I knew little about B&G basses before Avi Goldfinger reached out and promised that in a few weeks I would be receiving a newly built “gorgeous bass” from Tel Aviv. What info I did have came from a few fellow musicians who spoke highly of this company’s craftsmanship with electric guitars. It took awhile to arrive in the U.S., but after spending over a month with the Big Sister (the sibling of B&G’s Little Sister guitar line), I can say it was well worth the wait.
First impressions matter, and for this bass, that began before I even played a note. As you can imagine, shipping something from Israel to Nashville carries its own risk—which seemed to be confirmed when I discovered a beat-up box sitting on my back porch a month after that initial B&G e-mail. The box was in such bad shape, I took pictures in case insurance needed to be claimed. Before removing and opening the hardshell case, I expected to find a bass that was going to need some serious adjustment, at least. Instead, I found one that didn’t require any neck or bridge adjustments; it didn’t even need to be tuned. That’s one way to make a good first impression.
I immediately plugged it in and started playing. A couple of hours later, I realized I was late to my next meeting. Yeah, I got a little “lost in the bass” for a bit. Sure, the Big Sister looks great. The spalted-maple top is wonderfully exotic, the all-custom brass hardware gorgeous, and the body shape sophisticated and comfortable. But it’s the way it played that drew me in. Despite its Les Paul look, it feels and plays much like a Fender Jazz Bass. When I asked luthier Eliran Barashi about that, he confirmed that he and fellow luthier Yotam “Kiki” Goldstein designed it that way on purpose. “We wanted to go with some traditional elements,” he says, “so we used traditional Fender Jazz pickup spacing and included Aguilar Super Singles.” That said, the body shape and wood choices keep the bass from being a Fender clone, as does the fingerboard radius. At 12", the radius falls between that of a traditional Fender (7.25") and more progressive setups (like a Spector’s 16")—so while it has a noticeably faster feel, it lands in that Goldilocks realm for traditionally inspired players looking for a slightly more contemporary feel.
A solid mahogany body and mahogany set-in neck combine for powerful resonance and sustain, and the choice to used aged, lightweight materials keeps the bass at a comfortable weight. Barashi pointed out that B&G uses traditional animal-based glues, which supposedly minimizes frequency loss. The Big Sister is coated in a clear nitrocellulose finish, another tip of the hat to traditional guitar building. Nitrocellulose is thinner than polyester and polyurethane, allowing the wood to continue to age and breathe.
Impressed with its playability and warm sound, I took the bass to a band rehearsal I was directing that night at a local university. The young woman playing bass for most of the set was having some trouble with her Fender Jazz, so I handed off the Big Sister while I adjusted her bass. She almost didn’t give it back. Like me, she appreciated the instrument’s beauty, the meaty tone, and the simplicity of traditional electronics—especially combined with its playability. I gave the bass a spin myself a few nights later. Given the connection between B&G Guitars’ mission and the Delta blues (you can read about it on their website), I tried out the bass on some blues tunes. Rolling back the tone knob produced an earthy, dark tenor that worked well for the gig, and everyone in the band dug its look and sound.
The base price for the Big Sister is $3,450, but our review model featured three distinct upgrades: a one-piece Honduran mahogany neck, a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, and a spalted maple top, bringing the total to $4,650. Undoubtedly, that price puts it out of range for most players, but in the world of custom, handbuilt instruments, the cost is reasonable. Sure, you can go on Amazon and order a good bass for one-quarter of that price (and it will arrive at your house in just two days), but there is something about having an instrument custom-built for you, by people who care for it like it’s their own, using skill sets that are getting harder to find. That’s what you get with a bass like the Big Sister. It’s like adding a family member to your household—which seems appropriate given its name.
Street $4,650 (as reviewed)
Pros Exceptional craftsmanship, exotic wood, great feel and tone
Cons Pricey, but not unreasonably so
Bottom Line A beautifully handcrafted bass that blends traditional and modern elements with exceptional wood choices.
Neck One-piece Honduran mahogany neck
Fingerboard Brazilian rosewood
Scale length 34"
Fingerboard radius 12"
Neck width at nut 1.62"
Body Solid mahogany with spalted-maple top (as reviewed)
Pickups Aguilar Super Singles
Controls Neck volume, bridge volume, tone
Made in Israel