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September 2014
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DBZ Barchetta SM Bass Review

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Since its 2008 founding, Houston, Texas-based DBZ/Diamond has won high praise from leading musicians while expanding its guitar and bass lines to cover players of virtually all budgets and genres. The success of their Barchetta guitars—aptly named after the lean and legendary Italian sports car—has inspired the company to introduce three Barchetta bass models. The visually arresting Barchetta SM bass, their top-of-the-line model, comes equipped with all DBZ/Diamond’s bells and whistles.

Streamlined Performance
The Korean-made Barchetta SM has an ash body with a striking carved spalted maple top, finished with a thin satin coat. The smooth, comfortable bolt-on maple neck has a contoured heel and a 22-fret rosewood fretboard adorned with the company's Premier Series diamond-shaped inlays. The top-quality hardware includes deluxe sealed tuners, oversized strap buttons, and a Babicz bridge with locking saddles and a full-contact design for optimal string-vibration transference.

The Barchetta is loaded with active EMG 35DC and 35P4 pickups, both with ceramic magnets. Their massive frequency ranges afford utmost clarity. The 35P4’s neck pickup houses two slightly offset coils, which deepen lows and allows highs to ring out. The pickups are controlled by EMG’s BTC system, which consists of a master volume, a pickup-balance knob, and the BTC control (a stacked treble/bass pot). The BTC control has provides ±12 dB boost or cut for both bass and treble, Additionally, tiny dual DIP switches on an internal circuit board offer four frequency response options.

The Barchetta SM delivers huge tones, superb playability, and distinctive looks. The massive frequency range of its EMG pickups provides outstanding clarity and power.

Drive Like the Wind
I set up a mid-’70s 2x15" Sunn cab with an all-tube Verellen Meatsmoke head and soloed the Barchetta’s bridge pickup with bass and treble set at at their center detents. The thick tone boasted lots of high snap and surprisingly full lows for a bridge pickup, lending itself to hard rock and metallic riffing. Lows and mids responded naturally to changes in my picking style, producing a thicker, bubblier tone when using my fingers rather than a pick. The highs seemed less willing to back off when I employed a lighter touch, but the tone control effectively tamed them when I wanted to transition from slap-friendly tones to warmer, softer sounds. The control is handy for boosting lows and highs separately or together, though raising the treble above 75 percent (halfway into the boost zone) gives highs a noticeably processed edge.

Ratings

Pros:
Neck profile and taper are very playable. Pickups provide plenty of detail, definition, and punch. BTC tone control is effective and easy to use.

Cons:
Overusing the tone control gives the tone a processed-sounding edge. Pricey.

Tones:

Playability:

Build:

Value:

Street:
$1,199

Company
dbzguitars.com

Applying a bit of the Meatsmoke’s growling overdrive further rounded out the tone while giving the midrange a more authoritative bark. The richness of the mids and highs also increased, and their heightened touch sensitivity made it easier to control their intensity. This was especially true when digging in with a pick for Mike Inez-style grind, and then switching to softer fingerpicking for fuller-bodied tones with more low-end emphasis.

The neck pickup is almost as clear and articulate as the bridge, but with smoother highs and expanded lows. Fingerpicked bass lines leapt from the Sunn’s speakers with a meaty snap, similar to the sound of Tony Levin’s springy line in King Crimson’s “Sleepless.” The bass and treble controls were at their flat settings—great for solid rock tones with ample lows and pick-attack detail.

The bright-toned ash body and responsive neck pickup help create solid, snarling rock tones, but that’s not to say that the Barchetta can’t handle more subdued styles. Cutting highs produces jazzier tones, though I found that cutting them too much can overemphasize the lows. It can take a little effort to find a balance where one frequency range didn’t overpower another.

The Verdict
The Barchetta SM delivers huge tones, superb playability, and distinctive looks. The massive frequency range of its EMG pickups provides outstanding clarity and power. Used conservatively, the tone controls offer plenty of variation, so you can tailor the tone to taste. The Barchetta’s asking price might be a little steep for some, but the bass’s solid build, comfortable neck, and enormously punchy tone should put it on the radar of players seeking an instrument with unique looks and potent sounds.

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