If you take a look at the top-selling basses these days, you’ll find endless variations of the Leo Fender designs, plus some imported originals created to catch the eye of younger players wanting to emulate their favorite bass superstars. To find a bass that has escaped CNC-machine cloning, you’ll need to travel beyond the mom-and-pop and big-box music stores to a bass boutique where the prices zoom up quickly beyond the two thousand dollar mark—and the attention to detail in design and build increases accordingly. These two Elrick basses fall into that category.
These basses are clearly not for every player— both because of their price and their sound— but if you’re hankering for a bass beyond the ordinary, you might soon hear them calling to you in the soft breezes of the night.
Expat Series New Jazz Standard
The New Jazz Standard (NJS) takes a longstanding design in the bass world—a contoured body and sleek neck with a pair of single-coil pickups—and brings it into the new millennium. Built in the Czech Republic from all US components, it closely replicates the dimensions of the hand-carved Elrick model built in Chicago.
The NJS is elegantly understated, with a piano-black lacquer finish on an alder body topped off with black knobs and a satin silver Hipshot bridge. The 24-fret, three-piece neck is likewise understated. Its quarter-sawn maple fingerboard eschews position markers, providing only petite black dots on the fingerboard edge. The veneer-capped headstock is equally simple, with a conventional shape and no adornment other than a small, round Elrick “e” toward the end, along with the satin Hipshot tuners. Elrick adds a modern innovation to the build with a deep bolt-on neck that uses six screws and runs clear through to the neck pickup. Like the old school, though, the truss rod access is through the neck heel end, except that the truss rod nut can be reached without any disassembly. Thoughtfully, Elrick includes a ball-end, t-handle Allen wrench among the in-case goodies, along with a screwdriver-style Allen wrench for adjusting the bridge saddles.
On the back of the body, there is a deeply sculpted cutaway to comfortably accommodate better access up the neck. The neck heel is ergonomically sculpted to match, avoiding the usual cliff-and-stair joint of this bass’s classic ancestor. The headstock departs from the classic as well, angling back to avoid the use of string trees. The Bartolini J-style pickups added further to the toned-down look, since they don’t have exposed pole-pieces. Sonically, these pickups allow a pretty serious range of tones, from warm, modern and smooth to snappy, aggressive and bright. Tapping the top of the bass, I heard a bit of “spring ping” from the bridge pickup, where the springs supporting a pickup produce a little sound of their own—nothing major, but a small disappointment nonetheless.
The Bartolini NTMBF electronics provide for three bands of cut-and-boost EQ, with an alternative EQ center on the midrange knob via a push-pull switch. In a similar way, the volume knob can be pulled up to bypass the electronics, although doing so cuts out all but the volume and blend pots. This would be useful in a dead-battery emergency mid set, but the preamp really adds life to the bass—I would imagine playing in active mode all the time.
With the EQ set flat, this is a fairly neutral sounding instrument— more polite than the classic version—letting the player bring out his own voice rather than trying to modify a pre-existing voice distinctive to a specific design. I generally found that favoring one pickup or the other via the blend pot brought out some character and clarity. I could then flavor my tone to taste by tweaking the EQ knobs. Keep the Midrange knob down for some added beef (250hz) or pull it up for more snap (800hz).
As might be expected with an instrument in this price range, the details of the build received very careful attention. The black lacquer finish was rich and deep. The medium frets—a little unusual for a bass like this—were well-seated, with carefully rounded ends and smooth crowns. In the hand, the back of the neck had a familiar rounded profile, while the fingerboard had a wider radius than the classic, very comfortable and playable. The Elrick Zero-Gravity case was a nice touch, fulfilling its name with a near weightless feel accomplished by a cloth shell over foam, lined with a smooth, black plush fabric inside. Outside, there is a generous zippered pouch just right for carrying a couple of cables, a strap and a tuner.
you have old-school tastes, but like the convenience of modern evolutions—and high quality is important.
you like a bass with two knobs, a rootsy kind of feel and sound—and a budget price.
|Street $2199 - Elrick Bass Guitars, Ltd - elrick.com