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Happy Birthday to Me!!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BFunk, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    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?

    Attached Files:

  2. musicman666


    Sep 11, 2011
    All I can say is, WOW ! Beautiful. Love the color and wood grain! It looks flawless in the pic. Congrats!
  3. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass What the .............. Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    First off... Happy Birthday! The 50s go by fast... This year will be my last year in my 50s.. which I still find hard to believe.. Secondly great review.. I wanted to try one of those basses... So that switch is like the 5 position switch on the Stingrays?
  4. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I believe it is neck, outer coils, both, inner coils, bridge. What is a Stingray HH?
  5. musicman666


    Sep 11, 2011
    Stingray HH switch is just what you described.
  6. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass What the .............. Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    I a ed because I was considering trying to wire my KH like that ...
  7. Congratulations on a fine selfie birthday present. I didn't do as well. I bought myself a new Ducati for my 50th, and two years later it went into a violent tank slapper going straight down the freeway and spit me over the bars at 70 mph. Trying to kill me, it did manage to kill itself.

    If I'd been as wise as you, I'd still be playing with my 50th birthday present to myself. Have a happy birthday, and don't let that thing try to kill you. :p
  8. Oren Hudson

    Oren Hudson

    Dec 25, 2007
    Gastonia, NC
    Super bass and even better wife! My 50th to myself was a 1965 Vox Phantom IV in white & original case. That was a little over 12 years ago and I'm still thumpin' it. Wish the same for you. :cool:
  9. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thank you. I am sure my wife will be very happy to hear that I will be still thumpin' it in twelve years from now! :)
  10. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88

    Sep 16, 2013
    Happy 50th !! I celebrated mine last month and last week picked up a Marshall Off-set 1watt half stack. I always wanted a nice tube amp for my studio and here's one that sounds great at late night levels. The prelude to that was a TH500/CN212 rig, a second hand Warwick Corvette, EHX Enigma envelope filter, Radial DI and a Fender Mustang RI. (for my son - sort of). I called these my lifetime achievement awards. I wonder what 60 will bring ........;)
    P.S. all this after taking a 10yr musical holiday while I rode expensive Italian racing bikes to work and tried (unsuccessfully) to keep up with the carbon revolution. Anybody that thinks guitars are an expensive hobby hasn't had a salesman try to sell you a 23gram $200.00 water bottle cage.
  11. jamminology101


    Aug 22, 2012
    Indianapolis In
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    I can attest to the legitimacy of the dimension claims. The OP contacted me before he pulled the plug on the bass and I gave him similar thoughts...however I have the alder/maple version which is a little more bright but lacks a little warmth of the rosewood board. Anybody who claims the fretboard wood doesnt affect the tone really isnt in tune with bass tones. The kicker is the thing isnt perfect but for around 1500 bucks it is a sure winner and is really a radical departure from fenders normal offshoots of the P and J but definitely a step in the right direction. I have 5 years to go to figure out what I want for the half century mark.
  12. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jamminology101, you were a big help in this decision. It seems that you and I have similar tone and taste goals as well as styles, so your input was a big help.
  13. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    happy birthday I love these basses congrats she is a pretty one.
  14. JDLowEnd


    Dec 19, 2010
    Norwich, CT
    Bfunk, love the new bass! How do you like that verellan? I'm right over the borde if you want to let me hear it :ninja:
  15. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I forgot to add that was an awesome review.
  16. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I replaced the string tonight. The Circle K's were just too polite for my tone goals. I realize now that I was using them the Precision to add clarity, reach and depth that was just not there. The Dimension does not need any of this. I emailed bassstringsonline.com for a recommendation. I wanted something with more low-grunt and upper mid bite for a great rock sound. He recommended a couple of brands including Sadowsky Black Label Nickels. I just happened to have an unused pack of Blue Label Nickels laying around. These were the strings I used on the Precision before switching to CK's. They have everything I want. With the Dimension, they have a grinding, biting, aggressive sound that still have plenty of solid low-mids and lows for a nicely grounded rock sound. These strings are very bright and edgey at first. More like bright steels with more low-mids. But the top end mellowed out nicely after a couple of hours of playing. They are still quite bright, especially for nickels, but not as much edge. I re-adjusted the action. Then I spent some time intonating. (Man I hate intonating the B string. Always a best effort.) Then I made some pickup adjustments. The pickups are very sensitive to height adjustments. This is the sign of very good pickups IMO. After I got this sorted and played with relief and string height some more, I think I have things pretty well sorted out. Now this thing is a rock monster. The pickups and electronics are just wonderful. Throaty, aggressive, grindy, deep. Really killing the Precisions now. I am also convinced that had I put some more mellow strings or flats, I would end up with an excellent instrument with a completely difference sound. Very versatile bass.
  17. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    The Verellen Meatsmoke is a really great preamp. I was a little concerned about it being too grunge/stoner/doom/metal for me. I am a rock guy, but more Kinks, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson indie ballad type rock. I bought the foot pedal at Christmas for $525. It was such a good deal for a point-to-point two channel tube preamp with individual EQ that I had to give it a shot. I have a Radial JDI so I did not need the DI of the rack unit. I found the JJ ECC83S tubes that came with it were too harsh for me. I currently am running a pair of Mullards which are nice. I got a recommendation from Doug's Tubes for a Ruby 12AX7AC7 HG+ in V1 and Ruby 7025SS HG in V2. He said I have to be very careful with the tubes in the pre because it uses a cathode follower design. Not sure what that means, but Doug's Tubes has a very good rep on the web. I am willing to take his word for it. (He said I got lucky with the Mullards and I should definitely not use a Tung-Sol.)

    Ben's customer service has been very good. He was a little late on delivery but I think the year-end sale put him behind. He is very good at answering questions even after the sale. Unfortunately, he was not much help with tube rolling. It was not his thing I guess.

    One other thing I learned from Ben, the preamp is a Marshall amp derivative. I don't know which one, but this may help you decide if it is for you.

    I just got an invite from my singer to lay down some bass tracks for a new song he wrote tomorrow night. I will be using the Dimension with the Verellen, (and the new Ruby tubes), into a Radial JDI. If the track comes out decent I will post it here this weekend.

  18. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks. I wanted to wait a couple of weeks before I put anything down. It is so easy to rush to judgement on these things. It is a long review. I did that because there really isn't much on this bass. A couple of small reviews, and some so-so videos. I wanted to put down something that would give other would-be buyers something to sink their teeth into.
  19. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I wanted to add more to this for others who may be considering this bass. First I continue to be impressed. it is a very good versatile bass. The pickups are really impressive in terms of the amount of detail that shows in my playing.

    Strings: recorded with the Sadowsky Blue Label Nickels. I still think it is a great string. It was just a little boring sounding in the mix. I missed the ringing tone of the Circle K's. The Sads just didn't have any pizazz. Last night I put on a set of Thomastik-Infelds. I only have a four string set, so I left the B string from the Sads on just so it would intonate correctly. The TIs sound really good on this bass. The woody bark of the TIs came on strong. Very strong mids and upper mids. Very strong finger-on-string sound. You either love it or hate it. I love it myself. The A string is slightly brighter than the others. Typical of this string. I wish they would fix that. This is overall a very good string for this bass. As enjoyable as it was to play, I did not keep them on. Still wanted that stainless steel like zing I got from the Circle K's. So I decided to put the CK's back on. Originally I had a set of 136's. I also have a set of 142s that I actually prefer on my Precision, but I figured the B would be too fat for the nut on the Dimension. But I tried them anyway. The 142 fit fine. Weird, I know. I came with 125s, but there is no gap with 142s. (I checked with a magnifier.) Sits nice and tight. Anyway, there is a pretty big difference between the 136 and the 142 IMO. Those few extra pounds of tension seem to make the difference. Bigger fundamental and lower action. They are woking out great. I did notice the the 4th fret on the D string has a weird overtone. Its the same with these strings on the Precision. It doesn't make it unplayable, but is noticeable to me. I think the D string could have a little more tension, but it is acceptable.
  20. BassKnuckles


    Dec 17, 2013
    New Orleans
    Happy 50! And that is a b e au t I f u l bass. I love that your wife is so supportive too. Mine is great. I can buy anything I want as long as I match the exact amount to savings or bills lol. So all my purchases cost 2x as much. Congrats.