|BFunk ||02-18-2014 09:12 PM |
Happy Birthday to Me!!
I just turned 50. Yup, the big five-oh. So I wanted to get myself something a little special for this once in a lifetime event. A few months ago I was at a talkbass get-together. I brought my two Fender American Standard Precision V basses, one with stock pickup and LaBella flats and one that was highly modified with Circle K 142s. The modified one had Nordy P, Nordy Big Split and a three way switch. This was my main bass for a couple of years. I love the P punch and the Nordy delivered all of that and then some. When I got to the gathering I got a chance to play some very nice basses. Someone handed me a nice Valenti Jazz. I immediately found I was playing smoother, faster, with better articulation and more comfort than with the P's. I loved the sound of my Precisions, but I could clearly see that the neck shape was not optimal for me. So that got me looking for a better 5 string Precision style bass. My journey let me to the Dingwall Super P. An elegant, sexy design where form follows function in the most unique way. It seemed to be the Ferrari of precision basses. At around $3500, it was pricey, but very reasonable for what you got at least in my mind. What I could not get my head around was spending that much money on a bass that I would not be able to play in person. There are no dealers in the Northeast US. I had some kind offers to play other Dingwall models by owners in the area, but they were not Super P's. I just couldn't get myself to do it. So I decided to pull the trigger on a bass that really intrigued me since it came out, the Fender American Deluxe Dimension V. I've been looking around locally for one since last fall. No one stocked them. I ran across a couple of Modern player versions. Each one I put down almost as fast as I picked it up. Heavy, baseball bat neck, poor balance, crappy sound. So I waited. Nothing showed up and nothing ordered according to the reps. "Maybe if we sell the Modern player version, they will send us an American Deluxe." Well good luck with that pal, I'm not holding my breadth.
Finally, one of the one-line music stores was offering twelve months no interest financing. I had nothing on the card, so I decided to go for it. I called the rep and immediately got another $180 off the MAP price too. (Lesson learned: always call!!) I figured the worse case would be that I didn't like it and would have to pay return shipping. At least I could play the darn thing!! Well it came in about ten days later. Cayenne red trans over a beautiful swamp ash body, rosewood fingerboard, two humbucking pickups, five way switch and three band eq. First thing I noticed: the bass is much better looking in person than in the pictures. The picture makes the body look huge in my opinion. I would not call it compact, but it is more in league with Stingrays and Precisions than Jazz bodies. Nice swooping curves without being exaggerated. G&G case is beautiful of course. Orange lined, tough black tolex on the outside, and nice contrasting stitching. The surprising thing was the straplocks. Yes, the bass comes stock with Schaller straplocks. (At least I think they are Schallers.) The locks are in the case with two straps and a cable. One strap was the usual crappy Fender logo strap, good only for a cat toy. The other was a more respectable 2" wide black leather thing. Still not great, but passable if that were the only strap I had. The cable was better quality than came with the Precisions. Good enough that I would consider using it as a backup on a gig.
First step, put it on the postal scale. Nine pounds, fourteen ounces. No lightweight, but within the doable range for me. The Precisions, for the record, come in at a little over nine pounds each. So we are talking a little more than half a pound more for the Dimension. Neck feels really nice. Much more sculpted than the Precision. The P has more of a flat, wide contour. This feels a little rounder. The sculpted feeling makes me think it was a little deeper, but I think that is because of the taper. The touch of the bare wood is silky smooth. Someone put a lot of attention into sanding this neck. It is also narrower than the Precision. On paper it is not by much, but it feels very different. Again, probably a function of the asymmetric neck contour. The compound radius is a big improvement over the Precision. The difference is very noticeable in two aspects. First, the neck is easier to play past the twelfth fret. Second, the string curvature is flatter where I pluck. Fingerboard wood was a nice piece of rosewood. Nothing spectacular, just nice. Fret work is excellent. The frets have a very mirror-like polish, smooth edges with nicely contoured edges, and seem to be perfectly leveled. In fact, the action from the factory was pretty low. There was almost no relief in the neck. I did not measure it. But based on the setup I did later, I would guess the relief was right around 12/1000's of an inch. And the string height is pretty low. Intonation is very good, but not spot on. Body finish is beautiful. A thin coat of poly is applied evenly over the entire body. No ripples, bubbles or rough spots. I can not see a single flaw in the finish. The color, on the other hand, varies somewhat. It seems to change depending on the angle of the light hitting it. It goes from brownish red, to dark orange-red to dark orange. I occasionally see bright orange highlights if the light catches it just right. The grain is very prominent. I think they stained the wood before applying the color to bring out the grain. It is very dramatic. I think the color coat was designed to interact with the wood. I like the color variety myself. It really emphasizes the woody character of the body. Hardware is very good. I like the new bridge. As useable as the one on the American Standard Precision but much better looking. The tuners are also a step up. Smoother action and more precise. The bone nut is cut very well for medium low action without buzzing and no gaps between the string and the well. If Fender decided to increase the price of the American series basses to allow for better components and build quality, they definitely did the right thing. This is, overall, a significant step up from the Precisions.
Fender claims it spent a long time developing this bass. I, for one, believe them. What makes this bass amazing is the pickup and electronics. Individually they are great. The cool thing though, is how well they work together. First, I have to say, if you think this is Stingray or G&L clone, you are sorely mistaken my friend. It might look like them but it definitely has it's own sound. The sound, overall is smoother, not as exaggerated. My take on the sound from position one to five, one being closest to the neck:
1) sort of precision like in that you have strong low mids. Definitely more smooth parallel humbucking though.
2) seventies jazz with both pickups on full
3) very smooth humbucking sound. I didn't expect this since I was thinking more G&L or 'Ray. Nope, smooth city here. Think old school country bass smooth.
4) Sixties jazz with both pickups on full
5) Burpy humbucking bridge. Solo bridge is not usually my favorite sound, but this is actually fairly useful for a mid forward sound with some help from the EQ.
This brings me to the next point. The EQ works very well with the pickups. I think it was designed to enhance the pickup sound, gently shape it, more than as a radical tone tool. This is very good for adding a little bottom, taking out some zing and ping, and notching the mids up or down. But what really amazes me about the EQ is that is works very well regardless of pickup setting. So you don't have do major eq changes when you change the pickup selector. On top of that, and here is the really cool part, the volume does not change with pickup selection, not even a little. That is astonishing to me, really astonishing. Overall the sound is smooth and polished with a bright, but not harsh top end and tight, full bottom. (Low B is miles ahead of either Precision.) There is not a lot of extremes in any setting except maybe the bridge p'up soloed. This leaves room for sculpting with the onboard EQ, an effect, or amp eq. And this bass lends itself to sound sculpting very well. The only downside, and this is a big one, is that stock strings have no mids. Yup, they forgot to put them in. What you hear is boomy bottom, harsh clangy top, and not much else. What do you want for stainless steel strings that sell for thirteen dollars a set at you neighborhood guitar shop. Why does Fender continue to put such crappy strings on their hi-end basses? It just casts a foul light on an otherwise excellent instrument.
So I replaced the strings with Circle K 136's. They are also very smooth with a bright top end. The combination does not seem to be leading to the rock tone I want. So I may try something different. I've had two rehearsals and lots of personal time with the instrument. I am very particular about what I want. So I cannot say it was everything I ever wanted out of the box, but it is definitely getting there. At the last rehearsal I decided to reset the EQ on my amp which was still set for the Precision. I had to make a big cut with the P around 125Hz. (P players know what I mean.) But that ended up taking the balls out of the Dimension. I sounded bright and airy, not deep and round. So I am still working on the sound. I think I should have it all sorted out by next week. The band mates love the sound and the look.
Which brings me to my last point. The bass really looks good. My wife decided this was her birthday present to me. It made her happy because before I ordered the bass, she was going to give me an effect pedal I ordered. She was very pleased to give me such a nice gift. I love my wife. She is a great lady. She loves how the bass looks and sounds. Happy marriage, happy bass. What more could I ask for?