CALLING ITSELF “THE NEW FOUNDATION OF sonic religion,” the Blast Cult mission is nothing if not bold. But given our experience so far with the maverick Southern California bass builders, we’re liable to entertain even the most audacious declarations.
Formed in 2011 under the direction of Jason Burns, who spent years building upright basses for King Doublebass, Blast Cult launched strong with its One4Five basses, which are as aesthetically appealing as they are acoustically pleasing and structurally sound. [Note: Flip to our October 2012 review for the full scoop.] Bolstered by Burns’ Channel Blaster pickup system, One4Five basses have become increasingly popular with players who need to have a feedback-resistant upright bass that can withstand the rigors of both the road and the stage. With what started as a custom commission, Blast Cult’s Thirty2 takes the core values of the company, which include a dedication to durability and sustainability and a desire to make or machine as much as possible in the company’s Orange County workshop, solidly into the electric realm.
With its 32" scale length, custom EMG upright-style pickup, and stock flatwound strings, the Thirty2 stands out in a bass market so flush with imitators. The unique features don’t stop there; for the Thirty2’s body wood, Blast Cult opts for cypress, and for fingerboard wood, it uses scrap swamp skunk (a sustainable Brazilian hardwood akin in density to ebony) from its One- 4Five fingerboard production. Lest the “scrap” description be a turnoff, everything about the Thirty2 shows expert construction and quality control, from the Hipshot hardware to the fine fretwork and finish. Blast Cult offers an array of flashy sparkle finishes, but I rather liked our tester’s subdued matte black finish.
I’ve often caught flack for combining flatwound strings with active electronics, so I find some welcome vindication in Blast Cult’s choice to go that road with the Thirty2. Unplugged, the bass had every bit of the thump I would expect from a mediumscale 4-string with flats. While some flatwound-strung electrics have a high clack factor, I love the Thirty2’s mellow attack. Comparisons to the tone of an upright bass are perhaps predictable and unavoidable in the case of Blast Cult, and while I would hardly compare the two, there is an open, resonant quality to the Thirty2 that I find somewhat reminiscent of an unamplified upright. Plugged in, the custom EMGs and 2-band EQ (±12dB bass and treble) combine to create a sound that’s bound to make a believer of even the staunchest skeptic. Woody, warm, and oh-so-bootyful, the Thirty2’s electric voice is recognizable even with the most extreme onboard EQ settings. In practice, the treble knob acted almost like a bright/dark knob, while the bass knob worked like small/supersize control. A subtle distinction, but worth noting.
Around back of the bass, two covers allow access to the control and pickup/battery cavities. In the control cavity, two DIP switches offer four options in midrange voicing (flat, mid-cut, mid-boost, highcut). The effects of the DIP switches were hard to discern through our ’63 Ampeg B-12N reference rig, but they would in all likelihood have a more pronounced effect through a more hi-fi amplifier. The pickup/battery cavity gives access to—you guessed it—the Thirty2’s 9V battery and four individual pole pieces. Loosening a set screw in each of the pole casings allows the player to adjust the height for each pole. It certainly makes a modified setup (i.e. string-to-string balance) easier to achieve, but as I found no fault in the factory setup, I left well enough alone. My only woe with the Thirty2 was in accessing these two cavities, as it required removing 5–6 small screws that were tightly seated and prone to stripping. Had Blast Cult opted for something like magnetic cavity covers, I’d be completely smitten.
A bass is only as good as the sum of its parts. By making some unconventional choices in terms of materials and components, Blast Cult has created something really special. Followers of the Blast Cult creed have already stepped up to testify in favor of the Thirty2, and their numbers are growing. If your bag is hi-fi sizzle or eructatious bark, the Thirty2 probably won’t speak to you. But if you’re a sucker for style, a lover of rump-rattling thump and trunk-bumping funk, you’ve simply gotta check this one out.
Pros Retro style in spades, old-school tone for the ages.
Cons Pickup/battery and control cavities difficult to access
Fingerboard Swamp skunk
Scale length 32"
Pickups Custom EMG
Weight 8.25 lbs
Made in U.S.A.