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Since setting up shop in 1975, master luthier Stuart Spector has since become something of a star in the bass community. Though he started out as a one-man operation, Spector now has manufacturing operations on three continents, distributors in more than 60 countries, and a list of 700+ endorsed artists. His U.S.-handbuilt instruments are some of the most revered among bassists, but Spector has also made a name with his quality import models, as well.
But while Spector is probably best known for his designs that break the mold of electric basses from the ’60s and ’70s, the Coda basses he introduced in 2010 show that he hasn’t completely shied away from building his interpretation of a classic. The Codas, however, were previously only available as high-end, handmade instruments from his shop in Woodstock, New York, until the recent unveiling of the much more affordable, Korean made Coda Pro basses. Here, we take a look at the 4-string version. It’s a modern take on a classic design that carries the Spector name and a price tag that should appeal to a lot of players.
Lady in Red
At just a hair over 9 pounds, the Coda Pro is in the same weight class as the Fender Jazz basses it was inspired by. Its solid body is constructed of alder and topped with highly figured quilted maple. Underneath the high-gloss finish, our test bass was stained in an eye-catching black cherry, but natural and black are also available. The naked top is quite fetching aesthetically, though more aggressive players might prefer to see the lower portion protected by a pickguard.
The 34"-scale Coda Pro’s bolt-on neck is carved from a single piece of rock maple and topped with a rosewood fretboard that’s home to 20 frets, a Micarta nut, and traditional-looking pearl-dot markers. The headstock boasts a traditional, Fender-inspired cut—a departure from the typical Spector headstock—but the tuners are not the cloverleaf variety we’re used to seeing on a Jazz. Instead, Coda Pros are outfitted with a set of Spector’s black, more contemporary-styled Legend machines that felt solid and tight when tuning up.
On the other end of the bass, the Coda Pro features Spector’s popular locking, top-loading bridge. Its die-cast construction not only makes it lightweight, it’s intended to help with sonic transparency. It’s also very user friendly—which was nice, because some tweaking was necessary after the bass had gone through a few different climate changes. The saddles simply lock into place via a hex screw on the side of the bridge. Once locked, accidental adjustments can’t be made and the saddles will stay in place even when changing strings.
When our Coda Pro arrived, its action was so low that all four strings were buzzing up to the 7th fret. Fortunately, the user-friendly bridge allowed for some quick string-height adjustments that had me back in business again in just a handful of minutes. Unplugged and saddles adjusted, the Coda Pro resonated nicely, and the slender neck felt buttery smooth, fast, and clean.
The Coda Pro comes stocked with a pair of EMG HZ passive single-coils powered by Spector’s TonePump Jr. active tone circuit. Made in the Czech Republic, the TonePump Jr. has volume controls for each pickup, allowing for plenty of tone-shaping possibilities when used in tandem with the bass and treble knobs—each of which provides 12 dB of boost. When I opened the control cavity to throw in a fresh battery, I discovered the Coda Pro has über-clean wiring and shielding work inside.
I tested the Coda Pro through a Gallien-Krueger 800RB powering a TC Electronic RS410 cab, and I started out by giving each pickup a chance on its own. When I rolled the neck pickup’s volume knob all the way up and set the treble and bass controls at their halfway points, I pounded out fat, punchy tones that still had pronounced midrange and highs. At this setting, the Coda Pro’s neck-pickup tones called to mind the adjective “bright” more so than “earthy” or “woody.” That said, they sustained very well and this particular setting would still fit in nicely with a variety of music styles.
Rolling off the neck pickup and bringing up the bridge pickup all the way (again, with the bass and treble knobs at noon) yielded cutting, modern sounds that were a bit too bright and thin for my tastes. However, with both pickups, I detected little to no hiss or hum unless I pushed the treble knob past 70 percent.
Now that I had a feel for the pickups and tone knobs, I set out to find my favorite sounds—and in the process I found that the active preamp enables you to coax a wide variety of tones from the Coda Pro. I found my sweet spot—a nice brew of thickish but discernable lows with a dusting of mids and highs that help your sound stand out in a mix—by maxing the neck’s volume, blending in the bridge pickup about halfway, and setting treble at 50 percent and bass at 75 percent.
From the moment I unpacked the Spector Coda Pro and throughout all the time I spent with it, I was impressed with how well put together it was. I didn’t detect even the tiniest of scratches, the neck-body joint was near perfect, and the control cavity was among the tidiest I’ve seen. It’s another fine example of how imports have continued to evolve and improve in quality. While aggressive pick-wielders may worry about how well the unprotected finish will stand the test of time, and those who favor vintage J tones might find the EMGs and active circuit lacking in warmth, the evenness of the finish, the feel of its slender neck, the quality appointments, and variety of modern tones will certainly win fans among players looking for a moderately priced update on a classic recipe.