Following on from yesterday's Part 1 of our 2011 roundup of 65 killer basses, we continue from number 25 down to lucky number 13... the tension mounts!
25 Fender Mustang
Literally the little brother of the Fender family, the Mustang is much appreciated by small-handed and small-bodied players for its 30” scale and lightweight build. While it couldn’t compete with the Precision and Jazz on any serious level, at least you could carry it upstairs without doing your back in.
24 Spector NS
The first model made by Stuart Spector wasn’t quite as slick as the current range but wow, was it influential. With other luthiers queueing up to take a long hard look at the body shape, it left a mark on the bass world that is still obvious today.
23 Zon Hyperbass
There are three compelling reasons to buy a Hyperbass. One, that three-octave neck. Two, the incredible lower cutaway, which allows access like no other bass. Three, so that you can give it to us as a Christmas present. Ah, we’re just kidding! Er, no we’re not.
22 Sadowsky NYC
This American company make a bass out of swamp ash, they tell us, like we know what swamp ash is. Still, it looks lovely, and bassists queue up to tell us how amazing Sadowskys are – so what are you waiting for? Order three today, plus one to keep in a lead-lined vault.
21 Danelectro Longhorn
Personally we think the Longhorn works best in a Nashville bar, where men are men, steers and steers and basses had better look like cows or risk being run out of the county by the sheriff’s men. Not so effective if you live in Slough.
20 Warwick Streamer
A staple of the Warwick catalogue for over 15 years now, the Streamer was many bassists’ way into the German manufacturer and remains hugely popular. Sure, Warwicks tend to be heavy and you have to like natural finishes to get on with most of them, but where else are you going to get that tone?
19 Status S2 Classic
Introduced in 1981, the Status S2 was a revelation. Sure, headless basses had been seen before, but the sleek, symmetrical body shape and sense of massive solidity of this very British-feeling instrument gave it a pioneering reputation. The solid chunk of metal that formed the bridge, and the neck profile that made you yearn to give it a good slapping, only added to the mystique. When Level 42’s Mark King stepped up and lent his name to the Kingbass, which still heads up the Status range today, the deal was sealed. This is one righteous bass, make no mistake.
18 Carl Thompson ‘$10 Million Bass’
No, it doesn’t actually cost 10 million bucks, but this legendary Carl Thompson instrument – built for Primus bassist extraordinaire Les Claypool – has a reputation that is virtually unmatched by any other bass, and is pretty much priceless as a result. With a 37-inch scale and made of macassar ebony and bocote, this isn’t so much an instrument as a work of art. Put it like this, if we had this at home, not only would we never take it out of the house, we’d never leave the house ourselves. And yet Thompson made the thing in a tiny workshop in Brooklyn. Make that man President (and Claypool his deputy).
17 Modulus Quantum
Players of all stripes queue up to play the mighty Quantum, most notable among whom is Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band whose funked-up rock tunes were impossible to avoid between 1990 and 2005 or so. With his aggressive but refined slapping style, Flea required a bass with serious strength and response, and evidently got both from his signature model. The Quantum occupies an upper-market position, but no-one’s complaining as it’s a seriously desirable beast. If you see him, tell him we’ll take a few off him if he needs to clear out his garage.
16 Steinberger Synapse
Laugh all you like at the 1980s associations of Steinberger’s body shape – we loved it then and we still love it now. With a beautiful, slick finish courtesy of the composite materials from which it was made, that none-more-minimalist rectangular body and the genius tuning system, the Synapse was and remains an instrument that didn’t so much look to the future as define it. Five-string options and coloured finishes only add to its weird, unique attraction, as well as the fact that you could play it on the tour-bus without taking the drummer’s eye out. Oh, and don’t forget the cunning foldout gizmo that allows you to play it seated.
15 Ampeg AUB-1
Only about 1100 of these crazy basses were ever built, with the newest now over 40 years old, so you’ll have to look long and hard to find one – but your respect is due, as the AUB-1 was the world’s first production fretless. A bizarre pickup system permitted the bass to be played with gut strings: this was pure snobbism on the part of Ampeg, who assumed that these so-called new-fangled “frets” would die out before too long and players would return to playing their instruments like “real” double basses (hence the scroll headstock). They were wrong, but they did create these pioneering instruments, so we’ll let them off with a warning this time.
14 Yamaha BB
Ah, the BB! Heavy, hefty and for real men only, the Yammy was much beloved by players as diverse as Nathan East and Glenn Hughes for a reason – it played like a dream. From the original 1970s models to today’s Super BB line, this bass oozes playability, to the extent that you may well injure your thumb as you smack it repeatedly on the neck and watch it bounce back up again like a three-inch trampoline user. The tone circuit is a thing of beauty too, with the only real gripe levelled by the BB’s detractors at the instrument’s sciatica-inducing weight.
13 Wal Pro Series
This far down the list, every bass is legendary, and words almost – but not quite – fail us when we are required to describe the awesomeness of the Wal. The Buckinghamshire-based range established a reputation for state-of-the-art quality and tone back in the progressive rock era, with players from Yes and other chin-strokers of the prog persuasion favouring the brand. BGM writer, kilt-fancier and all-round bass guru Nick Beggs likes them, and if a Wal is good enough for him, frankly it’s good enough for us.