Price paid: $ 365
Purchased from: eBay
Features — 8
Many bassist have heard of Wishbass. These instruments are made in N.C. by a single luthier, Steve. For some time I looked into the materials and construction of these unique instruments. In general, all of the instruments share common features like passive electronics, a relatively thick multi-piece neck with through-body construction, solid bodies, fretless fingerboard, corian nut and bridge, open headstock (cutout of central mass and tuners mounted 90 degrees from normal so that the keys rotate behind the headstock and are visually concealed from the front). The pickups are passive, either magnetic or piezo-electric. All of the instrumnents are shipped raw (unfinished) or with a minimal coat of varnish or oil/wax. This bass is constructed of a variety of tonewoods. The neck is a large center piece of quarter-sawn purpleheart, with additional pieces of black and white limba to either side. The body is essentially designed as a central tone block having sizeable pieces of walnut to either side of the neck laminates. outside of that the body comprises 6 pieces of alternating wood (3 per side). The back paices are mohogany, the center is particle board and top appears to be amarillo. Although there was one unique feature to this bass I have not seen in any other Wishbass, the fingerboard ran the entire length of the instrument, from nut to heel of the body. The fingerboard is one substantial piece of Ipe heartwood (hard like ebony, but with a red-orange color awesome grain). Tuners are Grover and the instrument is all natural in color.
My particular instrument came along form an eBay listing. I had all but prepared to put in an order for a 6-string that would have cost about $800.00, with all the options I wanted. This instrument was used, but barely and appeared to have been owned by someone who just found it too much to play comfortably. After receiving the bass, I noticed what was noted in other reviews. The bass was not finished in the sense of a store-bought instrument and needed some work to refine it. The piezo pickups and bridge were mounted into the fingerboard. I ended up taking the time to profile the neck, body, fingerboard, nut and bridge to a more refined state. In the process, I actually removed enough material to alter the appearance and playability quite a bit. I applied multiple coats of lemon, boiled linseed and tung oils, with a buffing between coats. I then used S100 wax to get a lustre similar to a furniture finish. The final coat was a spray-on teflon sealant. The result is a well protected instrument with the appearance of a minimal finish.
This bass was stated to be a prototype with a 4 disk, piezo-electric pickup array and stacked volum/tone control. After dealing with the issue of hum, I shielded the control cavities, added a simple piezo buffer/tone modifier (Antec AB1) and side mounted the output jack. The piezo disks do not appear to have high output, so I am considering other options.
Sound — 10
What really matters to me is the sound. This thing has tone, and tons of it. The unique nature of the fingerboard seems to impart a few functions of importance. First is that there is a thumbrest allowing the important digit placement anywhere practical. Second is the added structural component, making the neck rock solid. Finally, I expect the resonance between the pickups and fingerboard are enhanced providing added sustain and articulation.
As a gigging musician, I use my gear almost every weekend, this bass included. My rig includes a Carvin BX5210 (500W 2x10 combo), Crown XLS602 power amp, 2x10 and 1x15 extension cabs, Korg AX10B effects pedal and AKG wireless instrument system. Depending on the gig, I will use the combo alone, or with one or both of the other cabs and/or the Crown amp to get the SPL's I need. I play smooth jazz to heavy metal and all things in between. I have yet to be unable to use this bass for any gig.
Action, Fit & Finish — 5
As noted, I did put a good amount of time and effort in refining the instrument. Many before me have stated the same thing, that these basses are rough out of the box and made to allow the owner to make them their own. Do not get me wrong, these are solid, tone machines and hold the promise of a bass that can hold their own against any costing well into the four figures.
The most notable issue is the lack of fine detailing and profiling. MAny other wishbass owners report the same thing. From my perspective, Steve has no way of knowing your specific preferences and produces these basses to allow the owner to make them into the ideal instrument they desire.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I play my bass almost every weekend. Even though there is no truss rod, and I reside in New England, there is no issue with reliability or durability. My band mates and I joke that the bass could double as a serious weapon! Simply put this thing is solid and a serious instrument.
Tese basses are built to last, without the nedd of a truss rod. As such, the necks are not thin and narrow like several retail brands. The closest neck profile I have experienced from a retail bass is a Warwick. Now, Steve does offer a truss rod option, but discourages it feeling any metal in the instrument alters the natural resonance of the wood.
Overall Impression — 8
I do not ever want to discourage someone from buying something. Just be aware that a Wishbass is unique and is best owned by those with some luthier skills to coax out a world class instrument. Remember shaping, finishing and electronics installation account for serious labor expense. If you are willing and able to take some of this upon yourself, buy a Wishbass and enjuy the reward.
In closing, this instrument, like any Wishbass, is best described as a "diamond in the rough." It is well made, solid, toneful and somewhat of a tone wood purist's concept. The minimal use of anything not wood is the central point. A variety of shapes and configurations is cool as well. Fretless is the only way these are built, so do not expect an easy time if you are a fretted loyalist. For those of you why are fretless afficianados with the appreciation for serious tone from quality woods, have the time and ambition to refine an instrument, you will be rewarded with one magnificent bass and a centerpiece of your gear that will yield countless positive comments and inquiries.