Dean Playmate EAB Acoustic Electric Bass Hands-on Review from someone who plays it live and on recordings

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Originally Posted: May 15, 2006… Still playing this magnificent beast today! The brassy phosphor-bronze strings make this bass sound like a million bucks. It’s a “go-to” recording bass (with mics).


Dean Playmate EAB Acoustic Electric Bass Review

Due to popular request and to help a little with the folks who want to hear the bass first-hand, I’ve uploaded another tune I recorded with my Dean EAB (the bass part). I still have the EAB (I go through lots of instruments), and I love it. This recording is a mixture between the acoustic bass and an electric semi-hollow body guitar (an Ibanez AF75D). For more of my music, including some acoustic stuff recorded with my EAB, go to (new window) http://jbpmusic.com.

As a recording musician, I like to have lots of different sound timbres and qualities in my “library” of guitars. Since I have a couple of nice electric basses, I began looking for a low-cost acoustic bass guitar some time ago. I played $2000 basses, and I played $99 basses at different guitar stores in our area. The top-end basses such as the Tacoma were wonderful, but were way out of my budget. By far, the Martin (wow! Solid sound, excellent build, bar-none timbre) and Tacoma Thunderchief (wow! If I could afford one of these, it would be THE one!) guitars were the best sounding and the best made. Either brand, in any model, would have been a great joy to own! I also played the Fender, Ibanez, and Kelly acoustic basses – but they were above my budget as well.
My issue, however, is that I wanted a bass that sounded great acoustically, and if it worked amplified too, then fine – and at a low price. This brought me to the Dean Playmate EAB. This bass, at $149 through sites like Purchasing and information link plus get Free Shipping at aZounds.com – you’ll love your bass. was an absolute (pleasant) surprise. I ended up purchasing the Dean as my bass acoustic member of my sound palette.

Quick Opinion: The Dean Playmate EAB Acoustic Electric Bass is a great all-around acoustic bass. It handles well, is of OK quality, and (most of all) sounds along the lines of the marvelous Tacoma acoustic basses. The primary impression of the Dean EAB Bass we bought (and have played for almost a year) is that it is a steal of a buy, and a very interesting-sounding bass.

Playability: The Dean EAB has a long-scale neck. It feels right at home after playing my Fender American Standard Jazz bass (although the Jazz is a much easier instrument to play, and has a better neck). The frets are surprisingly well set, dressed, and are of reasonable height. The light-brown/red fretboard wood is a little dry looking, but it is very easy to play. The body size is comfortable for a tall person with long arms (such as myself). My son feels comfortable with the guitar, but my daughter (“only” 5’10″) isn’t comfortable with the large and deep body. (Body size is not “good” or “bad”, the Dean is about the same size as the Tacoma… It is just not comfortable for smaller players.) The string height is surprisingly low, even after I raised the strings a bit to reduce fret buzz.
The Dean’s playability is actually a high 8 or low 9. Especially after a string-change.

Features The features of the Dean Playmate EAB are reasonable. The tuners are good and strong (sort of Gotoh-style), and keep tune very well. The rosette is traditional in look, and the saddle wood is of a very contemporary shape. The string-retention pegs are large and easy to use, and provide sufficient mass for reasonable sound (Why is it that I can’t find brass, bone, or Tusq retention pegs in the aftermarket? I’d buy some if I could find them.)
The satin finish is even, well-applied, and has very few “weird” spots. The neck’s satin finish is much smoother than the body’s finish, and is very comfortable in the hand. The Dean came with OK nickel or steel wrapped strings – they were a bit bright for me… I changed our Dean’s strings to a set of D’Addario Phosphor Bronze soft strings (the Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Bass Acoustic Strings sound really great, too. (UPDATE: The Ernie Ball Earthwoods are the ones I now use on my Dean EAB and my Ibanez acoustic basses. They’re awesome!)

Sound: This is where the Dean Playmate EAB sold me: Sound. The acoustic sound is extremely comparable to solid-wood guitars from a much higher price range! The bass frequencies are pretty tight, and the reproduction of the string flutter comes out nice and clear. The sound is pretty good when playing up the neck, especially when I switched from nickel to phosphor-bronze strings. When correctly mic-ed, the Dean sounds so very clear and wonderful – almost as rich as a grand piano with its top open.
The electronic sound (through the passive saddle pickup) is not up to snuff, though… see the “Wishes” section of this review.
The sound of the Dean was far better than any of the $300-$600 guitars I played.

Value: This is a $300 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The acoustic sound alone, plus the nicely (comparatively) finished neck are worth more than the price of admission alone. If I were to lose this one, I would most surely buy another, even if I sold enough music to buy a Martin or Tacoma.

Wishes: There are two major concerns, and one minor concerns. These concerns are apparent not after a quick use at the guitar store, but from recording more than 10 pieces of music with the Dean EAB…
The neck is slightly warped at about the third fret. After adjusting the string height (and the neck’s overall bow from shipment), it is apparent that the truss rods aren’t the most supportive in the world. The good news, however, is that the warp is slight, doesn’t affect my playing too much, and it has not changed in the nearly yearlong time in my guitar library. I find this particular warp to be acceptable for a guitar of this price. If this were a guitar that was more than $300, I would have looked for another.
The guitar’s sound through the electronics is not very good. Even with the tone turned all the way down, and the volume nearly all the way down, the bass sounds like telephone wires being pinged (think: Star Wars sounds). I had to run it through a tube preamp and several equalizations before I liked the electronic sound at all. As it is, I do not use it electrically – only acoustically. Since my Shure SM57 does a great job mic-ing the guitar, and I can get great, CLEAN bass sound with my MXL 990 with my BlueTube preamp, I have stopped trying to use the on-board electronics.
I love my Dean EAB. I really do. I hope I get to use it for many years to come – I just wish the finish was glossy. I also placed a pickguard on it to protect it for those rare times when I use a pick for clear attacks.

Ibanez AW-40 Artwood 40 Acoustic Solid-Top Guitar Review – from an owner’s point of view

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

I originally posted this on February 16, 2006. I still love these. I’ve since found another one (used)… Shipped from store to my home. I’m loving it. Doing some recording, looking to see if the intonation is any better on this one… I’ll write another review and take some live pics when I can.

IbanezAW40VineDetail2JimPearson

Ibanez AW40 Vine Detail Jim Pearson

Update, October 2009 Sigh… the AW40 is no longer in production (still not in production as I re-post this… You can find used ones out there, and the occasional “claimed” “New Old Stock” (NOS) ones…) I’ve since found a used one that had been dropped and have rehabilitated it into my mountain-trips guitar. Lovely, wonderful, plays well, sounds awesome, even after it was dropped (hard) by its previous owner. I then donated that guitar to an instruments for kids fund… I’ll look for another some day…

IbanezArtwoodAW40NTBackShotJimPearson
I was looking for an affordable solid-spruce-top 6-string acoustic for nearly a year. I was looking for medium-bright sound that also had crisp, clean basses, but with good resonance, easy playability, and good intonation. Finding a guitar that meets these expectations, and is under $400, is a real challenge.

I started my quest by playing countless acoustics at both my local guitar stores. I probably played more than 200 different low-cost acoustics – specifically looking for my target attributes.

Ibanez Artwood AW40 Rosette Detail Jim Pearson

Ibanez Artwood AW40 Rosette Detail Jim Pearson

I eventually discovered the Ibanez AW 40. This delightful acoustic guitar is from Ibanez’s ™ ArtWood™ series acoustics. The street price for the AW 40, both locally and on the street was $200US. This new AW 40 turned out to be the guitar I purchased – and I’m very glad I did. I bought the AW 40 (mine was named “Rosie”) from one of my local GAS-Guitar Stores – it has been used on many songs across three different acoustic albums of mine.

Quick Opinion: I chose to play the AW 40 on and off for a few weeks before I actually purchased it. I wanted to play several other contenders in comparison just to be sure: The AW 40 is a bargain, and is an excellent purchase! It has excellent craftsmanship, good features, and sounds like guitars that cost $200-$300 more. Purchasers of the AW 40 are VERY unlikely to be disappointed! This is the second-most-played-acoustic I own.
IbanezArtwoodAW40NTFrontShotJimPearson
Even though the AW-40 is no longer available as new, you can get free shipping and more information about Ibanez acoustics here at zZounds.com

IbanezArtwoodAW40NTNeckHeadstockBackShotJimPearsonPlayability: The neck is a delightful satin-finish soft “c”-ish shape (the rosewood color is unique, too). This guitar plays nicer than the gloss-finish necks of many other guitars in this price range.
The frets are finished nicely, and are just the right balance of height and thickness. The scale is just right – medium. There are no buzzy frets on the example I purchased. The string height was a little too low when I brought it home, so I had to change the truss rod just a tad to stop general string buzz. Once I raised the strings a bit, the string sound was flawless.
The weight and depth of the AW 40 body is excellent, and the fretboard feels smooth and quick. The 1 5/8” width nut is just about right for this particular neck.
The AW 40 ships with D’Addario EXP bronze strings, starting with .11 width on the 1st string. These particular strings are really quite nice (especially if you like coated strings), and are appropriate if you like a little darker high sound. After a week or so with the stock strings, I switched to D’Addario EXP phosphor-bronze .11s to give me the crisper bass sounds I was seeking. Once the new strings were installed, this guitar has been giving the low-end Martin guitars – a strong run for the money.

Sound: Crisp, crisp, crisp, resonant, and more crisp! The solid spruce top lives up to its job very well. The bass sounds are clean and clear. The 1st and 2nd strings above the 13th fret are a little thin for my tastes. The midranges are clean and rarely muddy for finger-picked notes. The body resonates nicely against your chest and hands when the guitar is played. Very nice!

IbanezArtwoodAW40NTHeelShotJimPearsonValue: This is a $450 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The sound, quality of make, and appointments are top-notch, excellent. To get a better instrument, you’d have to spend at least $499. This guitar is made in China, but you would have difficulty telling its origin from the excellent build quality.

Features: This is an excellently-designed instrument. It has the bits needed for daily use and for recording alike. The body is fully bound in a nice white-with-black stripes motif. The rosette is a beautiful abalone-ringed decoration. The headstock has inlaid pearl Ibanez logo and AW logo. The back of the guitar has a nice black-white center stripe and nicely matched halves. The red-ish shell pickguard does seem a bit bright for the cream-colored spruce top, but is pleasant enough.

An unexpected and BEAUTIFUL feature of the AW 40 is the abalone “vine of life” fretboard inlay. This is truly a nice-looking addition, and is really nice and unique. I always get good comments on this feature every time folks see Rosie.
The stock tuners are mechanically sound, but felt a bit uncomfortable. In addition, the gold plating on the tuners was not well done at all. It looked as though the gold had barely been applied (this was true on all the examples I played).

More about the tuners: I ended up replacing the stock machine heads/tuners with Grover™ Rotomatic™-style 14:1 tuners. The screw holes did not match the factory screw placements exactly, but I felt it was worth it to drill new screw holes and putty the old ones – and gain excellent tuners. I bought chrome Grovers, and they look very nice with the rest of the guitar’s appointments. The Grovers function flawlessly and are, well, they’re Grovers (’nuff said!).

IbanezArtwoodAW40NTHeadstockShotJimPearson

Ibanez Artwood AW40NT Headstock Jim Pearson

Wishes: The tuners really should have been better-made and better executed. Even the Yamaha™ basic guitar tuners work better and look better than those on the AW line.

My only other wish: After playing mine for quite a while, I found that it was difficult to intonate at all. If I recorded music with my old AW-40 and tried to overlay tracks with a different guitar, I found myself to be constantly fighting intonation issues. If you’re playing guitar for pleasure, or are recording the guitar as the only instrument, the AW-40 is fine. If you’re recording multiple instruments or playing live with more than one guitar, you’ll have to have the guitar adjusted at the nut to come close to being in-tune all the way up the neck…