This guitar, in company with its companion, the Ripper Bass, represents something of a new design policy by Gibson. It is made entirely of blonde wood, with a natural satin-matt finish, and combines features associated with various makes of bass into one instrument.
The neck is maple, with heavy-duty machine heads similar to those fitted to most Fender basses. The neck is also commendably straight, though it is more flexible than I would like; if the truss-rod were fitted as near as possible to the back of the neck it would probably improve rigidity.
The finger-board is also maple, and although it is of high quality and well fitted, the use of this wood for a fingerboard makes the choice of truss-rod geometry more critical than usual. I can honestly say that the standard of fretting and fret finishing is the best I have ever seen, ex-factory, on a Gibson or any other bass.
Much has been said about fret finishing on recent American guitars and I believe some of it to be entirely justified, but these frets are lapped and polished to the standard of a good "Customising" job. I have only three small doubts about the fingerboard: 1) Any maple fingerboard relies on its lacquer film to prevent it from becoming grubby; this lacquer is already beginning to wear off on my sample. (I see no solution to this problem except perhaps impregnation. If the lacquer is thick enough to withstand wear it also makes re-fretting disproportionately expensive); 2) Maple fingerboards are relatively soft and in their nature difficult to re-fret well; 3) Visually, plastic mother-of-pearl and blonde maple do not look well together and black dots, as in the edge, would be preferable.
It is not a criticism of the frets to say that they are unable to withstand the ill-made and highly abrasive strings fitted to my sample. To be fair, they may not be the original strings but they were
supplied on the review sample.
The string length is conventional long, or extra long — scale at 870mm/34¼". Neck width at nut is 41mm/2⅝", 1mm wider than a modern Precision Bass. I am pleased to say that the instrument arrived adjusted for a reasonable action and exact string intonation.
The body is made from selected poplar and is contoured front and back for comfort. Like the neck, it has a fine satin finish which is more uniform than one can normally expect from satin lacquers and I suspect it may have been finished with wire-wool.
This finish has the disadvantage of collecting grubby fingermarks, though they wash off easily, and the advantage that it does not reflect glare from theatre lighting. Considering the time spent on this pleasing finish, it is a pity that the makers did not spend a few more minutes putting the edges of the guitar over a brush-backed sander to remove its many sharp corners.
There are more ways in which this instrument is unusual. The strings are fed through from the back (the back recess is a little untidy), and appear at the front, on a bridge with individual string adjustments similar to those used by Fender, but of a rather better make. This bridge is covered by an equally well-made hand rest. Also the neck is bolted on with four screws and a back plate — again a departure from Gibson conventions.
It remains only for me to describe the electronics, which are even more unusual than the rest of the guitar. There is a single pick-up which slides on a movable part of the front panel giving different tones in different positions, and although the system works well, its potential is limited by the small amount of slide available. Even an inch greater movement towards the bridge would add to the variety of tones available.
The pick-up itself is encapsulated, which makes examination difficult. It appears to be well screened but not hum-bucking, has four central magnetic poles and seems to incorporate internal adjustments for better string balance. Tone and volume controls work smoothly throughout their range, but the screening around them, (like most modern solids) is totally inadequate to cope with some combinations of high impedance amps and modern theatre lighting.
Retail Price £181.20