Zoot 32” Funkmeister P bass review
Over the course of 25+ years and many, many basses I finally concluded that:
1. I particularly love the Precision sound
2. I don’t need more than 4 strings
3. Standing around playing for up to 3 hours was stressful to my back and shoulders
4. I was getting stress injuries and ‘trigger finger’ with my left hand
I have many friends who use basses made by Mike Walsh of Zoot (Iceni) bass in Essex.
I originally hail from Essex (Mersea Island), and I’ve met Mike on a couple of occasions over the years. I did own a fretless 5 made by him many moons ago. I bought it 2nd hand from a guy in NI and it didn’t work out mainly because it hadn’t been looked after and the cigarette smell wouldn’t go away.
Mike offers the opportunity to place a deposit and then make payments as the build progresses. He’s busy now and back to being a ‘one man band’ so build times are creeping up to and even over a year. I had a couple of basses to sell, and the monthly transfer of funds wasn’t an issue. Due to my regular changes to the spec the cost rose steadily!
I have a 2008 Fender Jazz in off white with both white and tort plates. I bought it on Bass Chat (Nick Carey). He had the neck fettled by a top luthier (Mr Robinson in Bolton) and upgraded the tuners. I fitted a high mass Gotoh bridge and upgraded the wiring (still passive, VVT) It’s an awesome bass and more than the sum of its parts. It’s also the model colour wise for the Funkmeister and a keeper. Another huge inspiration was seeing Mike Birch’s black 32” scale Funkmeister P finished.
So, to start with, a 32” scale. I believed that the 32” scale is the ideal compromise for me. I find 30” a little bit ‘wee’. Ownership for several months has validated this choice hugely. The body is scaled down to suit the neck and it’s also chambered which has made a huge difference to my comfort. I’ve not weighed it yet (I will, for the review) but it’s light! Lightweight Hipshot tuners are fitted with ‘proper’ ears and it balances absolutely perfectly.
I wanted a matching headstock, a maple neck, and an ebony fingerboard. No front markers. I initially wanted a John East P Retro. Sadly, John was having problems obtaining the rechargeable battery at the time and they were temporarily (?) discontinued.
Mike had a cream Haussel pickup that he suggested I could use. This was a change away from the black that I had in mind, but I thought it would work well with my colour scheme of off-white bass and ‘Colgate’ white plate. When the P Retro became unobtainium Mike suggested a Noll 2 EQ with an active/passive switch and passive tone powered by 18volts. I have heard many positives about Noll and went with that.
Things I changed as the build progressed?
1. A zero fret was added
2. I decided that I would like a 3-piece neck for added stability. The centre of the 3 pieces is reversed.
3. The next add on was to add ebony veneers between the 3 neck pieces
4. I had Mike add in his ‘magic’ filter circuit with a switch between the controls
5. I had a 2nd ’tort’ plate made to give me that option
I had already specified Dunlop strap locks and Dunlop flatwound strings.
I value 4 main things in a bass. It must look good, play well, have good build quality, and have a versatile and strong tonal palette, capable of the job it’s designed for. It excels on all 4 counts.
I love it! The finish is flawless, the ebony board is very black, the matching headstock is stunning and as an added, unexpected extra the neck is flamed maple. Looking down at the neck while playing can make me smile in appreciation as I see the flame finish and the neck veneers..
Perfectly balanced, light weight (7lb 10oz on my fishing scales), and that slightly shorter scale makes a huge difference to my left hand comfort. I went with Mike’s suggestion for the neck profile and it’s not particularly shallow as per modern trends, but it just feels right. Fret access (I don’t often go there) is very good too.
Its fit and build quality matches its finish. In terms of fretwork the neck is very well dressed and the trussrod is smooth and light to turn. The neck is super stable. The zero fret takes any mention of the nut depth away and the neck has a neat 5-bolt fixing. No build issues here.
I generally play through a GK Legacy 800 head and one 8-ohm Accugroove Tri112L cab. I have a 2nd cab (both the earlier models with 2 variable controls on the rear) but I’ve not needed the 2nd cab yet. Bass to amp is via a Broughton tuneable HP filter an EBS Microbass III. The Funkmeister has a huge range of tone for a single pickup bass. Firstly, and most importantly it cuts right through the mix at very low volume settings on the amp. Passive is pure P bass and active just boosts/cuts the same in bass and treble land. The passive tone works in passive only. I tend to run with the bass control centred and the treble backed off a tiny amount. Either that or passive with the tone set to taste.
Mike’s magic filter? I guess it’s a sort of Low Pass filter. It’s a whole lot more than just rolling off passive tone. It gives the bass a real old school tone without taking away any of its ability to cut through. It’s great. It gets used often.
The bottom line? I couldn’t be happier. I’m enjoying playing more than ever and much of that is due to the bass. My MiM Jazz and custom Sandberg Jazz with JE Uni Pre are sadly under used.
The full spec sheet:
Body: Zoot Funkmiester 32" from swamp ash finished in "off white/light cream" hi-gloss
Neck: 32" Canadian maple neck with Bi-flex two way truss rod with modern 'C' profile.
Finger board: Ebony with M.O.P. dot inlays to side and a compounded 16" radius and medium heavy fret wire
Pickup: Haussel P pickup in cream
Bridge: Hipshot "Kickass" in chrome
Machine heads: Hipshot "Ultralite" with Fender clover leaf buttons in chrome. D Tuner Hipshot.
String retainer: Hipshot "Ultralight" quick change
E.Q. Noll 2 EQ Active/passive with passive tone and filter with swich
Battery details: Gotoh 18Vdc quick change battery box.
Top nut size: 40mm with zero fret
Bridge saddle spacing: 19mm
Neck finish: Hi-gloss to back of headstock matching colour front with smooth satin to rear of neck (playing area)
Body finish: Hi-gloss off white with ‘tort' and brilliant white 3 ply scratch plates.
Hardware: All other hardware in chrome finish.