Traveler Explorer Bass Review

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Andy Brown, Dec 15, 2005.

  1. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder: Wing Bass
    Well, I thought I'd just 'do it' and order the Traveler Explorer Bass from Amercian Musical ($379). I only discovered these Traveler products not too long ago and was intrigued with the design and the compact size. I've been looking for that elusive decent conventional (i.e.- non-silicon stringed) travel bass for awhile now that could have replaced my Zon Vinny without the cost of a Vinny, and this one came closest.

    The specs:

    * Fingerboard: Rosewood
    * Frets: 24-medium
    * Scale Length: 32 in.
    * Fingerboard Inlays: Clay
    * Width at Nut: 1 1/4 in.
    * Body Width: 7 1/2 in.
    * Length: 35 in.
    * Weight: 4.5 lbs.
    * Pick-ups: Piezo Pick-Up
    * Hardware: Chrome
    * Electronics: Custom Shadow with Headphone Amp
    * Finish: Mahogany Satin Stained

    When I took it out of the box, I was suprised at how compact it really was. The neck and fingerboard were on par with those usually found on a Steinberger Spirit (not too bad). The body was a nice smooth Alder. The tuning keys were 'under' the strings as to accomodate the headless design. Then I tried to play it.

    Sitting down, it is just not possible to play. Even with a strap it seems incredibly awkward with my right hand trying to control position while at the same time, trying to pluck. Since there are cutouts under the strings where you normally pluck to accomodate the tuning keys, there is no place to rest your thumb which made playing even more difficult. The only semi-comfortable position was standing with a strap holding the body at my chest.

    The sound (notice I didn't say tone) provided by a Shadow piezo pickup was decent and bearable, however with the saddles not being adjustable, I would have had to live with some fret buzz I experienced if any string was plucked harder than usual.

    Overall, if they improved the body design, especially while sitting, I may have kept it, but it's going back. The quest is still on.

    Maybe it's time to order another Vinny.

  2. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    AJ, you deserve a used Steinberger XL-2 (mid 80s). Sure, they're around $1K or so, but they're tough to beat.

    I absolutely LOVE mine -- it was my primary bass for 15 years. It's still as good as the day I bought it.

    IMO, it is by far the best travel bass available -- it's compact, nearly indestructable, impervious to climate changes, and has a great tone. Pair it with a Tascam bass trainer and some decent headphones, and you've got a very portable, very playable practice system that goes anywhere.
  3. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder: Wing Bass
    You've got me thinking heavily about this now. I originally thought Steinberger, but thought they were well over $1k. I guess I'll have to check out the 'bay. Thanks!
  4. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    The best part is that if it's in a gig bag, and some hardass flight attendant forces you to gate check it, you've got no worries. Or, if you put it in an overhead bin, and somebody tries to crush it with their rollaboard carryon, you've got no worries. Given that you've been spoiled by your F-basses, I think a budget (read "cheap" travel bass) will probably not be satisfactory for you. If you played an entry-level bass regularly, you might have been happy with the Explorer, but given what you normally play, you'll probably have to get an XL-2, since anything less would just seem like a toy.

    Lately, they've been going for around $1200 or so on the 'bay for one in good condition. Not bad, considering I paid around $1100 for mine brand new in 1989. I have GAS for a "wide 5" Steinberger, but they are very few and far between, and rarely show up on the 'bay.