Vintage looks, modern features, and impeccable build quality
Chicago-based Lakland has been around since 1994, and even though the company changed hands in April 2010, the Jazz Bass-style 44-AJ (AJ stands for Active Jazz) reviewed here felt sturdy, smooth, and otherwise worthy of the Lakland name.
Setting the deep red 44-AJ next to my early-’70s sunburst Jazz, the Lakland looked right at home. With that said, both similarities and departures from the classic were quickly apparent. The most familiar aspect of the Lakland’s design, apart from the J-bass body profile, was the sleek neck with narrow nut, block markers (optional upgrade), and bound fretboard. But the Lakland neck’s sexy, hand-oiled finish felt smoother and faster than the Fender’s thick, glossy varnish. The body shape also has some functional refinements on Leo Fender’s design, including a contour, which in my opinion, more comfortably followed the body’s waist curve.
The fit and finish were spectacular and the flame maple cap on the swamp ash body was captivating through its black cherry finish. I was happy to find that this bass weighed in at 8.8 pounds, a little lighter than many I’ve tried, but still very substantial feeling.
The rosewood neck fit snugly and precisely into its pocket and is adorned with pearloid block inlays, with carefully placed black position dots on the edge of the fretboard. The neck is reinforced by a pair of graphite bars which provide ultra-stability, but I’m also inclined to think they have a lot to do with the bass’s great sustain. Four Hipshot vintage-style long shaft reverse tuners grace the headstock, a top quality choice even if the tuning direction always throws me at first (turn toward you to raise the pitch).
I removed the plastic cover over the 44-AJ’s electronics cavity to find one of the best wiring and shielding jobs I’ve seen. In my book, copper shielding foil is the way to go when low noise is the goal, and that’s exactly how the 44-AJ was built—and very tidily at that. Inside the cover there’s even a label showing how to set the preamp’s DIP switch for different midrange center frequencies.
A separate battery box (for the active electronics) with a pop-up lid is another nice touch. And rather than a battery clip dangling from a wire, the box featured metal slide-in contact points. I’m always afraid that a battery clip wire will pull loose, putting me out of business for the night—not so with the 44-AJ. A push-pull Volume knob bypasses everything but the Volume and Blend pots, meaning you can get by even if your battery fails you. Lakland didn’t skimp on anything. In fact, my 1/4" cable felt more secure on the 44-AJ than any other bass I’ve played, minimizing possible crackle or signal noise.
Buzz Me In . . . Not!
One beef I have with most Jazz Bass-style instruments is the unavoidable single-coil hum that’s hard to avoid unless both pickups are dialed in equally. Sometimes it’s minimal, but sometimes it’s downright annoying. Because Lakland installs noise-canceling pickups by Hanson Musical Instruments, the 44-AJ had zero hum, regardless of the settings. Even when turning the Blend control to solo, the bridge pickup posed no problem.
Lakland chose a 3-band preamp (also by Hanson), with stacked Treble and Bass knobs and a single Midrange knob. This makes good sense, because midrange provides an instrument’s voice and nuance— it’s great to be able to quickly grab that control to dial in a little honk or scoop out the sound for slapping. Depending on how the DIP switches are set, it’s possible to center the midrange at nine different points between 225 Hz and 1100 Hz. Because the switch is located inside the control cavity, though, this is a set-and-forget feature rather than something to be tweaked on the fly. But it’s an excellent means of fine-tuning the 44-AJ to your style of music.
The stacked Treble and Bass controls added a lot of versatility to the 44-AJ’s basic tone. Pushing the Treble control added edge when bumping the Bass control up instead provided a solid deep bottom for reggae. And regardless of the onboard EQ settings, the tone was always free from hum or hiss.
The general tonal character of the 44-AJ wasn’t exactly the Jazz Bass-style zing I was expecting—I instead found a warmer tone that was never harsh and always focused. If needed, the top end could be persuaded into a hint of brightness via the tone control. Threading the D and G strings through the rear of the trademark oval-plate bridge (the 44-AJ can be strung through body or bridge) added more bite and treble. The E and A strings stayed full, yet always well defined. Even when dialing in some extra bottom, the low strings didn’t veer towards mud and boom. The tones were deep yet distinct, and required little effort summoning variation in attack and tone.
There’s a lot to like in the Lakland’s 44-AJ bass. It’s comfortable, painstakingly built, and downright gorgeous. Every aspect of the bass reflects a concern for quality components and smart design choices. The weight was slightly less than the norm and the fretboard was well prepped. If you’re after a topnotch and great looking bass in the Jazz Bass vein—and you can afford to pay the tab for this quality—the Lakland 44-AJ should be on your A-list of instruments to consider.
you value quality and good looks, and are after a bass with both authority and refinement.
your taste in basses leans toward the raw and aggressive side.
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The Oregon-based company extends their line of sustainably sourced models with an inventive new bracing system and a wallet-friendly price tag.
Myrtlewood grows in Oregon along a 90 mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean coast. It is Breedlove’s favorite tonewood for backs and sides. In addition to its highly varied color patterns extenuated by the thin Burnt Amber Burst finish, myrtle delivers surprising energy and extraordinary tonal balance. To further boost the high-energy sound, we chose a European maple neck—which is denser than mahogany—and an Ovangkol fretboard and bridge. Of course, the top is European spruce for responsive, powerful projection. We spared no detail, including brass inlays, Fishman Flex Plus-T Electronics, and a travel-ready hardshell case.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.