In terms of bass makers, LeCompte Electric Bass is still a babe, but, since 2004, founder and one-man-show Bud LeCompte has wasted no time in producing a host of custom basses that run the spectrum from traditional to anything but. The Acid J-5 and the CBXSC-6 provide a clear picture of this luthier’s versatility, and despite their disparate designs and appeal, each bass demonstrates LeCompte’s commitment to excellence in sound and workmanship, as well as his keen sense for the varied taste among today’s bass players.
KEEPIN’ IT SIMPLE: ACID J-5
Everything about this bass gestures to Leo Fender’s masterpiece, but LeCompte states that the Acid J-5 should not be viewed as an attempt to copy a classic design but rather should be seen as his interpretation of it. I immediately dug the edgy look created by the satin blue/black burst finish over the black-stained wood two-piece alder body. Opposed to oil and lacquer finishes, LeCompte says he searched long and hard to find a durable conversion varnish for his basses. The result is a soft finish that, while not as tough as polyurethane, is enough to provide protection from the occasional light ding or scratch. A matching headstock with Hipshot tuners sits atop the 35"-scale 3-piece maple neck, and a black pickguard finishes off the classic Fender look.
Continuing the traditional vibe, LeCompte approaches the electronics of the Acid J-5 with the same back-to-basics attitude. The bass is passive, but not your grandmother’s passive, if you get my drift. Thanks to two Nordstand Big Single pickups, the Acid J-5’s low end is full and aggressive, and 4-string players who only switch to 5-string for a few songs per gig will find the 18mm string spacing easy to negotiate. The electronics on this bass are wonderfully simple (volume, blend, and tone), and the B string was tight and responsive. The Acid was extremely comfortable, with just one notable exception. In contrast to the large Fender-sized headstock, the body is noticeably small, and this discrepancy resulted in some neck dive. I wouldn’t mind seeing the same body on this bass, but maybe just a tad bit larger (or maybe the headstock could be smaller).
COMPLICATING THINGS: CBXSC-6
Whereas the Acid J-5 proves Bud LeCompte’s knows that some of us like to keep it simple, the CBXSC-6 shows that he understands that some want a plethora of knobs to keep them busy on and off the stage. One look at this multistring amalgamation of traditional woodwork and advanced electronics had me hurrying to get my hands on it. Bud clearly knows his way around a wood shop. I could go on and on about how much I like the way this bass looks, but one look and you get the point. My only aesthetic suggestion would be to recess the battery compartment on the back so that it doesn’t interrupt the smooth lines of this beauty. Now, on to electronics!
Lecompte chose to outfit this bass with an Audere Audio, 4-band, Z-mode preamp with tone control and 6-way Z-mode switch, run by an 18-volt power supply. This enhanced version of Audere’s JZ3 (reviewed July ’07) has all the benefits of its predecessor but more versatility. For instance, the 6-position rotary switch allows setting low, medium, or high output impedance for each pickup. I found myself preferring the L/L or L/M setting most of the time, though, especially since the 4-band EQ provided a healthy range of manipulation. Switching from active to passive engages the passive tone knob, but its largely inconsequential effect caused me to pretty much ignore it altogether. The fundamental tone of the CBXSC-6 was clear and articulate, with excellent note-to-note separation and a delicate overriding personality. All these electronics manage the beefy tone generated by two Nordstrand Big Split pickups (a hum-cancelling version of the Big Single).
With these two instruments, LeCompte offers a little bit for everyone. Traditional jazz players looking for a meaty 5-string will find the Acid J-5 a welcome addition to the market, while our 6-string brothers and sisters will delight in the workmanship and sonic versatility of the CBXSC-6. —Rod Taylor
Pros Gutsy J-style sound
Cons Some neck dive
Pros Classy looks, quality workmanship, versatile electronics
Cons Relatively tame passive tone control
Weight Acid J-5, 8.5 lbs; CBXSC-6, 10 lbs.
Made in U.S.A.
Warranty One year