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Quick review question...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Scott D, Apr 29, 2004.


  1. Scott D

    Scott D

    Apr 21, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    Hey, i'm about to buy a Matt Pulcienna guitars Level 5. I remember BP did a review in the January 2003 issue, (the one with Ryan Martine on the cover), and I'd like to hear what they had to say about it. Does anyone have this issue (i've long lost it), and if you do, could you scan it?

    Thanks,
    Scott D.
     
  2. Hurley

    Hurley

    Feb 12, 2004
    Cape Cod, MA
    I have the magazine right in front of me, but unfortunately, no scanner. :meh: Was there anything specific that you wanted to know from the article?

    :bassist:
     
  3. Scott D

    Scott D

    Apr 21, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    grrr. I really want to read the whole thing, but i'm not going to make you type out the whole article. Could you just give me the scheme of things (the main idea, pro's, con's... what body wood/board/pickup system).

    Thanks,
    Scott D.
     
  4. Hurley

    Hurley

    Feb 12, 2004
    Cape Cod, MA
    It's a good thing I'm quick on the keyboard. Enjoy. :)

    Matt Pulcinella Guitars Level 5
    By Jonathan Herrera


    As both a busy player and a graphic designer, Matt Pulcinella was dissatisfied with many currently available basses, which he sees as sacrificing visual balance for function. So when he began designing basses in 1996, looks and ergonomics, as well as sonic versatility appropriate for the frequent gigger, became essential elements of his design approach. To achieve these goals, he chose to offer numerous electronics and hardware options and was committed to keeping the Level 5 lightweight, comfortable, and attractive.

    Our test Level 5’s extraordinary blue-burst finish enhanced the magnificently quilted maple of the top and headstock. One staffer, likening the Level 5’s complex figure and color to the ocean, was tempted to “dive in.” Pulcinella stained the two-piece swamp-ash body back cobalt blue to match the darkest ends of the burst—great-looking up against the flame-maple neck. Overall, out Level 5 was so visually striking that the plastic control-cavity cover and goopy, black-finished trussrod cutout seemed of place.

    Pulcinella sets the four-bolt neck deep into the body for increased stability. The neck joint, which features an angled heel for improved high-fret access, was so tight on our test bass that my 0.5mm feeler gauge wouldn’t fit. A few minor flaws, like the neck not being flush with the heel and a small amount of finish inconsistency at the joint, didn’t affect playability. The thick rosewood fingerboard featured excellent fret and inlay work. The level frets showed excellent beveling, crowning, and attention to detail. I liked the offset abalone inlays, but one staffer thought standard placement (or no dots at all) would better serve the Level 5 visually.

    The hardware and construction are top-notch, with one exception: Though the knobs function well, they have a low-quality look and feel. (Pulcinella responds: “I can use different knobs if a customer wants them. I use the most lightweight materials wherever it doesn’t affect tone.”) Elsewhere, the Level 5 has first-rate Hipshot hardware, a rugged oval jack-plate, a well-cut nut, and firmly seated Basslines soapbar pickups. Removing the three control-cavity screws (too few in my opinion) revealed the Demeter 3-band preamp wrapped in a small piece of foam. (Pulcinella responds: “Because I offer numerous preamps, the cavity size needs to facilitate the installation of up to eight knobs. Three screws allows for the various knob configurations.”) The cover and cavity were well shield, and the electronics installation was tidy.

    The Level 5 had a few construction defects in the control-cavity: The cover was too deeply counter-sunk into the body, and the small interior flange that receives the jack-side screw broke off when I attempted to reattach the cover, leaving only the two topmost screws. I prefer threaded brass inserts for both the cover and the battery box, which instead uses a plastic quick-release box.

    By keeping the weigh just below eight pounds and designing an extended upper horn, Pulcinella succeeded in creating a bass with superb strap balance. On my lap, however, the neck dived, as it is heavy in proportion to the lightweight body. This problem is exacerbated by the short bottom horn, which slipped off a few staffers’ legs when they played without a strap. Otherwise, the shallow oval-profile neck, smoothly contoured body, and medium-low setup contributed to excellent playability.

    On The Level
    The Level 5 has a crisp and articulate acoustic tone. To hear the influence of the onboard Demeter preamp, I plugged the Level 5 into our Soundroom’s Demeter/Crown/Eden setup. With this rig the Pulcinella had an authoritative, broad-spectrum sweetness with brilliant, nearly zingy highs. I favored the bridge pickup and dialed in some bass with the onboard EQ to get a thick and punchy slap tone that one staffer called “woody.” The Level 5’s great tone and versatility confirmed the Demeter preamp’s synergy with the bass. One staffer was particularly impressed with the Level 5’5 highs, which didn’t get raunchy when boosted—a problem with some onboard EQs.

    Switching to an Aguilar 750 with an AccuGroove El Whappo cab yielded super-deep tone. I tried the usual formula for big, round thump: boosting the bass, cutting the treble, and soloing the neck pickup. With these settings, the Level 5 had serious low-end girth, but the high-end sizzle was ever-present, contributing a clarity and definition that may be unwelcome for super-deep dub and dance styles. The Level 5’s excellent, taut B string spoke with the same stout punch that the rest of the strings exhibited.

    On a gig with a large funk group, through a Genz-Benz GBE600 and an Epifani 2x10 cab, the Level 5 had many of the same qualities that it did in the Soundroom. Its clarity and definition helped me cut through, but I had to boost the mids to compete with a busy drummer, percussionists, and DJ. I got my favorite all-around utility setting by centering the blend knob and boosting the mids and bass. The level 5’s excellent ergonomics and light weight made the gig a breeze. The knobs functioned well, with definitive center detents, but when making adjustments during soundcheck I accidentally pulled off the bass knob. Knobs that incorporate setscrews would prevent this.

    The Level 5 is a versatile and comfortable bass with broad appeal that’s enhanced by its reasonable price. It’s a great-looking and functioning instrument for the working bassist who needs a flexible axe for studio and stage. BP


    List price: $1699
    ($1999 as tested)

    Construction: 3.5 / 5
    Electronics: 4.5 / 5
    Playability: 4.5 / 5
    Sound: 4 / 5
    Value: 4 / 5

    Pros: Comfortable and versatile; won’t break your back.
    Cons: Casual construction in places.
     
  5. Scott D

    Scott D

    Apr 21, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    Awesome. Thank you.