Vox Custom Bass, Custom 25
[Text missing] than its matching six string, bass guitarists tending to be a fairly conservative lot.
Common features are the arrowed headstock, a three-piece maple neck and fretboard that runs through the body and brass fittings. It's a long instrument, a full 34in scale and the neck cruises up to an easily accessible two octaves made even smoother to reach by the heel, which like the six string has been cut well into the body.
If anything I preferred the colour to that of the Custom 25. It's a delicate golden Honey shade, still showing the grain of the dense rock maple wood underneath.
Rose-Morris have opted for DiMarzio pickups, again putting a P-bass in the neck position and a J-bass at the tail, obviously modelling their sounds on the Precision and Jazz basses of Fender. The cheaper alternative to the Custom is the black Standard and that has a single P-bass coil at the tail plus chrome fittings and a plastic nut.
The Custom rejoices in a solid brass bridge that smacks more than a little of a similar Washburn design. Each of the saddles has a large hole in the middle and the string feeds in from the back of the body.
The medium-sized frets have been finished to a fine standard, but the pickups on this review model had been more or less dropped into place, exposing eighth inch gaps between their cream covers and the surrounding wood. It was the only construction fault I could find.
The neck itself is slim and keeps the same depth from top to bottom, though the width — ie the distance across the frets — varies from a compact 1½in at the brass nut to just under 2¼in at the octave.
Like the six string, I found the neck really easy to get on with, adapting to it very quickly and never finding any problems with awkward angles or sides of maple digging into my hand.
The sound is unremarkable — solid, dependable and with more than a few Fender traits to it, but not a tone that will push back any frontiers. A toggle switch puts each of the pickups in series or parallel and on the whole parallel seemed best. Series selection, particularly on the neck J-bass DiMarzio is too woolly for distinct lines, but doesn't have enough of the really low frequencies behind it to rumble away at ground trembling velocity.
The real reverberant piano-like quality of the Vox doesn't poke out its head until you swap to the P-bass near the tail. In series it sings on chords or sustained single notes, but in parallel the sound again tightens and begins to spit, most noticeable on the G.
When the toggle switch is in the centre it takes the G and D from the tail and the E and A from the neck, so you can jump from drop of thunder to a high string crack across the speakers without a lot of eq or tugging the G until it's on the verge of snapping. £249
[Text missing] guitars, the research and design was carried out in Blighty but to be competitive, the construction went east to Japan.
What they sent back has a maple neck with walnut inlays running through the body and is sandwiched by two maple sides stained a dark, sombre brown. Vox are offering several models and scale lengths in the standard 24¾ or the extended 25½ and in both cases the neck spans a full two octaves.
The top line Custom 25 is heavy and hangs comfortably enough, with the neck angling towards you presenting a broad view of the speedy maple fretboard.
The parts are mostly brass. The bridge has a tremolo block, so each string comes up through the back of the body and passes over a saddle that's adjusted for intonation by black Philips-head screws, and for height by two Allen-keyed bolts. The tremolo design is somewhat naff, the entire block hinging around six screws and tending to send the strings out of tune.
There's little leeway for bending the tremolo upwards and it makes for a tight fit when you close the lid of the case.
Depending on your attitude, the nut is either a visual ploy or a sound acoustic practice. The surface has been scalloped away so each string stands on a hill of brass — attractive and also, it's argued, important in relieving the nut of unnecessary areas of metal that inhibit vibrations.
These DiMarzio X2Ns are powerful bar pickups, but they don't have to be played at full volume. They sound cleaner and sharper at around 8 on the dial and to me tend to have a metallic percussiveness around the bottom strings. At higher levels the X2Ns lose their distinction and while that's an advantage, if you want the extra power for distorted, sustained lines it can confuse subtleties within chords.
A chrome toggle switch down by the tone and volume controls covers both X2Ns and can give parallel coils which are still hum cancelling, but produce an extra bite; single coil taking out the one in the pair nearest the bridge, and series humbucking.
And now the secret. An additional partial tap exists on the coil nearest the bridge. When its tone control is between 0 and 9 the normal resilient humbucking sound is heard, but between 9 and 10 the control acts as a switch bleeding off fixed and long researched frequencies, so achieving the "state of Knoppfler". Mixing in a smidgeon of the neck pickup retains the ringing hollowness only with extra body.
The only region where the Custom fell down was in really thick and soulful tones — it could sound mellow, but never quite warm and forgiving. It has fire in its belly and enormous versatility, but maybe not affection. £295