Kala S-U-B Solidbody U-BASS
Small Electric Bass with Poly Strings, Built-in Pickup, and Custom Gig Bag
Kala has done it again! They came up with a real winner with the U-Bass bass ukelele, a very cool traditional-looking instrument with an unexpectedly huge sound. Now they've introduced a solid-body version of that groundbreaking bass, and we've got 'em!
This new S-U-B bass is even more comparable to the old Ashbory basses (from Guild and DeArmond - see sidebar), since both the Ashbory and the S-U-B are solid-body instruments. However, as someone who owns an Ashbory bass, I can confidently tell you that the U-Bass is more ergonomic, easier to play in tune, more solidly built, and better sounding than the Ashbory.
The DeArmond reissues of the Ashbory, particularly, feel a bit too "toy-like." The Kala, on the other hand, is a well-made instrument with quality components (and made of wood - a big step up from the "plastic-y" Ashbory). The strings are also far less "sticky" and far more durable (the strings on the Ashbory - especially the "G" - were notoriously prone to breakage). And with built-in pickups and an onboard active preamp, it sounds really good, with big, blooming sound that belies its small size.
Just like the surprising "acoustic" version of the U-Bass, this is a very BIG sounding little instrument (scale length = 21"). And while other musicians may scoff when you first pull it out of its case, they'll quickly change their tune when you plug it in and start shaking the walls!
Build quality is very good, and the SUB features a poplar body, and a fretted maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and nut. The pickup system is an active system by Shadow, with 2-band EQ and volume control. The bass includes a padded gig bag.
Features and Comments:
|You may or may not be familiar with the Guild Ashbory Bass, a very short -- 18 inch! -- scale fretless electric bass with silicone rubber strings. This diminuative, odd-looking bass instrument was later reissued as the DeArmond Ashbory Bass, through Fender. Bob owns one of the originals, and Mark has one of the reissues -- and they are kind of fun! Nobody expects such big blooming bass notes to come out of an instrument not much more than two feet long. But they've always been a little clumsy to play, and intonation is tricky on a small instrument with fat, mushy strings, even with the visible fret lines (which are printed on a sticker!)
- the Strings are polyurethane and are easy to play.
- FRETS!! Ok, if you know me from reading our site, you know I'm a fretless sort of guy. However, playing in tune is enough of a challenge on a 34 inch (bass guitar) or 42 inch (upright bass) scale instrument, and if you've ever played the fretless Ashbory you know how tough it is to be in tune on a much shorter scale! Plus:
- You can't hear the frets -- which is to say that fingers on synthetic strings against frets sound fretless. It's a warm and organic sound, but with clean intonation!
- I found that getting "mwah" on the U-Bass fretless acoustic model was rather difficult. I don't know why, but rolling your finger, such as you'd do on a fretless electric bass, did not produce the expected sound.
- It looks and feels like a real pro-level instrument, basically a small electric bass guitar. The finishes of each instrument look very sharp, and fit and finish is very good.
- Quality Hipshot-Licensed tuning keys are geared and quite precise.
- Shadow active pickup system with volume control and 2-band EQ provides balanced, full sound.
- The amplified sound is round and fat, but with definition and with a good and full frequency range. The more complex tones from these polyurethane strings (compared to the Ashbory's silicone strings) are more satisfying to my ear.
Does it sound like an upright bass? Not really, but it's a lot closer to the URB "vibe" than a typical electric bass. It's got a big, round, warm sound thanks to the unusual strings. It comes in your choice of three finishes (see photo at left):
- Satin Red
- Satin Black
- Gloss 3-Tone Sunburst
- Scale Length: 21" (Most regular electric basses are around 34")
- Recommended Tuning: EADG (like standard electric or upright bass)
- Body Width: 9.25"
- Body Length (from upper horn): 13.5"
- Body Depth: 1.75"
- Neck (Nut to Body): 13"
- Fretboard Width (nut): 1.75"
- Fretboard Width (end): 2 3/8"
- Fretboard Length: 15.75"
- Body Connects at 16th Fret, lower cutaway allows access to full 22 frets
- Custom Hipshot-Licensed Tuners
- Passive Shadow Pickup System w/4 Compensated Saddle and 2-band active EQ System
- Rosewood Fingerboard, nut and Bridge
- Poplar Body, Maple Bolt-On Neck
- INCLUDES Deluxe Custom Padded Gig Bag
- Limited Lifetime Warranty against defects and materials, 1 year on electronics and tuning machines.