Bass guitars with an acoustic element can sometimes be difficult to love, with their perennial issues of unwieldy balance and limited tones hard to resolve unless you pay a hefty chunk of cash, which means you’re then reluctant to gig the instrument.
What we need from any acoustic bass guitar – and its electro-acoustic and acoustic-electric variants – is for it to be playable, with a decent tone range, and for it to be able to take a few knocks without breaking the bank.
This highly affordable Luna Guitars bass is the closest we’ve come to that ideal in some time.
Pick up the Tribal and your lower back immediately thanks you, as it only weighs 4.6 pounds (2.1 kg). The downside of playing a bass as lightweight as this normally means that the tones are weak, or that the thing will break in half when (not if) your intoxicated drummer kicks it across the room, but that’s not the case this time.
The usual acoustic features are here, with a set neck, 19 accessible frets of 22, generic tuners and a truss-rod visible through the soundhole. The simple bridge is balsamo, a dense hardwood; there’s a pop-out battery compartment next to the output socket; and we’re given the usual phosphor bronze strings.
There’s some headstock dive, but it’s not a deal-breaker, all of which adds up to a regular cheap acoustic package of the kind that we’ve been reviewing here for the last three decades.
Sounds and Playability
What makes the Tribal bass so much, much better than that mundane introduction is its electronics, which elevate the instrument to a much higher plane. It comes with Luna’s own SL3 preamp, which isn’t just the usual tuner, phase and EQ.
Switch it on to tune up, and it mutes the output before offering you an unexpectedly wide range of options.
While cheaper tuners simply point you in the direction of sharp or flat, this one tells you the note you’re playing, and also allows you to select notes by individual frequencies, an advanced feature that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
The tones are unusually broad, too. Truly subby bass for reggae players isn’t completely achievable: after all, this is an acoustic instrument, so the laws of physics still insist on a certain amount of scratchy treble in its sound. You’ll still be taken aback by the huge low-end boost of which the Tribal is capable, though, and the mids and treble boosts are very effective too.
The tiny controls don’t have central detentes, which might hinder bassists on a dark stage and/or in a ‘refreshed’ state, but they’re manageable. Try scooping the EQ to give your audience a battering at both ends of the spectrum – they’ll love it.
As for the instrument’s playability, which is usually the factor that makes bass players go back to a regular electric after a given time, there’s nothing to worry about here. The relatively narrow 3.6” (90mm) body and slippery neck finish mean that you don’t have to fight it, or walk away from a session with a dent in your picking-hand forearm, and the highest register is reasonably accessible thanks to the cutaway.
A thumb rest would have been useful, but then I always say that with acoustics: Resolve this by resting your thumb on the E string, or simply adopting the ol’ floating thumb technique.
For a relatively meagre outlay, you’re rewarded with a bass that is well designed and constructed, plus there’s a secret weapon in the form of the preamp. Together, these give you a range of tones that will suit more or less any situation, and considering how playable this bass is, that all adds up to a pretty phenomenal deal. Investigate with our recommendation.
- PRICE: $369
- MADE IN: China
- BODY: Eastern mahogany sides, spruce top
- NECK: Eastern mahogany, 34” scale
- NECK JOIN: Set neck
- FINGERBOARD: Balsamo, 22 frets
- PICKUP: Luna
- ELECTRONICS: Luna SL3 preamp
- CONTROLS: Volume, three-band EQ, tuner, Note, Pitch and Phase controls
- HARDWARE: Die-cast tuners, balsomo bridge
- WEIGHT: 4.6 lbs
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED?: Gigbag
- LEFT-HAND AVAILABLE?: No
- CONTACT: Luna Guitars (opens in new tab)