Peerless Guitars may be a new name to some, but chances are that many of you have held one of their guitars at one time or another. They’ve been crafting instruments for other companies for over 40 years. Somewhat recently, the company branched out and began offering instruments under the Peerless name. The Peerless line includes an impressive array of guitars and basses—mostly hollow or semi-hollow—and their latest bass offering keeps the vintage vibe alive. The Retromatic B2 we checked out not only brings out the nostalgia—it brings it with a bit more to say.
Don’t B2 Hollow
For me, one of the coolest parts of reviewing gear is opening an instrument’s case for the first time. When I initially popped the latches on the molded case housing the B2, I found an axe with all the elegance of a ’40s Hollywood starlet. The burst finish was flawless, and the white/black/white triple binding around the single-cutaway body adds a stylish touch of class. From the stepped headstock to the stop tailpiece, the bass looks like a classic.
Peerless has a Retromatic guitar line as well, and the B2 shares the same body dimensions as it’s 6-string brother. I like this because the bass isn’t too bulky and makes the B2’s thinline, chambered body a joy to hold. The scale length is 34", and when strapped up, the neck does level off a little. This would not be a big deal normally, but the bass hangs slightly more left than I prefer, which makes the neck seem a couple of inches longer than it really is.
The B2 sports some interesting electronics under the triple-ply etched pickguard. It’s equipped with a pair of humbuckers designed by Matt Gleeson of Monty’s Guitars in London. Running the show are two mini knobs for volume and tone, a 3-way pickup-selector toggle, and a chicken-head Varitone knob. The Varitone has a neutral setting and five presets with varying resistance for further EQ options.
The body consists of a laminated flame-maple top with back and sides also made of maple laminate. The neck is—you guessed it—maple, and it’s topped with an Indian rosewood fretboard dressed with block mother-of-pearl inlays. The neck also features black binding and a bone nut.
The B2 arrived from the factory with flatwound strings, and it was set up perfectly. There wasn’t a dead spot or weak area on the neck. Unplugged, the B2 has a nice tone and excellent sustain.
Another plus is the B2’s rock-solid construction. Some hollowbody basses can feel flimsy or toy-like. The Retromatic B2 is one of the most rugged-feeling semi-hollowbodies I’ve had my hands on in recent memory, and it seemed ready to take about anything I could throw its way. At 8 pounds, it is a little heavier than many in its class, but that’s a welcome trait because a little more mass encourages one to dig in when necessary.
Not Just a Pretty Bass
With the B2 satisfying my appreciation for all things vintage in the looks department, I was ready to hear if the sound was on par. I paired the B2 with an Aguilar Tone Hammer 350 and matching SL 112 cabinet. I did the first thing we all do when we get a new bass: randomly cycle through various pickup combinations and tone settings. The range on this bass is impressive.
The tried-and-true setting of diming the volume and tone with both pickups engaged (and the 6-way Varitone set to neutral) was great. The woody tone had sustain for days, and for a bass strung with flatwounds, that’s refreshing. The soloed neck pickup is more aggressive, and the bridge pickup is tuned for the articulate fingerstyle player.
Things start to get interesting when you engage the 6-way Varitone switch. The B2 responded to everything I threw at it from rock to blues to jazz to vintage country. The selector does an exceptional job at moving the tonal plane as you scroll. Do you need a big, round, and truly vintage hollowbody tone? It’s in there. Do you need something brasher that you’ll play with a pick? It’s in there as well. With the chambered body, you can achieve not only a wide range of hollowbody tones, but get close to a solidbody tone as well.
The B2’s sonic range makes the bass a great option for the studio. In recording situations, some basses just don’t sit very well in the mix. With the B2, a rotary switch change and different pickup selection may save the day for your session without your having to run out and grab a different bass.
The Retromatic B2 is a well-constructed instrument that possesses the lethal combination of sounding and looking great. This bass will allow you to achieve vintage tones at a fraction of vintage prices, and with its modern build and design, the B2 will most likely last you a long time. No, this style of bass won’t be the first choice for all players. But whether you’re in the market for a second bass to add multiple layers to your range or a non-traditional axe that really is versatile enough to serve as a primary, the Retromatic B2 is definitely worth a look.
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