Peavey Rudy Sarzo Bass

Peavey Rudy Sarzo Bass

Year: 1989

Made In: USA

Specs: Ash body, maple & purpleheart neck-through, ebony fretboard

Electronics: Peavey Wide-Aperture humbucking pickup, passive electronics

Controls: Volume, blend, bass, mid & treble cut & boost, active/passive selection switch

As someone who started on an Aria Pro II and forged an eternal affinity with the brand as a result, I remember having a sense of outrage when the Peavey Sarzo first showed up in ads in guitar magazines at the tale end of the 80’s. Sarzo had been a long time SB player and it’s quite obvious where a lot of the inspiration for this model came from. Indeed, the neck-through design, ash body wings and cat’s eye inlays are drawn straight from the SB template. Thankfully, Peavey did a good job with the electronics too and this is a high quality bass with an identity of its own, albeit slightly hidden underneath the Aria skin.

These have to be filed under “Criminally Underrated“, based on the current market price for what is now an over 25 year old model. Top of the Peavey line at the time, the Sarzo is a very well built instrument with no shortcuts taken. The hardware is made by Schaller, the tuners, in particular, are superb. Upper fret access is as good as I’ve ever played on any bass and the neck has a very comfortable D shape which is somewhat flatter at the back than usual. The sculpted headstock is a nice touch and an indication of the level of attention which went into this bass. It’s not light, but it’s not the heaviest out there either. In terms of playability, the only gripe I’d have is the lack of a forearm contour, but that’s just me.

Plugged in, the tone is meaty with a real “active” sound to it. I’ve read the ceramic wide-aperture pickups were modelled on Alembic but, to my ears, there’s a real taste of MM in there and it’s worth remembering Sarzo played a Sabre for a long time. The three-band EQ isn’t the most powerful I’ve encountered, but the fundamental sound of the bass is good enough to not warrant any drastic changes. It doesn’t want for low end, that’s for sure. When switched to the passive circuit, the active treble control becomes a passive tone, which is a nice touch. Personally, I would favour the active circuit but it’s nice to know passive is there if required.

In the grand scheme of things, the Sarzo is a well made and very usable bass which looks grand and graceful but can do work in the trenches. For the money, these are hard to beat.

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Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass

Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass

Year: 2004

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, maple neck & fretboard

Electronics: Fender single-coil J pickups, passive circuit

Controls: Volume, volume, tone

The Geddy Lee Jazz Bass is generally highly regarded and, when offered this one in a trade, I was quite interested to try it out. Indeed, it’s a very nice take on the classic design, the slim neck is particularly noteworthy. As ever with Fender Japan, the build quality was excellent and the whole package works very well. If you were to have only one Jazz bass, then this one would be a sterling candidate for the position.

For me, the ESP is the King of Jazz Mountain and I suspect that the Geddy would be with me for a short time and that’s the way it turned out. It’s a very nice bass but just wasn’t the #1 Jazz so I eased it out the door in another trade a few months later.

Ibanez Roadster RS924

Ibanez Roadster RS924

Year: 1980

Made In: Japan

Specs: Ash body, three-piece maple neck & fretboard

Electronics: Ibanez Super P4, Super J4

Controls: Volume, passive tone, active bass & treble cut & boost, two way switch for active/passive circuit, three way pickup selection switch

It’s hard to believe this bass is already over 35 years old, dating to January 1980. The singer in my band practically insisted I give this one a home. I could hardly say no. This was among the first original designs offered by Ibanez and has many high end features arguably long ahead of their time, such as separate active and passive circuits, high mass bridge, machine bolts in the neck and more.

Somewhat typical of the era, though, the body is a hefty slab of heavy ash. This might add to the feeling of solidity, as this bass has an air of indestructibility. The neck is nicely rounded and substantial. A forearm contour would have been nice, but it’s a familiar and comfortable design in hand.

The pickups are clearly modelled on DiMarzios and both are humbucking. This one came with a superflouous mini-switch which wasn’t wired up, so I wired  a serial/parallel option for bridge pickup. Some modifications had been poorly made to the wiring over the years so I brought it all back to the original configuration, aside from the bridge mini-switch. The Ibanez clones do sound quite like the pickups they were designed after and the bass has a smooth meatiness. The separate passive and active circuits are both very usable and it’s a very versatile machine.

This is a high end instrument, make no mistake. It’s easy to understand why Japanese instruments really made such an impression in the 80’s. There really is no comparison, in terms of quality, between the likes of these and the stuff Fender was putting out at the same time, but current prices don’t reflect this at all, with an example like this often costing less than a quarter of a US made peer of the same year. It beggars belief.

Bacchus Duke Master

Bacchus Duke Master

Year: 2007

Made In: Japan

Specs: Mahogany body & neck, maple top, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Bacchus STP-1 P90 pickups

Controls: Volume x 2, tone x 2, three-way switch

Another import from Japan, you either really like the brown oil finish or you really don’t. I picked up this Duke Master new after having my appetite for P90s whetted by PRS. The PRS didn’t stay long after the Duke arrived.

A much darker sounding guitar than the PRS, the Duke doesn’t have the ear-grating brightness of its predecessor, instead it’s a mean sounding hound-dog growl with that characteristic P90 twang. It’s equally at home clean or smothered in dirt.

It’s chunky from head to toe. The body is thick and deep, the neck is exceptionally chunky. When you pick it up, you know it’s 100% serious business. Despite the size, it’s not overly heavy, though it is a substantial piece of equipment. The big neck still accommodates a nice low action with Bacchus’ usual exemplary standard of fretwork.

This one is built for comfort, built to last.