Boutique looks, quality components, and impressive tones converge in a unique new 5-string.
Clip 1 - Pickups blended, then neck pickup soloed, then bridge pickup soloed. EQ flat.
Clip 2 - Pickups blended. Slight bass and mid boost.
Multi-scale guitars (or, in this case, basses) have historically garnered polarizing opinions. On one side, you have players who believe a fanned-fret configuration optimizes the tonal response of each string and makes for improved string-to-string tension. Opponents feel that the sweeping fret layout is nothing more than a gimmick, arguing that a well-constructed instrument with a conventional fretboard design provides the same structural and sonic benefits, without hindering traditional playing technique.
Despite these differing views, there are an increasing number of bass builders developing multi-scale instruments. ESP is one, and they recently entered the ring with the introduction of the B-1005SE Multi-Scale. Part of their more affordable LTD series, it’s a stylish multi-scale instrument that boasts active electronics and solid components.
ESP’s fan-fretted bass hints at their signature looks, but adds a measure of boutique sophistication. While the sharp angles of the headstock might at first glance imply the B-1005SE is a bass for more aggressive music, the shapely instrument is aesthetically suitable for a variety of stages.
For those new to the world of multi-scale instruments, observe the angle of the nut and then check out the angle of the bridge. This positioning allows the bass to achieve different string scales ranging from 37" on the 5th string down to 34" on the 1st. Fret positioning must compensate for the varying lengths, which results in a fanned fretboard. As mentioned, this design maximizes string tension, and when done correctly, delivers consistency in feel and tone.
Supporting the sweeping frets is a 5-piece wenge and bubinga neck capped with a rosewood fretboard. These mid-friendly woods are bolted deeply into the curvaceous swamp-ash body that is topped with solid rosewood, which helps give the B-1005SE its rich, warm look.
Electrifying the string vibrations are Nordstrand Big Split pickups and ESP’s ABQ-3MS 3-band EQ. Two switches accompany the preamp. One is for selecting active/passive operation and the other is a mid-frequency selector to center the mid control at either 400 Hz or 800 Hz. Other features include a Hipshot Solo bridge system, abalone dot inlays, and Gotoh tuners crowning the headstock.
Horizontal Playing Field
As a player who appreciates the benefits of multi-scale basses, I was excited to explore ESP’s vision and the smooth, satin-finished neck and body of the B-1005SE. All the components felt solid, the electronics were shielded well, and the frets clean.
Strapped on, our test bass balanced at a near-horizontal angle. I personally prefer a more pronounced incline with multi-scale basses because it caters to the natural position of my fretting hand as it traverses the fretboard. However, this flatter orientation may appeal to bassists who strap their instrument up a bit higher or play with a pick.
String-to-string tension was pleasing, and if you like a tighter feel, you’ll appreciate the rigidity of ESP’s design. The 5th string had good definition across the first five frets, though it lacked just a little bit of resonance when playing longer note values.
The B-1005SE shined in the tone department and I was quite happy with the palette of sounds I could call on. I experimented with what the bass had to offer at a blues jam by plugging into a Bergantino B|Amp and a pair of Bergantino HD112 cabinets. In its flat setting, the B-1005SE established a firm foundation amongst two guitarists, a keyboardist, and a loud drummer. The Nordstrands were snappy and transparent in passive mode and revealed the warm and punchy characteristics of the chosen woods, but I preferred pairing the pickups to the 3-band EQ for increased tonal output and on-the-fly tone shaping.
With both pickups balanced, bass notes had a tight, low-mid punch with enough top end to cut through the ensemble. These characteristics enhanced articulations and dynamics—providing my fingers the ability to accent eighth-note shuffles and walking bass lines for stylistic authenticity. While the tone didn’t necessarily give off a vintage vibe, the clean sounds from the B-1005SE proved the bass could traverse classic and contemporary music styles with ease.
When B.B. King’s classic “The Thrill Is Gone” was called, I soloed the neck pickup and boosted the mids at 400 Hz. At first, the deep tones were a touch shy in the low end, but a bump in the bass control solved that by fattening the sound and adding some extra punch to the 5th string. The B-1005SE’s bridge pickup barked well when it was soloed—especially with the bass and mids boosted—and the aggressive tone punched mightily during a jam on the Meters tune, “Cissy Strut.”
With its appealing looks and solid construction, ESP’s B-1005SE is a nice addition to the LTD family. The woods and components are top-notch, and the B-1005SE’s electronics produce clean and commanding tones that make the bass ideal for contemporary styles of music or studio work. With that said, it’s well suited for the stages of more aggressive musical styles and a variety of other genres as well. Bassists seeking a workhorse instrument that provides the benefits of fanned frets should certainly give the B-1005SE a test drive. Even if you currently stand on the other side of the multi-scale debate, ESP’s approach to fanned-fret design is worth checking out.
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