One of their most recent offerings, the Meaden bass (named after ’60s British mod icon Peter Meaden), is a fine example of familiar, new, and vintage—all rolled into one.
The term "doctor/lawyer instrument" is often used to describe a bass or guitar sporting a price tag that only a doctor or lawyer could afford without prompting massive overdraft fees, calls from debtors, and possibly threats of bodily harm (or worse) from significant others. In other words, they’re effectively out of reach for the average working musician. It might follow logically that a doctor who designs and produces instruments himself would put out similarly impractical instruments, but in the case of Nashville’s Waterstone Guitars and Dr. Robert J. Singer, M.D., the results are quality instruments at a relatively affordable price.
Waterstone was born out of passion and a simple idea. Armed with a pencil and butcher paper at his kitchen table, Singer (an avid guitar collector with roughly 85 in his personal collection) began sketching what would become the first designs for Waterstone—the culmination of his lifelong interest in music, art, design, and, of course, guitars. The young company’s instruments have already found their way into the hands of artists such as Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, Vince Gill, and Alan Jackson. One of their most recent offerings, the Meaden bass (named after ’60s British mod icon Peter Meaden), is a fine example of familiar, new, and vintage—all rolled into one. Here we take a look at the fretless Meaden FL.
Mod and Proud
Despite what I said above, the Meaden is, dare I say, an elegant bass. When first inspecting it after opening the huge case (storing it in an overhead compartment is not going to happen), I was struck by its classic look. The teardrop soundhole opposite the eye-catching gold pickguard gives it a sleek, Euro feel. I would have preferred chicken-head or more vintage-styled knobs, given the Meaden’s old-school vibe, but that’s an easy aftermarket fix for purists. The off-white body, neck, and headstock binding has a checkerboard pattern similar to the trim on a London policeman’s hat and, while the look of the bridge and tailpiece takes you back 50 years, the setup felt solid and reliable—unlike back in the day when similar-style bridges felt like they were going to fling off the instrument with any degree of aggressive play.
The body and neck of the Meaden are both constructed from maple, and the size of the instrument echoes the dimensions of other hollowbody basses of the past. So if you’re a fan of that, it’ll fall right in your wheelhouse. Our review model was finished in stunning high-gloss black, but I should add that I noticed a small splattering of paint when I gazed in the soundhole. Though disappointing, it had no effect on playability or tone.
Gliss and That
For a larger-bodied bass, the Meaden FL felt very comfortable in sitting position. But, like many hollowbody basses of this style, there was some neck diving once I stood and wore the bass on a strap.
The set neck is finished to match the body, so fretless players looking for a natural-wood, pseudo-upright feel are going to miss that. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker, however, and as I got to know the instrument a bit more while playing unplugged, the neck actually began to feel more “mature.” The unplugged tones sang with the swell and resonance of a classic fretless, although the growl sounded slightly midrange-y.
To test the plugged-in tones, I ran the Meaden through an Eden WT550 Traveler head and 610XLT cabinet. Right out of the gate, I was impressed with the deep, lush tones of the passive humbuckers. I love that Waterstone stayed away from getting cute with a piezo or active pickups. As I dug in, the 32"-scale rosewood fingerboard felt even and smooth up until the 12th fret, but from there on up the neck humbucker interfered with the 4th string, thus stifling efforts to unleash my inner Michael Manring. At that point, I lowered the pickup with a couple of turns of a Phillips screwdriver and was soon back in business.
With the 3-way pickup selector in the middle position, the Meaden FL’s tone was slightly throaty—true to its hollow nature—but it was also rich and smooth, without being bite-y in the upper registers. I got a more traditional fretless sound by switching to the bridge pickup, which had more presence without being overbearing. For soloing, this is your setting. And by switching to the neck pickup only, I got a deeper, slightly more aggressive kick that would be apt for a variety of rock settings. If you’re an experienced fretless player and aren’t intimidated by the idea of taking only a fretless bass to your next cover gig, the tones from the Meaden FL could probably carry the whole load.
By introducing a fretless version of the Meaden, Dr. Singer and his team have made a budget-friendly bass with a ’60s vibe even cooler. Waterstone Guitars may be a small company, but it has some big ideas. The Meaden FL exemplifies how Waterstone gives stylistic nods to the past while keeping a keen eye to the future. To that end, the FL is a classy, nicely toned, functional tool that constitutes an affordable entry into the world of fretless. Whether or not you were around in the ’60s, this bass will afford you the opportunity to pull on your winklepickers and slide around on a bass that, playability-wise, competes with other fretless basses in this price range, but could probably win out just by sitting there and looking so hip. Then again, wasn’t that what the mod movement was all about?
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.