Westone Concord Bass
It hardly seems a few moments ago that the name of Westone was launched onto the U.K. market. What began (in many people's minds) as just another Japanese range of guitars has, in fact, rapidly become one of the best-selling guitar and bass lines in the country. Certainly the prices of Westones seem to be ultra-competitive and the importers of this range, FCN Music, must be feeling rather pleased with themselves by the reaction this brand has received from you, their customers.
What Westones nearly all seem to be about is good, typically Japanese quality instruments, selling at prices sometimes embarrassingly low when compared with similar instruments from other sources. Of course, no one make is everyone's cup of tea but it seems to be generally agreed between users and retailers alike that Westone are a major force to be reckoned with.
Seeing that the basic Westones are reputed to be particularly fine value for money, we borrowed a Concord bass from the importers, partly to see how it compares with similarly priced basses from other sources and partly to see how it stands up against the excellent Westone Concord guitar version which was very favourably reviewed back in our issue No. 6.
As one might expect, the Bass Concord shares a shape with the guitar version, a curiously offset, hybrid looking, vaguely Fender orientated design. The instrument is rather smaller and lighter than most and this can be counted a significant advantage in an instrument particularly within the price range of the younger, less experienced player. Fully 'pro' basses like the old favourite Precision and others can be more than a handful to a beginner and the Concord certainly scores here by having a lightweight body of an unidentified wood.
Hardware on the Westone is pretty basic in that it offers a plastic nut, enclosed machines and direct Fender type bridge with saddles which will adjust for individual height as well as accurate setting of intonation. It's not exactly the most modern of bridge designs but it is certainly a popular type and there is no reason why it shouldn't satisfy most players. It's certainly a fair choice at the asking price of £119.95 inc. VAT.
Overall the Westone we were sent was well made, featuring a bolt-on two piece maple neck with the frets well finished and the action and intonation set to a standard which would be very acceptable to the majority of players. If they're in the shops as well finished and as well adjusted as this then you should have no trouble at all buying or sampling one.
Having said that, however, a stroke of good fortune meant that we were able to compare the latest sample Concord Bass we had been sent by FCN with one which had been obtained a few months ago and which had undergone considerable use.
"The single split pickup is run from a solitary volume control matched with another for tone..."
The first thing to strike us was that the neck dimensions didn't seem exactly identical, an odd factor which left us wondering how on Earth these instruments are manufactured over there in Japan. Surely some form of template is used to ensure uniformity of size?
Either way, it might be worth the while of any potential customer checking-out several samples to see if the neck dimensions vary and, if they do, finding the size that's right for him. This isn't really a fault, by the way, but it does tend to make it rather hard for us to say 'the Westone Concord Bass has a neck which measures xyz'.
Anyway, back at the ranch, our two Westone basses were performing well. The single split pickup is run from a solitary volume control matched with another for tone; both worked well with no crackles or other flaws.
From a playing angle, both Concord basses felt to be very nice indeed. One sample's neck tapered in a bit more than the other up near the cutaways, but either would seem to be more than good enough to satisfy all but the most pernickity bassists. Further, both samples we tried had well set and polished frets with a good action — even the rankest beginner shouldn't have too much trouble getting to grips with one of these.
"...a good action — even the rankest beginner shouldn't have too much trouble getting to grips with one of these."
In terms of its playability, the Westone samples we tried were both equipped with nicely proportioned necks, ideally suited to the younger player who is learning to stretch his way around that unfamiliar and perhaps rather forbidding bass neck.
Soundwise the Westone is pretty good — not staggering, just pretty good. The tone, as you might expect at this sort of price level, is fairly basic in so far as the only control one has is via the single passive tone pot. The instrument has a basically fairly live sound and winding back on the pot tends to muffle the tone, rather than add bass. Mind you, please don't forget the sort of asking price we're talking about.
From the further point of view of sound, sustain is reasonably good and the harmonic purity also reasonable — although, of course, an open E isn't to be compared with the sort of sound that you'd get from something like a WAL or, of course, some of the really excellent up-market Westone basses.
Overall the Concord isn't the type of bass for anyone to get over-excited about. It represents very fair value at the asking price and would be an ideal first buy for someone either starting bass or buying a bass as a second instrument.
Back in issue No. 6, as we've already seen, we had a chance of trying the guitar version of this bass and it came out exceptionally well in the value for money stakes. Maybe it's slightly harder to build a bass, maybe a bass needs better quality woods than a guitar to capture and hold low notes, either way the guitar version raised more of a head of steam with us than the bass did. It's not that there's anything wrong with it — in fact it's a well finished, pleasant sounding, easy to play bass — just whereas the guitar version is a real steal at the price, the bass is a bit more average to good.
Still, readers wanting a very likeable, playable bass at around the £120 mark should certainly look at one of these no nonsense, good value instruments.
For ourselves we're impressed with the Concord and would feel very happy to recommend it to the beginner. It's an ideal beginner's bass in fact and, of course, there's nothing at all wrong with that.
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!