The Fender Fretless Standard Jazz Bass – A Review of a Timeless Sound in the Hands

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The Fender Standard Fretless Jazz Bass Review – Warm Bassy Goodness. Can you say “MWAH?”

Into each bass player’s life a little fretless should come. For many of us, when we lay our hands on it for the first time, we never stop thinking about which tunes would sound great with the ultra-warm mwah of a fretless bass with great googly-moogly flatwound strings (tape, metal, whatever sounds best to you). I went on a journey of discovery in 2006 after playing a fretless Fender Jazz for the first time (I had been tinkering with bass playing on and off since I was a teenager.) I felt strongly enough about the importance of a fretless in my sound library that I went to great lengths to order a special one from Fender. My Fender was special in that it was a 2006 diamond anniversary edition, and that they put together one with the color I liked (none of the online dealers offered Oly white at the time – although Olympic white has been offered off-and-on over the years prior and since). I received my new, freshly-assembled Jazz pretty quickly and took it home to play.

FenderFretlessJazzBassFretlessDetailByJimPearson

What followed was nothing short of revolutionary and enlightening.

My Fender Fretless MIM Jazz came with a lovely buffed and polished flat rosewood fretboard, a slick and (really) perfect Olympic white poly candy shell, great basic MIM electronics, and those heavenly Fender flatwound Jazz strings. zZounds offers the Fender Fretless Jazz at a competitive price. Read here for more details and specs. Shameless plug alert… The gig bag was thin and light, but it got the bass to my house in the factory box OK. If you’re not worried about the finish of your Jazz, the gig bag makes an excellent strong carry bag. NOTE: Some current models may not come with a Fender gig bag. I was happy enough with my Jazz that I went out and bought a Fender plastic hard shell case for it. The setup was pretty impressive, the intonation was decent and the string height was about where I’ve kept it in the years since.

The Fender Fretless Jazz bass is a bargain, an excellent player, and a permanent fixture in my sonic library. Here’s why:

Quick Opinion: The Fender Fretless Jazz bass is an extremely well-made instrument with a great sound for everyday playing and recording. The body is that excellent rounded-corner easy-on-the-body-and-arm shape, with a standard long-scale reach and traditional old-school Jazz controls. It plays effortlessly, sounds great, and is a bargain in the grander scheme of basses.
FenderFretlessJazzBassBodyBackByJimPearson

There aren’t a lot of low-to-mid cost fretless basses out there in the new-instrument market… so the market is a bit limited for profitability’s sake. With that said, I think it is important that quality instruments remain in the retail stream with an on-going view into the market. Bass players will often (at least) try fretless basses during the maturation of their skills. With some, fretless guitars and basses are a curiosity, with others, there is a need to get that “upright bass fiddle” sound in some situations. Still, with others, a fretless is the only way to go! (Jaco Pastorius, anyone?) I am glad Fender continues to produce MIM- and USA-made Fretless Jazz basses. I know I will be holding on to “Polar” as long as I have hands to hold it.

Here’s a quick breakdown of this particular guitar’s features:
* Rosewood fretboard
* Thin light-colored strips in the fret locations for those of us who still have to look at the fretboard (;-))
* Everyday Jazz MIM electronics and pickups
* Poly paint offered in several opaque colors (varies from year to year)
* Reliable open-gear butterbean large-button tuners
* Factory-issued Fender Flatwound strings

zZounds has satisfaction guarantees – I have received excellent sales and service from them for my own guitars. I’ve bought a lot of my gear from them. Shameless plug to help me keep the site going: if you buy stuff from them, it helps me write more reviews!

FenderFretlessJazzBassBodyFrontByJimPearson

Sound: Part of the Fender Fretless Jazz sound is its strings and fretless-ness, part of the sound is the guitar’s materials and workmanship. You can put cheap round-wound strings on your fretless and get cheap sounds with an ability to play glissandos and scoops – and the guitar will do its best to sound like a traditional Fender jazz. You can put high-end tape-based flatwounds on the fretless and it will sound like a million bucks. The pickups are “vintage” strength and sound as they should, if a little quiet for low-powered solid-state amps and DI applications.
On the whole, the Fender Fretless Jazz sounds great. Here is more detail…

Here are some of the components of the Fretless Jazz sound:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, neck woods
3) Strings and fretboard/fingerboard

Pickups and Electronics: Opening the Fretless Jazz’s cavity shows a pair of ceramic-magnet single-coil Fender Jazz pickups, standard CTS-type potentiometers, a basic burgundy-colored chicklet tone capacitor, and a Switchcraft jack. The pickups are wired in parallel, and each has its own volume control. There is a master tone control on the circuit.

The pickups are low-output vintage-sounding pickups. The Jazz allows you to blend the sound of the pickups by turning one and/or the other down/up with its individual volume control. There is no pickup-selector switch – the volume control gives you flexibility and dial-in sound. I played my Fretless Jazz with wiring as-is for the first 5 years I owned it. I’ve used it for countless recordings and small gigs, so I can attest that it really sounds like a nice traditional Jazz sound. I have found that great 15″ speaker cabinet(s) and a tube pre-amp REALLY bring this bass to life. If you’d like to record with it, I recommend finding a nice tube pre-amp to put in between your bass and the DI or computer recording interface. My recordings are so much warmer with tubes in-line.

As a side note, after 5 years, I did decide to do a little upgrading… I wired in a series/parallel switch and installed a factory pair of genuine Fender “Original Jazz Bass” Alnico pickups. The factory sound of my Jazz was awesome. My re-worked Jazz is now a real tour-de-force for rock, funk, jazz, classical, and new age.

FenderFretlessJazzBassHeadstockBackByJimPearson

Tone and Neck woods: Here’s a bit of something that most bass players might find interesting: Fender doesn’t list the body tonewood for its MIM Jazz basses in its on-site specs any more. I am not an authority on this, but I suspect that this gives Fender the flexibility to use the tonewoods it chooses (without having to update specs or guarantee content). Most Jazzes I’ve seen with materials listed were either alder or basswood. (Note that many special edition or FSR Jazz basses will state explicitly that they have ash bodies – my favorite.)

For the Fender Fretless Jazz bass, I think that either the alder or basswood body types sound great. I don’t actually know what wood my Oly White Fretless Jazz has as its body. I just know that I like the sound of it. I have known and heard of Fretless Jazz players who buy a bass with the neck they like and search out a specific body wood and color, then put the two together in a sort of a FrankenJazz (JazzenStein?). I can understand doing this… but know that if you “just want to have a great sounding bass that’s fretless”, the factory Fender Jazz bass is awesome.

The neck: The neck is a nice hard maple one-piece chunk of wood with that awesome narrow Jazz nut width. It feels great, it transfers string sound great, and is a pleasure to play. Fender takes care to create a great 9.5″ radius rosewood fretboard for the player. The surface is buffed to an almost shiny extent on most of these I’ve played. Mine looks as though it has been coated (although it hasn’t). It feels awesome, is pleasing to the touch, and is a real joy to play.

Strings and Fretboard/Fingerboard Most (not ALL) manufacturers ship their fretless basses with flatwound stainless or nickel strings – Fender is no exception. There are two primary reasons for using flatwounds (or tape-wounds) on a fretless.
1) The sound: the sound is the reason for the season, the color of the sky, the raison d’ etre. Flatwounds lend themselves to bass sounds in general, but really make the sound of a fretless Jazz.
2) Fingerboard life: On fretted basses, round-wound strings are pretty rough on the steel/nickel frets. Active bass players who use round-wounds on their basses will always see divots in their fret wires after a time – it is a fact of life in the life of most basses. Fret metal is pretty tough stuff: imagine what it would do to the much softer wood of a fingerboard. Using round-wounds on a fretless bass might give you a sound you are after, but doing so will definitely carve grooves in your fretboard. If you choose to go with cheap round-wounds to save money, you will end up with a chewed-up fingerboard.

The rosewood fingerboard offers a rich feel and sound experience that most players find enjoyable. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, the excellent fingerboard is an integral part of the experience and sound.

Fender Fretless Jazz Headstock frontby Jim Pearson

Playability I’ve played many different manufacturers’ fretless basses, both acoustic and electric. I must say that my experience with my Jazz is the most enjoyable and memorable. It’s predictable, easy-to play for anyone that can reach a 34″ scale bass neck, and even works with those with small hands. The neck is just right. The body is just right. The fretboard is invisible to my hands – I just let the music flow from my soul to my ears through this bass.

For those of us (like me) who still feel insecure when we play a fretless – and want to nail the intonation of a note from the finger attack, the lines for the fret markers are awesome. They take the crazy out of “where is C#?”. On one hand, the lines are a crutch – I encourage you to learn to play the neck without looking at it – on the other hand, the lines are comforting. I’d rather have them there than not – but if I played every day for a living, I’d learn the fretboard without my eyes. Let the music flow from your mind and soul and build up muscle and music memory…

zZounds has a good selection of fretless Jazz basses, including the Standard (MIM) Fretless Jazz.

Quality: My Fender Jazz Fretless Bass was made extremely well. The neck pocket is pretty decent, the finish of all the items is flawless, the components feel and sound good. What’s not to like?

I have found the tuners to be reliable and solid. The finish on the neck and body are both excellent. The fretboard is awesome. The wiring was clean and well-done. The bridge placement was nearly spot-on. The pickups sounded just as they should. Over all, I have not found an issue with my bass in 6 years.
FenderFretlessJazzBassPickupBridgeDetailByJimPearson

Value: Fender’s Fretless Standard MIM Jazz bass is underpriced. The street price of the Fender Fretless Standard Jazz is less than East-Asian-made fretted basses from a variety of manufacturers. The quality, however, is well above those same basses. The MIM Standard Jazz Fretless is comparable to something that would be like an American Special in overall quality – but at a price that is actually pretty low. Whether you buy a new Fender fretless or buy one on the used market, they are a bargain. Really.

If I were blind-pricing Fender’s Standard Jazz Fretless compared to $799 Chinese basses from some of the popular mass-market makers, I’d say this bass should street-price at the same level or a little more.

Fender Fretless Jazz Fretboard by Jim Pearson

Wishes: I wish there was a maple fretboard version – I have no idea if it would sound different, but when I see Fender, I think maple fretboard. It would be nice to continue to offer traditional colors such as Olympic White, Black, and Wine.

The Ibanez AF75TDG Artcore Hollowbody Guitar with Bigsby Review with gold trim and Candy Apple Red metallic finish!

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The Ibanez Artcore Hollowbody AF75TDG Review – Bigsby, Gold, ACH and more!

I’ve really enjoyed having a few semi-hollowbody and hollowbody electric guitars over the years. They give something completely new to a palette of sound in a guitarist’s library. There are many, many famous hollowbody players in current and older times – for a good reason. Their sound is uniquely wonderful and truly a pleasure to the ear. With many hollowbody guitars, options on pickups, wiring, and amplifiers can even give you a choice of sounds that extends from jazz to rock to country to rockabilly to even some forms of heavy rock. They’re versatile, interesting, warm-sounding, and a real pleasure to play.

This review is about an open (true) hollowbody from the many offered by Ibanez. These “jazz boxes” are particularly well-built and sound delicious. I’ve owned my AF75 (reviewed here:) since 2005 and won’t part with it. I’ve even owned a handful of different widths and sizes of Ibanez hollowbodies, all from the nice Artcore line. I’ve sold my AF75TDG (CR – Candy Apple Red), but am now in the process of looking for another down the road pretty soon. Just looking at the pictures for this review made me really miss mine!
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGFront1ByJimPearson

Quick Opinion: Wow. Buy one.

Seriously. Just buy one. I’ll detail why in the review below.

You can read more, get pricing information, and purchase the Ibanez AF75TDG here at zZounds. These are great folks… click through and help an old hippie earn some income? ๐Ÿ™‚

Playability: The Artcore series from Ibanez are generally very easy to play from the standpoint of the neck’s geometry and the overall weight of the guitar. The AF75 series guitars have nice medium-thick hollow bodies that have a nice acoustic sound and feel to them. Since they’re not thin like a flat-body, you’ll find yourself reaching over the top a bit to put your playing/plucking hand in the playing position. This isn’t a function of AF75s, but of any hollowbody in general. Since the Ibanez Artcore AF75s are thicker than most semi-hollowbody guitars (such as the Gibson ES or the Epiphone Sheraton, for example), you’ll find yourself feeling as though you have a heavier acoustic guitar in your hands. This isn’t a problem: it’s just something you get used to when playing thicker hollowbodies.

I feel that the neck has a nice grip to it, something like a shallow D, not as deep as a V or as flat as a C: something in the middle of neck profiles. I like the way it feels, it’s substantial, but without being a baseball bat. Folks with small hands generally appreciate the way the AF75TD neck plays: I donated a couple of my AFs to some wonderful old roots blues musicians via the Music Maker foundation – and they found them to be easy to play and a delight to hear.

IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGBack1ByJimPearson

A sultry curvy maple back – with that classic carved look


In general, the smooth, polished hard gloss finish is comfortable, the back is broad and comfy, and the fingerboard feels quite natural under the fretting fingers. On the whole, the AF75TDG is a lightweight hollowbody that is comfortable and a pleasure to play.

Sound: The sound of the AF75TDG is nothing short of wonderful. It has the low-output, warm, whole, broad sound you would expect from a jazz-boxy hollowbody electric guitar. The sound of the AF75TD is by far one of the strongest reasons to play and own one.

Here is a little breakdown of the way I feel about the TDG:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Hollowbody-ness
3) Body and neck woods
4) A tip for rounder sound!

IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGHeadstockFront1ByJimPearson

Nice headstock, pearly buttons


Pickups and Electronics: The ACH1 and ACH2 humbucking pickups shipped in the AF75TD are clean, smooth, and very rich. They are definitely on the low-output side of things, almost to the point of Vintage. The ACH1 (neck pickup) and the ACH2 (bridge pickup) use ceramic magnets. They lean towards the dark side (no pun intended… or is it? :-)) and tend to be harmonically medium: that is, they are not as full range as something like a Seymour Duncan SH1 or a DiMarzio PAF. They tend to capture the lows and low mids perfectly – making them ideal for jazz and classic rock and rockabilly.

The wiring is typical of Asian-made guitars, with ultra-mass-produced pots, switch, capacitor, and jack. The switch is surprisingly strong and solid for a “little box” switch. When I did some upgrades to my orange AF75, I actually left the original switch (the same one used in the AF75TD) in the guitar – I was very satisfied with the action and the connectivity it offered. The wires themselves are the typical fine-gauge vinyl-covered wires you would find in most any Asian-made instrument. No real problems here, just basic inexpensive stuff.

I found the solder joints to be solidly done and not sloppy with brown goop, nor were the leads sloppily attached to their access points. Overall, the wiring is good for simple clean sound. I do think that down the road that the pots will probably get scratchy, but I’m thinking that this would be a matter of decades and not one or two years – depending on the conditions in which the guitar lives.

Hollowbody-ness: The laminated plywood body top, back, and sides are lovely maple that is generally high grade in appearance and in grain. The outside ply of the plywood is also pretty nice looking on every model I’ve ever played. The consistency and thickness of the plywood appears to be very even and well-chosen. This lends itself to a strong open sound that is remarkably even for something with a pressed-maple laminate body.
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGHeadstockBack1ByJimPearson
The AF75 and AF75TDG are true hollowbody guitars – they don’t have center blocks and they’re not “dugout with F hole” guitars. All the other varieties of hollowbody and semihollowbody guitars have their place an their strong points, the true open holowbody truly has its hallmark for the warm and open sound it creates.

A side-effect of a hollowbody with F holes or a soundhole is that it will feed back (squeal or scream) if the guitar gets in a situation that is too loud or is too close to a loud amplifier or PA speaker. This is something that is known about how this design works, and is not peculiar to the Ibanez (or other similar guitars, for that matter). Many guitar players who play in large/loud/stage situations will often take no-stick tape such as painter’s tape and cover one or both F holes. Other creative solutions include using electrical tape to tape a small piece of paper or cardboard over the F holes. Note this: I’m not responsible for any modifications you make to your guitar! If you’re worried about damaging the finish on your guitar, don’t put tape on it.

IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGFloatingRollerBridgeDetail1ByjimPearson
Body and neck woods: As I touched on in the Hollowbody-ness section, the body wood is laminated maple plywood. Its a bright and resilient wood that actually allows some nice mid-tones to shine through. The brightness of the not-too-flexible maple plywood is largely balanced by the nature of the warm low-output pickups and the hollow body of the guitar. The woods are beautiful, very strong, and really make this guitar a special treat.

The neck tonal color is a delight. It is a mahogany and maple neck that is made of (according to Ibanez’s specs) three piece. It sustains nicely and carries the sound from the nut to the body very well.

A Tip for that Round Sound Want that super-jazz sound out of your AF75? Put flatwound strings on it. They come from the factory with D’Addario round-wound 10s. Without much (if any) adjustment, the AF75 can be upped to flatwound 11s or even better 12s. The 12s are a lot harder to bend and can really take some calluses, but they sound fantastic. With some careful adjustment, the AF series can generally take 13s as well. I love Fender flatwounds, but I don’t really like the rough G string (the 3rd string), which is wrapped (not plain) on flatwound sets in general. I like to use D’Addario Chromes on my hollowbody guitars because I like the quality, the sound, and the smoother G string. Another alternative is to buy your favorite brand’s flatwounds and replace the G string with an equal-diameter plain string from the same manufacturer’s roundwound set. I’ve done both and like both for different reasons. In short – its’ a personal choice.

Quality: Every single Ibanez AF75 (of any model, be it D, TG, T, or other!) has been made so well to the point where they are pretty much flawless. The workmanship is incredible, the attention to detail has been superb with every single Artcore I’ve played or handled.

The paint finish is a hard, glossy, smooth finish that’s almost as if the instrument’s wood was dipped in wet glass. The binding is all over the guitar, and is done without a single bump or split or mis-match. Very niceโ€ฆ
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGGoldBigsbyDetail1ByJimPearson
The fret ends were dressed better than average. My AF75TDG had no ragged ends, and the frets were pretty much level right out of the box. I found the neck to be buzz free, either with roundwound Ernie Ball strings or flatwound D’Addario strings. The surface of the fretboard is smooth, burr-free, and the inlays were done with a minimum of “fill ins.” Sometimes, however, Ibanez will have a little extra fill-in putty on guitars that have more ornate inlays. I’ve not had a problem with this, because it is generally almost unnoticeable, and the feel and sound and general look are not affected.

I loved the huge single swath of maple on the top ply of my AF75TDG. it looks almost like it is one large single piece of maple…
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGFHoleBodyDetail1ByJimPearson
Another note about the binding: it looks great and really dresses things up. LOTS of manufacturers don’t put binding in the F holes, including $800 (street) Epis… I think the binding is well done and is a nice touch. Also, the TDG has pearloid tuner buttons – they’re a nice touch. They don’t change the tuning any, but they look cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

Shameless plug… Click here to see more about the Ibanez AF75TDG hollowbody here at zZounds.com here…. they’ve got guarantees that make it easy to try out something new!

Value: Wow. These are priced spot-on in the new market and are a screaming bargain in the used market. I’ve found that the street price of the AFTs is in line with or less expensive than comparable guitars from other manufacturers. On the used side, you can often snag an AFT with a real Ibanez case for a very reasonable price. They’re generally underappreciated in the market, but always loved by those who pick them up. They’re not low-value at all – they’re just not the mainstream guitar that commands $799 price tags.

Overall value? You can’t beat these in either new or used prices. If the AFT hasn’t been abused and misused, the guitar-for-the-buck ratio is wonderful. Seriously. Just buy one.
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGBindingAndHorndetail1ByJimPearson

Features: The Artcore is often referred to as a working guitarist’s working Jazz box. It’s versatile, plays great, sounds great, and is an excellent value. The features are above par and are nicely enumerated on the Ibanez site.

* Two nickel-covered jazzy vintage-y humbucker pickups
* Binding on the neck, headstock, body, back edges, heel, F holes, and side joint
* Nicely tapped-down electronics in the body
* Good quality tuners that are just a little bit better than average (easy to replace if you don’t like them)
* Good rosewood fretboard
* Excellent medium frets
* Extremely solid build and input jack mount
* Individual tone and volume controls for each of the two pickups
* A solid three-way switch
* A strong three-piece neck with truss rod that adjusts at the headstock
* A nice big ol’ Bigsby trem
* A rosewood bridge with excellent easy-adjusting heights
* A nice treble-side cutaway for high-note access.
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGBackBeautyShot1ByJimPearson

Wishes: I really do wish these were offered with the alternative Bigsby that the Epiphone Swingster has. It’s smoother and easier and is a lot of fun to use.

As a long-time musician and guitar player, I don’t mind the floating body-top (not attached, sits on the body as bridges do with violins and other fiddly instruments) bridge. It adds plenty of wonderfulness to the sound, and gives the guitar professional a lot of flexibility. However, for the new guitar player or for someone who doesn’t understand adjustments, a floating bridge is a very scary thing once it is out of adjustment or is dropped/moved when changing strings. A mis-placed bridge begs for a tuning nightmare. Perhaps the AF75* series could ship with measurement instructions, a bridge-placement template, or even a bridge that sits in a small indentation in the top wood?

The Epiphone EB3 Bass Guitar Long-term Experienced Review – Still rockin’!

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Epiphone by Gibson EB-3 “SG” Bass Hands-on in-depth review

I like to have different sounds in my daily guitar/bass playing. I also like to hear different sounds in my myriad recordings… I find it inspiring to have different instruments from time to time as I grow as a musician and an artist.

I could enjoy having one super-killer bass and one of each kind of guitar, but… I’m totally psyched when I pick up something different almost every day.

My basses are no exception. I really like picking up something different and recording what comes to heart – fretless, fretted, long-scale, short-scale, beautiful, bizarre, humbucker, single – you name it… If it is a bass that plays, I generally enjoy it.

With that said, I sometimes have a strong hankering for a particular feel or sound. To wit: there’s nothing like the feel of an EB bass (be it EB3, EB0, or other!).

The EB3 looks like a really long EB3 with a couple of funky humbucking pickups and giant clover tuners. It has a super-slim neck that sits in the edge of its o-so-familiar body. These are a gas to play. And my Epiphone EB3 fits the bill and then some! Great bass!

I play D’Addario Chrome flatwounds on my EB3 and enjoy the thrill of the old 60s-70s bass sounds and can still get that flatwound “mwah” if I play the strings just right. Love it. I do enjoy roundwounds on these, but I’ve got a Thunderbird for the smashing growl sounds when I need them.

Quick Opinion: The Epiphone EB3 is a modern implementation of a decades-old design that stands the test of time. It’s easy to play, relatively light, sounds great, and is really inexpensive. It even looks really cool.

The Epi EB3 is an unsung hero for bass players, and is a real treat even for beginners and pros alike. In most cases, other bass and guitar players have smiled when they pick up my EB3 (cherry gloss). I keep it well-adjusted and clean, ready to play… It often gets a coveted spot on one of my Hercules auto-grab guitar stands in one of my recording spots in our house.

Read more details about the Epiphone EB-3 electric bass here at zZounds.com. They’re awesome folks.

Playability: The Epiphone EB3 is a pleasure to play. I could end this part of the review with that one sentence… but it would be nice to talk a little more about why…

I haven’t played too many basses that aren’t neck heavy or don’t neck dive a little. Bass players the world over like to argue about “your bass neck dives and mine doesn’t.” Truth be told, almost all of them do. With that said, the neck and headstock on the EB3 is light enough that it actually is one of the more playable models. If you add a strap button to the tip of the upper horn and hang your strap from that, it gets VERY comfortable (don’t alter your guitar based on my advice… YMMV, I’m not responsible for errors you make to your instrument, etc. Please.). I am used to the way my EB3 hangs and plays, so I find it to be just right…

The neck is thin in width, more so than a Fender Jazz. But it is also thick-ish so it is easier to get a good grip. If you have small hands, this might be a good bass for you (as opposed to something like a metal bass or a P Bass – another alternative is the short-scale EB0). I have huge paws, so in my case, the neck is a delight – kind of like a big long Tele neck in most ways. The profile feels like a “D” to me.

Thanks to the shallow set-in of the neck and the double cutaway, I can reach any fret on all four strings. It’s easy to play the high notes, and the low notes are all just a stretch away… With the strap button in its factory position (the back of the bass at the neck/body joint), the body seems to push forward a bit on my strap, but it’s really nothing different than any of my SG-shaped instruments… This is largely true whether you’re playing an EB3 or a Viper or a Samick “SG bass.”

My EB3 is nicely finished, so it feels great in my hands – I really like the smooth finish and the “new” feel it has kept. If you like a satin finish (particularly on the neck), Epiphone (as of this writing) offers a “faded” satin version of the EB3 for the same price…

Epiphone EB3 Cherry Bass Jim Pearson

Sound: Here’s one of the many places the EB3 shines: It sounds great. It has a quiet humbucking nature with a mixture of strong thumpin’ and mild warm funky vintage sounds. It has a pair of very different pickups, with the bridge pickup being a tiny mini humbucker and the neck pickup being a giant heavy big-box humbucker. These sound resoundingly different than Thunderbird pickups, Fender singles, Stingray big-slug humbuckers, or Rickenbacker pickups… These are in a class of their own.

You get a nice mixture of that old warm thumpy sound you get from upright basses and that jeans-ruffling blowback THUMP of a humbucker-bred P Bass. Nice. The three-way dial pickup selector lets you choose between the two or a blend of both… It works like it should and it doesn’t disappoint.

I am a person who likes to upgrade or fiddle with his less-expensive instruments – generally to make them sound better. To tell you how I feel about the sound, I’ve left my EB3 alone, even though I’m a tech and could pop some real Gibson or DiMarzio replacement pickups in it. I like it just like it is.

The first time I plugged it in to my combo amp, I was pleasantly greeted with a sound I’ve been hearing for decades. Wonderful. Once I fed it through my tube preamp into my computer-guitar interface, I was blown away! The benefits of a 12ZX7 and a little dialing are huge! It does sound fine on its own, but with a little help it rivals my Gibson experiences.

Quality: My Epiphone EB3 bass is flawless. I have one of the older ones, and have played many of the recent makes as well. Every single one I’ve played or owned (I’ve owned two and played many more) has been pretty much perfect. The neck is solid, the body is good, and the hardware and electronics are above par.

I do wish Epiphone would stop making so many of their guitar bodies from a zillion pieces of wood and veneering the body with thin sheets… My particular bass isn’t too bad, but it still has that funky composite body. I guess that the price of the guitar is reflective of how it is made… Don’t get me wrong: the sound and heft of the bass guitar is great. It just isn’t a nice slab of mahogany.

The hardware is, in particular, top notch. The bridge works great, came almost intonated, and is nicely adjustable. The nut, tuners, plastics, and metals all are as good as most $500+ guitars. The electronics are fine, with the usual chicklet tone cap and the typical Asian pots and switch. For the most part, the guitar is reliable and is wired as good as or better than the vintage classic Asian guitars. The pickups are excellent and very consistent from individual instrument to individual instrument.

Value: This guitar is easily worth $399 or more street. I think they are under-priced in general. They are an excellent bargain at the current street retail ($299 as of this writing). You can plug it in and play it on day one without spending another nickel on it for a long time. This instrument delivers on value and bang-for-the-buck.

I have had two and will probably buy a third…

Features: The neck is a real feature on this instrument. It is a pleasure to play, and is actually a real selling point for this bass. I love my Jazz, Thunderbird, Precision, ESP Surveyor 404… but this guitar is a treat to own and play.

I like the rotary pickup switch. I don’t often have to do a blinding-fast pickup switch flip, so the rotary works fine for me. It is like it should be, and the chicken-head knob is easy to grab when you’re gigging…

The guitar’s tuners stay in tune very well, the hardware stays adjusted just fine, and the guitar has just what it needs.

Wishes: I don’t really have any wishes for this guitar. I like it pretty much just like it is.

If I were to be able to make minor adjustments to the guitar, I’d say that the body could be made of better wood construction and that the bridge pickup could be wound a little tiny bit hotter.

That’s it for now. Rock on. Buy one if you want a nice bass! It’s a plus that it is inexpensive, too!