Clip 1 - Neck and bridge pickups, equal blend.
Clip 2 - Bridge pickup soloed. Clip 3 - Neck pickup soloed.
Mike Lull has been quietly making noise in the bass community for the past four decades, with the last 20 years spent cranking out handcrafted instruments under the Mike Lull Custom Guitars name. Lull’s hands are on every instrument that’s built in his Pacific Northwest shop, and bassists worldwide have long praised his wares. Lull’s basses have a familiar feel since they often utilize traditional body styles, but they boast build features that make them truly stand out. The usual suspects such as a P-style, J-style, and a Thunderbird-style are in his catalog, but here, I was hipped to his latest design called the TXB4. It’s a beauty with a classic Tele-style body shape and some fun features built in to give it a modded, modern twist.
Into the Blue
Pulling the TXB4 out of its gig bag, the big, fat T-bird-style pickups demanded my attention like a custom car daring me to drag race. Factor in other appointments—like the Hipshot Ultralite tuners, bone nut, a gorgeous translucent-blue finish, and the very Tele-like, 3-in-line burled knobs—and you have a bass with a pretty stunning overall presentation.
The TXB4 played so fast it’s almost scary. Its construction and setup were pretty much perfect: Every joint and screw was tight and without error. It had a remarkable feel and the contoured neck heel allowed access to all 21 frets. The swamp-ash body balances nicely with the satin, graphite-reinforced maple neck and the frets were level and even. (All Lull basses are PLEK’d.) Unplugged, the TXB4 sustained for damn near forever.
The Bird Is the Word
I plugged the TXB4 into an Eden CXC-400 combo and let it rip. The controls are simple: volume, pickup balance, and tone. Starting with the volume dimed, the pickups at equal strength, and the tone about halfway, the TXB4 greeted me with a solid and authoritative voice, albeit slightly choked. The control soon remedied this and the big tone of the bass opened up, but not how you would think.
The TXB4 took on a modern, articulate shade with each note ringing true and even, up and down the neck. While I generally prefer a Tele-style to be strung through the body, this bass really doesn’t need it. Thanks to help from the high-mass bridge, the TXB4 has all the kick and sustain it needs.
The TXB4 could be called a little misleading because it’s touted as a bold, rock instrument. But this 4-string would also be a great fit for fingerstyle players wanting a warm and expressive passive bass with some punch. Don’t get me wrong though—the rock is there in spades.
When I dialed the neck pickup to full bore, the T-bird attitude came out and the big gun started shooting. The TXB4 sounded robust and full—begging to be slung low and hammered with a pick with reckless abandon. Remember, this is a Mike Lull, so the neck isn’t as clumsy as other “aggressive” instruments. It’s like you’re sporting a pair of fine Italian shoes while wearing ripped jeans and a leather biker jacket onstage. You know how comfortable it is, and that’s all that matters.
With all the elements the TXB4 has to offer, the burning question is who exactly fits this bass. I wouldn’t go as far as saying every player, but I see the TXB4 at home with a rock, country, or rockabilly player who demands refinement and quality in his/her instrument. A jazz/R&B player that wants a departure from the norm would be another excellent fit, or simply someone who wants a look and sound of their own.
The overall presentation of the TXB4 is what one would expect from Mike Lull: superb construction, high-quality components, and tones that can go from big and bold to tight. Sure, there will be some players who see a slight identity problem with this combination of body style and pickups. It’s not for everybody, but that’s not why Lull built it. He’s pushing boundaries and maintaining a level of bass building that sets a pretty lofty standard. The price tag is also lofty, but for bassists ready to step up to a unique, expertly crafted instrument, the TXB4 is worthy of a serious look.
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