BC Rich Bass
the NJ series
Here, we really are talking aesthetics.
Now Nigel, that is not what they get up to at the Olympic Games, that is how nice something looks. Have a look at the pictures hereabouts and you'll get an idea of the problem to hand(s).
You may already be aware of this particular shape, because B C Rich, the American guitar manufacturer, has been using it for a good few years on its rather expensive range of guitars. Their guitars have also been rather rare in the UK, because most distributors seem distinctly scared of handling up-market American instruments, preferring the safer moneyspinners we might term Cheap Japs.
So enter the NJ Series, which is what we are looking at (still). Has it improved! Ah well... back to the point. These B C Rich guitars and basses are made in Japan, and consequently look as if they will be a little easier to find in our pleasant land. This follows a recent trend started by companies like Washburn, who design their instruments in the US but get them made in Japan. Even fender do it, of course, with their largely successful Squier series.
So it's back to that body shape - love it or hate it, you can't help admiring... I'll get straight to the point. I hate it. So that's that out of the way. I would use my handy all-purpose Acme saw to deal with the sharper projections on display here. I expect you will love it, wondering at the line and curve that neatly whisks the eye around the body and up the fingerboard. Takes all sorts.
This is where importers get very mad and accuse us of letting personal opinions get in the way of what they always seem to expect — glowing, uncritical reviews. They can go elsewhere for that. But let's just quieten things down with a few interesting facts.
The finish on the bass we were lent is a sort of silver sparkle, well-applied and hardy looking, but not exactly to my taste. Neck and body are one piece, with the silver sparkling all the way up to the headstock. The 24-fret fingerboard seems to be reasonably close-grain rosewood, there's a bone nut, and the inlay does appear to be the real pearly stuff. Frets are wide and low, there are no discernible rattles or buzzes on our bass, and the neck feels very long. Jolly good.
Right then, let's get some racket out of the Rich. Jack sockets on one of the many edges, and there are four controls to contend with so as to shape the noise produced by the two P-Bass-like split pickups, apparently specially wound for these instruments.
What you have are two volume knobs, one per pickup, each side of a three-way pickup selector, and an overall tone knob at the back. Here we stumble across a distinct advantage of the BC0004, as it's known, in that twin volume controls do give a touch more tailoring potential to your final sound.
The back pickup gives you a thinner, toppier click; the front a slightly warmer throb. Both together and, surprise, surprise, the result is a sort of combination of the two. And so it's this setting you'd be likely to dwell on when using the B C Rich, and a happy if unremarkable noise it is.
Trouble is, the E-string was not happy on our sample. Once you get above the F above the octave, the sound is woolly and muffled. Now, a contributing factor to this could be the rather tired-sounding string itself, but dead spots there were up at the top of the fingerboard. So low, low noises were not too clean.
Elsewhere the sound was pleasantly clear, if a little "loose" - this could doubtless be attended to via the bridge, which is a good chunky object with a large cube-shaped bridge-piece for each string. To adjust the intonation you take a large-ish Allen key to the back of the bridge plate, while action/height is seen to by a smaller key on two screws either side of each bridge-piece. Both the Allen keys were supplied (hurrah).
So now we've had the bass on for a while, let's just dip quickly back to the shape — this is relevant. If you'd like to sit down with the bass, then the shape does actually make a bit of sense. That deep curve along the bottom sits comfortably and supportively on the top of the thigh, and makes a nice enough change from some more conventional shapes that rub and dig.
But this bass is hardly likely to be used by demure players seated on Habitat chairs and exploring the more delicate areas of our folk heritage, is it? More likely it'll be dangling on the strap of a more heavily-inclined person.
Here it will balance well, though as I've said before, I do find a slight tendency for back-of-the-body-mounted strap pegs to push the guitar slightly away from the tummy.
Once you've decided whether you like the shape or not, it'll be a matter of looking at what you're getting for close on £340. There are other basses around for a little less that give you active circuitry and just as good a play. At the price, the B C Rich NJ Series 0004 seems too ordinary in sound potential, and too unusual in shape.
NJ series Bass: £339
One Two Testing - Jul 1984
Donated & scanned by: Simon Dell
Review by Tony Bacon
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