Human Base Roxy B5 Bass
Human Base, humanbaseusa.com
Originally published in Guitar World, February 2010
The Roxy B5 is a versatile ax with high-end components and solid construction.
Human Base is a boutique bass maker from Germany that builds roughly 60 handmade instruments per year. Due to the company’s location and limited output, its instruments are hard to find on the American market, but Human Base’s more accessible Asian-import line has taken hold in the U.S. since the introduction of its BaseX.oc4 and BaseX.oc5 models in 2007.
The manufacturer’s newest offering, the Roxy B Series, is available in four- and five-string models. While the basses feature high-quality materials and components manufactured overseas, experienced luthiers in a U.S. factory perform the final setup and inspection. The country of origin and the limited color choices (natural or black) keep the street prices below a grand, which makes the Roxy a great alternative to the usual suspects.
At first glance the Roxy might look like a no-frills ax, but it has several distinguishing elements, like a graphite nut and a zero fret, features that are typically found on more expensive instruments. The zero fret keeps the tone of the open strings consistent with fretted notes, while the graphite nut makes for hitch-free tuning. The bridge is a heavy slab of metal and has a quick-release design that makes string changing quick and efficient. The bridge saddles are adjustable for height, intonation and string spacing.
The electronics package is also a cut above. The German-made Delano Xtender HE/S oval humbucker not only looks way cool but also has a clear, extended-range response that gives the Roxy tons of sparkle. The pickup cover has a neat built-in thumb rest, too. While the pickup placement and Series/Parallel switch bring to mind the Music Man Sting-Ray 5, the Roxy sounds nothing like that instrument, though you can get a huge range of sounds from it. The Glockenklang three-band preamp allows you to boost or cut 18db@18kHz for the highs, 9dB@550Hz for the mids and 14dB@40Hz for the lows. The high frequency is centered considerably higher than most onboard preamps, and the result is a bright and open tone. By popping the volume control’s push/pull pot, you can bypass the preamp for a darker, more traditional sound.
The Roxy’s contoured body is made of lightweight ash, and the open-pore matte finish lets the wood breathe and vibrate freely. The threepiece hard-rock maple neck has a slim, D profile that is 1 3/4 inches wide at the nut and opens up to 2 7/8 inches at the bridge for 3/4-inch string spacing. Many players will like the Roxy B5’s 34-inch scale length, but while the two-octave rosewood fingerboard offers clear access up to the 22nd fret, reaching the top two frets is a bit of a challenge. The six-bolt neck joint extends deep into the body, forming a rigid and secure coupling for vibration transfer.
The Roxy B5 has a split sonic personality. One side is ultra-modern and hi-fi, while the other is crunchy and organic, and the drastic tonal shift that the Series/Parallel switch offers effectively doubles the options. Although Glockenklang claims there is no difference between the passive tone and the preamp’s flat setting, I hear a very distinct high-frequency boost in Active mode. However, I don’t see this as a bad thing, since it makes the different tone signatures more distinct.
In Passive/Series mode, the Roxy has a warm grind, with well-pronounced low mids that are perfect for finger- or pick-style playing. In Passive/Parallel mode, a mid scoop occurs that invites slapping, albeit with a more subdued tone. Engaging the preamp turns the Roxy into a shiny beast. The Glock is inherently bright, but ample low-frequency boost is available to balance out the highs, and the mids ably fill in the gap. In Active/Series mode, the Roxy has an amazing fingerstyle tone that can drive even the loudest band. The preamp can dial in thunderous lows, but due to the pickup placement, the notes retain their focus. The highs offer a wide range of crispness, and the mids give the sound detail and articulation. Active/Parallel mode provides the quintessential modern slap tone: pumping lows, hollowed mids and crystal-like high end.
The Roxy is lightweight, well balanced and easy to play, though I wish it had better upper-fret access. It’s sort of a tease to have a 24th fret and not be able to reach it easily. That said, the bass has a tight and articulate B string, good note consistency throughout the fingerboard, and lots of tonal options, so the important stuff is all there.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Roxy B5 is a versatile ax with high-end components and solid construction. Active/Passive and Series/Parallel switches offer loads of control, making this one bass that can cover a broad range of styles. With its reasonable price, the Roxy B5 is a fair contender that can stand up against more familiar bass guitar offerings.
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