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Review: Retronix JBD-800B 4-string

Trevor Anema
Bass Frontiers Staff Contributor

retronix_mainTake a visionary designer/artist and one of the top 125 luthiers in the world*, whose credits include work for Gibson, Tobias, Steinberger and Warrior and put them together. What do you get? The answer is John Backlund and Bruce Bennett of J. Backlund Designâ„¢, makers of the Retronix line of guitars and basses.

When I first opened the hefty-hard case labeled Retronix, I was a bit shocked at what I saw inside of it. Lying in front of me was a retro-futuristic, atomic-rocket piece of art that looked like it should be hanging on the wall of a 50’s rock n roll diner. My first instinct was to take it outside and see if it could fly, then I remembered it is a bass guitar, not a spaceship.

After the initial awe of its appearance had set in, I plugged it into a Mesa Boogie full stack set flat to see what it could do. Back to shock and awe again. I’m not sure what I expected, but to say it exceeded my expectations is an understatement. This bass has power! Not to mention lightning fast, space-age action, making it extremely easy to move around the fingerboard.

Sleek, light-weight design and super solid construction make this bass a dream to play. Like you would expect with a badass 4-string spaceship, this bass offers a ton of options. The test bass I used had three passive, Seymour Duncan, single coil pickups. However, two and three humbucking configurations are available. A five-way selector switch, volume and master tone knob allow for maximum range in tone selection. I should note here, that I could not believe how many killer tones this bass had in it. I found it to be the most impressive feature the bass had to offer, which is saying a lot!

I am a huge fan of Hipshot® bridges and tuning machines (they are what I have on my own custom bass) and they come standard on every JBD-800B. A 6-bolt Maple neck with dual purpleheart tone bars reach a 34” scale with 22 medium-jumbo nickel-silver frets and allows the option for a Maple or Rosewood fingerboard. The bass also has a dual action truss rod, bone nut and a variety of different colors and body woods to choose from. It is not currently offered in a 5-string model, but an optional Hipshot® Bass D Tuna is available for those killer lower notes. The only thing this bass doesn’t offer that I wish it did is a locking input jack, although it does have a very cool recessed Electro-socket®.

Before I knew it a couple hours had passed and I was still “testing” it out. I was left with a great impression of the JBD-800B and the team at J. Backlund Design™. They managed to build a phenomenal instrument that sounds as unique as it looks. Most importantly, it reminded me, no matter how long you have been doing this, playing bass is about having fun!

Find out more or build your one of your own at www.jbacklund.com

*according to author, Robert Shaw in the book Electrified: The Art of the Contemporary Electric Guitar

Standard Features
• Scale length: 34 inches
• Frets: 22 jumbo nickel-silver
• 6-bolt Maple neck with Rosewood or Maple fingerboard
• Dual purpleheart tone bars in neck
• Pearloid pickguard
• Seymour Duncan pickups
• Five-way pickup selector switch
• Hipshot® Ultralite tuning machines
• Hipshot® Bridge
• Recessed Electrosocket®
• All US-made electronics
• Metallic paint finish
• Dot inlay and side dots
• Bone nut
• Dual-action truss rod

Available Options
• Body woods: Mahogany, Korina, Alder
• Neck woods: Mahogany, Maple, Korina
• Fingerboard Option: Figured Maple, Ebony
• Inlay: Fang inlays and side-markers in Pearl or Ebony
• Single- or multi-stage high-quality paint finishes
• Hipshot® Bass D Tuner
• Pickguard Finishes: call for availability
• G&G® snakeskin custom case
• Ultimate Support® GS-100 guitar stand

Pricing – Standard models start at $849 and include a hardcase

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