Review by Matt O’Donnell
Bass Frontiers Managing Editor
It’s hard finding the ideal bag to carry your bass around in. Admit it. Most of us try a few different things, whether it be carrying around the big rectangle case or just saying “screw it” and throwing it in whatever flimsy thing is closest on their bass to get the few miles in their car to their next gig. You get over it, you move on to the next.
You know what’s even harder? Finding the ideal bag to carry and protect TWO of your basses. Oh, and asking that bag not to fall apart in the middle of O’Hare International Airport is something else that would probably qualify as rather important. Right, you probably don’t want to do it anyway so you don’t end up with a hunched back by age 29.
No worries, the folks at Mono have gotten this thing locked down.
We were first made aware of Mono cases from Owen Biddle, formerly the bass player for The Roots. Here’s a guy who, at the time, was running all over NYC doing Jimmy Fallon, then rushing to get to that next gig, not to mention the 30-50 dates a year The Roots still play on the road. Owen swears by his bag, and so we asked Mono to send one over for us to try and beat up.
My first impression of the Mono M80 dual bass case is that it just plain looked cool, to start with. I’ll get to the latter half of this in a sec, but this is definitely an even 50/50 split on fashion and function. The case they sent is the Jet Black model, but it also comes in a Steel Grey. There’s a cool grey/white arc on the large front pocket, and some small orange accents throughout the whole bag. The nice thing about the aesthetics of the whole situation is that everything that’s functional is made to look great. The symbiosis is incredible.
So, carrying around a second bass is pretty much a necessity when you’re in the studio or on stage. But there were two things that have always kept me from seriously considering the idea of a double bag. One is that I know what it’s like on my shoulders to even carry one bass around sometimes, in terms of weight. Also, it’s hard to maneuver public transportation, bars, the inside of a Starbucks, or anywhere else with a bag that’s going to make you 3 feet wider from front to back. How did it do after it passed the attractiveness test?
For my test of the bag, I put my Fodera Emperor 5-string in the front compartment, and my Rob Allen MB-25 in the back spot. I mean, come on, having a semihollow/piezo/nylon string fretless tuned EADGC is exactly what everyone wants their backup bass to be……….right? I won’t lie, for how weightless the Rob Allen can be, it felt like maybe I was cheating for a little bit on pushing the weight requirement to its limit. So, I threw my single-cut Stambaugh short-scale 6-string in the back for a day or two (that thing is a big, solid hunk of wood). I found that I didn’t notice much of a difference from what my Fodera feels like if it’s in a single bag with a few books in the front pocket with either of them. In addition, the shoulder straps, while not super-cushy, were incredibly supportive. They held the case in a good posture position on my back, and the straps (like all the other handles) are held on by military-grade steel rivets. Believe me, I held the thing from every handle it had, and jerked it as hard as I could, and nothing budged.
As far as thickness goes, I was in for a real treat. The M80 is a nearly perfectly 6″ front to back. For comparison’s sake to another high-quality bag that people like that I had immediate access to, that’s only 2″ thicker than the Incase single bass bag, and nearly 1.5″ less than their double bag. Those are dimensions for a double bag that I certainly can’t complain about. Also, I’ve walked around the honky-tonk district of Nashville with the bag, weaving through some bar crowds and didn’t need to think too hard about compensating for what was on my back, so that’s a good sign, too.
One of the features I was immensely impressed with was the neck brace inside of each compartment. There are quite a few bags that have block pads to keep the neck supported when the case is closed, forming a pretty good support from the front to the back. The M80 goes one giant leap further by adding a velcro flap that goes around the front of the neck, ensuring that the neck won’t move from side-to-side, in addition from front to back. There’s also padding in the main compartment that disperses pressure around the case, so that there’s no impact on the strap button on the end.
The inside of the front pocket is also a wonder. The pocket itself recedes pretty far into the front of the case, so it won’t bulge too badly if you put a bunch of stuff in it. It has a really cool velcro strap that you can use to “hang” a coiled instrument cable. Major cool points for that. I was able to fit three 1″ binders with charts for different gigs into the front without any hassle of getting it closed. When you unzip the front pocket, it pulls pretty far open. More good.
One very important thing to me was Mono’s claim of waterproofedness on the M80. I’ve had multiple bags that I looked at and thought “oh, this will do well in the rain”, and they were still soggy a couple of days after a Boston deluge. So, if Mono chooses to go out of their way to promote this feature, it was sure getting tested. The test? A power shot from a garden hose nozzle. That’s right. I put two VERY expensive instruments in the bag and used the highest pressure I could get out of a garden hose on it. Yeah, this thing is waterproof. No questions asked.
I won’t detail all the other……details…..but, this bag is thoughtfully designed right back to how strong the piping is on the edges. That stuff isn’t going to tear up any time soon. I did have one zipper handle pop off once, but I got it back on pretty easy. Oh, and then I tried very hard to replicate it with the other zippers and couldn’t do it. So, we’ll call that an anomaly.
This bag has been through a few months of gigs, traveling in my car, a trailer, and the underside of a bus, and there hasn’t been a single problem. There’s not even been any cosmetic wear on the bag at all! Oh, and I flew this bag home for Christmas and let them gate check it for 4 flights. All good.
I will be the first person to tell you that the M80 dual bass bag is pricey. It comes in at $365 list ($289.99 street). However, I will be a sixteenth-note ahead of first to tell you that I could put three times that price on the amount of effort and thought that I’ve spent trying to find a bag as durable and reassuring as the Mono M80.
Did I mention that it looks as good as it protects?
The Mono M80 Dual Bass case is available directly from Mono at http://www.monocase.com, or from many other fine musical instrument supply retailers.