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Fender CB-60SCE Acoustic-Electric Bass
Don't let the low price fool you - this bass will appeal to more than just beginners

 


by Phil O'Keefe



Years ago, when you said the words "acoustic bass", people instantly and nearly universally thought of the upright, double bass. While that may be true in some circles even today, you're just as likely to conjure up images of acoustic bass guitars in the minds of many musicians if you say that now. Bass players have enthusiastically embraced the modern acoustic bass guitar, and many use the instrument as an alternative voice for live performances and studio recordings, as well as for home practice and informal acoustic jam sessions. Unfortunately, many acoustic bass models are on the expensive side, but today we'll be looking at a new model from Fender that bucks that trend - the affordable Fender CB-60SCE.





What You Need To Know

  • The Fender CB-60SCE is an acoustic-electric bass, and part of Fender's Classic Design series. It is available in two colors - natural or black.  

  • The CB-60SCE has a solid spruce top with scalloped X bracing. The concert-sized cutaway body has laminated mahogany back and sides, which like the top are finished in glossy black. I'm not sure if the finish is polyurethane or polyester, and Fender doesn't say on their website. Either way, it's fairly smooth and blemish-free across the entire instrument.  



  • The bridge is rosewood, and the saddle is plastic. The bridge pins are huge compared to acoustic guitar pins, and are white plastic with black dots.



  • The rosette is pearloid, and while it isn't particularly large, it gives a classy visual touch to the face of the instrument.



  • While it's a bit hard to see against the black finish of the body, the CB-60SCE comes with a black pickguard to help protect the face of the instrument.

  • The body itself is bound around the edges of the top with multi-ply binding, although the back is left unadorned.

 




  • The Fender CB-60SCE comes equipped with Fender Phosphor-Bronze Bass strings (gauges .045-.100)

  • The CB-60SCE has a Dual-Action truss rod, which adjusts at the body end of the neck, just inside the soundhole.



  • The headstock harkens back to the 50's era with the spaghetti style logo, although the two per side tuning machine layout of the headstock is hardly a vintage Fender approach.



  • The chrome die-cast tuners are smooth and hold the tuning reasonably well. The nut is plastic and appears to be well cut, and doesn't catch the strings while you're tuning up.



  • The neck is 1.69" wide at the nut. Neck depth is 0.800" at the first fret according to my digital calipers. The fingerboard has 3mm pearloid acrylic dot inlays for position markers, and white side dots on the 1-ply black neck binding also help to keep you where you want to be.

  • The Fender CS-60SCE has a 32" scale length - a bit shorter than the usual 34", but not as short as a true 30" short scale. The bound mahogany neck has a gloss finish too, and comes equipped with a rosewood fingerboard with 22 vintage style frets. The fingerboard has nicely rolled edges, which, along with the comfortable C-shaped neck profile and 12" fingerboard radius, make it very comfortable to play.



  • Fender includes a Fishman Classic Design pickup and preamp / tuner with the CB-60SCE as standard equipment, and it's nice that you don't have to pay extra to get an acoustic-electric model. The preamp offers you a volume control as well as bass and treble EQ knobs. A pair of pushbuttons allow you to check the battery and turn the built-in tuner on and off.



  • The tuner is reasonably accurate and fast in its response time. It automatically displays the current note, and uses two red indicators to either side of the note name to show whether you're flat or sharp. When you're in tune, both turn green and light up at the same time.

  • The output is mounted near the rear of the bass, on the side back by the strap button, and is built into a unit that also holds the 9V battery. A battery is included with the bass. I really like the fact that it's tool-less and that you don't have to loosen the strings and reach into the bass in order to install a fresh battery.





Limitations

  • Unless you have really long arms, the positioning of the Fishman tuner at the waist position (where it is angled so that it faces somewhat towards the rear of the bass) makes it very difficult to see the tuner's display and adjust the tuning machines simultaneously. This will be a source of frustration for many neophyte bassists. I'd recommend getting an external tuner and using that instead. Fortunately, the onboard preamp itself sounds good and is easy enough to use, even without looking at it.

  • You'll be happy to have the onboard electronics - in many situations, you'll need it. It's not that this bass doesn't have a nice acoustic tone (especially at this price), it is more a matter of how much volume you can reasonably expect to get out of any concert-sized acoustic bass. There's plenty here for sitting around with a friend or two with acoustic guitars and jamming in the living room, but in many other group situations, you'll find that using a small amp will increase your audibility considerably.

  • No case or gig bag is included. Honestly, you probably shouldn't expect one at this price point, but you're probably going to need one, so budget accordingly.



Conclusions

It is obvious that Fender has put some work into making this bass a good sounding instrument that is very easy to play, while keeping the price low enough so that it will appeal to a broad range of musicians. The rolled fingerboard edges of this bass are more than just marketing hype - rolling the edges makes a very big difference, and gives the neck a "broken in" or "played in" feel. In fact, the whole bass is wonderfully comfortable to play. The mid-length (32") scale helps here, as does the comfortable neck profile and relatively compact neck depth and not too narrow width. Whether you play with a pick or fingerstyle, you shouldn't have any problems - there's plenty of room for your right hand to work between the strings.


The tone, no doubt aided by the solid spruce top, is very good acoustically (if a little forward in the upper midrange), and the amplified tone is also very nice, and with the effective onboard EQ, you can shape it to suit your preferences. It's not the loudest instrument when running unplugged, and it might have trouble keeping up in a small acoustic ensemble if the other instruments are on the louder side and are being played with gusto, but the basic acoustic tone is sweet enough that you'll find it inspiring when practicing at home or playing with a friend or two. It also records well, both acoustically and when using the onboard electronics to go direct.  


My complaints are few. You'll need to buy a case or gig bag separately, but at this price point, that's not really unexpected. The acoustic volume is sufficient for some situations, but when it's not, you can always use an amplifier. I like the Fishman preamp / tuner, but I really hate the placement - it's too hard to see it and tune at the same time, so budget for an external tuner or get a tuner app for your smartphone and use that instead and avoid the frustration.


I was surprised by how much value there is in this bass. While it's not the least expensive acoustic-electric bass guitar I was able to find, it's definitely one of the lowest priced models currently being offered by any manufacturer, yet it has a solid spruce top and it's a very playable - even gig-able bass that will appeal to beginners (and their parents) as well as to more seasoned yet budget-conscious players who are looking for an inexpensive acoustic bass to add to their collection. If that sounds like you, then you'll want to make a point of trying one of these fun basses out for yourself. -HC-


Want to discuss the Fender CB-60SCE Acoustic Bass Guitar or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Bass Forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!



Resources

Fender CB-60SCE Acoustic Bass Guitar ($299.99 "street")

Fender's product web page    


You can purchase the Fender CB-60SCE Acoustic Bass from:

Sweetwater      

Guitar Center    

Musician's Friend    





__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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