Flyer Bass Flyer Bass (Fretless) IT’S JUST NOT FAIR. WHILE MOST OF US WOULD happily pick or pluck away on an acoustic bass guitar in our bedrooms, at barbecues, and even on gigs, with just a few notable exceptions—Steve Swallow and Brian Richie among them—the ABG is rarely employed as a player’s full-time axe. It’s a darn shame, as the acoustic nature of the instrument imparts a dynamic, colorful personality that can fit in settings far beyond mere down-home hoedowns and hootenannies. Back in March 2012, we did a roundup of four acoustic bass guitars, each with a street price under $1,000. This month we target the more discriminating tone hounds among us by checking out fretted and fretless 4-string Flyer Bass, the latest from Woodsdock, New York-based lutier Joe Veillette.
We’ve reviewed a number of Veillette basses through the years, most with a hollow or semi-hollow construction and a blend of magnetic and piezoelectric pickups. With the new Flyer, Veillette has ditched magnetic side and gone simply with an undersaddle piezo pickup and preamp from K&K Sound and D-Tar.
Two tiny thumbwheels control volume and tone at the soundhole. Picking up the Flyer, it’s easy to spot the characteristics that put the bass in a category of its own. First off , at under five pounds, the bass is remarkably light. Yet, the Flyer’s T-bolt neck joint and radiused top make it feel nearly as sturdy as a solidbody. Given the cost of the bass, I’d be reluctant to travel much with merely its included gig bag for protection, but the basses certainly felt sturdier than others of their ilk.
The larger bodies of some ABGs can make technique transitions from electric bass a bit cumbersome. Not so with the Flyer. The bass’ compact dimensions and 34" scale length are extremely comfy. Owing to the body’s light weight, the bass is subject to some neck dive, but no more than I could fairly expect. Similarly, the contour of the lower bout of the body helps position the bass comfortably while seated.
The Flyer may be on the small size in terms of dimensions, but acoustically, the bass is surprisingly loud. I’ve grown accustomed to Veillette basses strung with Joe’s preferred La Bella Nylon tapewounds, which do a lot to lend his basses a mellow, upright-like thump. Arriving with nickel roundwounds, the fretted Flyer had a much brighter disposition. I liked it. A lot. I definitely dug the tape-wounds on the fretless Flyer (more on that in a minute), but the roundwounds worked beautifully, as well.
With simple volume and tone controls elegantly hidden on the upper curve of the soundhole and a range of playing techinques, the Flyer was versatile as can be. Though the control placement makes on-the-fly adjustments a bit tricky, it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make, given the aesthetic effect.
The fretted Flyer speaks with authority, its articulate, midrange-rich response buoyed by a 18-volt K&K/D-Tar piezo pickup and preamp. In order to mitigate the amplification of string noise, I generally rolled back the tone knob a bit, especially with the roundwounds. But with clean technique and the tone on full, the Flyer had a full frequency response, with plenty of low end and little in the way of the brittle highs so common with piezo systems.
The Flyer Bass’ body graduates from 2" deep at the sides to 3" deep at the center. FRET-FREE FLYER
Turning to the fretless (and turning down to spare my neighbors my pitch-challenged floundering), I was surprised to find that the La Bella tapewounds were just as loud acoustically as the roundwounds. Fittingly, the fretless spoke with a softer, more rounded attack, with well-endowed lows. Plugged in, the bass’ tapewounds were much more forgiving of to string noise from my fingers.
Whether the next Ritchie or Swallow is ready to take the ABG to the next level of cred is hard to say. What is clear is that the Veillette Flyer is an instrument capable of getting them there.
VEILLETTE FLYER BASS
Pros Loud, articulate acoustic voice; ergonomics
Bottom Line As a top-tier acoustic bass guitar, the Veillette Flyer Bass is hard to fault, whether in terms of style, sound, or ergonomics. Superior volume, clarity, and sustain.
VEILLETTE FLYER BASS
Top Spruce (radiused)
Sides and back Maple
Fingerboard Pau ferro
Pickup K&K undersaddle piezo
Preamp D-Tar Wavelength
Weight 4.9 lbs
Made in U.S.A.