Review of Boulder Creek EBR3-N4 acoustic bass
Boulder Creek's innovative design ideas have already earned
serious praise from our GI Quiet Room colleagues - so how do the
company's basses stack-up? Dan Veall finds out.
Boulder Creek Guitars, hailing from California and originally
started by bass player Mike Shellhammer, is a relative newcomer but
is far removed from the dreary procession of 'me too' clone makers
that, regrettably, are all too common these days. Boulder Creek is
different, born from an idea that Mike had over 15 years ago which
has led to some really quite different ideas in guitar design.
Though Mike has now retired, his concepts are still proving
themselves very effective.
Mike's concept was to break away from the traditional wood
bracing patterns that had been around since the 19th century and to
develop a system using aluminium rods as 'suspended bracing' that
could support the tension of acoustic strings, yet leave the
soundboard to vibrate intact. Interestingly it seems that trial and
error brought Mile to the choice of aluminium, which ended up being
a key ingredient in the Boulder Creek Guitar's tone shaping.
Although we were unable to test the theory in the studio,
Boulder Creek says that its bracing system also minimises feedback
that can hamper other acoustic guitars too. This has got to be a
good thing when playing loud gigs in small environments! Certainly,
my guitar colleague Tom Quayle was very impressed with the Boulder
Creek six string, which he reviewed in issue 17 - and Tom knows his
way around a guitar!
So let's get up close and personal with a bass version
The perfectly finished 'jumbo solitaire' body of our review
sample featured a thick solid cedar top with a small sound port
positioned away from the centre instrument, designed to maximise
the soundboard area whilst helping to tune the output the
instrument in conjunction with the bracing system.
The back and sides of this EBR3-N4 model are mahogany and the
colour is rich under a satin finish. It's understated, but there is
a real air of quality that was very noticeable in our review model.
Speaking of sides, we have this wonderful feature - a key element
in the range - a sound hole actually facing the player. This really
is great! It may look like a novelty, but as Tom found with the
Boulder Creek guitar, it really works! You get to hear the full
tone. The difference between the sound of this Boulder Creek and
that of the budget acoustic bass I have at home was very
Next to the sound hole is a simple to use four-band pre-amp with
tuner - it's clean sounding with a balanced output. The overall
tone transmitted to our in house system through the piezo bridge
pickup was lively and rich. It's a loud bass when not plugged in
too - but don't expect it to keep up with noisy acoustic guitar
players thrashing away. As I have said before, all acoustic bass
guitars suffer from not being able to produce huge amounts of
volume, especially if they are concentrating on a really fat tone,
but some do a great job of maximising their output through design.
That said, this bass is one of the loudest and fullest acoustic
instrument models I have played and with an excellent balance
between tone and volume.
Moving up the neck, we have a wonderful piece of rosewood for
the fretboard with a tasteful two-a-side headstock finishing off
the balanced a contemporary outline on what is an easy to play
instrument that really delivers.
This isn't a cheap instrument and you would really want to have
an acoustic bass as a main instrument to be willing to spend this
much money (unless you are rolling in it, of course!). However, if
a really top-notch acoustic bass is what you want then this is one
of the best.
Check out the full review inc. video of the Boulder
Creek EBR3-N4 acoustic bass by Dan Veall featured in
The Bassment of
Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 18.