I swiped this photo from Kala’s Instagram. Hopefully they won’t mind.
Guitar publication Premier Guitar magazine has a short “quick hit” review of the new Taylor GS Mini-e acoustic/electric short-scale travel bass. While not based on a ukulele body, this 23.5″ scale instrument is on par with other small basses and longer-scale uBasses, like the Gold Tone M-Bass (23″ and 25″ scale models) and the Aquila Short Bass One (23.6″ scale).
The Taylor GS Mini-e Bass features the company’s ES-B pickup/preamp combination, layered Sapele wood construction and its Grand Symphony body shape.
According to Premier Guitar, the Taylor GS Mini-e Bass rates 4.5 guitar picks (their equivalent of stars) in every category.
The publication notes:
Unplugged, the 23 1/2″-scale Mini-e’s dry, woody timbre projects with impressive fullness and volume for small body… Plugged in, the Mini-e came to life with a punchy thump and warmth that leans towards the darker tones of an upright, but remain articulate courtesy of the pronounced midrange.
Curiously, the author has this to say about the new bass:
“The sounds aren’t tight and bright like some long-scale acoustic basses, but that’s exactly what I liked about it.”
Generally, “brightness” is a factor of the type of strings you’re using and the placement of the pickup on the instrument. For example, Roundwound strings will sound “brighter” than Flatwound strings, which will sound “thumpy.”
Still, Premier Guitar gives the Taylor bass high marks. They even have a sound clip with the review.
Taylor has a video of the bass here.
The Taylor GS Mini-e Bass seems to be a worth addition to any bass arsenal. However, at a street price of about $700, it’s not cheap. And the fact that it uses specially designed strings that Taylor recommends only be used on the bass, limits the instrument’s versatility.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona, has a 2012 spruce Kala uBass on display as part of its collection of instruments. The uBass was a gift from Kala to the museum.
The MIM, which has more than 6,500 instruments on display from more than 200 countries around the world at any one time, boasts more than 16,000 instruments in its permanent collection. The organization says all of its instruments have artistic and historic merit.
The display card for the uBass reads: “U-Bass (plucked Lute). China 2012. Mahogany, Spruce and Ebony woods; metal. Kala Brand Music Co., maker. This 21st-C[entury] version of the ukulele generates a rich bass tone when amplified. Gift of Kala Brand Music Co.”
Three years ago we told you about Rondo Music, a musical instrument retailer that was (and still is) the sole importer of SX basses and Agile guitars – among other brands – here in the U.S. Back then, they had just begun importing the Hadean brand of Chinese-made acoustic uke basses and were introducing a solidbody version, no doubt to try to cut into the market that was solidly (and still is, not surprisingly) dominated by Kala with its uBass models. That ubass was known then as the Omega Hadean uke bass.
Rondo’s inventory of instruments – particularly SX basses and some Agile guitar models – don’t remain available for long on their web site, selling out almost as quickly as they come in stock. This seems to be the case with the Hadean uke basses as well. Probably because they are inexpensive, but surprisingly good instruments. They sell for about a third of what a new Kala SUB uBass goes for.
As of today, Rondo has three models of the solidbody Hadean uke bass in stock: the UKBE-22 33″ in blue; the UKBE-22 N Fretless in natural and the UKBE-22 Fretless in blue. They’ve dropped the Omega from the name and the headstock, but the Hadean ubasses seem to be the same as when they were introduced.
If you’ve always wanted a uBass, but don’t have the money for a Kala version, the Hadeans are a worthy substitute. Don’t expect them to be a cheaper version of the Kala, because they aren’t. But they are good instruments in their own right.
The fit and finish of the Hadeans are good, but not as meticulous as the Kala uBasses. I wouldn’t hesitate to gig with a Kala. I’m not sure a Hadean would stand up to the rigors of the road for very long. I could be wrong, but they don’t seem as sturdy.
The electronics on the Kala uBasses are superb. Each model has that upright bass sound. The Hadeans do not quite measure up. They sound good for what they are, but they don’t quite have that upright sound. To be fair, it may just be the Aquila Nylgut strings, which I never though sounded as good as the Kala Pahoehoe strings, particularly for that upright sound. The electronics on the Hadean basses sound a bit “scratchy” and “thin” sometimes. I’ve never found that with the Kala uBasses.
Rondo is selling three models of the Hadean uBass: the UKBE-22, which features a swamp ash body and is a 33″ scale model (which seems to me to kind of negate the reason for a uBass to begin with). Just an inch shy of a typical long-scale bass guitar (which is 34″ scale), it’s more of a medium scale bass than a Uke bass. And two versions of the 30″ scale Hadean, the UKBE22, both fretless, both with Swamp Ash bodies, but one is in blue and one is in natural.
The UKBE-22 Blue model sells for $179.95. The UKBE-22 Natural sells for $169.95 and the UKBE-33, also in blue, sells for $179.95.
If you have some extra bucks lying around (come to think of it, who does these days?), these are good alternatives to the more expensive Kala solidbody uBasses. Just don’t expect them to be able to compete head-to-head with Kala, in any category.
You get what you pay for. But in the case of the Hadean uBasses, you get a lot for little money.
Found this for sale on Craigslist in Portland, Ore. It’s made by Ray Vincent, who runs a company called Ray’s Rootworks out of Canada.
Apparently it’s a bass. Looks more like a work of art than a playable instrument, but, who knows. I haven’t been able to find any videos on this model so I don’t know how it sounds.
The seller wants $650 for the bass, which apparently is a bargain. By the looks of the custom instruments on Ray’s Etsy shop, his stuff goes for way more than that.
This one looks suspiciously uBass-sized and even has a set of Dreads on it.
If nothing else, it’ll look good hanging on the wall.
Carlson was instrumental in the introduction of the Kala uBass. No stranger to the bass market, Carlson also worked at SWR Engineering Inc. and ACE Products Group.
Phil Jones, head of Phil Joes Bass, said,“Rick brings a proven industry track record along with a pedigree in the bass world that fits perfectly with our plans for the future and the expansion of our brand.
Carlson said he is happy to work with Phil Jones, whom he noted creates bass amp designs that “are at the cutting edge of engineering in bass amplification.”
Carlson did not say why he left Kala.
Colin D’Cruz, a musician based in India, just posted a neat little song he wrote about his Kala uBass. The song, entitled “I Love My Kala Bass!” can be heard here at his ReverbNation page, along with some of his other work. It’s sung to the tune of “All About That Bass.”
He also posted a video to his Facebook page.
“Yeah, it’s pretty clear, this ain’t no toy. When I pluck and play, it sure sounds like a big boy.”