Westone Concorde bass, Concorde III
This is a basic bass featuring pretty standard materials; the body is solid alder, the bolt-on neck and fingerboard solid maple. A four way chrome bridge, plastic and numbered control knobs, P-bass style pickup, plastic nut and chrome machines complete the hardware.
There's a truss rod slot cut into the scratchplate just below the neck, an accessible and standard positioning for the neck straightening device.
The body is rather small — some might say snug, though I'd be inclined to criticise the rather too narrow waist if I was pressed on the Westone's aesthetic shortcomings. Just what it's modelled on is hard to say. The Japanese seem adept at copying, adapting, modifying and changing one another's designs to a point where it's hard to follow the leaders.
The pickup is the Westone PB600 type, as split and P-like as you'll see and doing the necessary via conventional volume and tone rotaries. The numbers 0 to 10 on these knobs are much more helpful than perhaps nicer looking but unmarked controls, so this is a point in the Westone's favour.
The jack socket sits below the bridge on the scratchplate, a good site which will not readily allow the lead to be yanked from your throbbing bass in mid flight. The scratchplate itself is a natty matt finished black, in keeping with the body's matt coating — my review sample's body was a reasonable pleasant red.
Some of the fittings on this scratchplate attest to the relative cheapness of the bass — screws at odd angles and gunge sticking out between them and the plates. Minor things sure, but a sign that it's no top notch bass, but at just over the ton who's complaining?
Allen keys and cross-head screwdrivers allow you access to the adjustments of intonation and action at the bridge, though the review sample was fine in both respects. Intonation is either right or wrong — action up (down??) to you.
Four neck securing cross-head bolts go through the plate on the back of the body which has a serial number embossed on it. There's a 32¼in. scale with 21 frets to play with, a reasonable fretting job and black position markers to let you know where you are.
Above the nut is, yup, the slightly weapon-like headstock with a little string guide for the D and G strings. The machine heads work smoothly and accurately and the whole front of the head is faced with a similar matt red (or blue or black).
The sound of the bass is passive and okay, just right for someone starting out on bass and wanting a decent if unexceptional racket to be getting along with. The tone control doesn't help you too much in getting some character out of the thing, but in a way this could be an advantage; it would make a beginner more inclined to learn how to get by with a basic sound, improving things with the hands alone — no bad move at all. £119
Westones were one of the great success stories of last year — their mixture of budget price, modern sound and easy feel caught everyone's attention.
Unfortunately, such an overnight reputation can be hard to live up to. So what can they do this year? There is already a wide range of Westones on sale from dependable low price to luxurious middle — they never get that expensive.
The Japanese manufacturers may enlarge the series, but that could land them in the same worrisome plight as Aria — good guitars but so many of them, the public gets confused. Or they might decide on a new design.
Either way, the Concorde III sits at the end of a Westone era, learning from experience but hanging on to most of the identifying traits. It's got the small body typical of Westones, the graceful feel of a slim neck and a quality about it that says rock 'n' roll.
The three single coil pickups are coupled to a five way selector, so we've got the old out-of-phase positions between the "sheets". And generally the tone is softer than you'd expect. The single coils are bright, but don't have buckets of sparkle to them. The exception is the tail pickup which spits out harder than its mates.
The tremolo unit confirms a sneaking suspicion that this one is aimed at fans of a certain American anagram of the word "Statr". A backplate unscrews so you can change the number of tremolo springs (two spares come in the package) and it acts okay for mild vibs but sends the pitch wandering for heavy wristed stuff. Part of that may be due to the poorly cut nut which caused the strings to stick.
It's a pity, because otherwise the Concorde III is finished to a high standard. The neck is beautifully lacquered, the frets are very well finished and it's possible to have a low-action and bend strings across the gently curved profile without them cutting out.
The colouring is also unusual, a milky pearl that almost glows under the lights. I was never fond of the Westone bodyshape and the builders appear to have run out of room for the controls which are pushed so close to the strings I was forever accidentally smacking the volume or pickup selector.
Peculiar, because elsewhere on the III nothing has been too much trouble. Every pole piece has an Allen key slot for height adjustment, the bridge and saddles are in brass, many of the fittings are decked in gold and the strap buttons are given felt washers to protect the wood.
And whenever I strap on a Westone I have to aimit they hang more accommodatingly than the diminuitive body would lead you to believe.
They are good instruments — if a little uninspiring — and they bear up among other eastern guitars by being able to offer just that little more for the same price. That said, no one in this business can afford to rest on their successes any longer than it takes to knock back a prawn chow mein. £152.50
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