Premier Guitar

Spector Euro5LX EX & NS-5H2 FM Bass Reviews

August 19, 2009
Since the mid-seventies when he built his first bass, Stuart Spector has earned a reputation for designing and building great instruments. With the signature body style designed by Ned Steinberger in 1976, the company introduced the NS series and has been handcrafting basses in New York since 1977. In 1986, they introduced Korean import versions and in 1993 began offering production versions of their USA models made in their factory in the Czech Republic.

Two in Review
We have two basses for review, the Euro5LX EX and the NS-5H2 FM. The former has an alder back and a poplar burl top with clear gloss finish. It is manufactured at their Czech Republic factory and is a production version of their USA handcrafted NS-5XL using the same maple neck, truss rod, and graphite rods. The latter has a mahogany body and a figured maple top; our review model has a black matte finish, though it is available in other finishes, including the amber stain pictured (which is otherwise identical to our review instrument). It is handcrafted at their Woodstock, NY, workshop, and is numbered and signed by Stuart Spector. Both basses share the same NS curved body design, and both have a 35” scale and a brass nut. Both instruments carry a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects to the original owner.

The Euro5LX EX has neck-through construction and gold-plated hardware, including a Spector locking bridge and Schaller tuners. It uses 2 EMG 40CSTW single/dual coil pickups, which are controlled by push-pull volume controls, and the preamp is a Spector TonePump, boost only, with active treble and bass controls and +19dB of gain.

The NS-5H2 FM has a bolt-on neck and black hardware, including a custom aluminum Hipshot bridge with brass saddles and Hipshot UltraLite tuners. It uses two special EMG CS-TW single/dual coil pickups also controlled by push-pull volume controls, and the preamp is an Aguilar OBP-3 active preamp with active Bass, Midrange, and Treble controls as well as selectable midrange frequency via another push-pull pot.


Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Euro5LX EX
My first impression out of the box: this is a lovely instrument! Though I am not a fan of glossy finishes, this finish is very pretty, smooth to the touch, and as far as I can see, perfectly applied. Balance-wise, the Euro might be a touch body heavy, and a little neck heavy on the knee. The tone controls are easy to get to, and their layout makes sense: the two upper pots are volume— left for the neck pickup, and right for the bridge pickup. The bottom pots are left for the treble boost, and right for the bass boost.

The 1.84” neck width at the nut and 0.66” string spacing at the bridge makes it narrower than I’m used to, but it’s easy to adjust to. I was curious how a 35” scale would feel, especially since I’m used to a 34”-scale instrument. I really didn’t feel a large difference between the scales, except when playing a finger-stretching passage—I found I had to stretch a little more than usual, but not to the point of missing what I wanted to play. Having the low B sound a little tighter thanks to the longer scale is worth any chops adjustment, so I think the 35” scale is a good compromise before tackling a beast with a 36” scale! Spector does offer 4-string models with a 34” scale for those who prefer the standard scale.

When it comes to the electronics, I found that you can have a wide variation of sound just using the single/dual coil capability—just don’t forget to lower the gain when going from single to dual coil! Adding the preamp, I found that the treble boost becomes apparent around one quarter-turn, and optimal at around a half-turn. Past one half-turn, you’ll start getting hiss. The bass control pretty much boosts the moment you start turning it, though with 19 dB of gain possible, you won’t need much to get seriousbottom, or to make your local speaker repairman very happy! One setting I found I liked had the bridge pickup at single coil and full up, the front pickup at dual coil and one quarter-turn, treble boost at one quarter and bass off.

All the notes up and down the neck sound smooth and even, but I did find that the very high register feels cramped on the hand—I can usually play three-string major scales starting at the 20th fret on the A string without hitting either the body or neck, but on this instrument, it’s hard to reach the 22nd fret with my pinky, and the back of my hand hits the lower cutaway. Starting at the 21st fret on the A string, I can’t reach the 23rd fret with the pinky at all.

Open 5-chords sound full and clear, as do three-string chords. I love how responsive the EMG pickups are, and how surprisingly sensitive their response is. Using various right-hand techniques, such as plucking, thumb/pop, and strumming with the nails, while leaving the tone setting as is, I was very impressed at the wide range of sounds I got.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a stage workhorse and like an even and full fundamental sound.weight is an issue, and you like using the upper register.
Skip if...
weight is an issue, and you like using the upper register.
Rating...
4.0 

MSRP $3099 - Spector Design Ltd - spectorbass.com





Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
NS-5H2 FM
Out of the box, this too is a lovely instrument! The matte finish with the contrast of the blond neck and the black body make a simple but beautiful statement. Workmanship is first rate, the finish is flawless—it just plain feels nice! The balance is a little neck heavy, slightly less than the Euro5LX.

The tone controls are again easy to reach: left top is the neck pickup, right top for the bridge, left bottom is the midrange control with a notch for flat and push-pull to choose either 400 Hz or 800 Hz, and the right bottom is concentric—the bottom knob is a bass boost/cut, and the top knob is treble boost/cut with notches for flat response. The neck width and bridge spacing are the same as the Euro5LX. I found a favorite tone by turning the bridge pickup full up, the neck pickup around one-half turn, and the preamp flat; with this setting, this bass has a more aggressive attitude than the Euro5. It has the soul of a soloist, rather than just being a support instrument. I found that if I dug a little deeper into the strings, the NS-5H2 responds and adds a sweet but percussive attack, which feels like it can cut through any number of musicians and make a powerful statement. It kicks big time!

Checking out the Aguilar OBP-3 preamp, I was really curious about the midrange control which is where the action is for overall sound control. The midrange is the woody part of the sound, with the 400 Hz setting (knob in) controlling the “lower woody” area, and the 800 Hz setting (knob out) controlling the “upper woody” area. I was very impressed with the range I could get, and this control will allow anyone to play a wide range of music. Even though this bass has a bolt-on neck design, I found I could navigate the highest register more easily than the Euro5LX. The EMG pickups on this instrument are very sensitive and also allow for a wide range of sounds just by changing hand position and or method of attack. This bass begs you to try anything on it. I even found myself trying pull-offs and hammer-ons.
Buy if...
you like a full sound but want a soloist voice, wide tonal range, and lighter weight for stage or studio.
Skip if...
you want a smooth, low sound and can’t be bothered with complicated preamps.
Rating...
4.5 

MSRP $3399 (with case) - Stuart Spector Design Ltd - spectorbass.com

The Final Mojo
The Euro5LX has an even, dark quality (emphasizing the fundamentals) that is consistent through all registers regardless of how hard you pluck, while the NS-5H2 is also tonally even, but has a brighter initial sound, and develops a nice percussiveness when you dig in. Though the Euro’s preamp, the Spector TonePump, is simple, between it and the single/dual coil selection capability you can get a wide range of sounds and colors. With the NS-5H2 and the Aguilar OBP-3 preamp, you also get control of the midrange which gives you a ridiculously wide tonal palette.

A quality I look for in an instrument is whether it challenges me to play something new, and both of these instruments did—but if I had to choose only one, it would be the NS–5H2 for its extra dimension of soloist quality.



Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
NS-5H2 FM
Out of the box, this too is a lovely instrument! The matte finish with the contrast of the blond neck and the black body make a simple but beautiful statement. Workmanship is first rate, the finish is flawless—it just plain feels nice! The balance is a little neck heavy, slightly less than the Euro5LX.

The tone controls are again easy to reach: left top is the neck pickup, right top for the bridge, left bottom is the midrange control with a notch for flat and push-pull to choose either 400 Hz or 800 Hz, and the right bottom is concentric—the bottom knob is a bass boost/cut, and the top knob is treble boost/cut with notches for flat response. The neck width and bridge spacing are the same as the Euro5LX. I found a favorite tone by turning the bridge pickup full up, the neck pickup around one-half turn, and the preamp flat; with this setting, this bass has a more aggressive attitude than the Euro5. It has the soul of a soloist, rather than just being a support instrument. I found that if I dug a little deeper into the strings, the NS-5H2 responds and adds a sweet but percussive attack, which feels like it can cut through any number of musicians and make a powerful statement. It kicks big time!

Checking out the Aguilar OBP-3 preamp, I was really curious about the midrange control which is where the action is for overall sound control. The midrange is the woody part of the sound, with the 400 Hz setting (knob in) controlling the “lower woody” area, and the 800 Hz setting (knob out) controlling the “upper woody” area. I was very impressed with the range I could get, and this control will allow anyone to play a wide range of music. Even though this bass has a bolt-on neck design, I found I could navigate the highest register more easily than the Euro5LX. The EMG pickups on this instrument are very sensitive and also allow for a wide range of sounds just by changing hand position and or method of attack. This bass begs you to try anything on it. I even found myself trying pull-offs and hammer-ons.
Buy if...
you like a full sound but want a soloist voice, wide tonal range, and lighter weight for stage or studio.
Skip if...
you want a smooth, low sound and can’t be bothered with complicated preamps.
Rating...
4.5 

MSRP $3399 (with case) - Stuart Spector Design Ltd - spectorbass.com

The Final Mojo
The Euro5LX has an even, dark quality (emphasizing the fundamentals) that is consistent through all registers regardless of how hard you pluck, while the NS-5H2 is also tonally even, but has a brighter initial sound, and develops a nice percussiveness when you dig in. Though the Euro’s preamp, the Spector TonePump, is simple, between it and the single/dual coil selection capability you can get a wide range of sounds and colors. With the NS-5H2 and the Aguilar OBP-3 preamp, you also get control of the midrange which gives you a ridiculously wide tonal palette.

A quality I look for in an instrument is whether it challenges me to play something new, and both of these instruments did—but if I had to choose only one, it would be the NS–5H2 for its extra dimension of soloist quality.