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Review - Devon Diamond J Five-String

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by VroomVroom, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. Hi Folks,

    In researching my recent purchase, there wasn't a lot of info to be had, so I figured I'd share my thoughts on this one. Long post warning...read on at your own peril. :)

    About a month ago I went through my Monday morning ritual: shake cobwebs, pour coffee, peruse retail bass websites for a little window shopping. In doing so, I came across this one at The Low End...


    Thought to myself, "Mmmm...what a pretty bass." Black Hipshot hardware against light woods...delicious. Read the specs. Ash: check. Maple: check. Bartolini: check. Yep, this is square in the center of my wheelhouse. Birch: Hmm? Being a longtime drum aficionado, I've occasionally wondered why birch hasn't been used as a top wood for basses. Anyway, this one intrigued me. As luck would have it, there was money burning a hole in my pocket from a recent fretless sale. God forbid that money stay in the savings account. ;) I fired off an email to Brian with a few questions. Nothing. Fired off another one. He answered one question. Hit 'reply', he kinda' answered a coupla' more. I let sleeping lions rest for a few days.

    I kept coming back, though. Ran the pics & specs by my local guru. Got a tentative thumbs-up (he's sick of boutique J's, and has never been a fan of those Barts....he's a damn purist :D but he's smart). His experience dictated that birch would be a bit softer than maple, but would likely provide some warmth and might even out the mids. Similar to putting a rosewood board against an ash body. All of this intrigued me more, so I called Brian. Bada boom. Great conversation, resulting in me warming up the credit card. The moral of that story: use the phone, not email, when dealing with this shop, and you'll be happy.

    The Transaction
    Brian was happy to sell the bass, but he wanted to route it back through Devon to attack some electronic demons. I trusted Brian and his return policy, so this was an easy call. Done deal, and for me, so begins the waiting game. (I'll cut to the chase here...moral part two: be patient when buying from Brian. If you catch a break on good timing with the shipping game, well...wonderful. If not....well, be patient.)

    Fast-forward a week, and I get a pleasantly surprising phone call. From Devon his own self. He wanted to let me know the diagnosis and fix on the electronic issue, and he was kind enough to offer to set up the bass to my playing style. (As low as it'll go, and then just a wee bit lower. :p) Wonderful conversation, and I got to learn a bit more about the bass and the cat who crafted it. Good vibes. Only a few days away...

    Okay, let's get to the damn bass, already
    When I opened the box and case, my first impressions were very positive. Prettier in-the-flesh than in pictures, not too heavy (best guess...more than nine lbs, less than 10), nice balance. I let it settle for a couple of hours, then slapped on fresh strings (D'Add nickel SL's...not my first choice, but the best-for-me among my local options long enough for thru-body 35" fitment), made a small truss rod adjustment, tweaked the action a bit, and started playing. Intonation was darn-near spot-on...only a little off on the 'D' string. Bada boom, we're ready to play.



    What a great playing instrument. Very even and full, from open 'B' to the high 'F' on the 'G' string. In fact, if anything, it seems to get warmer and smoother above the 12th fret. Access to the high notes, as with any bass of this general body style, is somewhat limited. You've got to want it, but heck...there's no money up there anyway, right? :D By my tape, the nut width is 1-13/16", but it actually feels a bit skinnier. The neck profile is fairly thin - certainly no baseball bat here - and the bass just plays very - "fluid" comes to mind, even if that's a poor word choice. Easy on the hands, for sure.

    The craftsmanship is second-to-none. It's a beautiful bass that easily matches up to every handmade instrument I've played and/or owned. The magnetic cavity covers are a really nice touch, too. No worries about being careless with the screwdriver - or losing screws, and battery swaps are a breeze.

    The sound? Those descriptive hints above are spot-on. Modern, for sure - but still in the J-bass vein. 60's placement, and the full complement of EQ settings from the three-band/three-mid-position pre offer tons of versatility. Plenty of booty with everything flat & centered, which always brings a smile. Great slap tone, but no shortage of mids with fingerstyle playing. I have found that the snarl from biasing the bridge pickup and lightly boosting the 250hz mids is flat-out addictive. Will it be mistaken for a Fender? Nope, not a chance. However, it will cruise through the neighborhood without offending the old-folk nor generating a call to the gendarmes.

    Proof in Pudding
    How does it sound on a gig? Short answer: yes. :D Great bass. Yesterday was the debutante ball, and this one will see ample use from here-on. Great bass...or did I say that already?



    Sound clip notes: Rig as you see above - Genz Benz Shuttle 9.0, Bergantino HT112ER. All flat & centered on the amp, except for pre-gain @ 7/10. Cab tweeter @ 11-o'clock. Bass: slight bias toward bridge pickup, slight boost on 250hz mids...all else centered. You will hear the flubs. My excuse: it was an outdoor gig on a really cold day, and my hands are still thawing. Well, that...and I thought for sure I remembered the bridge changes to 'One Note Samba.' :ninja: :D

    All Blues

    Stolen Moments

    One Note Samba

    Don't Get Around Much Anymore

    Bottom Line (heh)
    This is a fantastic instrument. I'm generally the last cat to consider buying unheard/unplayed, and that certainly goes double for a luthier I'd never heard of before. However, this one kept calling out to me. Ultimately, I trusted my gut, and I have no regrets. GREAT BASS. And the fellow who crafted it? Devon is an outstanding breed of cat - excellent communication, deep well of knowledge, and obviously a big toolbox of skills and creativity. I would unhesitatingly recommend him to anyone in the market for this flavor of instrument.

    Thanks for your time!
  2. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    Man I dig the sound of that Jazz.
  3. TechJunky


    Aug 31, 2009
    Columbus, OH
    I played a Devon Diamond J MM at Guitar Center, and I'm kicking myself still to this day for not finding a way to come up with the funds ($1500!). It had the twin MM humbuckers and a wenge neck, and had the best feel and sound of any bass I've ever played to this day. I'm a hardcore Warwick junky, but if I found one of these available for sale, I'd be seriously tempted to get rid of one of my 'wicks to pick it up. What great basses! Enjoy it, she's a beaut!
  4. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Nice! I owned this beauty for a year or so. I got it from Mr. Majestic who got it from Brian. Only reason I sold it is I had been jonesin' for an early Music Man Sabre and needed to move at least one instrument to justify the purpose. Since the Devon was one of four 5-strings I had, and the other three were all custom orders, it drew the short straw.

    Amazing bass, though, in all ways.



    As you can see, this one also had $$ and Wenge neck. It would be something if this is the same bass. If it is, I highly recommend GET IT! Seriously, if it weren't competing with 3 higher priced custom ordered 5 stringers that I still have, I'd still have the Devon.

  5. TechJunky


    Aug 31, 2009
    Columbus, OH
    malthumb, that's not the one I played. The one I played, if I recall correctly, was a quilt top, had Bartolini pickups (I think) with the more "normal" humbucker design, and I'm pretty sure it had a maple fretboard. (in fact, did anyone here buy the Diamond J MM5 from the guitar center in Plymouth Meeting last year? That's the one I'm referring to). That's still a beautiful example, though! Then again, I don't think any Devon J is anything but amazing. I'm so thankful Davids Bridal was right next to the GC, so when my girlfriend was trying on dresses for her sisters wedding, I had ample time to play it!
  6. Almost nabbed this one for myself but decided against it. Glad it landed in the hands of another TBer. You and it sound great in the clips!
  7. I am surprised at Devon's relatively low profile. He's crafted some amazing instruments over the years. For me, with this bass, it's as if I found a nice crisp $100 bill while walking down the street. I can't say I was in the market, but I found a gem and jumped on it. This bass will see a lot of work, for sure.
  8. YCBass

    YCBass Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    I saw this one at LowEnd as well... And you're right, light woods against black hardware is indeed delicious... The other Devon with the rainbow wood body is quite cool as well, definitely something I've only seen him do in a J format.

    Great looking bass, congrats!
  9. TechJunky, I drove from Baltimore to PA to buy that bass. I chatted with Devon a few times via email and he's an awesome guy. I've aquired all kinds of good stuff over the years and this one is among the best. It's a true sleeper.

    ...and NO the bass is NOT for sale...LOL
  10. sps500

    sps500 In Memoriam

    May 19, 2008
    Cool review! Saw it on the Low End website and always wondered how they were. Cool to hear its every bit as good as it looks!
  11. Adam Wright

    Adam Wright Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2002
    GHS Strings, 64 Audio in-ears, Mayones Basses
    Had a Devon fretless P/J about 10 years ago. Nice instrument. I don't believe Devon builds full time and doesn't produce a lot of basses. He was super easy to deal with and is definitely a talented guy.
  12. SCMan88


    May 1, 2011
    OMG that just lookd awesome!

    I saw one of his fretless basses just like this one(but with Rosewood fingerboard I think) on Ebay,and it looks really good.

    :) Great looking bass!
  13. TechJunky


    Aug 31, 2009
    Columbus, OH
    Awesome! Enjoy it! Definitely jealous and a bit bummed I didn't have the funds to grab it at the time, but glad a fellow TBer did get it.
  14. Dude who are you playing with there? I bet I know them?

    peace Kirk
  15. Quick update after another month+ of enjoying this one. Great bass. Comfortable to wear on a four-hour gig, and versatile enough to authentically cover a lot of musical ground. Cosmetically, I think I love it even more than when I first bought. Very subtle - from 10' away it just looks like a cool J bass. Get closer, and the nuance comes on full display...the top is very pleasing to the eye, and is perfectly complemented by the fingerboard. Schawing.

    Sonically? It's awesome. Organically, it's got plenty of booty. Leaving everything flat & centered can realistically cover just about everything. But I confess to becoming addicted to the chewiness and growl when biasing the bridge pickup and slightly boosting the 250hz mids. Wicked tone that cuts...without being thin or losing bottom.

    My CDO being what it is, I'm still on the hunt for some black pickup mounting screws. Gard @ Roscoe was gracious enough to send me a batch, but their recipe is a bit different....they use wood screws, while Devon uses machine screws with threaded inserts in the body. Pretty good to have this as my only concern, no? :D

    So, another shoutout for the bass and the fellow who crafted it. Two big thumbs-up from me.
  16. Thanks for a great review and follow up!
  17. Ok, reviving this one from the dead, but heck...it's almost Halloween, right? And if it gives a wee bit more publicity to Introduction to Devon Guitars, all the better.

    When I bought the bass, Devon, depending on your perspective, was either kind enough...or painfully naive enough...to ask me for feedback. Full-on CDO response ensued, suggesting that black hardware should also include black pickup screws. Devon began the good hunt, and a short while ago he started offering such....to include sending me a set. They went on as soon as I got home tonight, and please pardon the crummy cellphone cam pics...


    Now I can go to sleep at night without the nervous twitch. Definitely subtle, but I think the bass looks better, and I'm quickly becoming convinced that it sounds better. :D :rollno:

    In any case...longer term feedback: This is a GREAT bass. Totally captures the modern J vibe sonically and aesthetically. Playability is terrific, the craftsmanship is top-notch, the tone is everything I was after plus a nice dose of more. It's gotten a lot of comments based on looks...undoubtedly boutique, but still subtle...and many more, plus smiles, based on sound. I've got a number of gigs lined up through the end of the year that are absolutely perfect for this bass....R&B, disco, smooth jazz...bada boom.
  18. sps500

    sps500 In Memoriam

    May 19, 2008
    Great looking bass and great to hear its every good as it looks!! :)
  19. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    You know, I didn't think the pickup screws mattered.

    Then I saw the after pic, it really was that "final touch" that made everything a wee bit more awesome.

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