Peavey Foundation Bass
The Foundation is one of only a few Peavey basses to come on to the market since the original T40. It hails from an American company which in my book makes very useable amps and speaker systems at most reasonable prices.
My particular Foundation was a tobacco-rust-black sunburst which was certainly attractive and well lacquered. I imagine it would look pretty good under lights. The body is Precision-styled and feels comfortable to me, either standing or sitting. Here I should mention that this is a well-balanced bass — you won't find that you have to hold the neck up in order to play it, a point on which many basses nosedive.
Two Peavey Super Ferrite pickups are installed — one at the bridge, the other midway — and the three easily-turned and accurate-sounding control pots are positioned à la Jazz Bass — two volumes and an overall tone. There are no switches, and the electronics are the passive sort — therefore, no batteries.
To complete the picture, the bridge is a standard chrome-plated arrangement, straddled by four largish barrels which are free to skid wherever they wish on their Allen key adjustable grub-screws. There are no guides for the barrels to follow, and it was only fluke that kept the strings evenly spaced apart. With a different action and/or string-length... well, remembering that bass strings tend to settle where they want to be and not where we would like them, this is not good.
And neither is the part where you adjust string length and insert strings. This has been virtually enclosed, presumably to protect an ambitious right hand. But the practical effect is to make those last two tasks more awkward than they should be. Finally, the access plate on the back of the body is a thin, flimsy bit of black plastic which fits loosely and looks cheap.
Onwards to the neck, which is constructed from a very pale-looking wood topped with a rosewood fingerboard. The fretting is immaculate as is the standard of finish on the neck, and the shape of the playing area is very much Jazz Bass, tapering from the usual width at the body to quite narrow at the nut. This suits me fine, and I found it to be very playable and responsive with an even feel up and down the scale. The machine heads are good quality, smooth turning, quite stable, and are easy to tune. Small print on the headstock informs us that two patents have been granted, and more are pending.
The neck is tilt-adjustable (with another Allen key) but none of the keys that I keep for my own basses would fit this one, and none was provided which is a pity as I'd have liked to have raised the action somewhat. However, I do like the action high, so many players would find it just about right as supplied.
I began to enjoy playing this bass, and then I plugged it into my amp. Much droning and buzzing, came the stern reply. I realised that the TV was flickering quietly away in the corner of the room: this racket was directional, and on further investigation there does appear to be a woeful shortage of screening on the Peavey. The Foundation doesn't like TVs, it seems, and it follows that it probably won't care for lighting rigs either. So, with all potential interference switched off, I continued.
The overall tonal range is adequate, if not wildly distinguished. The bass pickup sounds were good and deep, with no wooliness encountered. With the tone pot fully open the pleasant, rounded "ooomph" was consistent all the way up the scale, with a clear cut when played with a pick. At this stage, I began to notice something.
The treble pickup, for its part, produced a well-sustained, "piping" sort of tone — the type that penetrates well, especially when played against other instruments in a similar frequency range (such as synth-bass). However, with the tone control opened right up once more, I found the treble end rather harsh in sound — a bit fierce, if you get my drift. Unfortunately, in this position the pickup fully revealed what I'd noticed earlier: the D-string on the foundation doesn't speak as loudly as its companions. The response of this string is subdued, causing the other three to leap out in comparison. This is not a situation a screwdriver can remedy.
I'm astonished that after 30 years of electric bass development, an instrument can be launched with such elementary faults in design. Didn't anyone at Peavey listen to these pickups before they installed them? Isn't the Foundation meant to be used on stages with anything more than candle footlights? While the D-string anomaly may not be so apparent while playing live (though the results of bad screening certainly will be), I doubt that a studio engineer would take it for very long without saying something...
I'm left wondering what novelties those patents cover. Could it be the undeniably well-made neck that in practice flexes a little too easily? Or the catch-locks on the compact, neat and durable moulded case? Two catches are weakening rapidly, and I must have opened the case half a dozen times. All this for only £380.
Well, in conclusion, I find myself in a dilemma. I would have liked to have recommended the Foundation bass because I admire Peavey's equipment and philosophy. And initially the guitar felt good. But this is a product which, though in several individual aspects is quite praiseworthy, when taken as a complete instrument intended for work on the road and in the studio ultimately fails. This I imagine is due either to suspect materials and poor design, or glaring oversights from the test-bench at Peavey HQ.