Dean may be best known for its extravagantly pointy headstocked guitars but it also has a neat line of basses too - recently expanded with an Eric Bass signature model. Dan Veal got ready to rock.
Hearing that Eric Bass of Shinedown had teamed up with US manufacturer Dean Guitars, it was all hands on deck to see what this signature model on had to offer. We've managed to snag one for a review here down in the Bassment, so here goes!
The first thing I want to say say is that Dean is really no stranger to putting together a quality instrument and the company has an impressive artist roster, featuring some great names toting various models from its wide range. Some manufacturers play it a little safe with countless journeys down familiar well beaten tracks, but when I refer to 'range' here, I really mean Dean offers not just mere variants of one or two models, but instruments to suit all tastes. Take for example the new for 2013 John Entwistle Hybrid 5-string, currently featured on the company's website and compare that to the 'Mako' bass, the Edge series and the MetalMan series. These are all superb offerings and they are all very distinctively different. I like that.
So, on to the Eric Bass Hillsboro. The bass is available in both the rather tasty gold finish we had on our review sample and also a black satin version. As you can see, the gold model features a glossy black headstock and a white single ply pickguard on the body. Visually, I think the cut out round the 22 fret at the end of the fretboard looks like it'd suit a slap player who finds that the pick guard gets in the way, so it may not be like that just for visual effect.
Coming up from the four in-line tuning keys attached to a straight headstock (requiring a string tree on the D and G strings to supply the necessary break angle for the nut) is a bolt-on maple C profile neck. It does have a bit more meat on it than some, substantial in the hand but not unwieldy. Round the front is a rosewood fingerboard with 22 tidy jumbo frets. The gold version of this instrument also features large pearl block inlays that I have to say look great! Whilst the stealthy black model is free of any markings on the board. I think making the huge Dean logo stand out even more. It looks like it means business!
On to the body. Apparently, Eric asked for a big fat punchy tone and on the production model Dean decided to go with swamp ash according to the specs we have. The neck and body combination do make this instrument feel a little heavier and substantial than some but I don't think it'll break any backs. It's still well balanced sitting down perched up upon my leg.
Lookswise, I think that the body with its accentuated yet rounded curves brings it bang up to date and comfy to play too.
Hardware on both colour versions is black and I'm pleased to see an ABM bridge strapped on too. Quality hardware right there! The electronics comprise Dean's own active three-band pre-amp that is musical and punchy. When I was filming our video, I found that I was liking to push all three controls up away from the flat position to really let that big pickup breathe a bit - and what a pickup! It's a Dean DMT humbucker that looks like the Music Man humbucker, with those familiar larger pole pieces arranged for the dual coils. Come to think of it, it has a 'kind of' Music Man tone to it, as well, which perhaps isn't surprising.
I noted that in a promo video Eric mentioned that the bass he was using featured a Bartolini pickup, so I am guessing that the production model may differ in certain specifications. That's not unusual, as often instruments sent off on tour are tweaked before being released to the market.
Summing up, the Eric Bass signature has a superb punchy tone with the zing you'd expect from this sort of pickup design, though it's not as pronounced as an MM bass and therefore a little smoother in the top end. You can add grit if you want it, by pushing the treble control up though.
This instrument would be just fine in all styles of music and certainly would look the part in any band settling. The review model we were sent was really nicely set up for a clean, buzz free tone, too, which is always a good sign.
If you are looking for something which is just a bit different from the bass everyone else is using and comes at a very fair price, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. It definitely deserves an audition.