We previously reviewed an upright bass guitar from high-end luthiers Blast Cult, and were suitably impressed. Now, they’ve sent us a semi-acoustic take on a classic design from rock’s golden age, hand-built in London.
It’s expensive, but comes with a deluxe Midnight Gloss finish and celluloid pearloid binding to the body, f-holes and headstock – the basic Hollow Vee model is significantly cheaper. Let’s check it out.
If you’ve ever tried to wear or play a Flying V bass, comfort, balance, and all-round playability tend to play second fiddle to the overall look and aesthetic – we’re talking pose-ability here! Well, the Hollow Vee has all of that, but thankfully, it balances well on a strap, and its hollow construction facilitates plenty of playing time without leaving a dent in your shoulder.
In terms of portability on stage, it may be left wanting somewhat, and as a hollowbody it is open to knocks and dings with potential regularity, but there’s no denying its wow factor.
This bass is constructed from mahogany, with a maple top for the body and quartersawn maple used as the neck timber. The four-bolt neck attachment is solid and sturdy, and these elements alone point towards a throaty tone, a clear delivery and a certain degree of bounce that a bolt-on design tends to guarantee.
With no contouring at front or back, fingerstyle players may find their usual style a little challenging to implement, but pick players who wear the bass low will find it comfortable.
The rounded neck profile certainly gives the player a solid chunk of wood to hold onto, and with its sleek feel and only 19 frets, the whole neck is easy to navigate.
The level of finishing is professional, while smart touches such as the use of coins on the neck joint, a three-ply black scratchplate, and aluminium and carbon fibre position markers on the front and side are certainly individual, although the side dots might be a little too small, especially if the bass is worn low.
The volume and tone controls are on the upper side of the lower horn, and the jack socket is on the underside of the upper one: at least these features are out of the player’s way, but they aren’t easily accessible at speed should you need to make adjustments on the fly.
Still, there are only so many placement options on a bass design such as this. Chrome hardware has been used throughout, with a Gibson bridge and Hipshot Ultralite tuners.
Sounds and Playability
Clearly, the hollowbody design has a major effect on the overall tone. Played acoustically, the Hollow Vee resonates and sustains with some authority: you can feel this through the back of the body. The clarity of tone is quite evident, no doubt helped by the ebony fingerboard, and despite the physicalities required from the design, the bass is very playable.
The handwound 54 Tele Bass single-coil pickup provides a warmly rounded bottom end, mixed with a raspy low-mid performance. With the tone control essentially turned off, you can easily make use of the rich, plummy tones on offer – but in rock-out mode, you’ll want to open that tone control right up to get the full attack.
Employing fingerstyle playing dampens some of the natural harshness, but swapping over to a pick, the attack sounds mightily impressive. Tonally, the Hollow Vee is not too dissimilar from a high-quality Precision: that characteristic thump and natural midrange should stand it in good stead in a full band mix.
The sizeable headstock easily counterbalances the large body design, and when placed on a strap, the bass sits at a comfortable playing angle. The 19mm string spacing at the bridge and 42mm nut width offer the player plenty of room to dig in, so if you like a tightly spaced string set and narrow nut width, this bass probably won’t appeal to you.
The materials and craftsmanship here are strong selling points, and Blast Cult have performed a fine job of taking a classic design and making it fit into the 21st century. Its build quality and level of finishing are to be applauded, but of course I can understand players questioning the pricetag.
Let’s just agree that many of us would pay serious money to have a bass like this hand-made for us, with scope for personal touches in the design process. We can dream, right?
- PRICE: $4395
- MADE IN: UK
- COLOR: Midnight black, gloss lacquer finish
- BODY: Mahogany, maple top
- NECK: Quartersawn maple, 32” scale, gloss finish
- NECK JOINT: Bolt-on, four-bolt attachment
- NUT WIDTH: 42mm
- FINGERBOARD: Ebony
- FRETS: 19
- PICKUPS: Blast Cult handwound 54 Tele Bass single-coil pickup, fitted to a P-90 dog-ear surround
- ELECTRONICS: Passive
- CONTROLS: Volume, tone
- HARDWARE: Chrome hardware, Gibson bridge, Hipshot Ultralite machine heads
- WEIGHT: 7.05 lbs / 3.2 kg
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: Hard case
- LEFT-HAND OPTION AVAILABLE: As a custom order
- CONTACT: Blast Cult