Dan Veall looks at a very affordable 5-string bass from newcomers, Chord.
One of the most interesting things to have happened in the world of musical instruments in recent years is that by and large, almost nothing you'll find in a music shop today is rubbish. You might not like it for one reason or another, but the competition between manufacturers is so fierce that the quality is uniformly pretty high. This is why, in case you've wondered, so many reviews in GI and other publications never seem to slam products - we just don't see bad ones. But where they do sometimes exist still is in the entry-level market, which is a great shame because the last thing a beginner needs is an instrument which is hard to play or unreliable and which could put them off for life.
Chord, a new brand, has decided to specialise in this market area and already its products are receiving good reviews and comments from retailers. The company sent us a 5-string bass to look at, the CCB95 to give it a name, so let's have a close look at what you get for your money.
The first thing to notice is that the body of the CCB95 is downsized. It's compact, it feels snug sat on my leg - yes, I think a youngster will actually get on with the smaller body size of this instrument. The body is made of alder, a great choice for bass guitars, I feel. We're not dealing with cheap ply bodies here. I also like that the maple neck is attached to the body with what Chord refers to as an 'extended neck pocket for even response'. I agree that more wood connecting at the body-neck joint has got to help tonally on an instrument.
The neck isn't a speed demon skinny type by any means - it has a bit more mass on it. I found the carve of it a bit like a chubby C shape with very rounded edges. It felt comfortable but for me personally, would prove a little fatiguing over long periods. This may have been partly down to the action and neck relief adjustment, though. Speaking of the neck, we have a 24 fret rosewood fingerboard leading up to a nice short tilt-back headstock, home for the five keys. The tuning keys were good quality with a positive action and no slipping. I do have to report that on our sample the fret job would have needed a bit of attention, though. We were able to slide a piece of paper under the edge of the lower frets. This of course may just be a one-off and likely to be the kind of thing you'd notice in a shop before purchase anyway and it can be fixed quite easily.
Back to the body, we have a simple folded style chrome finish bridge with action and intonation adjustment. Next to that are the pickups, a familiar looking P-J arrangement providing the instrument with a rounded passive tone output. You can't expect to get the volume levels of say an EMG from an entry-level bass, but there's enough output here to be perfectly adequate for most applications.
I think the CCB95 has some great features for an entry level instrument but it is up against the obvious 'big names' competing for the 'best budget bass'. That's not to say it can't stand on its own two feet and will hopefully give years of good service. The finish was great, the colour good, and aside from the issue with the frets on our sample (easily remedied in store, of course) the only reservation was a slight lack of tonal variation.
If you're looking for a lower price 5-stringer and you come across one of these in a shop do make a point of giving it a try - you may not recognise the name but you'll recognise a decent instrument when you try it.