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Kubicki Factor Bass

Article from One Two Testing, September 1985

the hot American bass

I DARE SAY we'll be seeing this expensive, Californian bass around quite a bit in the winter — the earliest time that the UK agents are expecting anything like reasonable quantities.

For the Kubicki Factor has some immediately grabbing characteristics — it looks good, it has a way of switching the E-string into a low D-string at the flick of the thumb, it sounds wonderfully wide ranging, and... well, no doubt maker Philip Kubicki figures that it's about time somebody took over from Ned Steinberger in the fashion stakes.

First off, though, it's all about balance and sound. Rest the bass on your lap and it's almost as if some invisible stand is locking it in a horizontal plane. Not even a thought of support enters your head — just play that bass. Which is what you do. On a strap the story remains the same.

Plug the bass in, using the socket just below the bridge section, and the tonal possibilities of this bass dawn rapidly. Three pots, two of which are dual-ganged, are all you have to deal with, though Kubicki seem sensibly to have crammed a lot into them.

The back pot is a single six-position switch to give five pre-selected ranges (and "off"). Some numbers would be handy here — the control area has no markings whatsoever, and on the position selector particularly it's often impossible to tell where you are.

There are three passive positions — a deep, rumbling bottom-emphasis sound; a middly, washier concoction; and a toppier, flatter setting. Then there are two active settings: what I'd call toppy, and very toppy (though Kubicki emphasise the middle-boost qualities of the final setting).

The sounds can then be adjusted with the volume control at the front which has a pickup pan control on the gang underneath to mix the pickup balance, and the bass and treble control ganged on the other pot — the top for tone in passive settings, and the two together for bass and treble in active mode.

What I found very useful was to set up a sort of compromise tone and pan setting that would get me across all five settings, and thereby offer something handy to flick to instantly with the selector knob — five quick-fire sounds that are sufficiently different to cover anything from bulbous backing throbs to up-front slapafunk. Versatility is most certainly the word for the sound of this bass.

The Kubicki has two extra frets below the normal E-string's nut position: there is actually no nut at the "open" E, but a fret and a spring-loaded clamp. To play the bass as a conventional E-A-D-G instrument the clamp stays put, locking the E-string against this fret and therefore giving normal E an open string. A push on the clamp with the thumb and a flick of the first finger under the E-string will remove the clamp and let free the whole length of the string to an "extended" nut down at low D. There's an extra fret too to give Eb between the new open D and the now frettable E at the other strings' nut position. Follow?

It sounds tricky, doesn't it? And the first half dozen or so times you try the flicking method to remove the clamp, or the slightly simpler single flick to put it back, two things strike you. First, yes, this is fiddly. Second, this is noisy. Familiarity helps the first along no end, while damping aids the second. It's not a staggeringly elegant method, but it works. You'd be likely to change the clamp between songs anyway, so you could always turn round and pretend to be fiddling with your amp.

But why go to low D in this way anyhow? Quite a few players will take their E down to D with the machine head to give extra bottom room — but you have to quickly recalculate positioning as you play up the neck. Not so with the Kubicki. And many bass players feel that low tuning generally would help recover musical ground they've lost to synth-bass pretenders in recent times (as Andrew Bodnar noted in One Two in June, p79).

However, none of this was helped by the fact that the E-string on the review sample — "a sort of prototype" — seemed lacking in punch compared to the other three strings. Nothing too worrying, but an irritating if subtle deficiency, especially considering this string's new-found and crucial importance. Was it the clamping system itself causing this? Gauges, string lengths and resonance were topics that loomed. But of course it could be the string itself. So let's change it — let's, in fact, go the whole hog and change the set.

The bridge-mounted tuners are slackened right off, then a protruding metal "ratchet head" is pressed, and the string jumps off a large plastic wheel on to which it's mounted behind the saddle. Simple, clever, and so on. Getting a new string on is trickier. You poke the non-ball-end into a hole on the plastic wheel, locate the ball end in the slot up the other end, and turn the wheel until the string's taut. Then you have to stretch the string and turn the wheel some more: otherwise, as I discovered, there isn't enough play on the 80:1 ratio tuners to bring the string to pitch. Remember to stretch, and it's a doddle (with a sore right thumb from the wheel's gripping "teeth").

But the E-string? Another problem. This is a 34in scale bass. Yet the 34in scale E-strings I tried to put on were not long enough, because of the extra length for the D option, and the end windings hung over the saddle into the playing area, even with the now-customary stretching. I found some Fender Studio roundwounds which had no windings, so they went on all right, and reportedly the supplied Guilds' E had overcome the problem through stretching.

Strangely enough, a Swing Bass .105 I put on and which suffered the overhanging winding problem seemed brighter than either the Guild or Fender E, both of which seemed, as I've said, marginally dull and unpunchy. Could this now point to a pickup problem? The irritation remained unresolved.

The neck is made of loads of 1/16in maple veneers laminated together. This is claimed to eliminate deadspots by heightening its resonance, and certainly there were none evident, the sound seeming clean and crisp, even acoustically. But in its untreated, "natural" state the neck felt rather dry to me, and looked like it would blacken if you picked it up after reading NME.

So how does the Kubicki Factor bass score? Excellent sound and balance, good playability and feel, novel if inelegant low E/D switching, quick and accurate stringing/tuning, and a hefty price.

I have a feeling there'll be one or two modifications before the winter queues start forming.

KUBICKI Factor bass: £1000+

CONTACT: The Bass Centre, (Contact Details).

Previous Article in this issue

In A Busker's Pocket

Next article in this issue

Yamaha 8000 Kit

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Sep 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter

Scanned by: Mike Gorman

Gear in this article:

Bass > Kubicki > Factor

Review by Tony Bacon

Previous article in this issue:

> In A Busker's Pocket

Next article in this issue:

> Yamaha 8000 Kit

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