Review: Fender Rumble 350 2×10 Bass Combo

Next up in my search for the ultimate bass combo was the Fender Rumble 350. In truth the Rumble 350 was not an amp I had really considered, but the salesman at my local GC was pushing it pretty hard, so I figured I might as well give it a whirl.

The Fender Rumble 350 is a 350 Watt bass combo with 2X10″ Fender® Special Design Speakers. Controls include Volume, Overdrive Gain, Overdrive On/Off, Overdrive Blend,    Punch EQ Preset, Scoop EQ Preset, Bass, Semi-Parametric Mid with Level & Frequency controls, and Treble. Also included is a Horn On/Off Switch, XLR Line Out with Ground LIft, Aux in, Headphone Jack, Effects Loop, plus Fender’s Delta Comp Adaptive Compression Circuitry. All of this is housed in a Heavy Duty Ported Cabinet with Black Vinyl Covering, a Rugged Black Metal Grill, Springloaded Side Handles and Removable Casters to aid in portability.

As I say, the salesman was eager to show me this amp, telling me I wouldn’t believe how loud it could get.  I plugged in a Standard P Bass and fiddled with the amp a bit before he cranked it up so I could hear it at full volume. Well, it does indeed get loud. Unfortunately that does not mean that it sounds good. Personally I thought it sounded horrible at high volumes. There was a lot of distortion going on, even without the built in Overdrive engaged. I couldn’t tweak on the controls much while at the high volume as I was literally rattling everything in the store, but I doubt that I could of dialed in a usable tone at that volume. Once turned down to a more respectable level I tried various tone settings but just could not really come up with anything I liked. This amp has a lot going on with it’s Semi-Parametric EQ, Tone Presets, as well as Overdrive and Compression Circuits. I’m more of a less is better kind of guy, especially when it comes to built in effects. While having on-board effects might be convenient to some, I don’t like the idea, and feel that it’s just one more path your signal has to travel through before getting to the speaker, even if you don’t use them.

While the Fender Rumble 350 seems to have a lot going for it, I just didn’t care for the tone. I love Fender Basses and have played through a few Fender Bass Amps over the years, but have yet to find a Fender amp that has the tone I am looking for. At 350 watts the Rumble certainly has a lot power, yet interestingly enough it does not have an output for an additional speaker cabinet. Moreover, at almost 70 pounds, this thing is a beast! Sure is comes with removable casters but those don’t help you lift the thing up when putting it in the back of your car. For these reasons I decided the Rumble wasn’t for me, guess I’ll have to keep looking.

http://www.fender.com/series/rumble/rumble-350-350-watt-bass-combo-2×10-speakers-and-horn-120v/

Fender Basses, Now In Jade Pearl Metallic

Jade Pearl Metallic is a new color that Fender has introduced with its 2012 line of American Standard basses and guitars. I’m still on the fence as to whether I like it or not. On the one hand I think it looks pretty cool on the P Bass pictured below with the maple fretboard, but on the other hand it seems a bit drab, maybe even ugly. I have only seen images of it online and it seems to be one of those hard to photograph colors. In some photos, like the two posted here, it looks to be a shimmering army green, while in others, such as the photo I used as the lead in to this post, it looks more like a gun-metal gray.

I would guess that the new Jade Pearl Metallic color won’t be around too long, soon making it one of those rare to find colors. If you’re in the market for a new bass it might be worth checking out as it may actually add value to it down the road.

Some colors you have to see in person to truly appreciate and I have a feeling that is the case here.

What do you think, do you like the new color or not?

 

The Downsize Dilemma, Pt. 1

For a while now I’ve been thinking about downsizing my bass rig, which consists of an Ashdown EVO II 500 head and an Ampeg SVT 410HLF Cab.  Now I really love this combination as that I feel that I finally found the tone I have always been striving for.  Problem is I haven’t really used it in over 2 years and I hate to see it sit.  In all honesty chances are I won’t be playing in a band where I need this much amp anytime soon.  I’ve been wanted to get a nice combo, most likely in the GK or Fender variety, for quite some time but have resisted as that I haven’t been using the rig I have.  At this point I have made up my mind to first sell the Ampeg 410, even though I love this cab dearly. Seriously, it is the best cab I have ever had, tone to die for, so I hate to part with it, but . . . I’m thinking sell the cab, keep the head, at least for now, paired with an Avatar 210 I also have, and use the cash from the Ampeg to partially fund a new combo. This way if I find a combo is not enough for some situations I still have the Ashdown head, and if the 210 cab isn’t cutting it for me either I can alway rent something bigger when I need it.  So now the fun begins, checking out combo amps to find the right one for me!  I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how it goes.

Strings – Part 3: Acoustic Bass Guitar

Fender BG 29 Acoustic Bass

The Acoustic Bass Guitar is an odd animal.  Not quite the same as an electric bass nor an upright.  It has a sound all it own which some people love and some people hate.  I acquired my Fender BG-29 acoustic back in the mid-90’s when playing “Unplugged” was all the rage.  I had been thinking about getting one as that I had alot of friends who played guitar and was tired of being left out of many an impromptu acoustic jam session.  I saw the Fender in a local music store in Sacramento, CA and decided to check it out.  I loved the feel and sound of the bass so much I had to buy it.  This is the instrument that led me to string experimentation.

The BG-29 came stock with Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Bass 7060 strings in gauges .045, .055, .075, .095.  These are roundwound strings, which I left on this bass for quite a while.  The phosphor bronze strings have good volume but tended to be a bit to clackity for my liking.  I next tried Ernie Ball Earthwood strings which had a similar tone to the bronzes, so my quest continued.  At one point I shelled out the extra dough and put a set of Elixir strings on, they had a mellower tone than the bronze’s and the Ernie Ball’s, but I still wasn’t satisfied.  At this point I was done with the noisy, squeaky, finger noise prevalent with roundwounds and decided to try a set of Fender Nylon Tapewound strings.  These got rid of most of the unwanted noises but left me with a thuddy sounding tone that I was not at all happy with.  Flatwounds would be the next obvious choice but I wondered if flatwounds would have enough acoustic volume?  While searching for the perfect strings online I came upon D’Addario Half Rounds.  I have been very pleased with these strings.  They have a fine balance of tone and volume while the string noises associated with roundwounds are greatly reduced.  I may still give flatwounds a shot someday, but for now I am very satisfied.

To me the Acoustic Bass is a great instrument to have around the house for when inspiration hits.  I almost never play it amplified, as to me that would almost defeat it’s purpose.  Plugged in it has a completely different sound. Feedback is an issue when plugged in, a lesson I learned that the hard way at a coffe house gig.  After that I bought a Sound Hole cover like you would use on an acoustic guitar which is great at fighting feedback.  Amplified the acoustic bass almost sounds like an electric, leaving one to wonder what the point is.

That about does it for my mini series on strings.  As I have said, strings have been on my mind recently as I have been experimenting with my Jazz and P Basses, so I thought I would write about it and share my experiences.  Of course all of this is subjective to my tastes in tone and feel so I would encourage you to experiment for yourself and decide what works best for you.

To start this series from the beginning click here.

Any topics you all would like to see me write about?  Leave a comment or drop me email and I’d be happy to consider it.  Thanks for reading!

Strings – Part 2: Flatwounds

I’ve noticed that flatwound strings seem to be coming back into vogue lately which is kind of interesting to me.  When I first started playing I had no idea what flatwound strings were.  I recall thinking that they were “Old School” and only used on vintage instruments.  For me I guess all of that changed when I got an upright bass, which was of course strung with flats.  At first the strings felt so weird, uncomfortable even, but in time I got used to them.  Funny thing is that before the upright, I had owned two fretless basses and never once thought to put flats on them.  Well, my upright has come and gone but my appreciation for flatwound strings has stayed strong.

I put flats on my Rogue Violin bass as soon as I bought it and wouldn’t dream of changing them.  When I bought it I bought a set of flats along with it.  I did plug it in and play it for a little while with the crappy stock roundwonds on it and seriously had to wonder if I had made a mistake buying the bass, it sounded that bad.  As soon as I put flatwounds on it, I knew it was a keeper.  Wow!  What a difference. I could not believe how much better it sounded.  At this point I have even recorded with it, not bad for a bass that cost me less than $200.

My Carvin Fretless is currently strung with D’Addario Chromes and I couldn’t be more happy with the tone.  I actually tried a set of Fender Nylon Tapewound’s on it when I first got it, but didn’t like the tone or feel of them and went back to flats.  As I mentioned in Part 1 I have been thinking about strings alot recently.  The other night I was playing my P-Bass and just could not get a tone I liked out it and started thinking, why not try a set of flats.  I ended up doing some research online and discovered that Thomastik Infeld Flatwound strings seem to be all the rage now days.  I soon realized that they are bit pricey, but are touted as lasting for 10 years.  I decided what the heck, why not, and ordered a set.  I have always used .105 gauge strings on my P-Bass, currently D’Addario 160’s, but decided to try a set of the Thomastik Infeld JF344’s, which are .100 gauge.  I have made the switch to the lighter gauge strings on my Jazz Bass and Laklands and thought I would do it on the P as well.  Man, let me tell you, these Thomastik Infeld strings do not disappoint!  They sound incredible and feel great.  The tension on the TI’s is a bit lower than any other flat I have used, which to me makes the strings feel like butter.  I had felt that the roundwounds I had on my P where to bright and the flats definitely mellowed out the tone considerably.  Interestingly enough, the TI’s actually still have a little zing to them, which is typically not the case with flats.  I have read that this will mellow in time, but in a good way.  I guess time will tell.

In my opinion some basses just sound better with flats.  I suppose it all depends on the tone you are going for and the style of music you play.  Unfortunately as bassists strings aren’t that cheap, but if you have the means I would encourage you to play around with different gauges and types of strings. It has really been an eye opening experience for me to realize all of the different tones I can get out of one bass just by changing the strings.  It seems to me that when it comes to flatwounds some people either love them or hate them, but I figure why not use all of the tools available to get the specific sound you want.  Sure they may feel weird at first, but you’ll get used to them.

Up next will be strings for an Acoustic Bass Guitar.

To start this series from the beginning click here.

Fender Jazz Deluxe (MIM)

Well I had the itch to check out some Fender Jazz basses as that I have never had one or really played one before and ended up coming home with a new bass.  As I have mentioned before I have primarily been a P-Bass player, but I got to thinking about a Jazz after falling in love with my Mustang Bass.  Essentially the Mustang got me to thinking about the narrower neck on the Jazz and how I might like it.  About this time the latest issue of Bass Player Magazine arrived at my door with, wouldn’t you know it, the cover story being “The Fender Jazz Turns 50”.  After reading the story I was even more hooked.  A few searches on the Talk Bass Forums and I was ready to go out and play some Jazz basses.  At this point I was fairly certain that the Squire Classic Vibe Jazz was the bass for me, but I also wanted to check out the Squire Vintage Modified, a Fender Standard Jazz, a Fender Deluxe Jazz and the Highway One Jazz.  I was also interested in the Geddy Lee Jazz and the American Standard Jazz but really didn’t want to spend that kind of money.

The first bass I tried was the Squire Vintage Modified.  I really liked this bass and played it for quite a while but was really turned off by the painted on block inlays.  I’m also not that big a fan of the maple fingerboard.  Next I tried the Squire Classic Vibe, a nice bass, but it just didn’t do it for me.  Plugged in it just sounded blah.  I moved on to a Fender Standard Jazz and pretty much felt the same way as the Squire, decent bass, but blah.  The last bass I tried was the Fender Jazz Deluxe and wow!  It feels nice, plays nice, and once I plugged it in I was sold.  I dialed in such sweet tones I knew I had to take her home.  Thunderous lows, bright highs and everything in between.  This bass can thump.  To top it off, it was on some sort of special deep discount sale, not sure why, maybe it had just been there a while.  All I know is I got a great deal on a great bass.

So this is my first “Mexican” Fender, and I have to say it is nice.  Black with a Tort pickguard and active “noiseless” pickups.  The fit and finish on this bass look great and the setup wasn’t bad, just took a little tweaking to get it to my liking.  My only complaint is the bridge.  It has the standard Fender bridge, which I am not a fan of at all.  The bridge saddles actually slide around a little, side to side, which seems cheap to me.  Anyway, I couldn’t deal with it so I bought a Gotoh 201 bridge.  Now this bass feels complete.  I am completely happy with her and have been really getting into the jazz neck. Man I didn’t know what I’d been missing all these years!  Don’t get me wrong, I still like my P-Bass, I’m just also learning to love the jazz.

My Basses

Seeing as I have already gushed about my Fender Mustang Bass in an earlier post, I thought that it was only fair to write a post about all of my basses. My wife can’t understand why I need 8 basses, but the way I look at it each has it’s own significance. 1984 Squire P-Bass: I have had many different basses over the years but this one has been with me almost the entire time. My first bass was a very cheap Cort bass. This was well before Cort was a quality brand. From there I got a HEAVY Vantage Bass, which was actually a fairly decent instrument. Finally after playing and saving for about a year purchased this Squire P-Bass. Made in Japan, it is actually a very fine bass. I have used and abused this bass and it has never let me down. I still play it today. At one point I put Alembic Pickups in it and even routed out an area under the pick guard for a 9v battery. I have since filled in the route with wood putty and installed Seymour Duncan Bass Lines, which sound great. I also put a Bad Ass bridge on it as well as replaced to pots. 1999 Fender USA P-Bass: I came across this bass online, at Musician’s Friend I believe, and could not pass it up. I’m not sure why but it was priced incredibly low. Perhaps they were blowing out the previous year’s model or just the fact that the color is Metallic Purple, I couldn’t say. Definitely a rare color, I have seen a couple of Made in Mexico Fenders that were Metallic Purple but not any other USA basses. I put a Bad Ass bridge on this one as well as that I am not a fan of the standard Fender bridge. I replaced the stock pickups with Fender Original 62 Pickup’s making this one fine bass. I love the tone and playability of this one, which is why it is main gigging bass. 2004 Lakland Skyline 55-01: I got this one in a straight trade for a Carvin Fretless I had. The Carvin was a nice bass that I had custom made to my specific’s but I just wasn’t playing it anymore. I almost passed up on this deal as that I was unfamiliar with Lakland at the time. After doing a little research I quickly jumped at the deal and could not have been happier. I love the tone and playability of this bass. I’m still not quite sure what to do with the extra string, but it sure sounds good. 2006 Lakland Skyline 44-01: I liked my 5-String Lakland so much that I went onto ebay and found a great deal on a 4-String. This is my only bass with a Maple neck. Again, the tone on this bass is amazing, although I don’t enjoy playing it as much as I do the 5-String. I go back and forth on keeping this one and am currently considering selling it to fund a Fender Jazz. Fender BG-29 Acoustic: This one I picked up in a music store on a whim just to check it out and ended up buying it. This was back in the early 90’s when “Unplugged” was all the rage. Once I started playing it I couldn’t put it down, it was one of those basses that just felt right. It has okay volume acoustically, and sounds pretty decent plugged in. Feedback is an issue when plugged in so I bought one of those sound hole covers, which works like a charm. It is a short scale bass, not much bigger than an acoustic guitar actually. A great bass to have around the house at the ready to be picked up and played. Rogue VB-100 Violin Bass: I got this one from Musician’s Friend. It was on sale at the time and I thought what the heck it’s cheap enough. First ting I did was put flat wound strings on it, which made a huge difference in sound. This bass looks beautiful. For a cheap instrument it is made fairly well and has a nice even tone. It is really a one trick pony, but does a good job at doing that one trick. I have actually recorded with this bass and was very impressed with the end results. Another short scale bass, this one is just fun to play and has the cool vintage look. Carvin Fretless LB70 Active Fretless: A friend actually gave this bass to me. He had too many instruments and felt that this one wasn’t worth selling as that he wouldn’t get what it was worth anyway. First off let me say, Carvin Basses are awesome! Highly underrated if you ask me. Anyway, this is my one Fretless bass and is a pleasure to play. It’s active electronics and pickup combination let you dal in almost any tone you want. This one has flat wounds on it as well which really helps to give it that fretless sound. Fender Mustang Bass: Instead of rehashing on this bass you can read my previous post here: Fender Mustang Bass As you can imagine I struggle with acquiring more basses all time, I mean you can only play one at a time and some of these tend to get neglected for long periods. I currently have a minor itch for an Upright Bass, but really don’t have the room to keep one and worry that my kids would knock it over anyway so I keep talking myself out of one. My major itch right now if for a Fender Jazz but I have told myself that if I want one something else has to go. I envision myself sitting in music store in the near future trying out various Jazz basses and agonizing over which bass I will need to let go to fund a new one. At least I can say that I have come a long way from saving for a year to buy a Squire P-Bass 😉