A Bulgarian hand crafted string bass made to order and customised in the UK to the player’s specific needs. Sounds good? It is and you won’t have to take out a second mortgage. Made out of locally sourced tone woods kiln dried in the traditional manner, this very pretty instrument comes in three quarter size as well as full size with a variety of finishes. It has a warm “woody” but lively timbre particularly in the lower register and is well balanced across the full range with excellent sustain and harmonic response. Playing is a pleasure, the neck is neither too deep or too wide and there aren’t any rough edges underneath the fingerboard. Indeed, the craftsmanship of this bass is remarkable with a beautifully carved swell back, ebony detailing to the heel of the neck and a nicely fluted ebony tailpiece. Topped by German-made individual French-style machine heads tailed by a very solid brass threaded rubber foot, this bass has both character and class. Info: www.sandarac.co.uk

The subject of electric ‘Stick’ basses often causes some consternation with those who work in the lower register. Needless to say, they’re more transportable and generally more easy to handle, but can they ever get near to the sound of the acoustic instrument, or will they forever be consigned to the realms of the convenient, but ultimately poor imitation. The Chinese NSWAV with it’s bolt on tripodian stand is a recent addition to the Steinberger line, offering a cheaper alternative to its cousins made in the Czech Republic. But just how good is this Far Eastern model? The answer is – very good!

Without even plugging the jack into the back, there is good sustain across the whole range. A fixed 42” scale length won’t of course suit every player, but the bridge position can be instantly raised or lowered by adjusting a couple of screws in the back of the body to give either a high or a low action.

The “flattened” bridge will be welcomed by many players, as it retains just enough angle to stop any string snag, while the ebony finger board on our sample was deliciously smooth, although we were surprised by the dot position markers - helpful though as they were in hitting top D/Eb! Plug this baby in with its single piezo pick up and it’s remarkable what level of volume can be achieved before feedback kicks in. Intonation was right on the button, harmonically it’s fine and there were no ‘wolf’ notes. Played straight without any tonal adjustment, the bass end of the NSWAV has a typical string bass sound, while the middle and treble are decidedly bass guitar.

By tweeking the tone knob and switch adjustment however, it is possible to get a very convincing string bass sound overall – indeed I failed the blindfold test! Well built, with solid machine heads and an even stronger stand, this is a great universal bass. However, we were left thinking how much better it might have been with a fitted pre-amp, so that you could don headphones and practice away to your heart’s content in complete privacy.

The new CRT Double Bass, is the latest in the line of the CR series of solid bodied stringed instruments by the Ned Steinburger company. Set up and built specifically to satisfy the preferences of the acoustic upright player, the CRT carries a higher string tension and action than its CR cousin. Using a specially designed D’Addario Acoustic Helicore Hybrid string allows the player to “dig in” as might be the case on an acoustic instrument, delivering a classic upright tone that is both warm and percussive, while also having a great response to the bow. There is also the useful addition of a small brass button to the back of the neck, that provides a tactile reference for the traditional ‘D Neck’ position. Coming in four or five string versions, the CRT is fitted with a standard piezo bridge pick up, as opposed to the polar pick up of the CR, and is probably as close as you’re ever likely to get to the sound and response of an acoustic instrument.

Those inventive string people at Elixir, who introduced the long life Nanoweb string coating, have clearly got their fingers on the pulse when it comes to looking after the needs of the electric bass player. Being able to customise a string setup to get the right feel and balance is essential to all bass players. It’s particularly so for those who reach out into the realms of the double bass and others who wish to raise their game to a high C. Using a standard four string foundation set, in gauges from super light to heavy, five- and six-string players can now customise their low Bs and high Cs. For five-string players, the choice ranges from the super light 125 through to the heavy 135. Six-stringers have the choice of the high C down to a medium 32.

Basses are very individual beasts, and it’s rare to find new quality basses that won’t (with only a little exaggeration) require you to take out a second mortgage. The Symphonica comes in both violin and gamba forms, with the violin understandably the slightly more expensive. Handmade, with a figured maple two piece back and matching ribs with a table of spruce, it sports an ebony fingerboard, individual machine heads and a boxwood tailpiece with a metal gut. The sonics are suitably sonorous, with a depth and resonance that ought to impress even a seasoned pro. Stick on a set of Thomastik’s and you could be forgiven for thinking that you are playing a German thoroughbred, it’s actually Chinese.

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