I have been looking for an entry level fretless bass to see if this is the direction I want to take my playing in. While a Squire would fit the bill, I also was looking for a precision pick-up to play with as well. My current main bass is a G&L JB-2, so the Precision body of this 214 along with a neck that is very similar to that Jazz profile on mine made this especially attractive.
I bought the bass new online for $235 plus tax. I wasn't going to get a Squire fretless for that price so I took the plunge. I am not disappointed!
I've been playing for 35 years, so I know my way around a bass. The instrument came well packed from the factory. The strings were D'Addario roundwounds. The set up was excellent. I didn't have to touch the truss rod, string height or intonation. I had to give some screws on the pick guard and the screws that hold the bridge down about a 1/4 turn (be gentle!). The rosewood fretboard needed a bit of a cleaning and some conditioning. I used my typical inexpensive fretboard cleaner/conditioner with great results.
The pickups are hot! My other passive pickups don't have this output. The produce unexpectedly good tone considering the price point. I had planned to use this as an experimental bass platform and eventually make it into a bit of a Frankenbass as I customized it. However, I find that either I will slowly upgrade as needed or leave it as is and flip it for a higher end bass with the same configuration (i.e. G&L SB-2 fretless). I do a lot of gigging, so perhaps in time I might swap out the pickups. If it starts going out of tune in the future, perhaps it is time to change the tuners.
To sum it up, this is a very good instrument for under $300. I am presently playing it more than my other instruments that cost 4x more. I give it four stars simply because I have been spoiled by more expensive instruments that I have loved.
ESP/LTD Vintage 214 Fretless
- 4/5, 4 from 2 reviews
An affordable unlined fretless P bass clone.
ESP/LTD 214 Fretless...What I Was Looking For
- 4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jan 14, 2016
- Build Quality:
- + Well built instrument Excellent price point Quality of electronics exceeded expectations
- - Its a bit on the heavy side, but its all relative isn't it?
The best (possibly only) affordable Unlined P-bass
- 4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Oct 20, 2015
- Build Quality:
- + Great playability and good tone with solid hardware and electronics
- - Some shoddy screw installation and imperfect control cavity routing.
UPDATE 6/6/16: As of second quarter 2016 The Vintage 214 series has been discontinued by ESP/LTD. Used examples still abound and there are still dealers with stock, but unfortunately it looks like the list of affordably priced unlined fretless basses just shrunk considerably.
The ESP/LTD Vintage 214 Fretless is an excellent choice for anyone looking for an affordable fretless P-bass. At the time of this writing, it's the only major-brand P-style fretless bass under $500 with a rosewood fingerboard. Also the only fretless fender-style bass at the price point with no fretlines.
Except for the installation of some of the screws (see below) the built quality of the instrument seems quite good. The nut is well attended too and a very low action is achievable. The slab rosewood fingerboard is quite thick and the finish is well applied. The body and neck are classic Precision in feel and design. The nut width is the 1.65 of more contemporary P-basses rather than the classic wide 1.75.
Tone and Electronics:
The Stock "ESP Designed" (G&B built according to the underside of the P pickup) ceramic pickups have strong output and good tone. Having later upgraded the pickups to the EMG Geezer Buttler set, I can say that the EMG's were definitely better, but the difference was not nearly as pronounced as might be expected. The stock arrangement was more than suitable. The control cavity and J-pickup route are shielded with paint.
The P/J configuration is especially useful in bringing out the nuances out of a fretless and an extremely low action is achievable.
The thick 21 fret (has a small overhang at the heel) rosewood unlined fretless board has dots on the side at every fret. This might be a bit visually confusing, but the previous owner had blued (with a marker perhaps) all the marker dots except for the ones that would have had a dot on the fingerboard. Sounds potentially confusing, but it's quite intuitive and I recommend this to anyone.
EDIT: Recent report from one user is that newer models have dots only at the frets that would have them on a fretted instrument, though the dots are at the frets rather than in-between. I've not confirmed this, but it is a much more common arrangement on fretless instruments than the dot at each fret that my example has.
The hardware seems solid. The high-mass bridge is a clear copy of a Gotoh 201 and I like it very much. The tuners are solid and smooth. I'm a touch suspicious of the cast-metal base on the fender-style open gear tuners, but they've given no indication that they'll fail anytime soon.
Visually, it's a real looker. The real-tort pickguard (not a print) and 3 tone sunburst finish is a classic look executed well and the LTD logo and headstock are simple enough to not detract from the "Fender-ish" lines.
A few minor shortcomings must be addressed.
-Several of the pickguard and bridge screws appear to have been installed by a hand drill at an angle. While this probably doesn't affect the instrument itself, it's not representative of good QC.
-The pickguard screws holes and the edges of the control cavity are not perfectly aligned. One of the screws was just barely touching a splintered bit of wood and now turns easily.
-The Fretless version is only available in one color and the fretted versions only in two (Natural Ash and Black painted Alder)
-The 3 piece body does have joins that are visible from the font. It's less visible than many other similarly priced instruments, but it's not the kind of piece-matching that you might find in higher priced instruments.
I've got over 20 years of electric bass playing behind me and my previous fretless was a Carvin LB75F. After the slim spacing and 90's looks of my Carvin became unpalatable this was the only fretless bass in my budget that fit my preferences for vintage style, unlined and p-width neck. Unsurprisingly, it has not the same build quality or tonal versatility of the USA made Carvin with it's MM/J setup and active electronics.
Still, I'm so pleased to find that it more than covers all the tones I was looking for and does so in a well assembled, good-quality package. Having played a few of the current Squire Fretless basses with their ebanol fingerboards, I much prefer the LTD's rosewood board.
For those looking for a fretless bass under $400 this should be at the top of their list. Those looking specifically for an unlined fretless p-bass at that price point will be extremely pleased to see that the only available choice is such a good one.
- No. of Frets:
- No. of Strings:
- Body Material:
- Neck Material:
- Body Finish:
- Nut Width:
- Fingerboard Material:
- Copy of a Gotoh 201
- "ESP Designed" pickups, built by G&B
- Other Hardware:
- Basic Fender-style open gear tuners with what appears to be a cast (rather than bent) base.
- Around 10 pounds
- EQ / Controls: