rrp: £88 ex VAT.
Bolt-on neck with separate fretboard, natural gloss finish, split-type pickup.
Distributors: Grant Music of Edinburgh, (Contact Details).
Scores: RF-25% CH-56% AP-45% GW-36%
'Reasonable sound but incredibly hard to play (a vice is needed to press down strings — the E was about an inch off the fingerboard). Fair sound — quite clear. Again, roundwounds would probably improve it, but action needs a lot of work. Neck very big depthwise. With adjustment, okay for beginner.' CH
'Didn't have strength to get strings to touch the neck. Sounds okay.' GW
'Very hawserish on the strings. Not very comfortable to play. Looked a bit basic. Sound - average to average. ' RF
'Not a nice neck or action. Hard to play, but the action could possibly be lower.' AP
Even with the bridge saddles in low position as supplied, the action is appalling. E-string was 8mm off the octave fret! More banana neck. Nasty cheap (inexpensive, that is) machines. Overpriced.
rrp: £159.95 ex VAT.
Bolt-on neck with separate fretboard, natural gloss finish, split pickup.
Distributor: M Hohner, (Contact Details).
Scores: RF-34% CH-60% AP-61% GW-32%
'Very dead strings, no real contrast between bass and treble on control. Neck felt rather clumsy. Not at all impressed by sound. Didn't like this one.' CH
'Good sound — hate the strings!' AP
'Bit of a head diver — felt a bit muddy and a bit heavy. Sounds adequate. Didn't feel very comfortable. Looks okay, sounds okay.' RF
A most peculiar neck: although the fretboard is warped up on the lower frets, the back of the neck fattens slightly at the lower frets to give a visual illusion of straightness — however, the sensitive thumb soon discovers the ruse! This may be a partial explanation of the weird intonation. Again, a rather cheap yellowy wood. Quite a heavy guitar. Tidy neck joint and reasonable machines, but still there are problems here which need to be solved before the instrument becomes value for money.
rrp: £85.33 ex VAT
Bolt-on neck, maple neck with separate fretboard, solid black-lacquered body, Di Marzio P-bass pickups.
Distributors: John Hornby Skewes, (Contact Details).
Scores: RF-26% CH-60% AP-30% GW-52%
'Didn't like the controls, rather stiff. Strange strings, dead E again. Tele-type bridge which I don't like too much. Fair cheap-looking aluminium machine heads. Sound not particularly outstanding — average in fact. Fairly good neck. Nothing memorable about this one.' CH
'Bad fret buzz, sound not bad. But, like a lot of the others, dull.' GW
'Didn't like the bridge (Tele). Neck felt a bit wide at body end, maybe not enough camber. Sounded adequate, not too much bottom. Few suspect patches on neck. Not particularly endearing.' RE
'Bad feel, terrible neck shape. No bass should have a two-piece bridge. Weak sound. Never worth having.' AP
Unusual hi-fi knobs, both of which have already come apart. Unsightly hole for truss-rod at body end, and the fingerboard has bad dead spots and buzzing. Why put Di Marzios on a bass like this? Chunky machines are okay. Somewhat overpriced.
rrp: £167.95 ex VAT.
Bolt-on maple neck with separate fretboard, natural gloss finish, split P-bass-type pickup.
Distributors: Fletcher Coppock and (Contact Details).
Scores: RF-37% CH-62% AP-54% GW-55%
'Yet again, rather dead E-string, but nowhere near as bad as some of the others. Rather a heavy bass, not a bad neck, fair machine heads. Sound fairly good.' CH
'Action needs adjusting. Sound — I hate flatwound strings for a start — sounded quite dull. But I would be inclined to try it with different strings and in other circumstances. Wasn't sure about the pickups in time allowed.' GW
'Looked like a good copy, felt comfortable. Machine heads not very reliable. Felt "gooey". Bridge cover appears to be welded on! Not much sound variation.' RF
'With good strings it could be quite good. Quite nice to play.' AP
A well-made bass, particularly the body and heel joint, although it feels a bit heavy. Good Fender copy machine heads and separate bridge saddles. Although flatwound strings, their quality is better than most supplied strings. The clean overall appearance and finish enhances what is a good value for money bass.
rrp: £83.55 ex VAT
Bolt-on maple neck with separate fretboard, natural gloss finish, single-coil pickup.
Distributors: Stentor Music, (Contact Details).
Scores: RF-23% CH-41% AP-32% GW-39%
'A man would need a Bullworker to enable him to turn the D and G machines. The others were slightly easier. Neck was okay, whole bass quite light. Awful sound from E-string, impossible to tune a string like this — can't hear any real note. Not very good sound, terrible in low register.' CH
'Machines stiff, very difficult for fast tuning. Tone control does nothing whatsoever. E and A-strings dull. Would sound muzzy with group.' GW
'Fittings looked a bit cheap and felt the same. Didn't like the bridge unit. Not too much variation in tone.' RF
'The neck felt quite good - nice width. Terrible bridge with no chance of improving tuning. Very weak-sounding pickup. Not a bass to buy.' AP
One of the worst copies in the test. Machine heads, bridge, tone controls, pickup, intonation all bad, but the finish and wood okay. Cheap-looking tortoiseshell pickguard, silly undersized machines, nasty trussrod cover. Overpriced. Wouldn't recommend this, even to a beginner. (Maya pointed out, however, that they will soon have available an 'improved' version of this bass, with split pickup and better quality machines, at approximately 9% extra price.)
rrp: £88.44 ex VAT.
Bolt-on neck with rosewood fretboard, natural semi-gloss finish, split pickup.
Distributors: Norlin Music, (Contact Details).
Scores: RF-38% CH-58% AP-52% GW-45%
'A totally characterless, average bass. The E-string had no definite note, neck was big and guitar heavy. No character sound.' CH
'Strings! Bottom two strings drop off in tone. Average.' AP
'G too close to edge of neck. Sound okay.' GW
'Natural wood looked a bit average/dull. Didn't like rosewood fingerboard, or bridge - not enough adjustment available. Sound adequate to average.' RF
The only rosewood fretboard in the sample group, coupled with an unusual finish. This semi-gloss finish extended up the back of the neck and over the peghead. Particularly wide pickup cover. Considering the lowish price of this bass, even the indifference it evinced can be construed as a compliment.
rrp: £67.78 ex VAT.
Bolt-on neck with separate fretboard, natural gloss finish, split P-bass type pickup.
Distributors: Fletcher Coppock and Newman, (Contact Details).
Scores: RF-32% CH-44% AP-42% GW-22%
'Horrible. Might be good for playing with milk bottle. Sound horrible. I wouldn't want it.' GW
'Nasty shaped neck, horrible machine heads. Fairly bright sound, but with no body. Not very nice.' AP
'Horrible neck - very wide. A-string rattled and played no distinguishable notes in low register. Machine heads — especially A — difficult to tune. Very dull sound, no character. A very poor bass, especially for someone starting to play — they'd really have problems with the neck.' CH
'Has a soft feel — neck looks cheap, so do machine heads. Lowering the action would be a problem. Sound not inspiring, but not particularly appalling.' RF
Badly set up — the neck was like a banana. Body fabricated of lumps of particularly nasty wood and the fairings were like razor blades. Nasty cheap machines, vile strings, logo transfer applied over the lacquer, therefore susceptible to damage, stiff volume pot, cheap'n'nasty knobs, great wodge of foam plastic under bridge-cover, neck profile way too thick. Good fuel for the winter. Not recommended even for beginners because there are too many obstacles to surmount.
That, then, concludes our first attempt at putting something constructive in print on the subject of copy basses. As we said earlier, the choice of testing Precision copies was made largely for reasons of popularity, but with any luck we'll be taking similar looks at copies of Jazzes, Rickys and whatever else seems worthwhile in the not-too-distant future.
'Copy guitars are about money' was the premise with which we opened this survey last month, and this statement has been borne out in a number of ways throughout the test. If you're looking for a good bass that doesn't necessarily cost the earth, then it's quite likely that somewhere among the basses we've checked out is one that could be ideal for you. But we stress the could — the most important test is whether you like the instrument. Yeah, yeah, I know you know that, but it is worth bearing in mind the fact that there are so many factors at work on somebody buying a new guitar. Volume of ackers does not necessarily equal excellence of performance or of manufacture, in the same way as a £60 bass does not have to be a pile of shit. Panellist Gareth Williams of This Heat had this to say: 'I play mostly rubbish instruments and can find good in all of them. All I can really say is I think you can do amazing things with very cheap equipment and people shouldn't feel the need to go for big names — I think it's more down to one's imagination.'
It's probably true to say that the biggest general criticism to be levelled at manufacturers/distributors of these tested basses was the quality (or lack of it) of the strings supplied. Now it's no longer possible to fool bassists with lousy strings that sound akin to chrome-plated elastic bands — and yet that's a pretty accurate description of the vast majority of strings that had somehow become attached to the copies tested. In fact one of the most obvious ways for the panellists to spot the 'original' Precision in the bunch was to wait for the roundwounds. A few quid investment by distributor or retailer could make all the difference.
Ken Achard pointed out in his Brief History last month that even the Japanese manufacturers are beginning to sense a change of direction in the guitar market, and are responding by producing their own 'originals'. Of course this is a healthy sign but, without doubt, copies of American 'originals' still seize a huge chunk of guitar sales every year. Hopefully we've shown why that is — and hopefully we've shown that things aren't always as they seem.
So. Farewell guitar copy test.
You've been useful to us.
And we've learned plenty much.
Like what strings not to use
And how to avoid the problems and expense of setting up
By not doing it.
But by and large we have to Say
That the Situation is better now
And a guitarist can buy a copy
For not too many money
And still be satisfied
Many years ago this was not the
But now it is.
This has all be a lot of work — but it's been worth it. We hope it's been worth it to you.
As this format seems to work so well, we intend to cover other types of instruments and equipment in this way. Hopefully our next survey subject will be combos. Readers who are interested in being panellists should send bribes to the editorial office. Please mark top left of envelope BRIBE in clear lettering — SI takes no responsibility for the loss of-fivers, ten-spots or larger sheets. Seriously though - please get in touch and take part. Bye.
Copy Guitar Test Pt 2: Conclusion
Review by Tony Bacon
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