I was looking for an affordable and portable long scale bass to use on this seasons summer fly out gig schedule and ran across Bootlegger guitars while surfing Reverb.
They looked interesting and at under $600, definitely had my interest.
The questions remained, “can they be any good?” I have had previous experience with the steinberger spirit and was disappointed, (to say the least)but could these be any better? Would the bootlegger product be good enough to use as a working, professional instrument and not a toy?
I had a few questions and decided to call them directly. Bootlegger is a small company and when you call you get Chuck, the owner on the phone. He was happy to take time and answer all my questions (even the dumb ones) and I made the decision to purchase a four string ACE bass in the latest red finish.
The bass arrived from California promptly and well packed . When I unboxed it I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the build.
The bass is built in S.Korea and IMO is comparable in build quality to brands like Schecter, Reverend, ESP LTD (all companies that use Korean factories)
The bass is finished in a high gloss poly that is applied perfectly smooth and doesn’t feel draggy or sticky
The bass is a five piece maple neck through with a Jatoba fingerboard with 24 surprisingly nicely dressed, level and polished frets.
Another nice touch is the dual action truss Rod .
The nut width is 1.5” with the nut material being advertised as graphite.
The neck profile is what I would describe as a “slightly chunky” jazz bass. If you like a jazz neck you’ll get along with this one just fine.
The basses are advertised as weighing 7.8 lbs. when I put mine on a hanging scale it was exactly 7.83 lbs. that’s pretty consistent.
The “body”, made from ash, is a small asymmetric design which is shaped on the bottom to rest comfortably on your leg. No need for a folding leg rest. It works quite well. It puts the bass in an almost “ classical guitar” playing position . Pretty thoughtful design.
The hardware is made in Korea and consists of four individual “monorail” bridges with tuning knobs on the end. They work very smooth, not notchy and stiff like the ones found on the steinberger spirits. The saddles are adjustable for height but not spacing.
At the other end of the neck there’s a string capture mechanism involving four separate grub screws which are tightened with a hex key to lock down the string before trimming.
Double ball strings are not used. Just standard bass strings.
I needed to be careful not to over tighten the screws. If you torque them down too much you will break the outer wrap and the string will fail, so take it easy there.
The electronics are passive std. jazz bass configuration V/V/T and the pickups are 3.5” Humbucking soap bar and seem to be the same size as EMG soap bars.
The pickups are advertised as “Booheung” humbuckers. Who? After a little research I discovered that Booheung is a Korean OEM manufacturer, not a brand.
I looked up some of their customers and it seems that they sell a lot of stuff to Fender and Gibson. Interesting.
The pickups are dead quiet and sound very, very good. No need to upgrade here.
One complaint is that the neck pickup IMO is positioned too close to the fingerboard, making slap style a bit uncomfortable. Bootlegger is aware of this and have already repositioned the pickup on their new five string model.
The bass came set up decently from the factory and matched all the advertised specs for string action (5/64....std fender spec)
The first fret action was too high though. I needed to get out my files and deepen the slots to achieve 18 thousandths at the first fret. It made a big improvement.
Overall, the bass plays and sounds extremely good and punches well above its price point.
Bootlegger offers a strap extender bar licensed by Warwick. It’s the one designed for the Nobby Meidel bass. It’s an absolute necessity if you want to play standing.
The reach without the strap extender makes playing in First position a literal pain.
With the strap bar installed the geometry is similar to a std. Fender bass. Much more comfortable.
Another excellent feature is the fitted hardshell case. Yes! They give you a case! And it’s a pretty darn nice one too. I hear a leather bound tool kit is in the works also.
They also offer a gigbag that, while it does the job, doesn’t blow my skirt up. I purchased a ProTec guitar bag for better protection while flying.
I hope to make a demo video but my schedule is so damn tight, I don’t know when I’ll have the time. Thankfully @LowEndLobster has done an excellent video which I will link here.
To sum up...
This is NOT a low quality instrument .
This bass specs out very well and is priced so affordable that I don’t know how they do it.
It’s an odd beast that can be viewed as a bit of a niche instrument but really doesn’t have to be.
It’s a full scale, good sounding, good playing, well built bass that does everything a bass should do.
Other than a few minor personal quibbles, there isn’t much to dislike about the Bootlegger Ace Bass.