A semi-hollow blast from the past with a nod to the modern.
Clip 1- Neck pickup soloed with tone at 25 percent
Clip 2- Bridge pickup soloed with tone fully cut
Clip 3- Both pickups with tone at 100 percent
Due to their comfortable fretboard navigation, lighter string tension, or general feeling against the body, short-scale basses are the instruments of choice for many professionals and amateurs. Paul McCartney, Stanley Clarke, and Jack Bruce favored short-scale basses, and that tradition continues with modern masters like Matt Garrison and Owen Biddle. In turn, plenty of bass manufacturers have lent their vision to these playable powerhouses, which brings us to Italia Guitars—a company known for designs that are heavily influenced by classic styling. Their latest bass, the Maranello Cavo, packs a ton of vintage vibe into a 30"-scale semi-hollowbody frame. And while it’s true that Maranello, Italy, is also the home of Ferrari, players will be pleased to know that the Cavo is priced to suit more sensible budgets.
Nooks and Looks
At first glance, it’s easy to assume that the Maranello Cavo was crafted by hip Italian builders who were influenced by trends of the ’50s and ’60s. The smooth single-cut shape is enhanced by white binding and a stunning racing-green finish that sparkled delightfully in the light and shifted to opaque hues (almost black) in darker settings. As its name implies, the Cavo (Italian for “hollow”) utilizes a semi-hollow mahogany body. The split f-hole sweeping across the body is a cool take on a classic shape and a beautiful way to reveal the chambered interior. Italia also constructed the neck out of mahogany and topped it with a bound-rosewood fretboard.
Classic aesthetics continue through the hardware and electronics. A Tune-o-matic-style bridge paired with an Italia-branded stop tailpiece preserves the intended aesthetics while transferring string vibrations. The passive Toaster humbucker pickups are Italia’s take on the toaster-style design, and are wired to a 3-knob configuration for volume, blend, and tone.
In terms of balance, sitting with the Cavo was comfortable. It maintained a consistent position whether I rested the bass on my thigh or situated it in a classical-guitar posture. The 30" scale was easy to navigate and little accommodation was required when reaching for notes past the 15th fret. The Cavo did struggle a little when strapped, in that no matter the angle I placed the bass, it always wanted to settle back into a horizontal orientation. That said, this was tolerable with the short-scale instrument since my left hand could reach all of the notes with ease. And if you prefer a straighter playing angle, you won’t find this to be much of an issue at all.
There is a unique spectrum of tones living in the Maranello Cavo. After plugging into a Bergantino B|Amp paired with a Bergantino HD112 cab, I rolled the blend knob all the way forward and soloed the neck pickup, which produced deep timbres. This setting projected the characteristics of the semi-hollowbody design with a slight top-end sparkle. Cranking the blend control in the opposite direction revealed a pointed, mid-heavy sound from the bridge pickup that was impressively barky with a woody snap. Balancing the blend knob combined the qualities of both pickups and delivered a sound that, to my ears, could best be described as a fusion of acoustic bass guitar and piano. The MVP in the electronics department was the tone knob, which changed the shape of these sounds from present and ping-y to dark and warm with a quick twist of the dial.
While I celebrated the style and sounds of the Cavo, I did have a couple of minor concerns. A few of the frets on our test bass had height issues, which caused some buzz. Any competent repairman could easily resolve this, but nonetheless, it’s a fix that costs money. And while I know Tune-o-matic-style bridges and stop tailpieces are appreciated by many, I personally find they’re not able to provide super accurate string-height adjustments, which can be a bit frustrating at times.
I played the Maranello Cavo at a songwriter’s jam session, where a variety of styles tested the instrument’s versatility. The rig of choice was an Ampeg V-4B with an Ampeg 2x12 cabinet. A song heavily influenced by the Beatles was first, so I attempted to transform the Cavo into a Macca machine. Soloing the neck and dialing down the tone got me close to McCartney’s famous Hofner timbre, and I was able to confidently serve the song with a thick, bouncing bass tone. This setting worked nicely for a Latin-inspired song as well, for which I applied a thumb-muting technique to replicate an upright bass. I also had a lot of fun playing an instrumental rooted in ’70s jazz-fusion, where I soloed the bridge pickup and delivered tight, Jaco-like sounds with a hint of acoustic resonance. By the end of night, the Cavo successfully provided enough tonal flexibility to satisfy the spectrum of songs.
Italia has crafted a fun instrument with style, sonic versatility, and pleasing articulation. The Maranello Cavo would be a great option for transitioning guitarists, those with small hands, short-scale aficionados, or a seasoned bassist looking to delve into the short-scale world. This is a bass that, despite a couple of minor concerns, could serve as a go-to instrument for a number of different musical settings. So if you’re looking for a comfy short-scale instrument that’s wrapped up in a very nice-looking semi-hollow package, place Italia’s latest on your must-try list.
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