A portable bass with no audible sense that there’s anything portable about it is a pretty good goal to shoot for, right? While there have been many claims to the throne over the years, including Steinberger and the DeArmand Ashbury bass (which is by far the closest, with it’s rubber strings and short, short scale; I’ve actually owned one for a long time), the solid-body uBass is a really fine piece that just plain works, at a fantastic price.
I hadn’t gotten a chance to play one of the hollow-body instruments that came first in the line, but I know players who have them and rave about them wildly. I had a chance to get a hold of one of the solid-body models when I was in a local music store and my interest was definitely piqued. When approached to review one of these, I was eager to do it.
With an overall length of just 28 inches, and a scale length of 21, this is truly an easily portable instrument. However, just like when anything that seems to be too good to be true comes along, the importance is totally placed on how good it SOUNDS. Luckily, the uBass delivers. The strings are an exclusive polyurethane, which feel a little weird at first (they’re just pretty thick, at first touch) but get better under your fingers really quickly. The electronics are a simple Shadow piezo system (which operates with NO battery at all! You just have to plug an adapter into the wall with the other end in the 1/4″ jack, and in around 90 seconds it will be charged. That’s pretty wild), with knobs for volume and 2-band EQ (I’m told this is a step up from the hollow model, which has no tone controls at all, it all has to be done from a preamp).
The uBass is useful for a lot of different kinds of music, but the rather quick decay of the string resonance makes it especially cool for R&B and jazz-type music, where a more muted sound is called for. Testing it out in the studio, it was very easy to get a clear, crisp sound that thumps really well at the same time. It’s not terribly hard to get it to sit in a nice place of the mix.
Another nice feature of the uBass, really an improvement over previous models using synthetic strings, is how well it stays in tune and that the intonation is good.
Overall, the solid-body model of the uBass is a fine instrument with a unique sound that you’d be hard pressed to find anything else to quickly plug in and play comparatively. It’s a serious musical instrument, but is a truly fun pleasure to play.
David LaBruyere is a bassist, producer, and songwriter based out of Nashville, TN. David has an extensive list of associates, having played at one time or another with John Mayer, Dave Barnes, Shawn Mullins, Vigilantes of Love, David Ryan Harris, Andy Davis, Sara Evans, and many others. He maintains a busy studio and live schedule in Nashville.