La Bella Olinto PJ Review
A handcrafted P/J-style bass that nods to both past and present.
Why would a reputable string company like La Bella jump into the crowded sea of bass production? The Mari family has been manufacturing strings for well over 350 years, and they’ve tested their products on a lot of instruments. Their electric bass strings—particularly their flatwounds—are many a player’s partner for P-style instruments.
Enter the new Olinto PJ bass. It represents both La Bella’s familiarity with the Precision and the ingenuity of luthier Mas Hino.
From Leo to Hino
The Olinto PJ is influenced by Fender’s famous 1963 design. The body is alder, and our tester was coated in a dark, Lake Placid blue finish protected by nitrocellulose lacquer. The complex color frames the gold pickguard beautifully. It’s an eye-catching combination.
Traditional P-bass bodies block access to the truss rod, and the neck bolts must be loosened to make adjustments. But here, lifting the pickguard reveals a small body cavity for truss-rod access. This is a thoughtful solution, though you must still remove the pickguard.
The hand-carved, flat-sawn maple neck is coated in nitro lacquer. A Madagascar rosewood fretboard provides classic looks and an environmentally friendly alternative to Brazilian rosewood. The classic motif continues with a C-shaped neck and a period-correct 7.25" radius. Other features include a 1.625" bone nut, 20 vintage-style frets, a Hipshot Vintage bridge, and Hipshot HB3 reverse tuners. The Aguilar AG 4P/J-HC pickups are hum-cancelling. They provide familiar timbres, but are free of 60-cycle hum.
First Go at the Olinto
When I strapped on the Olinto, it delivered instant comfort. The hand-carved body rested nicely above my waist with satisfying weight that didn’t wear on my shoulder or back. P-bass lovers will feel right at home navigating the neck. The width and shape aren’t too chunky, allowing my fretting hand to maintain proper finger curvature. I was able to set the action very low with little to no fretboard buzzing. The Olinto PJ can handle players who like to dig in, and those who fly lightly across the strings. The only possible shortcoming is the neck’s finish. I found it challenging at times to shift on the glossy surface during an outdoor gig in unusually hot and humid weather.
I consider these Aguilar pickups among the best on the market. While plugged into an Epifani AL 112 combo, the J-style bridge pickup delivered the familiar bark, with the tone control providing the right amount of presence for any situation. Vintage fanatics might not be completely convinced by the P-style pickup’s tone, but it gets pretty damn close to the characteristics of a classic split-coil. Combining both pickups produced a pinched, slightly nasal vibe that harkens back to ’80s bass sounds, and soloing either pickup was completely hum-free. For a passive bass, the Olinto PJ is impressively versatile.
La Bella Live
For an outdoor show supporting an 11-piece horn band, I plugged into a Trickfish Bullhead 1K amp and BM 212 cabinet. The Olinto excelled at supportive tones, from the pumping P-style groove on the Stax classic “I'll Take You There” to soloed bridge-pickup barking on Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” (This gig was where I encountered the aforementioned neck stickiness, but to be fair, it was unusually hot and humid out there.)
The bass did an excellent job in cooler indoor environments. I’m a fan of La Bella’s Gold White Nylon Tape Wound strings, so I switched out the provided roundwounds with a set. This spectacular combination warmed up the P-style tones for country and blues shows. The strings also added heft when engaging both pickups during an ’80s jam night. Whether it was Duran Duran’s “Rio” or some obscure Missing Persons song, the Olinto’s tones had me covered.
La Bella has produced a bass that reflects the best of both past and present. Handcrafted by one of the best in the business, the Olinto PJ is packed with quality electronics and components. It’s a versatile and comfortable instrument equally suited to stage or studio. If you want to invest in a professional-grade instrument so you can keep your cherished vintage basses safe and sound, the Olinto PJ merits a close look.
Watch the Review Demo: