Clip 1: Bridge pickup only. Slight treble boost and bass boost.
Clip 2: EQ flat, both pickups engaged.
Clip 3: EQ flat, neck pickup only. Slap style.
Solid design, great neck, pro features.
May not appeal to traditionalists. Tiny screws for the battery cavity.
ESP LTD GB-4
ESP takes great pride in providing instruments for musicians with a more powerful, hard-hitting approach. The company’s artist roster is full of tremendous players that have made a name for themselves in the many subcategories of hardcore and metal, and ESP’s guitars and basses are known for handling these genres (and beyond) with practical design and big tone. Continuing that tradition, ESP recently offered up the LTD GB-4. It’s a 4-string offset monster of a bass that looks like it’s built for just about anything one could throw at it.
Upon opening the (very nice) form-fitting case, I was greeted with a bass that was not what one would expect from ESP. The GB-4’s offset, retro body and seafoam-green finish is a combination made in vintage heaven, and the overall presentation evokes a hint of “come at me, bro” swagger. Unplugged, the bass resonates wonderfully. I did find the GB-4 to be a bit neck dive-y while seated, which made me have to fight it a little. The bass is also a little on the heavy side, clocking in about 10 pounds on the bathroom scale, but that’s nothing a wider strap can’t handle, to save the shoulder.
The engineering of the bass doesn’t necessarily break through any design ceilings. With that said, ESP has carefully chosen the components for the GB-4 to give maximum tonal flexibility and to make it budget and stage friendly. The swamp-ash body is comfy, and I like the belly scoop on the back. Speaking of the back, I was both happy and a little sad when I flipped the bass over. First, the neck has a 5-bolt design, which helps with a rock-solid joint connection as well as sustain. The bass can also be strung through the body, which I love, and the pockets and seams on the ferrules were clean as can be. Then I saw the battery cavity, with its tiny Phillips-head screws. I know we all have these screwdrivers in our kit, but, in my opinion, a clip would have been the way to go. It may sound a little nitpicky, but we are reviewing, right?
ESPecially the Tone!
Plugging the GB-4 into an Eden Terra Nova (with the amp settings flat) and matching Eden 2x10 cabinet, I started with all the controls even: both Seymour Duncan SSB-4 pickups at equal strength and the stacked EQ at zero. The tone of the GB-4 out of the gate was strong. However, I feel the active EQ is needed on these pickups to give the bass the full chance it deserves. Dialing up the treble and bass controls a little really opened up the sound. That gave the GB-4 a tonal character ranging from thick, modern rock to a subtle, mellower vibe.
The separate mid control is helpful as well, and with a quick turn it allowed me to get pointed and articulate or subterranean low. The mid control could also be helpful on pesky “bass trap” stages when more mids are needed. And when paired with effects—such as some OD—a simple turn of the mid control really springs the GB-4 to life.
The GB-4 has another trick up its sleeve: the slap switch. It’s a push/pull switch on the volume control that has a preset EQ voiced for slap bass. This is generally a “smiley face” EQ setting, with the lows and highs brought up for thump and clarity. The GB-4’s internal controls allow for taking this additional EQ setting a step further, with its adjustable trim pots in the control cavity giving discerning players even more tonal depth.
But does the slap switch work? Well, it certainly didn’t make my slap game any better, but it did provide that warm scoop with plenty of low-end boom. It didn’t have as much richness as I prefer, even with the stacked EQ adjustments. I did, however, find a great little trick with the slap switch. By engaging the slap contour and soloing the bridge pickup while diming the mid control, I found a very articulate, robust, and very J-like tone, which gives this bass even more room to play.
The overall feel of the GB-4 is what really helps this bass along. The maple neck is skinny and fast—really fast—yet feels rock solid, which will appeal to chops guys and meat-and-potatoes players alike. Fingerstyle players, plectrum players, and thumb/slap players will dig the GB-4’s thin-U neck for its quickness and overall dynamic possibilities. If you are a more traditional player, don’t let the offset body give you pause. It isn’t cumbersome or odd, and the upper frets of the GB-4 are wonderfully accessible.
The ESP LTD GB-4 is a mid-level-instrument winner. The bass can fill gaps for players that have more than one style of gig, and it would make for a great No. 1 bass or a well-rounded backup if multiple tones are needed. The rocker side of music is covered with striking features and playability, and with the different EQ options available within the bass, it gives a wide range of players a pretty decent range of tones. ESP has done a great job with professional build features in an affordable bass, while giving us an instrument with some attitude. All in all, the GB-4 is worthy of solid consideration to whet your offset appetite.
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