When I went out, to get a new bass, I knew I wanted a 4-stringer with a jazz-bass-type neck. And to be honest, my preference was for an Overwater. But I had spied a very tasty, high-end Ibanez, (in a different shop) if things didnít work out.
In this shop, there were 2 Overwater jazzes plus a Perception. I also tried out a used Alembic Epic and a nice Musicman Stingray. The Perception isnít really my type of bass. Wrong type of neck and I think the body is too small. Good sound though. The Alembic Epic had a really solid feel, definitely made to last. I liked itís looks too. However, I wasnít keen on the pick ups at all and the overall balance of the instrument didnít really suit me. Iíve never owned a Musicman but have always admired them. But as soon as I played this Stingray I was reminded of how chunky their neck profiles are. Just a little too chunky for me. Good bass though.
So, it was down to the 2 Overwater Jazz Basses, one with a natural-wood finish, the other, in a tobacco sunburst. Visually I had a preference for the natural model but it would be the feel and tone that would be the deciders. The natural, for me, won on both counts. On feel, it was just a little comfier and smoother to play. On tone, it sounded much rounder and more solid. I donít know if the pickups differed but the electronics did. Iím sure itís down to personal preference and Iím also sure that if the natural hadnít been in stock, Iíd have walked away with the sunburst model.
This Overwater J-Bass Deluxe has a 2-piece, swamp ash body, with a natural finish. Iím unsure of what varnish is used but it really suits the natural wood grain. The scratch-plate is tortoiseshell(like) and I remember seeing a photo of this bass and thinking it didnít go with the wood finish. But, in person, it works very nicely, giving a sense of depth and perspective to the bassís aesthetic.
The pickups are DiMarzio Ultra Jazz. The controls are set on the traditional Jazz-Bass, bell-plate, chrome fixing. 3 of the 4 control knobs are stacked, giving 7 controls, in all. These are: volume, pan, bass boost/cut, treble boost/cut, mid boost/cut, mid sweep and the final un-stacked knob, which is a passive tone control.
The bridge and machine heads are Hipshot USA. The neck is one-piece maple, with a rosewood fingerboard. The jack socket is side-mounted and the single PP3 battery has a very easily accessed (no screwdriver needed) compartment.
Before the 3 Overwaters I tried in the shop, Iíd only played one other, a 5-string J-Bass, I had owned recently. Each model has been quite different but all share the same high level of craftsmanship, with the resulting, beautifully playable necks and a design that, as well as being beautiful, is crafted for the musician. These basses are very practical and a dream to play live and in the recording studio. Itís the tone that really grabs me though. Since I saw the bassist in a successful blues band, over 15 years ago and had a chat with him after, I knew that Overwaters were something special, especially in the tone department.
The only reason I let my other OW go, was my difficulties with the 5-string neck. I swapped it for a Fender Victor Bailey Jazz. Now I have both, I feel very fortunate. And a very cursory comparison seems in order. The Fender is a lot sleeker in itís design and the neck is the easiest to play, that I have tried. The woods (mahogany back & koa front) are stunning and to my eyes, surpass most other basses. The Overwater wins on tone, solidity and overall craftsmanship. I guess itís the difference between a high-end production model and a handmade bass. I hope I never have to choose between the two.