Price paid: C$ 261
Purchased from: rondomusic.com
Features: The Douglas WOB 826 is a fretless six-string bass available from Rondo Music that sports many interesting features usually not available on basses at this price point. This Chinese-built bass has the following features:
- 34" scale
- Maple neck with 2-octave rosewood fingerboard (equivalent to 24 frets)
- Ash body
- Two active humbucker pickups
- Adjustable BB-006 bridge
- Volume, balance, bass, and treble controls
The website also mentions "die-cast tuners," which are just the typical sort of cheap tuners you'd find on any lower-end instrument, and "gold tarnished hardware," though my bass received regular chrome hardware. The bass is available in a natural finish and white. I got the white one, and it looks rather stunning.
If you're ordering from Rondo Music outside of the lower 48 states of the USA, you're going to need to order a hard shell case for it, and that will automatically add to both the overall price, plus the shipping costs. But it is worth it to have a good case with your bass.
All together, you get a rather impressive list of features for a bass that costs around $190USD, certainly a lot less than pretty much any other fretless 6-string bass with active pickups out there. Understandably, to keep the costs low, they couldn't put too many higher-end components like tuners from a trusted brand name like Hipshot or better pickups, which is the reasoning behind this category getting an 8/10, but what you actually get on the bass is of reasonably good quality and will likely last you a long time. // 8
Sound: I play bass as both a solo artist playing progressive metal and instrumental rock, as well as in a concert band ensemble playing classical, jazz, and marching band music. I'm playing this bass through a variety of amps including my own little Fender Rumble 15 practice amp, and larger Fender and Orange bass amps during rehearsals.
The bass' pickups are rather clean sounding, something which surprised me as this was my first experience with active pickups on a bass, and provide a very punchy tone that also surprised me as my last fretless bass, a Yamaha BBN4F, had a very flat and dull sound compared to this. The only issue with the tone I'm having is that Rondo Music packaged the bass with the dullest sounding strings I've ever heard in my life, with a low B string that barely produced a note when plucked. Replacing the strings has solved that issue, and revealed the true tone of this bass, which actually has a stunning amount of clarity and low-end punch. While the pickups could be easily swapped out for a better set, the ones that come with this bass are rather excellent to begin with.
The bass and treble controls are rather fun to play around with as well, and I've had some very interesting tones as a result of playing around with them. I've taken to rolling the treble control to half (the controls have a handy notch to let you know when you're at the halfway point!), which decreases a bit of the treble-y "attack," which makes it rather perfect for use in the concert band setting, where you want a sound rather closer to that of a double bass.
Really, for the money, you can't go wrong with this tone. Once you change the strings for something better, you're good to go. For that reason, I've also decided to give it an 8. // 8
Action, Fit & Finish: This is about the only place where the bass starts to really lose some points. While the bass' components are rather excellent in quality, it was obviously not set up very well at the factory. The action was close to where I liked it, but still quite high for most people. The pickup screws needed serious adjusting, as one of them had completely come loose. As mentioned, the strings they shipped with the bass were of the lowest possible quality and needed an immediate swap. The 9V battery also needed to be changed almost as soon as I plugged it in.
However, none of these issues presented any truly serious challenges, and were easily dealt with. The rest of the bass seemed to be without any serious flaw, though there were some annoyances with the edge of the fingerboard, as I'm not sure if they're supposed to be rolled smooth or not on fretless basses, but this one was left particularly square. Obviously, it will wear down a little over time and be a little smoother to play, but it does seem odd to have a gripe with the edge of the fretboard on an instrument without frets. Perhaps it's just my own lack of experience with fretless basses, though, as I quickly adapted to it and it even became rather comfortable to play.
So this is the one area where this bass is going to lose a few points, but overall, I still feel it deserves a 6, as it still did not need any truly serious adjusting to become playable, like work with the truss rod or actual woodwork. Nothing that a newbie with a screwdriver (or the included allen key set) couldn't handle. // 6
Reliability & Durability: I haven't owned the bass quite long enough yet (just over a month as of this writing) to judge its long-term reliability, but I've used this at several rehearsals with my concert band, and so far it seems to have held up quite nicely. The hardware on it seems rock-solid for the most part, though that will remain to be seen as I use this bass more and more. You will have to invest quite heavily in 9V batteries to feed the active electronics, though if you're thrifty, rechargeables are easy to find, or you could do like me and simply purchase them from a dollar store. I have opened up the electronics cavity and it looks like all of the electronics are soldered together rather well, and properly shielded as well.
While I would not do a rock gig (concert band gigs are not exactly known for their tendency to lead to extreme instrument abuse...) without a backup on ANY instrument regardless of price, I do feel that if I did not have one for some reason, I would not sweat it too much, since this is a pretty solid instrument. The strap buttons seem pretty solid, the finish seems pretty solid, and the components seem pretty solidly in place. Definitely deserving of an 8 at this point, but that could become a 5 (or a 10, depending on circumstances!) easily as I live with this bass for a while and see where flaws start to show themselves (or don't!). // 8
Overall Impression: So overall, this is a great bass for the price. While there may be comparable products from other low-price manufacturers like Harley Benton and such, I'm pleased that I went with Rondo Music for this one, as I ended up with a very pleasing bass to play. For less than $200 USD (before you consider shipping and buying accessories like a case or a new set of strings), you get a 6-string fretless bass with active electronics, and there are very, VERY few companies that offer anything even close to that. And when you consider that the quality on this is rather decent (I'd say it's VERY comparable to my Ibanez RG8 in quality, which was about twice the price in USD when I bought mine), it really begins to show itself as a total steal!
However, there is something to mention: If you live outside of the lower 48 states, you need to buy a hard-shell case, which can easily add another $80 to the price after you include shipping. I ordered this in Canada during a particularly hard time for our dollar, so I ended up paying just a little over $500CDN for the bass plus the case, all together with the shipping cost. So that's something you'll want to keep in mind if you're ordering this from outside the USA. That being said, it's still a bargain compared to the other 6-string fretless basses you can buy in Canada.
The only thing I wish this bass had was a better set of strings out of the factory, because I would have been able to enjoy this bass more right away, and since 6-string sets for bass are rather expensive, you'll want to consider the cost of those in purchasing this instrument.
All in all, I want to give this instrument a solid 7 out of 10. I REALLY want to give it 7.5, because I also have to look at this rating as an extension of its price point as well, because among sub-$200 basses, this one probably deserves a much higher rating than that, but it's obviously not a flawless instrument and my rating needs to reflect that as well. So truthfully, any rating is rather useless here to convey the quality of this instrument. All I can truly say is that if you only have a few hundred dollars to spend on a fretless 6-string bass, you're probably not going to come across a better deal than this. // 7