Price paid: £ 125
Sound — 7
The basic sound that comes from this bass is extremely rich and warm, although it can become slightly twangy and metallic when the tone pot is turned to max. It certainly isn't designed to fit in with heavy metal, but is perfectly matched with rock/jazz/soul. The volume pot isn't the greatest I've come across: the only realistic options are on or off. The 10W BB Blaster amp supplied with it is quite poor. Whenever the volume is turned above half-way the amp can hiss, and at higher settings all tone seems to be sacrificed for volume. This bass sounds excellent for it's price range when connected to a better amp (I'm currently using an old Laney PL65B), and I have had relatively good results when throwing an Ashdown Drive Plus pedal into the setup. I've replaced the supplied strings with a set of Rotosound 45-105 strings, which have increased the warmth of this bass further.
Overall Impression — 7
For any beginner looking to take up playing the bass, this particular instrument is perfect. It's inexpensive, durable and sounds great. I've had this bass for over 2 years, and it's more than stood up to a fair amount of punishment. With some TLC, I can see it lasting for a very long time. If it were stolen/lost I most probably wouldn't purchase another, purely because I have moved on to a much more expensive, professional-quality Overwater bass. However, this is the bass I recommend to any beginners I come across. Whilst I know many people buy the low-range Squier basses instead of the PK40, in most cases I think the price difference involved isn't completely justifiable. If Encore created a higher-range model with a set of PJ pickups and better strap buttons, then I think they'd become serious competitors for the likes of Squier and Cort.
Reliability & Durability — 6
Considering the price, this bass is fairly well-built. The only non-user-related problem that I've had in two years of playing is the strap buttons coming off. However, this was easily fixed by partially stuffing the holes with match sticks (minus the head of course) and using a higher-gauge screw with larger replacement strap buttons. I have broken the tuning heads through drop-related incidents, but they are easy to replace. The body and neck contain a few nicks/gouges, but there isn't any splitting. I have played this bass at small gigs with friends and for school events, but I wouldn't recommend taking it much further than that. I mainly use it nowadays as a backup bass, and as something to practice on when at my mum's house.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The bass arrived in a relatively good state. It needed to be strung, which could present problems for its beginner customer base! Pickups needed minimal adjustment on purchase, and the same can be said of them since then. The bridge was also close to the ideal setting at on delivery too. However the fretboard is finished in a cheap gloss, and the scratchplate covered in a annoying cling-film material. The nut is rock-solid and hasn't visibly moved/worn at all. The two controls haven't loosened, and still turn freely. None of the hardware has oxidised/perished, and the finish hasn't faded at all. One thing to note is that the frets have worn very quickly, and therefore it seems to lower it's own action over time!
Features — 6
This bass has a single passive split coil pickup, 1 volume control and 1 tone control. The rosewood fretboard features 20 frets, on a full-scale bolt-on maple neck. My particular model has the laminated sunburst finish, which in fairness looks great with the white 3-ply scratchplate. The bridge is face-mounted, and easily adjustable. When I had this, it came with a cable, tuner, 10W "BB Blaster" practice amp, strap and an extremely cheap carry bag. As you can probably tell from the accessories list, this instrument is firmly aimed at beginners. Thankfully, I'm yet to find a "Made In China" sticker.