This might be the first time in my Bass Player career that I’ve reviewed 32"-scale basses in back-to-back issues. And here I was thinking I’d seen it all. Alas, the fact that the Serek reviewed here is a 32"-scale bass is a natural reflection of a trend I’ve alluded to in other shorter-scale bass reviews recently: they are all the rage. While the MTD I checked out last month was essentially a super-high-end boutique bass in petite form, the Serek Sacramento here is much more aligned with what most people think of when they ponder the history of basses shorter than the standard 34". It’s got a ton of vibe and vintage-inspired flavor; it’d be easy to imagine this instrument in the window of a music store circa 1974.
Serek basses are entirely handbuilt by Jake Serek in Chicago. A bass player himself, Serek was able to make building a fulltime gig last year, partly on the heels of an early ringing endorsement from bass great Tim Lefebvre. Serek’s design phililosophy is steeped in his fave designs from the ’60s and ’70s and he also prioritizes light weight and playability. Serek got a headstart on his woodworking chops at Lakland.
Fresh out of the guitar-sized gigbag, the Sacramento immediately impressed. Its sort of Rickenbacker-esque contour looked great, and the satin faded black finish perfectly matched the open-grained walnut body. I especially like the Serek’s cool headstock shape, and it looked particularly good with the body-matching side-pieces joined to the much lighter-colored maple neck. All of the hardware and assembly was top-notch, too. Lightweight Hipshot tuners prevented neck dive, and the simple control layout features a pair of groovy-looking big knobs.
Serek chose a pair of Guild BS-1 pickups for my test Sacramento, although a host of other slightly-left-of-center pickups are available as options, too. The Guild BS-1’s are the same pickups that Guild uses on its new Starfire model, and they’re a solid recreation of the iconic Hagstrom Bi-Sonic pickups that Guild used on its classic Starfire bass. While the big pickups may look like beefy humbuckers, they’re actually single-coils. What looks like a row of pole-pieces is actually a set of flat-head screws for adjusting the magnet’s height. Pickup switching on the test Serek came courtesy a 3-position switch, so it was a cinch to quickly explore the bass’s three intrinsic sounds.
The Sacramento was among the most playable and comfortable basses I’ve encountered in some time. Sure, its diminutive size was a major factor—it’s easy to feel in control of the lightweight, compactly proportioned instrument. But just as integral to its ergonomics were its excellent balance, narrow and somewhat shallow neck, and deep cutaway. It would be a breeze to host the Serek on your shoulder for a long night of music—it feels like it’s barely there.
I tested the Serek on a funk gig and in my studio. On the gig, I used a Wayne Jones powered 2x10 paired with an API preamp. In the studio, I used a variety of amps, and was especially eager to try it with an Ampeg B-15 and an old Sunn tube head with an Ampeg SVT 8x10, given its vintage-inspired vibe.
The Serek was a killer sounding bass, with the throaty and organic well-textured midrange that I think is part of the big appeal of vintage medium-and short-scale basses. It doesn’t sizzle like a modern bass, instead favoring the assertive punch and authority found in the low and middle frequencies. With the bridge pickup soloed, I got a more focused sound that refreshingly had little to do with the Jaco-esque punch often found in more traditional Fender-inspired two-pickup basses. The soloed neck pickup is fat and round, with a huge and pillowy sound available with the tone knob rolled off. Activating both pickups yielded a tone that did indeed blend the precise-sounding bridge pickup and the warmer neck—it was a sound that sat beautifully in a track, especially when the tune was at a tempo that allowed the burnished timbre to shine on long whole notes.
I deeply dug the Serek basses. In the midst of this short- and medium-scale renaissance we’re in, the Serek proved itself an exemplar of what is most desirable about the category. Beutifully made and superb sounding, anyone who doesn’t want to pony up for and hunt down a funky vintage bass would be well served to seek out a Serek.
Pros Excellent design and construction; rich, supportive, and beautifully textured tone
Bottom Line The Serek is a pitch-perfect medium-scale bass with vibe to die for.
Construction Set Neck-through
Neck 2-piece Maple
Fingerboard Pau Ferro or Bubinga
Pickup Guild BS-1
Controls Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
Scale length 32"
Made in U.S.A.