The ol' Battle Axe

The bass shown in the photo to the right has been my main axe for almost 12 years now. It's a pretty amazing instrument, with lots of unique features that make it the most gig-worthy and the best-sounding bass I've ever encountered.

My 6-string fretted GTB 356 Model was made by a US-based company called PBC that was located in Coopersburg, PA - they're no longer in business, but the basses are still made by Dave Bunker in Washington State. When I decided that a 6-string bass was going to be a necessity for Second Story, writing partner Scott and I took a trip up to PBC's factory store to check out their basses and manufacturing facility. (We had seen a couple of their basses and even talked to a rep at one of our local music stores.)

When we got there, they had a showroom full of basses - and LOTS of them were sixers. I picked up at least half a dozen while we were there, and they were quite nice; well-appointed, and very nicely finished (most, including my bass, have AAAA-grade flame-maple tops or better.) When I came across the bass I eventually bought, I knew instantly that it was the instrument I had to buy - it practically melted into my fingers. There are some instruments that you just KNOW were made for you, and this bass was one of them. While I was "cashing out" the bass, the guy also confided in me that the bass was originally built specifically for Allen Woody; but when he came to get it, a new model caught his eye and he took one of those instead.

All I know is: the bass is awesome.

  • Bookmatched AAAA figured Maple top
  • Patented Tension Free neck, 5 piece, Maple fretboard
  • EMG Dual Coil soapbars, EMG BTC Circuit, 18v (The bass came with the pickups; I upgraded it to the BTC preamp and the 18v system)
  • Individual "Through Body" Bridges in Gold plated solid machined Bell Brass (one for each string)

The Tension-free neck is the most interesting special feature on this bass. Rather than a traditional truss rod, the maple neck has a pair of channels routed through it; within these cavities lie two cold-rolled steel bars. All of the tension that the strings impart on the neck assembly are carried by the bars - not the wood. The manufacturers claim that this eliminates dead-spots, and allows for excellent adjustability and durability. All I can say is that the bass plays like buttah, and from the low B on the bottom string to the very highest notes up the C-string the bass has a balanced, even sound - octave to octave, string to string.

The other innovation is the high-mass bridge system; there's actually a separate through-body bridge assembly - made of bell brass - for each string, which ties into the massive tone plate on the back surface of the bass. It makes for a bit of added weight, to be sure - this bass is no lightweight - but it creates the ability for amazing sustain; and since each string has its own bridge, multiple notes played simultaneously ring out and sustain just as well as single notes do. There's just a tremendous amount of clarity and focus to the bass. It... just... sings.

Of course, visually the bass is striking - with its no-headstock design and very beautiful bookmatched top. And the headless design makes for some great ergonomic advantages as well. Firstly, the balance on this bass is amazing - where most six strings "neck-dive" because of the weight of all those tuners on the end of the neck, this bass just "hangs" in playing position with no effort. Also, not having a huge headstock makes the bass a lot more compact, which is valuable on the many crowded stages I've played on - I never accidentally whacked my singer in the head (though I thought about doing it on purpose more than a few times). And it makes for a smaller case, which is nice.

Clearly, I can talk a lot about this bass and go on forever. The maker is relatively unknown, but I'm a big fan and will hang onto this bass forever!

No comments: