Review by David Etheridge, for
Music Mart Magazine.
David Etheridge looks at another upright bass from Bassix that takes an innovatory approach to the instrument.
"Last year I looked at a folding double bass, which might have seemed like a joke. In fact it turned out to be a superb and ingenious solution to the problem of trying to heave an upright bass in and out of a car, and in fact was so small that you could actually take one on a plane as hand luggage. This revolutionary approach comes from Alan Hatswell at Bassix; as a gigging muso of long standing, he's well equipped to know the practical problems of upright bass on the road. And now he's done it again, with the Hi-Tech R'L'. As we shall see, beauty (and strength) is anything but skin deep.
This latest model is non folding, but still designed for easy portability. Anyone used to a traditional 3/4 size bass will be right at home here, as all the playing reference points are the same. To assist in this there's a a bolt on side moulding which means that you play it with the bow sitting or standing with ease. As usual with Bassix portable basses, you can unbolt the side moulding which then slips over the body and is re-bolted securely before inserting into a gigbag.
It looks and feels like wood, so it must be....You might think that the R'L' uses traditional woods from the look of one, but you'ld be wrong. Construction uses modern composites throughout; Alan's own secret recipe might look like exotic hardwoods, but they're not. There's a mix of fibreglass, carbon fibre, polyester and GRP over an aluminium spine, and believe it or not, there's aggregate in the filler! The end result provides a traditional look and feel with incredible strength and durability in the body. The fingerboard is by now infamous; it looks, feels and sounds like ebony, but has created arguments in the past from players who don't believe it. Various finishes are available: My review model came in a natural blonde finish, complete with woodgrain markings. Other standard finishes are Natural Cherry(again with wood grain bits in it to fool the observer), Blackand Ivory. Any finish you like is available for a small extra cost. Many options are available on the R'L' as standard; a fixed bridge is fitted on stock models, although my review model was provided with a fully adjustable South American hardwood bridge (£100extra). This lets you dispense with the customary high action and adjust things down to bass guitar heights; On the review model was very easy to adjust string heights to my tastes. The end pin is an 18" cello end pin with an aluminium socket extension. Although this was fixed on my review model, future R'L's from Bassix will have a detachable model that brings it down to the size category for standard Royal Mail of £8.92 postage! The machines are the classic Fender style, and reversed inposition to the usual setup: G and D next to your ear, A and E on the far side of the headstock. This seems strange, until you realise that the nature of the tuner design dictates this. Alan reports that existing users quickly get used to it. American Supersensitives are supplied as standard strings, butany preferred make can be used.
The electronic side of the R'L' shows the open ended approach of the options once again. Piezos are fitted as standard on the bridge feet, which are unbranded Far Eastern models. All is not as it might seem, however, for these are fully enclosed and shielded. Feedback has been completely eliminated no matter how on top of your amp you are. Other manufacturers would do well to note this superb feature. From this you can add more: on my review model was the option of dynamic sensors under the fingerboard. Here, the top of the fingerboard acts like the diaphragm in a dynamic mic (another Bassix innovation) that senses the string movement. The electronics are fully active, comprising an EQ module and volume slider. Even though there are only two bands of EQ, the results provide superbly deep and sonorous tones by boosting the bass while the high slider cuts the treble. Alan has found this system actually gives better results than proprietary 4 and 5 band EQ systems for the most natural sound. Alan's recommended setting is 7/8 boost on the bass slider, and the high end cut completely. Added to this is a blender pot for the piezos and dynamic sensors. This gives different settings: 25/75, 50/50, and 75/25 % combinations of each pickup system. The jack plug socket is on the far side of the body to the controls. When a jack is inserted, a red LED lights up on the control module which is a battery check tell tale. Battery life can be up to a year!
So that's the futuristic spec; what's it like to play? Absolutely superb. This bass is deceptively light to pickup and handle, but the bomb proof construction is very reassuring as soon as you start to play. Playing comfort is excellent whether standing or sitting as the side and back moulding is based on a 3/4 size flatback bass. However, keep, in mind that if you're used to the bass facing away from you a change to a slight angle may be more comfortable. Above all this bass produces tone, with the secret mix of hi-tech composites providing the sort of sounds that you would expect from exotic woods, although the light weight is a clue. The fingerboard has a superb curve right across the strings and makes for a superbly comfortable feel, being immensely strong yet responsive in playing. The electronics are the gem of the instrument. Hand on heart I can say I've never heard such an authentic acoustic sound from an electric upright; it's currently the best sound on the market. Woody, round and smooth in all the right ways, the onboard combination of piezos and dynamics gives plucky attacks and resonant tones in any combination, without any harshness you may find elsewhere. It's warm and beautiful sounds are just the thing if your preference is for a truly acoustic sound, amplified as much as you want with no feedback, a handy portable form, and probably virtually indestructible as well! While other manufacturers offer similar instruments, in my experience none currently approach the purity and accuracy of sound of Bassix, and all at a fraction of the price of othermakes. Add to that the almost limitless range of options and upgrades (whatever you want Bassix can provide), and you have a unique and wonderful instrument."