Sunday, 3 April 2011

Hands-On with the Kala Hutch Hutchinson Signature Limited Edition uBass

I generally don’t do reviews of products–mainly because nobody sends me anything to review. If I’m interested in something, I have to go out and buy it and pay full retail.

And that’s exactly what I did with the Kala Hutch Hutchinson Signature Limited Edition uBass. I went out and bought one so I could not only review it here, but play it and enjoy it as I have my Mahogany uBass.

I first noticed the Double H (as I like to call it) in a video of Bakithi Kumalo at the Kala booth at the Winter NAMM 2011 show. It was hanging on the wall behind him. What caught my eye was the distinctive “slash” soundhole. I instantly fell in love with its looks. So I emailed Mike Upton at Kala and asked what it was, if it was available and how much it cost. I received a reply from Joy stating that it was a limited production signature model and that they had just sold their last two models to a retailer (who just happened to be near me). So I emailed the retailer and told them that Kala was sending them two Double Hs and to reserve one for me. The retailer confirmed that they were indeed on their way and put one aside for me.

Nearly two weeks of anticipation later, it finally shows up at my doorstep. I drag the box in, rip it open, unzip the gig bag–and there it is. The Double H in all its glory. I knew I would not be disappointed. And I wasn’t.

After letting the Double H warm up for a few hours (it traveled from Sunny California, to the cold and very snowy East Coast) I tuned it up and started plucking away. It sounded and felt great.

Since I already owned a Mahogany uBass for about six months or so, I sort of knew what
to expect from the Double H. The biggest surprise for me was that there were few differences between the Double H and the Mahogany. Since it is a signature model I was expecting something radically different. But I guess you really can’t improve on perfection, only tweak it a bit here and there. They both are made of Mahogany (with the Double H having a Spruce top glued on). They are exactly the same dimensions and 21″ scale. The strings, bridge, saddles and end pin/input sockets are the same. They both use the same pickup under the bridge.

But that’s not to say the Double H and the Mahogany are exactly alike. They are not.

The Mahogany uses Hipshot licensed tuners (which are marked, not surprisingly, “Hipshot Licensed”). The tuners on the Double H are not marked. They look like Hipshot tuners, but I can’t tell for sure if they are. I suspect they are.

The neck, back and sides on both uBasses are Mahogany. The Mahogany has a Rosewood fingerboard. The Double H has what looks to be a thin piece of Ebony. They both have the same “roadkill” Road Toad Music frog inlay on the headstock and the Kala logo.

The biggest difference between the two models–besides the Spruce top on the Double H–is the cutaway that gives you easy access to the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th frets. The fingerboard on the Double H is angled at the bottom. On the Mahogany it has a straight bottom edge.

The first thing you notice about the Double H–and what first got me interested in it–is the distinctive “slotted” soundhole. Where the Mahogany has a traditional round soundhole, the Double H has four thin, angled slots. Together with the single cutaway, the Double H easily stands out from a crowd.

The next thing you notice is that the body is bound on both front and back. The purfling is a very nice black/white binding. The Mahogany doesn’t have any binding.

The Mahogany uBass is sold with a Deluxe Hard Case (actually semi-hard case) and the Double H comes with a Deluxe gig bag. While the bag is very well padded and has a nice large pocket, I would have liked to see it come with the Deluxe case instead of the bag.

My biggest complaint about the Mahogany uBass (yes, I actually had a complaint about it) has been addressed with the Double H–and hopefully all uBass models going forward.

On the Mahogany model, the rear “control plate” which allows access to the string ends. is screwed on. So if you want to change your strings, or tighten the input jack (as I had to) you have to take four small screws out of this tiny wood panel in the back. It’s not very
convenient. It’s secure, but a pain to have to find a small enough screwdriver to open the panel. Also, the panel fits very tightly and you need to wedge a small screwdriver between the panel and the body to pry it open. Do this a few times and you’re just asking for a chip in the thin body wood. Luckily, you don’t have to change strings very often, so you are not opening and closing the panel that often.

On the Double H, the panel is held on by four small magnets at the corners of the opening. It also has “U•BASS” written on the panel (a nice touch). And there’s a small finger slot at the bottom that makes it easy to pry off the panel. This, in my opinion, is a vast improvement over the screws. It’s much easier to open and there’s no chance of chipping or scratching the body of the uBass. As I said, this is a big improvement and should be standard on all models.

I’ve read that some people complain that the wood panel on the Mahogany uBass looks like it was cut from a different piece of wood than the body and as a result doesn’t match the grain pattern on the body. This is true, it doesn’t match. But it doesn’t bother me. On the Double H, it still doesn’t match, but at least they used a piece that is as close a match as possible.

OK, so how does it sound? In a word–awesome!

The Mahogany uBass has a nice, mellow, deep sound. Very reminiscent of an upright bass. The Double H, since it has a Spruce top, is a bit “brighter.” It is still a mellow sounding instrument, but the Spruce gives it a bit more “mids” than the Mahogany. It’s a subtle difference. But you can hear it.

Acoustically, the Mahogany is louder, most likely because the soundhole is open. The Double H is a bit quieter, probably because the slots are very thin and the open surface area is smaller.

While there is a subtle difference in sound between the two models, there’s not enough to make one more distinctive than the other. Their looks are where that makes a difference, not their sound. They play exactly the same. They sound similar. But the Double H is just so much more cool looking. And, since it’s a Limited Edition Signature model, I suspect there won’t be a whole lot of them produced.

Joy at Kala told me there was a lot of interest in them at NAMM. So maybe Kala will put it into wider production. For now, there are some of them floating around out there. Check with your local music retailer. They retail for about $450 with the padded gig bag.

This review was written by Dean Tomasula from U-Bass Appreciation


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Add The Bass Blog on Facebook

Hey guys, to keep up to date with all the latest articles, you can like The Bass Blog on Facebook.

The Bass Blog Facebook Page

Also, just stumbled across this awesome tutorial for turning bass guitar into dubstep. Its pretty cool.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Top 10 Basses

1.     Fender Jazz Bass

Fender Jazz
The Fender Jazz is almost the undisputed winner, it has the same incredible quality of the Precision but it has a more versatile sound. With its more trebly tone the Jazz (or J bass) stands out from the mix, making it the choice for Jazz players and those who want to play more melodically.

2.     Fender Precision Bass

The P bass was the first bass to come from fender guitars, two pickups close to neck position gives a smooth tone that brings joy to the ears of any bassist into blues, rock or Motown. The bass has a warmer and deeper sound than the J and it is slightly less versatile.
Fender P

3.     Gibson Thunderbird

The Thunderbird is Rock ‘n’ Roll. The axe of choice for many rock players such as Nikki Sixx, John Entwistle, Gene Simmons and Josh Reedy. With its humbuckers and heavy tone this bass is a true monster (a heavy one too). The standard model has a cool sunburst finish and of course the iconic eagle on the pickguard.

4.     Musicman Stingray

The Stingray is an awesome bass with a modern sound that suits all sorts of styles from pop to funk and all the way to metal. It is a great bass for slapping and this makes it the ideal choice for players such as Louis Johnson and Flea. The bass usually features a teardrop pickguard and a single large humbucker.

5.     Rickenbacker 4001/4003
Rickenbacker 4003

The Rick is another one of those iconic rock basses. It would have been higher on the list except that I find it to be a bit uncomfortable to play. It usually costs a fair bit to buy but is still one of those basses you dream of buying. Notable players include Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee, Lemmy, Geezer Butler and Cliff Burton. If you haven’t heard of any of those players then you’re on the wrong site!

6.     Ritter Bass

The Ritter, as seen in one of my previous blog posts, is a really really incredibly good looking bass guitar. Expect high prices and crazy designs (not a bad thing!).

Warwick Corvette
7.     Fender Jaguar

I’m probably a bit biased because I own one but this is a cool bass. You can read about it in my first blog post. Awesome Japanese electronics make this bass more versatile than Johnny Depp. Notable players include me, JMJ and that guy from The All-American Rejects.

8.     Warwick Corvette

This is what the Warwick website says about the Corvette “If the entire line of Warwick basses is like a family at a party, then the Corvette  is the latest in-law who ate all the food, drank all the booze and is now in the coat closet with not one, but two of the wait staff!”.  Not sure if that’s true but the bass does look, sound and feel pretty snazzy.

Hofner Beatle Bass
9.     Hofner Beatle Bass

You’ve seen this bass, you’ve heard this bass and you probably know that 
Paul McCartney plays this bass. If you didn’t, well now you do.

10. Gibson SG Bass

Also known as the EB-3 this bass isn’t as popular as its birdlike cousin, which might be because it’s not quite as heavy and tough. Anyway Jack Bruce from Cream plays it, isn’t that enough?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Justin Meldal-Johnson

An almighty collection.

You might know JMJ as the bassist for Beck or Nine Inch Nails or one of the many other acts he's played with. The guy is a legend of the bass and has some amazing basses in his arsenal. Justin agreed to an interview so i hope you enjoy it!

Tell me a bit about yourself, what kind of music do you play, who do you play with?

I play bass, guitar and keyboards. Most recently in the live format with NIN, previously Beck, Air, Ima Robot, and others. I'm also a producer, and I'm currently working on the new M83 album. 

Who are your major inspirations?

Brian Eno, Joe Strummer, John Lydon, Jah Wobble, Bill Laswell, Michael Gira, Mark Burgess, Graham Lewis, Peter Hook, Simon Raymonde, Robin Guthrie, Paul McCartney, James Jamerson, "Family Man" Barrett, Sly & Robbie, Lee Perry, Jeff Lynne, Robert Wyatt, Enoch Light, Joe Osborne, Chuck Rainey, Matthew Seligman, Tina Weymouth, many more. 

JMJ with an awesome custom  Jaguar

What artist do you enjoy playing with the most?

It's a tie between Beck and Nails. 

Why do you own so many basses?

Because it's fun to collect them and they all get used
for different sounds and approaches. 

What is your favourite bass guitar to play?

Just a few of Justin's effects.

1966 Fender Precision. 

Whats with all the pedals? How many do you have?

What's with them is that they help me achieve noise that I hear in my mind. I have upwards of 60. 

How does it sound with all the pedals going at once?

Like ****. 

Where can people find your music?

Every Beck album since Mutations, Air 10,000Hz Legend, Ima Robot albums 1 & 2, Ladytron, Goldfrapp, Marianne Faithful, Dido, NIN live recordings, lots of other things. 



Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Stanley Clarke

Wow, the bass at its best.

Stanley Clarke is a double bass and electric bass legend. Hes been one of the top guys for a long time and is a member of the star studded bass trio SMV (Stanley, Marcus, Victor) Luckily enough Stanley agreed to answer some questions for the blog, the interview will be up soon so follow and stay tuned!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Jean Baudin

You might know Jean Baudin from his 11 string bass version of Super Mario Brothers, Jean is a multi-stringed extraordinaire and I asked him to answer some questions for your reading pleasure.

Me: How did you start and what inspired you to make music?

Jean Baudin: At first, I tried to play guitar but I had broken a finger that had set wrong, so I couldn't do chords. A friend suggested I try bass because I wouldn't have to play chords. I was inspired to play music because I liked the covers of Iron Maiden albums.

Who are your major influences?

When I was younger, Steve Harris, Fishbone, Bad Brains and Bach. Nowadays, I like listening to music that has just solo music... stuff like Art Tatum or Joe Pass.

What advice do you have for people who want to be a bassist?

I think you just need an instrument to be a bassist. If you want to be a GOOD bassist, you need to put some time in and practice.

What can you tell me about your instruments?

I mainly basses with 9 or more strings. I have custom instruments from Ken Lawrence, Conklin Guitars and JP Basses.

When I first started playing a 4-string bass my immediate reaction was "Where are all the notes?" - I've always felt the instrument was comfortable to play, wide string spacing, longer scale length, bigger frets but I never liked the fact that it had such a limited "speaking" range. It's kinda like the bottom notes of a piano.... I always wanted the range of the piano but on a fretted instrument.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing?

When I started adding more strings, I started to incorporate more tapping into my playing. I still like to play fingerstyle (and slap) but I feel I can take advantage of the range more with two-handed tapping.

How can people gain access to your music?

I have lots of recordings available at My album of solo pieces "Solace" is also available from iTunes and Amazon. I also have an instructional book on tapping called, "The Mechanics of Tapping" available from my website as well.

Any last words?

Thanks for the interview and good luck with your blog!

Photos from

Monday, 7 March 2011

Jens Ritter

Ritter Platinum Concept
In the previous post I featured a bass made by Jens Ritter ( a platinum concept bass) and it received some attention so I decided to write a piece about him.

Jens Ritter is a German luthier, widely recognised for is extreme and cutting edge bass designs. His basses are works of art! He grew up in a small German town crafting with his Dad and learned many of his skills from a young age. He is often referred to as the "Stradivarius" of the Bass Guitar.

The man himself, Jens Ritter looking professional.
After studying at an academy of technical arts, Jens opened his company he also studied Stradivarius Violin-making and engineering which he employs in his designs.

In other words, the guy was pretty much born to make basses!

His creations are of the highest quality and hang on the walls of famous musicians like Prince and Mary J Blige as well as the walls of galleries.

So if you just won the lottery or you just make an honest living, you can probably get one! I would be to scared to play one.... But they look great on wall hangers.

And if you like the blog, do me a favor and click follow up the top!!!

Elegant wood grainage!


An incredibly large piece of bling.