Since the '80s, Spector has moved much of their production to outside of the US, either to the Czech Republic where its Euro-branded bass guitars are made, or to one of several factories in Asia, where its new NS Dimension and Ethos ranges are manufactured – in Korea, to be precise.
Several of New York’s bass-making elite have followed a similar business model – so what’s the outcome in the case of the venerable Spector brand?
The good news is that after some quality time with this new Ethos, I can report that the standards of build and finish from Spector’s Asian division seem to be as good as ever.
This new Ethos is available as a four- or five-string, and in two finishes: firstly, ‘interstellar gloss’ which is an interesting blue, red and purple fade, and the one we have here, a ‘super faded black gloss’ which is neither black nor particularly faded, but rather a fairly uniform mid-tobacco brown.
Nomenclature aside, this glossy finish shows off the figured burl poplar used for the top of the main body maple wings.
These are fixed either side of the three-piece figured maple through-neck. At the headstock end, there’s no volute, and with wood also removed here for the truss rod access here too, this could potentially be a structurally weak area, especially given the slender dimensions of the four-string neck at the nut end.
We assume Spector has addressed this, however. The fretboard is a real highlight of this bass. It’s a perfect piece of rosewood; smooth, flat and evenly colored, and the 24 medium frets are well finished and neatly dressed without being over-polished.
The glossy black hardware consists of generic M4-style sealed tuners and a chunky bridge – no real surprises there, just good-quality, functional components. There are lovely details such as the knurled aluminum controls, an immaculately fitted brass nut, and Luminlay dot markers on the edge of the board.
Inside the control cavity, although it’s not as neatly laid out as some, is the superb Aguilar OBP-2 preamp capsule. This means that control-wise, you get a master volume, pickup pan, bass (+/-18dB of boost and cut at 40Hz) and treble (+/- 16dB of boost and cut at 6.5 kHz).
This is such a simple, elegant preamp layout and is, for me, the perfect balance of simplicity and versatility, especially when allied to the P/J configuration of the pickups.
Sounds And Playability
There are few basses more ergonomically or anatomically well designed than a modern Spector bass.
That gorgeous body shape was originally penned by Ned Steinberger for Spector way back in the '70s – hence the NS in the model name. Strap on the Ethos and you’ll find that the light weight and perfect balance make this a comfortable bass to wear.
If you’re coming from years of playing a Jazz- or Precision-style bass, the fact that the neck joins the body way up around the 19th fret is a little disorientating for a while. Once you’re used to it, though, it’s a freeing experience – and allied to the sculpted heel joint, playing right up to the second octave is very tempting.
Plugged in, the quality of the electronics is immediately apparent. It’s no surprise that the tone is bright, clean and modern, but there’s a depth and clarity to the low end here which is rare, and the preamp layout gives you the opportunity to find the right sound quickly and instinctively.
On the front split-coil pickup, even with the EQ set flat, there’s an almost passive pureness and clarity to the treble frequencies – rich with harmonics, but glassy and clean.
Likewise, the deep, sonorous low end cuts through, adding weight without ever sounding confused or undefined. Mixing in the bridge pickup adds depth and definition to the mid frequencies, and using the pickup pan control gives a wide palette of rich, refined bass tones.
Use of the powerful Bass and Treble pots allows accurate and linear adjustment of the overall EQ. This is definitely not a bass where you’ll want to crank everything up to full – there are so many nuances here.
You’d expect a bass made with these high-quality timbers and top-spec Aguilar electronics to sound good, and it really does. However, the new NS Ethos is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Spector’s years of experience in making some of the best basses available really shines through. I noticed the word ‘refined’ kept appearing in my notes; I think that sums things up nicely.
- PRICE: $1799.99 / £1,555
- MADE IN: Korea
- BODY: Maple with burl poplar top
- NECK: Maple, 34” scale
- NECK JOINT: Through neck
- NUT WIDTH: 40mm
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood
- FRETS: 24
- PICKUPS: Aguilar AG-P (neck), Aguilar AG-J-HC (bridge)
- ELECTRONICS: Aguilar OBP-2 active preamp
- CONTROLS: 2 x pickup volumes, Bass and Treble cut/boost
- HARDWARE: Gloss black
- WEIGHT: 8.4 lbs
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: Yes
- LEFT-HANDED OPTION AVAILABLE? No
- CONTACT: Spector