Kimbara Stereo Bass
This Guitar Review is exceptional in that the instrument reviewed is a pre-production trade show sample, supplied at our request. I feel it would be most unfair to apply criticisms of this particular instrument to the final production model which will probably appear in late November. However, the original of this model and all accurate replicas of it, require careful design and assembly of the neck-to-body joint in the area around the fingerboard pick-up, and you may wish to check this, when selecting any instrument based on the same design.
This bass is obviously based very closely on the Rickenbacker Stereo. It is more like the new models than tha old ones, and the pick-ups, while sounding very similar, are mechanically rather different.
The general standard of finish is perhaps a little better than American current production, with the exception of the frets and fingerboard, which are not as well finished.
This Bass is constructed from what appears to be Canadian Maple and the neck is continuous right through the body, which certainly gives it an edge on other similar copies with screw-on necks. It also means that the setting of the neck angle has to be right first time. On the review sample, the neck alignment WAS correct, but has subsequently shifted, owing to partial failure of the glue joint between neck and body. This is exactly the sort of fault which can occur when a sample instrument is rushed through to meet an exhibition date, strung up before the glue has had a chance to harden properly, and then subsequently dropped in transit.
Most examples of this fault, which is very common on certain 'vintage' American guitars, can be detected by a tell-tale cracking or whitening of the lacquer around the neck joint, and a high action on an apparently straight neck. The importers are aware of the fault on this sample and it is most unlikely that such an instrument would be allowed out for sale.
The neck has a centre lamination of American Black Walnut, which apart from Ebony or good Rosewood, is about the best material to put in the middle of a spliced Maple neck, as it has the property of absorbing some of the stresses involved in the gluing process. In spite of this, some of the glue lines in the head and neck are rather wide and it is difficult to say how much is glue and how much is lacquer filling a crack. This is definitely a point to watch.
The fingerboard is thick, solid, well shaped and made of rosewood, (probably Indian or Asian.) Frets are smooth and level but a little rough at the ends. This is not very significant, as the fingerboard is carefully bound with white plastic, and the whole thing is lacquered over the top. This lacquer on the fingerboard cements the frets in place, fills in some of the roughness at the sides and ends of frets and gives a very smooth playing surface. It can also make re-fretting quite a headache, but if you like lacquered fingerboards, you will have the same problem with almost any make of instrument.
The bridge assembly copies the Rick design almost exactly, and has the same problem (— wobbly bridge insert bar and a tendency for the string-holding end to lift). Both these points are significant errors of design; neither seems to affect the sales or popularity of the American original, so presumably they are acceptable on a copy. I am pleased to see that the adjustable bridge inserts have smooth plastic slides underneath them. This stops them rattling, takes the strain off the octave adjustment screws and does not appear to harm the instrument's tone.
This brings me to the most successful aspect of the Kimbara Bass. It is difficult to pin down what is a definitive Rickenbacker tone, because it is such a versatile instrument, but this copy comes closer than any I have tried, to producing the same tone range, (from hard to fruity). Most better Japanese electrics all originate from one of two large manufacturers, whatever may be the name on the head, and this is reflected in a close similarity of pick-ups between different models of guitar and bass. I believe that the Kimbara bass is made by a smaller independent maker, and this may explain the slightly different sound. I agree that on close inspection, the pick-ups do not look at all right, but what matters is the resulting sound, and that is directly comparable with the original.
The electrical arrangements are perfectly conventional with two volumes, two tones and a 3-way selector switch. The output is fed to two jacks, labelled 'Standard' and 'Stereo sound'. I will say again that this is not Stereo operation, but 'Two-channel'. (It is possible to make a Stereo bass pick-up, and with a two amp/two speaker setup, the resulting sound would make your toes curl and your ears fall off! — but I will leave that idea for a future article).
There seems to be a small problem in the operation of the stereo socket but I am sure this will be corrected when the guitar goes into production and in any case it is very simple for you to check. Neither tone control does very much, probably because the source impedance of the pick-ups is lower than those on the Rickenbacker. (Japanese pick-ups often come with fewer turns of thicker wire and a more powerful magnet to approximately make up for the lower output). It appears that 100k or 200k pots and larger capacitors would give a wider range of tone control. Screening inside the body is just adequate because of the modified pick-ups, but on a top price Japanese guitar I want to see proper foil lining to the body cavity.
Machine heads and nut are well made and correctly adjusted, although the string spacing at the nut was well in from the edges and I would like to see it stretched a little wider.
Retail Price £171.20
Review by Stephen Delft
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