Launched in 1997 and designed personally by sometime Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna bassist Jack Casady, this semi-hollow-bodied bass guitar has enjoyed more or less consistent acclaim since then for its tones, feel, and build.
As the lack of a solid body and its resolutely old-school look has led some of our community to assume that the Epiphone JC lacks versatility, our mission today is to take a deep dive into the performance of the 2021 version, and see what it can actually do. Into the psychedelic rabbit-hole we go...
Without wishing to sound too much like a dewy-eyed nostalgist, this bass feels like an artifact from another era when you slide it out of its gigbag.
The shallow, wide body occupies more of a footprint against your abdomen than usual, assuming you’re accustomed to regular Fender-sized body types – one benefit of this being that you feel the tones as much as hear them.
The acoustic performance of the EJC is there, courtesy of those F-holes, but the volume is low, so don’t expect anyone to hear you outside the room. Made of maple with a single-ply cream binding, the body oozes vintage cool, thanks to that white scratchplate and the technicolor blue finish.
The neck feels more modern, with the expected 34” scale, 20 frets, and mahogany solidity making your fretting hand instantly at home. There’s a chunky headstock, again signalling its heritage with cloverleaf machine heads, but no tendency towards neck-dive for a change.
The bridge is functional, and the two gold volume and tone control knobs are familiar, while that quirky three-position rotary selector – chicken-head design and all – begs you to plug in.
Sounds And Playability
Presumably aware that people might write this off as a traditional bass that only makes traditional sounds, the designers at Epiphone have equipped the JC with a humbucker that we’re told is dialled up for maximum clarity.
Roll the tone on, and you’ll soon agree that they’ve done their job admirably, with an audible clank. Sure, it’s no Rickenbacker, but there’s enough top-end zing and sparkle here for most practical purposes. However, the rotary control – or VariTone impedance shifting circuit, to give it its full name – is the place to go if you’re looking for a wide tone range.
This allows you to select a range of impedances from circa 50 to around 500 ohms, which may sound irrelevant to anyone who doesn’t work in a physics lab, but means in real-world terms that you can add significant amounts of crispy punch to your sound.
Max it out if you’re soloing, or having trouble cutting through those pesky guitars; stick to a less glassy setting if you’re after a less present tone; stick with the default lowest setting if you’re in need of some trad thud.
It’s simple but useful; without it, the Casady bass would definitely lack some user-friendly versatility. All this aside, this bass is a playable and solid instrument.
The neck is perfectly navigable, even if asking it to deliver big tones in the upper register is tricky. The fingerboard feels slender in contrast to that big ol’ body, but that doesn’t stop the instrument doing its job. In design and production terms, the JC performs just as efficiently as it did in ’97.
- PRICE: $799 / £749
- MADE IN: Korea
- BODY: Layered maple with single-ply cream binding, Sparkling Burgundy and Faded Pelham Blue finishes available
- NECK: Mahogany, 34” scale
- FINGERBOARD: Indian Laurel, 20 frets
- PICKUPS: JCB-1 low-impedance humbucker
- CONTROLS: Volume, tone, three-way rotary selector
- HARDWARE: Die-cast tuners, adjustable bridge and tailpiece
- CASE/GIGBAG INCLUDED: No
- LEFT-HANDED OPTION: No
- CONTACT: Epiphone