If you were to assemble an alphabetical directory of bass builders, Joe Zon would appear at the very back, but his 34-year legacy of top-tier craftsmanship and innovation has secured his place on the short list of the best. The Zon calling card is the mixture of traditional and modern materials in designs that sometimes extend the electric bass’s typical capabilities. Largely known for composite-neck instruments, the company introduced the wood-neck-equipped Mosaic line to appeal to players with more conventional tastes. The new Mosaic Mojo series is Zon’s most traditional and affordable bass to date, but is the mojo working?
Let’s face it—for all the sex appeal a fancy wood top can generate, some among us can get hot and bothered seeing a pickguard screwed to a painted body, and lose all inhibition when confronted with a matching headstock. The Zon Mojo follows this formula and comes in six flavors: white, black, Candy Red, Ice Blue, natural, and three-tone sunburst, with white, black, or tortoiseshell three-ply pickguards. In addition to appealing to the traditional market, these aesthetics are considerably less expensive to produce, a savings that offsets the Aguilar pickups’ expense. The AG 4J-60 set delivers that much-loved single-coil tone in the passive Mojo, while the active model sports the AG 4P/J-HC set combined with a 2-band preamp. I don’t usually care for the P/J configuration—for the most part, I have experienced poorly matched pickups that produce a rhinal honk— but the AG 4P/J-HCs are a well-balanced pair that sound great individually and blend musically. Another element to the Mojo P/J’s success is the slightly wider spread between the two pickups, achieved by placing the P-style pickup .31" closer to the neck than standard Fender placement, with the bass coil centered at 28.06" (measured from the nut), treble coil at 29.12", and the bridge pickup at 31.68," just shy of ’70s J position.
While the electronics package does nothing to disguise the Mojo’s sonic intentions, the body design straddles the line between boutique and vintage with a J-style profile artfully sculpted to give good access to the two-octave fingerboard. The top strap button sits above the 12th fret, one fret higher than a typical P- or J-style instrument. This shifts the neck position, creating a slightly longer reach to the lowest frets—but Zon tackled this issue by simply moving the bottom strap button two inches off center, angling the neck upward for a more balanced hang. The angled headstock eliminates the need for string trees, and the generous volute adds strength and a touch of class down at the neck’s business end.
Both test instruments followed the same physical lines and felt virtually identical to play, but their innate sonic characters were drastically different. The passive J/J configuration delivered familiar results: The warm and round hollowness of the neck pickup became more articulate when blended with the bridge pickup. Soloed, the bridge pickup gave me a crisp bite that fought its way to the forefront for melodic playing. The blended slap tone is earthy and gritty, but the standard V/V/T controls allowed for subtle shading of the funk by favoring either pickup. The Mojo plays exceptionally well, no doubt due to the top-to-bottom treatment the instruments receive at the Zon shop in California, but the basic design gives the feel of a more expensive instrument.
With a P/J setup the blended slap tone is usually the dealbreaker for me, but I was happily surprised at how sleek and taut the active Mojo sounded when thumped. The EQ helped by boosting the lows and highs that surround the potentially offending midrange, but once again, big props to the Aguilar pickups for renewing my faith in the P/J configuration. As the bridge pickup is a split-coil in a J-style case, you gain the advantage of hum-free tone when soloed. The P-style pickup has the authoritative bark that has earned its place under countless hits, and with passive mode readily accessible via the push/pull volume pot, the Mojo can nail the vintage tone palette as well. As mundane as it may seem, it was nice to see the control cavity shielded with graphite paint, with the preamp wires bundled and orderly. My one nit to pick is the difficult-to-access trussrod adjuster at the neck heel. The adjustment requires taking off the neck, which is more than a little inconvenient. Both basses arrived set up to perfection—I sure hope they stay that way.
Mosaic Mojo 4-strings
Street Active P/J, $1,200; passive J/J, $1,000
Pros A step above your average import
Cons Trussrod hard to access
BottomLine The Mojo series basses give you time-honored tone in an affordable platform that benefits from Zon’s many years of boutique building.
Body Alder (as tested)
Neck Three-piece maple
Fingerboard P/J, rosewood with clay dots; J/J, maple with block inlays
Frets 24 medium
Scale length 34"
Neck width at nut 1.5"
Pickups P/J, Aguilar AG 4P/J-HC; J/J, Aguilar AG 4J-60
Preamp 2-band EQ
Hardware Machined brass bridge; Gotohstyle tuners
Weight 8.5 lbs
Made in China