Eko Semi-Acoustic, Eko Bass
My initial reaction to this guitar, based mainly on its pleasing yellow sunburst finish and white trim, was positive. However on closer inspection it falls short of being a high quality instrument.
The body is gracefully contoured, but by looking through the F holes one sees the thick wooden sustain strut (which runs the length of the body) is some distance from the curved back, contributing to the usually semi acoustic affliction of uncontrolled feedback. This limits its usefulness for loud rock bands and is more suited to the combo artist.
The bridge arrangement is cheap and shoddy, crowned with plastic saddles and at the other end a tacky truss rod cover grates against the golds and yellows of the body.
The machine heads are a Schaller design and seem very good.
The neck is fitted with narrow fret wire, which is a shame as the guitar feels good and the addition of the extra wide frets as used on the older Gibson 335s would enhance this.
Once the feedback problem (which I found started at an alarmingly low volume), has been overcome by careful amplification, one can judge the sound transmitted by the two open humbucking pickups.
The treble pickup sounded fairly standard, but the front pickup was disappointing. Both had a wooden sound when compared with the 335 and the mellow lead sound on the front pickup remained elusive and adjusting the tone control just made it muddy.
In short the Eko semi acoustic is a pretty guitar, not a toy, but doesn't approach the craftsmanship or sound of its inspiration, the Gibson 335. £200
Italy is better known for its pasta than its pickups. The indigenous Eko guitars have made friends on the acoustic front, but the electrics are less popular. They always seemed to be built like wardrobes covered in spaghetti.
This recent bass shows Eko have learnt some lessons in style. There's less fluttering inlay than on past models, just a vineleaf or two scrolling around the bottom, but aesthetically, it's still no great shakes.
The body is squat, almost two inches thick and the cutaway to the neck is an ugly, straight slice into the guitar body, looking as if someone has taken a tenon saw to the sandwich of mahogany and spruce. It does allow excellent access to the top frets, but doesn't gel with the otherwise gentle curves that give the Eko that fat Italian mama appeal.
The body construction is a patchwork — a straight-through neck of maple and mahogany plus two body blocks of an inch thick mahogany centre and spruce back and front. The combination of a long scale (34in) and through neck ought to amount to a lengthy sustain, but the Eko is no longer-lasting than normal.
High marks for workmanship. The guitar appears as if it would last for ever and the gloss finish is immaculate. This sample's only real faults were in the fret finishing where a few were lifting, a messy glue residue had been left on the fretboard and the last three or four frets had been badly finished/presenting a sharp tug to the side of the hand.
The bridge is a simple chrome affair that doubles as the end stop and the two cream pickups in black surrounds are selected by a small chrome mini toggle switch. Three black based clear plastic knobs are set on the single volume and two-tone controls.
The sound is average and heavily coloured. The neck pickup has body, but a confused quality to it, not helped by a dud sounding E. The top strings seemed uneven in tone, especially the G which stood out on all the pickup selections.
The bridge pickup is cleaner with a penetrating twang to it and would cut through quite neatly, but my favourite setting was in the middle position which almost sounded as if the pickups had been wired out of phase.
It had quite a dirty, nasalish poke to it, good for funk, though the long neck and pickup arrangement inhibited the thumb thumping style that can produce those almighty "paannkkkksss". Any slapping tended to crack the strings against the pickup with loud and undesired results.
Nothing great is the final verdict, and considering the price tag and the unorthodox shape, Eko may have problems convincing British players to give them a try. Their name and high quality provides good trade on their home ground, but here a lower price or a more European styling may be needed before we fall to that particular Roman invasion. £159
Review by Paul Colbert
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