About a year ago I started following MBJ guitars. MBJ is the work of Joe Kruse, he works with Carl Thompson and Kelvyn Daley in Brooklyn when he is not at his shop. He has worked with some serious builders in his career as I mentioned Carl Thompson, Kelvyn D, Pete Hilton, and Roger Sadowsky to name a few I know of.
I originally contacted Joe with the intentions of building and designing a great tour bass. Due to health issues and typical band drama I had to give up tour life for a bit. As luck would have it though I ran into Joe again through Carl Thompson. I had been a fan of Joe's ideas that I saw come to life in CT basses.
I noticed Joe had been working on a new prototype bass line for MBJ. The bass was still a 100% custom hand carved bass, but it was a bolt on without an angled headstock. I started following the progress on instagram and was just curious about everything having to do with the bass since it broke away from the traditional way he builds. After meeting Joe in person while visiting Brooklyn I placed an order the same night. After placing the order for my MBJ Hudson bass, Joe kept in constant contact with me and sent photos of the progress of the bass. I asked for a custom wooden pickup cover and without question he designed one that worked perfectly with the bass. I only included this backstory for those who like myself are concerned with history, and who care for great customer service and support. MBJ went WAYYYY BEYOND great customer service! If you have ever dealt with custom builders you know some of them won't respond to you for months. So now for my short review of the MBJ Hudson
The bass arrived packed with serious care. As I pulled the bass from the box my first thought was "did I get sent a guitar by accident!". I opened up the case right there at the FedEx shop and all I can say is wow! The bass was very different than any bass I have ever seen or played. I picked up this compact bass nervous that I wouldn't feel comfortable playing it because it was so small and I am around 6'4" also used to playing 37" and 36" scale basses. NOPE the bass played so well and felt like a full sized bass. It was really kind of shocking....
I rushed home to plug in the bass and again it played like a dream. No fret buzz anywhere down the board. The neck profile is absolutely one of the most comfortable designs. It is thin and well finished. The feel of the bass at the heel joint is almost non existent, it feels like a set neck. The custom Kent Armstrong MM pickup is hot and can produce just about any sound I look for. The bass is passive by request. MBJ was nice enough to install a hi pass and kill switch for me. After playing for a bit I decided to put it on a strap and move around. WHOA! I am a VERY active person on stage. Have you ever smacked anyone or anything with your bass when you jump off a platform or just move to fast across the stage? Well as embarrassing as it is I have MANY times. This bass is perfect for active players, players with bad shoulder or back problems. It is super light, BALANCED and because of the body design it doesn't stick out in either direction so much as most. The bass sounds and feels like my big basses. I know that sound is perspective but I've played many short scale basses that JUST LACK!! You can fit the Hudson 32" in a car the same way an electric guitar would. Traveling in a plane would be super easy as this thing in a case will fit the overhead compartment with room to spare.
Let's talk about build for a couple of lines.
The body of my MBJ Hudson is swamp ash. It was all hand carved with the custom wave option. There are no rough spots in the finish (no lazy sanding) not even inside the tightest spots. The body is smooth and consistent. The body finish is oil based. I do not like gloss finishes and had personality never seen a swamp ash body finished in this manner. The neck pocket is super tight and was cut to match this neck specifically (not a template like many builders use). The neck is perfect..... seriously perfect. The profile is what you would expect from a builder of this class. Most would expect a bolt on to feel much different than a set neck but not this one. It is very comfortable and feels like home with no adjustment period. The truss is very responsive for this model Joe decided to use a spoke wheel which makes for quick adjustments if needed. It works very well, and is based on a design that has been tested for decades. No rattling in the neck or odd sounds coming from the cavities. The bass feels very solid and in NO WAY cheap.
Cost of the bass.... the bass is a steal starting at $2300 USD. If you can afford a Fender elite, midline Warwick, or any other CNC built mass produced bass why wouldn't you have a bass custom built for you, hand carved with love and attention to detail by one person instead of an assembly line of people and machines why wouldn't you?
Cons... well I know every product has something that we can't adapt to easily. Since the bass was made for me there really isn't much to say. That is an honest answer. It has the pickup I wanted the circuit I wanted, feel I wanted and the design I wanted. If I can find any cons I will update and post.
This bass is more than I could've asked for. The customer service, communication, personal involvement in the development of the bass, and fit and finish really made this a worth while endeavor. I am now waiting for my next build with MBJ a custom set neck short scale.
This bass is still my main bass for practice and travel. Joe at MBJ still checks up on my happiness with the bass and to give me updates on my other builds. STILL NO CONS!!! MBJ and the small family of builders accosiated with MBJ make the best instruments I've ever played.
MBJ IS THE WORK OF JOE KRUSE.