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BC Rich Eagle


Article from Sound International, May 1979

The Eagle bass

BC Rich guitars and basses are made on the US West Coast by Bernardo Rico. They have enjoyed a good reputation in the US for some years but have only recently been introduced to the UK by EFR guitars.

The two standard BC Rich basses are the Eagle and the Mockingbird. The only difference between the two is the body shape.

The basses are available in a choice of maple, mahogany or koa. The review bass was a koa Eagle. Koa is a light wood with good acoustic properties, and was used extensively for Hawaiian ukeleles.

The first thing I noticed about this bass was its extremely lightweight and excellent balance, yet despite its lightness it doesn't feel flimsy. I don't know if it had been set up at the factory or by EFR, but it felt so immediately playable that I used it on a gig the day it was delivered and enjoyed playing it.

The bass has a 24 fret fingerboard (instead of the usual 21 or 22 frets). As on the Alembic bass this is made practical by using a one-piece neck through the body construction which eliminates the cumbersome heel at the end of the neck which would make the top frets inaccessible.

The fingerboard is of Brazilian rosewood which is well selected, of generous depth, and which feels very nice. The scale is 34in. The frets are of nickel silver alloy and are wide and shallow. On the review sample the fretting had none of the minor imperfections common on new instruments and the bass was very much in tune throughout the fingerboard. Unlike most neck through the body basses, this section is actually one piece of wood, with no veneers or laminates used except for a piece of what appears to be rosewood on the front of the head. The carved section at the very top of the head is a separate piece of wood, but the join is in such a position as not to interfere with the basic strength of the instrument.

The truss rod access point is located under a black plastic triangle on the head. This arrangement has proved weak on Gibson guitars as it entails cutting rather a large groove in what is perhaps the weakest point of the guitar. While the head doesn't appear as weak as many Gibsons, I would prefer to see the truss rod access located at the body end.

The bass comes fitted with Dean Markley roundwound strings. These are relatively smooth, very consistent and very live, and more mellow than most roundwounds. I look forward to seeing them available in the UK. The machine heads are Grovers and operate smoothly and efficiently.

The neck is fairly shallow and about the width of a Precision, with a slight taper. It feels remarkably light and comfortable, and the action was fast, positive and even.

The two halves of the body of both the Mockingbird and the Eagle are spliced on to the neck section with strips of contrasting wood (maple on the koa bass, and rosewood on the maple bass). The body appearance is a matter of taste, but personally I think that both basses are pleasing to the eye, especially the smaller, plainer Eagle design. They are both very well balanced, and I think this is partly due to the use of the Straplok system. This consists of a metal stud, with a push button top, which is easily fitted semi-permanently to the end of any strap by means of a clip and two washers. The other section is two hollow studs which screw on to the guitar in place of the normal strap buttons, and which can be used as normal strap buttons. You simply clip the strap on to the stud, and press the button to release it. This saves you gradually enlarging the hole in the strap until it breaks, and there is no way that the strap can come adrift during a gig, leaving you standing on one leg like a flamingo. Bernardo Rico has taken advantage of this system to place the strap buttons at an angle on the horns of his basses in positions where normal strap buttons wouldn't work. This enables the optimum balance points tp be used. The Straplok system is very neat and efficient and I feel it should be fitted to more guitars as a standard feature. Overall, the body shapes are very comfortable, but the pointed lower horn on the Eagle bass tends to dig into the thigh when playing seated, and I would prefer the top cutaway of both basses to be a little deeper for even easier access to the top frets.

The Mockingbird bass

The bridge is the Leo Quan Badass which is a well proven design similar to the Fender and frequently used as a superior replacement bridge for Fender basses. I believe it is chrome-plated brass.

The pickups are two sets of high output dual sound DiMarzio P-Bass pickups which again are well proven and used as Fender replacements.

The electronics are unconventional and a little tricky to understand. The top knob is a master volume control operating both pickups. Next to this is a three-way toggle switch for pickup selection (1, 1+2, 2). The bottom knob is a conventional tone pot, again affecting both pickups. On the review sample this control offered very little range and stopped far short of the amount of high top than one would expect from the DiMarzio pickups, or even a standard Fender bass. I thought the pot might be faulty, and tried another instrument, but this was the same, and I was unable to get any real treble despite trying H/H, Ampeg, Marshall and Acoustic amplifiers.

Located over the jack socket are three small two-way switches. Two of these provide the DiMarzio dual sound (choice of fat or thin). The third is an out of phase switch to be used when both pickups are on. This provides a hollow, nasal sound which is striking and useful. Above these three switches is a six-position vari-tone switch. I found only the first two settings of this switch to be of any practical use, the other four being a bit boomy and characterless.

Below the toggle switch, and close to hand, is a small on/off switch for the preamp circuit, with a preamp gain control next to it. The preamp provides a great boost in output, and enhances the highs and lows, thickening the sound and giving more punch. Unfortunately on both basses I checked the preamp boosted the lows more than the highs.

The preamp is powered by a nine-volt PP3 battery. Unlike most systems where the battery is in use as soon as the jackplug is connected, the BC Rich uses the battery only when the preamp is in use, thus saving battery life. To replace the battery the back plate which covers all the electronics is removed. This plate is thin black plastic. I would prefer a screened metal plate as the plastic mars the appearance of the beautiful woods used on the back, and is also liable to split or warp in time. I would also prefer a separate battery compartment with only two screws instead of having to remove and replace the five screws used. Apart from convenience, the use of a secondary battery compartment would minimise risk of damage to the rest of the circuitry when replacing the battery in bad condition. But if the claim of one battery change a year is true, this is not too important.

In practice, this bass has a full, warm, punchy sound with plenty of depth and a rich range of useful middle tones. It records very well indeed. I regard the lack of high top as a fairly serious shortcoming in an instrument of this quality, although it is possible that both the instruments I checked were faulty. However, any musical instrument electronics engineer would modify the tone circuitry to remedy this at a small cost, and the other sounds already available are so nice that many players would not miss the high treble.

The light weight of the Eagle makes it a nice gigging bass, and both basses have enough of the classy looks and feel of a handmade instrument to justify the price.

Although at first glance the BC Rich gives the impression of being a poor man's Alembic, it actually bears little real similarity to the Alembic, but is more than a rich man's Fender. I know of at least one bassist who abandoned his search for a vintage Fender when he tried the Rich,

BC Rich basses are available from EFR guitars, (Contact Details). Price: £750. Straplok systems are available by post from Colin Pincott, (Contact Details) at £5.50 inc P&P.

Steve York is a freelance bassist who has worked with Elkie Brooks, Joan Armatrading, Dr John, Marianne Faithful and Isaac Guillory, among others.

Also featuring gear in this article

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Backstage with Peavey

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Publisher: Sound International - Link House Publications

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Sound International - May 1979

Donated by: Richard Elen

Gear in this article:

Bass > BC Rich > NJ Series Eagle

Bass > BC Rich > Mockingbird

Review by Steve York

Previous article in this issue:

> Backstage with Peavey

Next article in this issue:

> Sequencers

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