I was doing a metal session for an upcoming Recording Review / Toontrack contest. The bass player for the band brought in one of those SX basses from Rondo Music. Yes, I’m talking about the basses that cost $150 AFTER shipping. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve had excellent experience with the Agile guitars from Rondo, but no one I knew ever felt ballsy enough to swing for one of the ultra-budget low end generators.
Who Is This Review For?
This review is NOT for robo serious bass players who were never quite happy with their Tobias or Musicman Stringray and therefor upgraded to some $4,000 exotic thingy. If you’ve played on more than 15 bass amps in your life, this review isn’t for you.
This review is for the genre of recording human that I’m defining as the “self-recorder”. The self-recorder is the guy who is doing more-or-less all the production duties himself. A self recorder is probably good at one instrument and just fiddles around with others. When I get the rare free time to record my own junk / noise I fit into this realm.
So if you are just a guitar guy, drum guy, or piano girl and you wouldn’t mind having a dumb bass around for occasional low end duty, you are a self-recorder and this review is for you.
The bass looks fine. I don’t get too wound up about the looks of instruments, so as long as they aren’t pink, I don’t care. The flame thingy does appear fancier than you’d expect on a bass that costs less than my yearly toilet paper investment.
My first impression was the bass was extremely light….maybe a bit too light. This one was made of alder, which I guess explains it’s tendency to want to float into space. As a dude who used to goof around on those old Peavey basses that were formally used as boat anchors back during the Spanish Armada days, I can say with confidence that I’d much rather play a show with a bass that was a bit too light than a bit too heavy. Then again, I don’t have a confidence problem, so you won’t catch me playing bass live at all.
(I don’t have a self-destructive need to drive my car off a cliff (drummers) and I don’t have a self-destructive need to die via razorblades due to my relationship with my mother (singers). So that only leaves guitar playing. You better keep your girlfriend on a leash!)
My immediate thought when playing was, “Damn! This action is LOW!” The bass dude said there was a buzz in the 6th fret, but I didn’t notice any issues when I was playing. I’ve devolved into keeping my fingers on the very right edge of the fret to avoid that same problem. Regardless, while I’m not a serious bass player by any stretch of the imagination, pentatonic runs flowed as easily as I can recall.
Bottom line: This thing plays extremely well.
This SX bass looked more or less like a Fender Jazz. I don’t know jack about what wood goes into a real Fender Jazz. However, this thing is clearly intended to be voiced like a Fender Jazz. As a dude who’s recorded probably a dozen Fender Jazz basses over the years, I’ve come to love it.
The Fender Jazz is to recording as McDonalds is to road trips. You can always count on it. They always have a bathroom that usually doesn’t have brown stuff dried on the wall. They are often open late. Even fat people who wish they were skinny can get salads. Your chances of getting mugged are seemingly smaller than some of the less-corporationey places to eat. There may be more interesting options out there, but when you’ve got 932 miles to go, you need to get back on the road. Basically, it’s hard to hate a Fender Jazz, even if eating it 30 straight days will kill you.
Note: I drifted from the metaphor quite a bit. Don’t over think that paragraph.
I had a dude who emailed me because his bass was dull and muddy and he wanted something more along the lines of Tool or Rage Against The Machine. Another honorable mention is the Butch Vig produced “Save The Sorrow” by AFI in 2003. The bass is THERE even on a laptop. There’s no telling what kind of expensive setup this help-needing dude had, but when I plugged $150 SX bass into my Sansamp, I immediately recognized that way-up-front clarity of a highly defined bass (aka Exactly What I Want!).
I’ve recorded Fender Jazz USA’s that did not sound this good. This could be do to a billion factors, but the simple fact is this thing immediately passed all my tests. In fact, I probably said 15 times during the day “Man! I love this bass sound!”.
Bottom line: I’m at a point in my music career where I can tell if an instrument is usable with 2 notes. It’s either exciting or it ain’t. This $150 SX is exciting. I’m bought one.
I have tuners that cost more than this SX bass. I have microphone volume knobs (preamps) that cost 15x as much as this thing. It’s a no brainer.
I can’t say anything about quality control, reliability, or durability. I’m hoping that I don’t get a dud when I order mine. Even if it takes three of them to find a good one, it’s still cheaper than a Mexican Fender Jazz Bass.
Update: I did order mine. It’s identical to the one in the review. Quality control based on the enormous sample of two seems to be dead on.
For Real Bass Players
A bass buddy of mine (Sam Carmack, the idiot who played bass on a big ol’ chunk of the Killer Home Recording Bass Interrogator Sessions) sat down with it last night. His rig is retarded. He seriously has seven switches on his Warwick and is more anal about bass tones than the last priest you jammed with. I’m sure some of you have used cars that cost less than his bass cabinet.
When he unplugged his heavily modded Warwick which I’m just gonna guess would cost you about $4,000 (who knows!) it was clear that the SX bass was a few notches in the boxy direction. I wouldn’t call it boxy. I’d just say the Warwick had a natural mean ass scooped thing going on. Of course, we didn’t change the tone controls one bit. I’m sure we fix that if we actually touched the amp. Some people would prefer that.
Sam tells ms that with a few simple upgrades in the usual (pickups, bridge, tuners, etc) that this SX bass can be a serious contender in bass nerd land. For my needs I’m not entirely sure I need to do any of that crap.
I needed a bass for self-recorder duties as well as you-never-know studio bass. I’m 100% confident that this SX bass is going to fit the bill. For a person who spends almost as much on bass crap as I do on mics and preamps it may need some help, but if you are that retarded your opinion doesn’t matter much anyway. (har har)