 1996

Made In: Poland

Specs: Amazaque body, bete & black oak five-piece neck, wenge fretboard

Electronics: MEC J pickups, MEC 2-band preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, bass and treble cut & boost

Mayones have established themselves as a high-end builder of some repute, though this one dates from a good stretch before that when they were still establishing themselves post-Communism. The Warwick influences are instantly visible and, as it turned out, were more than just aesthetic. The hardware was all Schaller, using Warwick’s designs and the pickups and electronics were all MEC. As a result, it had the Warwick growl down to a tee. It was well put together, if not quite up to the level of the big W, with a very playable neck. It was a fine bass but, ultimately, it was just too close to the Warwick sound to be of real use. I rarely found myself picking it up when the real thing was right beside it, so I eased it on out the door in a trade for the Mustaine V.

Schecter C7 Blackjack

Schecter C7 Blackjack

Year: 2005

Made In: Korea

Specs: Mahogany body, mahogany set neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan JB & 59 humbucking pickups, passive circuit

Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way switch

Bought while I was flirting with seven strings, this was a really nice guitar.  Compared to the LTD I had, it had a much fatter neck, but it was just as playable. It needed a little bit of fretwork when it arrived and the nut needed a little attention too, but the build quality was otherwise really good. The set neck joint was very nicely sculpted like a neck-through. For the money, they’re really good value. All the hardware is good quality, thoroughly reliable and the slightly longer scale made for a good, solid low B. I can’t say anything bad about it but my time with sevens was limited so it eventually got eased on out the door.

 

Warwick Streamer LX Jazzman

Warwick Streamer LX Jazzman

Year: 2009/2004

Made In: Germany

Specs: Ash body with maple top, three-piece ovangkol neck, wenge fingerboard

Electronics: MEC MM & J pickups, MEC 3-band preamp

Controls: Volume with push/pull for active and passive circuit, Pickup blend, Bass cut and boost,  Mid cut and boost, Treble cut and boost, three-way switch for MM parallel/single coil/series

The other half of a tale of two Warwicks. This started life as an fretless Jazzman with an ebony fingerboard but I swapped necks with a fretted LX, which is covered in greater detail elsewhere. The regular P & J setup of the LX sounds great fretless and the Jazzman is a hugely powerful and versatile system fretted. Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s the truth.

While it covers a lot of the same ground as the Stingray and Godlyke, it sounds very different from both. The MEC MM pickup is brash and aggressive in ways the EBMM or Bartolini in those basses just aren’t. Coupled with the three way switch, the MM pickup alone is more than enough for any task. Factor in the meaty sound of the J pickup and then the three-band EQ and you’ve got a really dynamic bass which still has that Warwick growl underpinning every tweak of the controls. There are so many usable and distinctive tones, it can almost be too much. It doesn’t have a signature sound, it has loads it does really well instead.

As ever, with Warwick, it’s a very comfortable bass to play. The 2004 neck is from their era of huge D shapes and it certainly does feel quite huge the first time you play it. I find it to be a very comfortable neck, however. The narrow Jazz sized nut combined with the sheer bulk of the depth of the neck is actually very easy on the hands. The fretboard is almost flat. Again, this is a big departure from old Fenders but the kind of thing you adjust to quickly and instinctively. The Streamer body shape sits well on a six pack or the beeriest of bellies, again featuring an arched back back common to the model.

If you were to have just one bass for every occasion, this one would have to be close to the top of the list.

Ibanez SR3006E

Ibanez SR3006E

Year: 2002

Made In: Japan

Specs: Mahogany body, five-piece wenge & bubinga neck, wenge fretboard

Electronics: Bassculture stacked humbucker pickups, Vari-mid preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, bass cut & boost, treble cut & boost, Mid cut & boost, sweepable mid frequency selector

Shortly after the the turn of the century, I was playing in a fairly progressive rock band. At the time, I had just the ESP Jazz and a Ric 4003 to play with and I fancied trying a more extended range bass with the group. I was thinking about getting a five string and, having long wanted an Ibanez SR, was drawn to their Prestige five-string model but, at the last minute, decided to go all-in and get the six-string version. It was also my first experience buying over the internet – it went horrendously, Music123 shipping my bass to Alabama after my order had been altered, for some reason, and doing sod-all to remedy the situation but, after many irate phone calls to the USA, it eventually got resolved and this fine instrument was finally delivered.

Prior to getting this bass, I hadn’t even played a five-string for more than a few minutes in a shop, so the six was a big departure for me and took a bit of getting used to. I think I made a good choice though, the build quality was superb and it set up exceptionally well with very low action. The 16mm string spacing was a bit tighter than I would have liked but it was nothing which couldn’t be overcome. The neck was substantial, but not uncomfortably so, and perfectly stable. As with all SRs, the body was light and perfectly balanced and snug.

The stock Bartolini pickups, custom made for this model, were fairly anaemic – very clean, very polite, low on character. I worked with them for a while but I could never really warm to them so I had a pair of more aggressive sounding stacked humbuckers made by Bassculture in Germany. They proved to be a huge improvement and the rosewood covers also proved to be an aesthetic upgrade too. The Vari-mid preamp was very useful and worked well with the new pickups.

For the duration of that band, it became my main bass but, after the band broke up, I instinctively went back to playing four strings the majority of the time and found it hard to play the six again after periods away. If I played it regularly it was fine but over time I played it less and less. I struggled with going from four to six and back again and, for this reason, eased it on out the door. Great bass, just too many strings for me.

 

Status S3000

Status S3000

Year: 1991

Made In: England

Specs: Mahogany body, carbon graphite neck & fretboard

Electronics: Status Hyperactive J pickups, Status PS1 preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, treble cut & boost

Of all the basses you wouldn’t expect to find an Elvis impersonator selling in the depths of rural Ireland, this one would have to rank somewhere near the top. Complete with the welcome appearance of a trophy wife, it was one of the more surreal experiences I’ve been through to get a bass but, eh, that’s all right.

I’ve no doubt there are better cared for Statii out there but they don’t come up for sale often at all, so I picked this one up knowing some TLC would be required. It looked to have been played extensively, a good sign, and also played as a lefty for a period, not so good. Aside from some scratchy pots and some damage to the body, everything functioned as it should. The neck is straight and true, with a really unique shape. It’s very flat, both the fretboard and the back of the neck. There is no truss rod, but the integrity of the neck is sound and the frets are still in great shape with just the right amount of relief set. The action can be set absurdly low. As expected, you put it tune and it stays there forever.

The Jazz configuration is exaggerated slightly by the bridge pickup being much closer to the bridge than on other basses. It’s a bit too thin on its own but there are a lot of usable tones to be had blending it with the neck pickup. The treble control isn’t the most useful thing I’ve ever encountered, though. Boosting just makes it far too bright for my tastes and cutting it too wooly. I’ll probably use the ample space in the control cavity to install a more sophisticated preamp. I’m also thinking of refinishing it, possibly in a solid colour. I think I have a way to go to really get to what I believe this bass is capable of

Ibanez S2120X

Ibanez S2120X

Year: 2002

Made In: Japan

Specs: Mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Ibanez QM1 & QM2 humbuckers, L.R. Baggs piezo

Controls: Volume, tone, five-way switch for magnetic pckups – Volume, bass & treble cut & boost for piezo pickup – three way switch for magnetic/piezo selection

I had such grand plans when I bought this. I much prefer the S shape to the RG and it had a more conventional sized Ultra neck. The possibilities offered by the piezo and magnetic combination were inspiring. It was also, and remains, one of the prettiest guitars I can think of.

As you’d expect from Ibanez Japan, the build was superb. Everything felt solid and high quality. The way the S gets really thin at the edges is really comfortable and the action could be set nicely low. The chunkier Ultra neck really worked for me too, it had a really thick slab of rosewood for a fretboard.

The piezo sounded really good, especially when run into a P.A. or direct input. The switching allowed you to send the piezo and magnetic pickups out through separate jacks or use the mini-switch to blend or select individually through one output. If anything, the guitar exceeded my level of talent by some margin.

My only gripe was that I couldn’t get a tone out of the bridge humbucker which I was truly happy with. I tried several different pickups as the QMs weren’t that good, to be honest. Nothing I tried in the bridge position worked for me, not even a trusty JB and, as a result, I eased it on out the door.

I do think of it from time to time, wondering if I would get along better with it now. It was a guitar which offered almost limitless possibilities but I never felt truly at home on it at the time.