Sound — 9
An immense sonic range is offered on the KZ. Most fretless basses can growl at you, but the Kingston KZ does much more than just growl. This bass will go from barking, to biting, to howling to downright screaming at you and everything in between. The dual custom made MTD pickups offer a flawless combination of beauty and functionality. Blending perfectly with the body these pickups give off the deep punchy tone you would expect from a dual soapbar system, while still maintaining the integrity of the high end. However, the most remarkable tonal aspect of this bass lies in it's high end. The highs on this bass are crystal clear. They are warm yet brilliant, edgy but still full. This is something that is not often found on a fretless bass. Whether you are looking for a more traditional booming sound, a kick in the chest thump or a bright, clear ring, this bass covers a huge range of tonal possibility.
Overall Impression — 9
This bass is constructed so that one hardly notices that it is a fretless. In addition to cut above electronics, the design elements of this bass come together beautifully to form an instrument that seems to combine the worlds of nature and of music. One almost feels rooted to the very tree that this bass was so carefully crafted from. This is balanced by the modern feel and electronics reminding you of the time and place in which you are standing. While this bass's price tag makes it available to the masses, it still shows all of the superior craftsmanship offered by just about every bass that Mr. Tobias touches.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The combination of a maple top and a mahogany back is quickly becoming the standard in higher end basses. This is because the mahogany is lightweight, while the maple protects the front like a coat of armor. This bass is no exception. It is easy on the shoulders while still being incredibly rugged. All of the tuners were geared very light to the touch, but were still very stable.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
While the action on this bass is a bit high when shipped from the factory, this is more than compensated for by the beautiful craftsmanship shown on the fit and finish. The neck on this bass uses a satin-polyester finish. However, it was applied with such care and Precision that I couldn't even tell that it was there. This bass really glides underneath your fingers. The major complaint as far as setup is the very wide string spacing. This makes playing chords even harder than normal, especially as our test model was a fretless bass. Because of the beautiful tones presented by the wood, there wasn't much need for finishing besides a clear coat. However it was well done and most importantly, was subtly done.
Features — 8
For years Michael Tobias has been making gorgeous, albeit expensive, instruments. His craftsmanship is rarely surpassed, even in this global economy. The Kingston series of basses finds the same classic craftsmanship and chest thumping sound, only with a lower price tag. Our test bass was the 5 string fretless KZ. The burled maple top stood out in stark contrast to the ebonol fretboard, and was accented beautifully by the carved mahogany body. This bass utilizes two custom made MTD soapbar pickups with wood grain covers that really set off the wood of the body. The electronics are a fairly standard compliment of a volume and pan control plus a three band eq. The Buzz Feinten tuning system that was used is truly a cut above most tuners on basses of comparable quality. They feature a closed gear system and are easy to turn while still maintaining the integrity of the position given to them.