Epiphone Embassy PRO Review
A classic Epi bass from the ’60s is reimagined and reissued with a price that harkens back to the same era.
Recorded using 1965 Ampeg B-15 with a Heil PR 30 mic, BAE 312 mic-pre, and a Purple Audio MC77 compressor into an Apogee Duet interface. Fulltone Bass Drive used for distortion track (Clip 2).
Clip 1 - Fingerstyle: First half of clip is neck and bridge pickups blended. Second half of clip is neck pickup only.
Clip 2 - Pick with distortion: First half of clip is neck and bridge pickups blended. Second half of clip is neck pickup only.
Epiphone has been making instruments for over 140 years, so they’ve certainly had ample time to figure out how to do things right. For the past few decades, the company’s primary focus has been on overseas production and delivering solid instruments with an easy-to-digest price point. Now Epiphone has gone back to their time capsule of U.S.-built instruments to draw inspiration from the classic Embassy solidbody bass, which was introduced in 1963. Blending the best of the original model along with some modern-day design improvements, the new Embassy PRO is a well-executed reissue that keeps budget-minded players in mind.
When I first opened the case (which is sold separately), I must say I was a little disappointed to see that Epiphone replaced the awesome batwing headstock from the original model with a two-tuner-per-side version. I’m assuming this was to address the alleged propensity for the vintage models to neck dive. This aside, the bass has a very cool, vintage look. My sadness over the headstock was somewhat alleviated by the fact they retained the super-cool barrel knobs as found on the original. The trio of knobs is configured—from front to back—for volume, blend, and treble roll-off.
The big, shiny nickel-silver pickup covers add some nice retro bling, and the body shape definitely nods to the bass’ space-race-era roots. Not only does the claw-style tailpiece look great. I love that it’s designed so you don’t have to pull the whole length of the string through when changing out strings.
One minor gripe is that the bridge does not have individual height adjustment available for each saddle, but rather a screw on either side of the strings that tilts the entire bridge. Despite this, I was still able to adjust the action the way I wanted without any trouble.
It’s not uncommon for basses in this price range to have some sloppy finishing, but that wasn’t the case here. The frets were all perfectly dressed, the paint job looked flawless, and all the hardware was in place—tight and solid. I did, however, find the output jack to be sunken pretty deep into the body, which didn’t play nicely with the 90-degree L-jack cable ends I prefer to use.
Played standing or sitting, the bass cries out comfort. Even though it’s a standard 34"-scale instrument, it just feels small and is therefore easy to play. It has a slim, D-profile neck, ergonomic body contours, and is very light at about 8 pounds. I had no neck-dive issues, so if that was indeed the reason why Epiphone changed the headstock from the original—mission accomplished. My initial impressions made me think the bass would be a great choice for players of a slighter stature, or those who are just tired of big, heavy basses hanging around their necks. I also feel the Embassy PRO would be a good fit for guitarists who double on bass and are accustomed to a smaller instrument.
A Sound Investment
I plugged into a 1965 Ampeg B-15 and the bass sounded pretty good. Wait, what? It costs $400? The Embassy PRO bass sounds pretty amazing when you figure that price point in. The ProBucker 760 pickups are inspired by the original Thunderbird and Embassy pickups from the ’60s, and, in all seriousness, they do sound very good. They’re quiet, too, even when soloing one pickup or the other. I really enjoyed the sound of the neck pickup on its own. As you’d expect, it has some serious low end, but it’s not a giant flabby glob of mud. The subs aren’t out of control, it delivers some nice midrange growl to keep things focused, and has a very pleasant top end that gives definition without getting harsh or tinny.
Blending in the bridge pickup renders a brighter, slightly boxier sound with more upper mids, but it was still a great, usable tone that I found lent itself nicely to playing with a pick. When I dialed back the blend control to solo the bridge pickup, it provided the expected, somewhat nasally tone, but I found it to be a little thicker sounding than most bridge pickups. And though the 4th string could get a little blurry at times, it’s a subtle thing, and just reminds you that you’re not playing a $5,000 bass.
Overall, the tone of the instrument is pretty unique. And that’s why the Embassy PRO could be quite appealing to someone who already has a standard-sounding Fender-style instrument and is looking for another flavor to add to his or her palette, or the player starting out that wants something other than a run-of-the-mill bass tone.
The Embassy PRO is a well-built, great-sounding bass for the money. In fact, I’d still be impressed even if it cost twice as much. Its unique sound and cool, retro aesthetic will make you stand out in the crowd. Not only that, its dainty weight and comfortable design will allow you to stand out in the crowd for much longer. It’s a very solid option for players who find the size and weight of an average bass too cumbersome. Combine that with the very approachable price, and I think it’s just about a perfect option for young bassists in their first rock bands.
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