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Alden BB-2B Deluxe Violin Bass
Overall Rating
Submitted: April 3rd, 2007
by Kimbara
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Sound Quality
The bass was supplied with roundwound strings which I believe were long-scale (no silk windings at the neck end, very low tension and a very brassy tone) - I replaced them with flatwounds pretty well as soon as I got the bass, but if I ever want it to sound like a piano being plucked, I now know how to do it! With the flatwounds (Rotosounds), it has a superb warm, rich, remarkably deep tone that you'd expect from a much heavier and more substantial-looking bass. The pickups perform very well - even with the flatwounds there's some treble to spare if you want it, but it comes into its own with the Bass switch on, when classic bass tones that will fit into many types of music can be yours with next to no effort. Some people report that these violin basses lack sustain, but that doesn't seem to apply too much to the Alden. This is one of the electrically quietest instruments I've ever bought - no hum or interference at all. However, the volume and switch controls may be fairly authentic in design, but they are one weak point on this bass for me. You have a volume control for each of the pickups, one Treble and one Bass slider (which switch in capacitors to shape the tone) and a Rhythm/Solo slider, which in the original was supposed to cut the volume for rhythm work. The Bass slider works just fine. The Treble cuts so much signal that it's pretty unusable. The Rhythm/Solo switch doesn't seem to make any difference at all. What you're left with that does work makes a great noise anyway - for a 3/4 bass, it has a BIG aound - but this bass is in line for some customizing - the basic sound and pickups are good enough that they'd benefit from more conventional tone controls (I reckon I'll fit two concentric volume/tone controls so I can use the same faceplate) and a few amendments to the switching system (not decided exactly what yet, but one of those switches will be adapted to let me reverse the phase of one of the pickups).
So far, I've been surprised by just how "solid" this bass feels for a hollow-bodied guitar (the Hofners always look quite fragile in photos). I haven't used it live yet, but I'm sure it would be fine, and I don't think you'd need to be any more cautious with it than you would an acoustic guitar. So far, the neck is rock-solid - it's a set neck, and there's next to no play in it - and I think the short scale length may mean it's less vulnerable to disruption leading to the need to tweak the truss rod.
General Comments
I've been playing over 30 years. This bass joins my harem of an electro-acoustic six-string, a Strat copy and a four-string fretless bass (with a couple of other guitars littered around the house that aren't for "best"). The original strings weren't great at all, and some may take exception to that. Myself, I figured I'd almost certainly want to fit strings to my own taste anyway, but not everyone will be happy about having to shell out for decent strings (I'd suggest flatwound suit it best, and you need medium-scale ones, since the tailpiece adds to the overall scale length - short-scale strings will be too short) before they can really get to grips with the bass. I've really enjoyed playing it and getting to know it. It feels very natural, and its action and general friendliness encourage you to play, and play adventurously and fluidly. If it was stolen or lost, I'd get another in a flash. I guess one issue with a bass like this is the "McCartney" legacy. I'm of the generation where it gives me a bit of a kick to own and play a bass that resembles that iconic instrument. But even without that factor, this is simply a brilliant guitar, it stands on its own merits, and I'm sure I can get over feeling a bit self-conscious about playing it in public (where it's bound to be quite a talking point). To sum up the above pluses and minuses: Pluses Superb finish and body design Lovely overall sound Feels great, and plays like a dream Minuses Switches not 100% functional Wrong strings fitted when supplied
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