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Anaconda HE-4 Hydra Elite review

Is this custom Kahler-equipped bass a fearsome creature from ancient legend, or a tangerine dream?

Anaconda Hydra Elite
(Image: © Anaconda )

Our Verdict

The price won’t suit everyone, but this is a bespoke instrument, and its quality is tangible. Whether most players require this level of tonal tinkering is debatable – but the results are very impressive indeed.

For

  • Tone range is state of the art.
  • An impressive alternative to the norm.
  • Top quality build.
  • Customizable.

Against

  • A little over-featured for some players.

According to Greek mythology, the terrifying Hydra possessed three heads, so it’s fitting that this bass has three pickups.The custom model we have here goes two better, and actually has five, two of them being invisible. 

With this many tone options on offer, the Hydra is a truly formidable beast, based on Anaconda’s Ultra J model and full of left-field features– including that rarely-seen bit of kit, a whammy bar. What do you get for your money?  

Build Quality

The tangerine gloss might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but with the single-ply cellulose tortoiseshell scratchplate, the colorful aesthetic – paired with the gold hardware and dark 24-fret rosewood fingerboard – grows on you. 

The lacquer finishing is immaculate, and with contouring front and back, respectable cutaways and swamp ash as a body timber, player comfort has been firmly addressed. The Kahler tremolo bridge adds significantly to the weight of the bass, which is almost 10 pounds, but on the bright side, this does mean that headstock bias isn’t an issue. 

The neck attachment is solid, with a five-bolt arrangement, and the roasted flame maple neck has been afforded an oil finish, giving the bass a timbery, organic feel. With a slim D-shaped neck profile, 40mm nut width, and adjustable string spacing at the bridge, where anywhere between 15mm and 20mm is available, this is a neck designed for player comfort. 

Although the front-facing of the rosewood fingerboard is clean, with no position markers, Luminlay markers along the side offer the player some navigational guidance. Truss rod adjustments are made at the base of the neck.

Anaconda Hydra Elite Bass

(Image credit: Anaconda Basses)

Gold hardware has been used throughout, with Hipshot Ultralite elephant-ear machine heads and a Hipshot Bass Xtender for those ‘lower than low’ moments. The control set offered by the 9-volt East Uni-Pre 5, which has been matched with three Delano SBC 4 HE/S pickups, may look a little complicated – but it becomes obvious when you use it. 

You’ve got volume (push/pull to switch between active and passive modes), pickup balance, stacked bass and treble controls, stacked middle and mid-sweep controls, a three-way pickup selector, and an active/passive tone control. 

The remaining two controls handle volume and tone for a pair of acoustic pickups requested by this customer: These are situated in the neck, around the second fret, and underneath the pickups. They’re routed out to a second jack socket on the side of the body.

Sounds And Playability

As you can imagine, there is a lot of tonal territory to discover here. The natural tone of the instrument is warm, with a throaty spring in the upper midrange, and its natural resonance and sustain are very much to the fore. 

Plugged in and with the EQ set flat, you can’t ignore what a high-performance bass this is – and even with the tone controls available, the Uni-Pre circuit can be adjusted further via jumper settings on the board for even more options. The pickup selector offers three settings – down (neck and bridge pickup panning), center (middle and bridge pickup), and up (middle pickup only). 

Anaconda Hydra Elite

(Image credit: Anaconda )

Naturally, this creates specific tonal characteristics, but the extensive EQ gives the player a vast array of colors to add to each pickup setting. There’s no lack of power across any of the EQ frequencies, and with a considerable amount of punch, your bass tone won’t go unnoticed.

The acoustic pickups offer another tonal option entirely, and although these might not prove useful for every player, this customer clearly knows how they want this bass to sound. In practice, their response is lively, although the neck pickup is the quieter of the two.

Despite its weight, the bass is incredibly playable. The neck is sleek, with no evident sharp frets, the action is near-perfect, and the attention to detail is apparent. Although this bass has been designed for a specific player, it feels very comfortable to wear and play.

Throw in high-quality hardware, circuitry, and features, and it becomes a winning combination. 

Conclusion

The price won’t suit everyone, but this is a bespoke instrument, and its quality is tangible. Whether most players require this level of tonal tinkering is debatable – but the results are very impressive indeed.

Specs

  • PRICE: from £3,055 / $3,320
  • MADE IN: UK
  • COLOUR: Orange, gloss finish
  • BODY: Swamp ash
  • NECK: Roasted fl ame maple, 34” scale
  • NECK JOINT: Bolt-on, five-bolt attachment
  • NUT WIDTH: 40mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood
  • FRETS: 26
  • PICKUPS: Delano SBC 4 HE/S humbucking pickups x 3
  • ELECTRONICS: Active John East Uni-Pre 5
  • CONTROLS: Volume (push/pull for active/passive), pickup pan, stacked bass/treble, stacked mid/mid-sweep, pickup selector switch, active/passive tone control, acoustic pickups volume, acoustic pickups tone
  • HARDWARE: Kahler tremolo bridge, Hipshot open-gear Ultralite machine heads and Bass Xtender
  • WEIGHT: 4.4 kg / 9.7 lbs
  • CASE/GIG-BAG: Hiscox case (£80)
  • LEFT-HANDED OPTIONS: No
  • CONTACT: Anaconda Basses