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My take on the Dingwall Super J.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Benjamin Strange, Jun 1, 2007.


  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    As some of you saw, I was seriously considering a Super J, and have been researching the fanned fret thing for a good while now. Within a week of my original posting, I had 4 Super J's come to my attention, from various dealers, individuals, etc. Even though I don't care for Jazz basses in general, it seemed that The Invisible Pink Unicorn intended for me to have one. Thanks to Craigslist, I was able to score this for $1700(which was a price I could not pass up):

    [​IMG]

    Now that I've been playing it constantly for two weeks, I feel qualified to present a review. Keep in mind that I didn't want to like this bass; I don't care for skinny necks, Jazz pickups, nor basses with headstocks. This is my first semi-traditional bass, and my first without a graphite neck in 10 years. I haven't bought a bass for at least 7 years, and rarely do I have any interest in purchasing one. This is the most I've ever spent on a bass - usually I balk at anything over $1000. Most of the time I will buy a bass that's close to what I'm looking for, and then modify it to death (as evidenced by my heavily modded Strangebergers). Now that I've stated my background and preferences, on to the review:

    I really like this thing, even though I didn't really want to. I bought it thinking I could spend some time with it, determine whether I liked it or not, and sell it off without losing anything if I didn't. I honestly expected to have it on ebay very quickly. Here I am, two weeks and many hours of playing later, and I still have it.

    First off, the neck: It's much smaller and thinner than I usually like. It's 1.5" wide at the nut, which at first I found to be too narrow (especially with my heavy strings I put on it), but after a while I became accustomed to it. It's also thin front to back; I usually equate thin necks with hand fatigue, as I'm squeezing my fairly small hands around the neck too much. So far I haven't experienced any fatigue at all - odd. It also handles my heavy string gauge preference fairly well, and with a few tweaks on the truss rod it straightened out under some pretty severe tension quite nicely. The headstock looks a little funny to me, as I don't care for the cutout, but it does help it balance well. I love that the tuners are recessed into the headstock, which eliminates needing a string tree. The neck is 3 pieces, and I can feel some of the seams - not good. Also, the nut is a bit shy of the bass side, and I can feel the channel that the nut is supposed to sit in. However, perhaps these are symptoms of the wood swelling, so I can let those slide. However, the neck does have a gap on the bass side; large enough to fit a business card in at least. This is not acceptable on a $3000 bass - neck joints should be TIGHT. It's also pretty tough to get to the truss rod - it uses a fairly small allen wrench, and the route for the truss doesn't leave much room to manuever the wrench. Bleh. The frets are nice and small, and installed well. I think that some of the fret slots are a bit too deep, as there is some excess filler around the fret tang. I was surprised to see that the fretboard has got a lacquered finish - I usually hate that feeling on maple boards, but this one is super smooth and feels quite nice under the fingers.

    The body is nice and light, and the finish is flawless. It does have some strange body routes, which actually make it more comfortable. The pickguard is really cool - 5 layers, with mint green interspersed with black. The pickguard screws even have threaded inserts in the body - awesome! There is a bit of a swimming pool under the pickguard to accomodate a P or J pickup, and the two 9v batteries. I generally like to see more wood under there, but I can't complain too much as the lines are clean and the bass is nice and light. The bridge is a little strange - it didn't accomodate my setup on it at first. I actually had to file down the hieght adjustment screws to get the string low enough. It also appears to have some cheap plating, as it's flaking off already. Perhaps the previous owner just bumped it, but it still doesn't appear terribly solid.

    How does it sound? Fantastic. Previously I've hated Jazz pickups as I find them to be clanky and harsh, but the Dingwall has changed my mind somewhat. They are pretty smooth through my Boogie tube rig, and don't ever get harsh. They are quite hot, though, and I had to back them off a bit becayse they were overdriving the input stage of my amp. The neck pickup is smooth by itself, and evidences just a pinch of throatiness that I like. In with both pickups on, it really barks, but still doesn't sound bad. The bridge pickup is kind of thin, but I've found just about every J to sound thin in the bridge position. I'm a P pickup kind of guy, so I'm mostly leaving it in the neck position anyway. I'm mostly using this in passive mode, as I don't care for active electronics. However, in active mode it does sound good, with a somewhat muted midrange and smoother character overall. It's also the same volume between the two settings - awesome! Overally I'm very impressed with the electronics - it's well thought out and well executed. Having to take the pickguard off to get at the batteries kind of sucks, but I understand the newer Super J's have a magnetic battery compartment on the back. I probably will never have any use for the active section, so if my batteries die I won't have any worries.

    To sum up, I'm keeping the bass. I haven't touched my fretted Strangeberger since I got this (I've played the fretless, though). It's a nice thought knowing that I can get strings anywhere instead of having to get them shipped in from Status in England. I bought this bass thinking it would help me even out my string tensions in my tuning (CGDA) and it has really fit the bill. My high D and A strings are no longer pinched sounding, and my lower G and C strings are clear and balanced. I'm playing better on this instrument, partly due to the even tensions and partly due to it's (mostly) shorter scale. I'm also finding myself playing alot more slap, which I almost never do - odd. I can't wait to take this thing out on the road; we've got several tours coming up this year (including one in the Virgin Islands! Woohoo!) and I'm really curious to see how this thing handles the abuse of a nationwide tour. Perhaps I will be the first to relic a Dingwall...

    And that's all I have to say about that.
     
  2. Smallmouth_Bass

    Smallmouth_Bass

    Dec 29, 2005
    Canada
    They are really nice basses. I am sure it will hold up well and provide many years of good service.
     
  3. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Montreal
    Nothing beats a fanned board for even string tension and feel, as well as even tone and volume across strings (all other things being equal, of course).
     
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