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Kev

Alpher Instruments Mako Elite 5 String - 2015 Model

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[font=times new roman,times,serif]Alpher Instruments are built by Chris Dobson and Alex Wood up in Saltaire, Bradford. They build both Electric Basses and Electric Guitars, with Chris having the background in Bass and Alex in Guitar. They are relatively new to the game but have developed an astonishing following in a very short period of time, owing to the visually stunning instruments they produce. They have a select number of models with a huge variety of options available. They do, however, have a number of principles that they stick to for each and every build. The one piece bolt on neck is one such example, chosen for its superior tone transference and feel, and their body shapes, chosen for perfect balance and comfort. As a package, they deliver the ‘Alpher’ sound. [/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]What really sets them apart from others at the moment is their choice in woods. They work with select, and very secret, wood dealers and trawl through hundreds and hundreds of blanks looking for the right quality for their instrument, and the results are clearly evident when you flick through their Instagram feed, which is full of stock wood and partial builds alike. They work with a limited number of companies to source their brass hardware, pickups and preamps. With high profile commissions coming in thick and fast, most recently from Slipknot bassist Alessandro ‘V-Man’ Venturella, in addition to builds already completed for the Marmozets, the Used and many more, and an ever growing following in social media, they are a top notch outfit who are rapidly rising to the top of the British instrument building scene.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Up for review I have my brand new[b] Alpher Mako Elite 5 string[/b], finished in November 2015. I commissioned the build in February this year, meaning a very reasonable 9 month build time.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif][size=5][b]Construction, Fit and Finish: 10/10[/b][/size][/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]34" scale 24 fret 5 string bass, 45mm nut with a variable spacing Hipshot bridge, and Hipshot Tuners/String Tree.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The neck is of one piece Bolt On construction, a deep pocket with 6 bolts, and is made of a very unique two-toned ribbon figured indian rosewood. The grain shimmers and appears different in different light, its truly special and very difficult to demonstrate in a photograph. The feel is a wonderful slim C shape with a very smooth feel. Side dots are luminlay so glow in the dark. The headstock is inlayed with a piece of the buckeye burl used for the topwood and branded with the Alpher logo, a wonderful touch. The truss rod is accessed via a wheel at the heel of the neck, which can be adjusted really by anything long and thin enough. The action is as low, certainly low as my playing could accomodate and could go lower as required.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The fretboard is a wonderful piece of Ziricote, cut so that a striking slither of sapwood adorns the treble side of the neck. The figuring is typical ziricote and is very pleasing to look at. It is a hard wood with an almost ebony like quality and really looks the business.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The body is again of one piece single cut construction and is made of a very highly figured piece of Claro walnut. I find some Singlecut instruments to look not too dissimilar to a beluga whale, however the shape of the Mako is very sleek and attractive. Similar to the neck, this body reacts wonderfully well to different light. Really, it is of top wood quality, however when I saw this piece was big enough for the body (in fact the slab was big enough for a couple of bodies!) I had to have it. The rear of the body has a control compartment cover made of the same rosewood than made the neck and is magnetic allowing for easy access at all times. It is something I really don’t understand why all luthiers don’t go for, screws can be a such a PITA, particularly if the battery is behind there, too.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The top is, once again, of one piece construction and is made of Buckeye Burl. One piece is not too common for this kind of topwood and was specifically chosen for this reason as I generally dislike bookmatched two piece tops. I also chose this as it has a very unique wavy grain, much less in your face than some buckeye tops, it has almost a marble appearance with unbelievable depth. I think it looks absolutely fantastic and works very well with the overall look.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Sandwiched between the body and top is a contrasting layer of wenge. I prefer this to the more usual black veneer as it has bit more character and, to put it the way of another BC’er, it looks like little blocks of wood connecting the top and body.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Beautifully carved Ziricote knobs to match the fretboard finish the bass off perfectly. Two of the knobs have the sapwood to identify those as the pickup selector switches, which is a lovely touch, and they are all inlayed with luminlay inlays.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The bass weighs around 9 1/2 lbs, which is bob on the perfect weight for me. I do not agree with the idea of sub-8lb basses as I personally just do not think the tone is there, but equally I don’t want a bass that will break my back. This is the perfect balance for me. I would highlight, however, that Alpher instrument usually weigh less than this, so if you want something under 8lb they will deliver :)[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The bass has a unique strap lock system, whereby the strap buttons are in fact two free moving bolts with brass inserts, the same type of bolts used to attach the neck to the body. This system allows for a much more sturdy button and allows them to be removed and reinstalled by hand with complete ease, as well as allowing washers to be attached to keep your strap in place without having to try and stretch them over. A great alternative to strap locks, and far more secure.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The whole bass is finished with liberal coats of Gun Stock Wax, which gives the bass a very smooth and aesthetically very pleasing matte finish.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]I cannot fault a single aspect of the construction of this instrument. Every detail has been executed to perfection and the whole package just looks and feels fantastic. The neck join is tighter than a tight thing and the finish is flawless. Top marks.[/font]

[size=5][b][font=times new roman,times,serif]Features and Tone: 10/10[/font][/b][/size]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The bass has a rather special electronics package developed by ideas being knocked back and forth throughout the build. The pickups are Nordstrand Bigman pickups. For those not familiar, each of these pickups effectively houses two of their Big Single pickups, meaning that this bass has four single coil pickups in all. This allows for a LOT of switch options, which we had to make sure the preamp could accommodate.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Cutting a long story short, the final configuration we went with was as follows:-[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Volume (pull for passive mode)[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Pickup pan / blend[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Dingwall 4 way rotary for neck pickup (which gives back coil, both in series, both in parallel, front coil)[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Dingwall 4 way rotary for bridge pickup (which gives back coil, both in series, both in parallel, front coil)[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Nordstrand Mid boost/cut (pull for mid shift)[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Nordstrand Bass + treble boost + cut (stacked)[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]I am a huge fan of coil taps, as well as switching between series and parallel, but I wanted to go the extra mile with this bass and isolate either coil in addition to the the series/parallel option, so four way switches were required. I am not a fan of toggle switches, so rotary switches were the way forward. I was extremely pleased when we were able to incorporate two Dingwall switches into the design to control each Bigman. The result is 24 different combinations of the four coils, and that is before the blend, preamp and active/passive options are considered. It is an outstanding bit of engineering and all three parties (Alpher, Nordstrand and Dingwall) can be thanked for making this happen.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]What is really surprising to me is the difference between all of these coil combinations. Considering how close each of the coils are in each bigman, the tone of each solo’d is quite different, and the plethora of sounds available as a result is mind-blowing. It is a swiss army knife of an instrument, with traditional and modern tones all possible. Solo’ing the top neck coil and it sounds like a most bonkers looking Precision bass. Blend the Bottom coil of each pickup in passive mode and you have a great traditional Jazz tone. The examples are endless. The bass really comes alive when you use one or both of the pickups in series and parallel mode and dial in some mids on the preamp, incredibly punchy tone that just wants to rip your face off.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]At the time of choosing this type of setup I did consider this was maybe complete overkill, a waste of my money and Alpher’s time and in the end I would only use a couple of the combinations. However, I have no regrets at all. Why choose to build with Two Nordstrand Singles and limit myself when I could have this? Its just incredible. Not to take anything away from the preamp here either. It is a very musical preamp and you can happily dial in the extremes of the EQ without it being overpowering, unlike countless other models. It is the perfect partner to the pickups.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]My favourite three settings so far are:[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Bridge Series and Neck Parallel - I would describe this as the signature tone of this bass, punchy and modern.[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Bridge Bottom and Neck Top - This is a surprisingly aggressive combination, I'm almost hearing Wal esque tones with a little drive, outstanding.[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Neck Top Solo'd - P bass territory, a really organic woody tone.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]But in truth, they all offer something different. Bridge Top Neck Bottom is a super scooped modern jazz sound, the bridge pickup solo's in any coil combination is barky as a dog in a post office depot.... I could easily descibe each setting differently.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The tone of the bass is clearly influenced by the choices of wood. I refer again to the weight; I feel that the low end thump of the bass can be attributed to its slightly heavier weight than the average Alpher. Clara Walnut and Rosewood are amazing tone woods. Unfortunately, I am rubbish at describing tone, but the depth of the punch that oozes from this instrument is as a result of its construction, and by no means just its electronics. Anyone that thinks this instrument would sound the same with a Swamp Ash body and maple neck should probably start broadening their bass horizons![/font]

[size=5][b][font=times new roman,times,serif]Reliability/Durability: N/A[/font][/b][/size]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The Instrument is too new to me for me to comment on this with any accuracy, so it would not be fair. With all bolted attachments having corresponding brass inserts, there will not be any reliability issues there.[/font]

[b][size=5][font=times new roman,times,serif]Value for Money: 8/10[/font][/size][/b]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Handmade basses of this quality do not come cheap, and you have to expect to pay out for the right instrument. What I can say is that the charges made by Chris and Alex are extremely fair and you know from the quality of the parts and wood that you are getting a great deal. [b]10% discount to all Basschatters[/b], which saved me a pretty packet in the end. However, the super duper woods are not mandatory and you can easily choose something perhaps a little less ‘coffee table’ like and more ‘deluxe garden fence’ like for a lower cost. (disclaimer: no Alpher instrument is anything like a bloody garden fence, I am just making fun of the coffee table comments people like to make ;)). Everything in this nature is your choice, so you can set your own budget based on the base price. Alpher also offer payment plans and are very flexible and sorting out a payment schedule that suits you, and offer a build time to match. This was my own first experience at having a bass built for me, and it could not have been smoother.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Included with the bass is a hard or soft case (I paid an extra premium for a Mono Vertigo, however only over and above the cost of the usual case so very fair), a T-Shirt, a keyring carved from the same wood used for the bass, a bottle of wax for the finish and a toolkit. Considering some new basses don't come with a bloody allen key, this is a pretty impressive package.[/font]

[size=5][b][font=times new roman,times,serif]Customer Support: 10/10[/font][/b][/size]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]They are FANTASTIC guys to deal with. I have had hours and hours of Facebook conversation, discussing the build, changing my mind, changing my mind again, asking for advice, thoughts, opinions e.t.c. They will continue to support the instrument for you long after purchase and they will always find time to have a chat. Its a great experience and its so good to be part of the Alpher family.[/font]

[size=5][b][font=times new roman,times,serif]Overall rating: 9.5/10[/font][/b][/size]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]I have had the pleasure of owning many high end instruments over the past few years in particular in my quest for the perfect bass. These include Dozens of Warwick's, a Wood and Tronics, a couple of Roscoe's, four Dingwall's, a Sei, a ACG and a Wal. This feels like something special, it has something that none of the previous instruments had. I cannot even describe it, perhaps I am talking about the feeling of having an Instrument built for you, but I don’t think so. It just feels like I am playing something a cut above anything else. The highlight for me is the neck, which is just a complete joy to play and the smoothest and comfiest I have come across. Visually, it is truly striking. It wont be to everyone's taste by any means, however the quality of the craftmanship cannot be denied. [/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The lowlight? Well, there isn’t one. In truth, I have at this moment in time got nothing negative to say about the instrument. Yes, its my baby and yes, I am biased, but I am also bloody critical and have sold basses in the past for the tiniest of reasons. I just can’t find anything I don’t like about this bass. I won’t give it 10, as that would give them nothing to work on, so 9.5 it is.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]My advice? If you are looking for an instrument to be built by your fellow countrymen with the finest wood and hardware available around the world, there is little point in looking further than Alpher Instruments.[/font]

[b][font=times new roman,times,serif]Links[/font][/b]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Website: [url="http://alpher.co.uk"]http://alpher.co.uk[/url][/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Instagram: [url="https://www.instagram.com/alpherinstruments/"]https://www.instagram.com/alpherinstruments/[/url][/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]Facebook: [url="https://www.facebook.com/chrisdabass"]https://www.facebook.com/chrisdabass[/url][/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif][size=4]A few photographs of the bass Proshots courtesey of Kev Hiscoe. [/size][/font]

















[font=times new roman,times,serif][size=5]Sound Samples[/size][/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif][size=5][size=4]I will sort some of these as soon as I have chance.[/size][/size][/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif][size=5][size=4]I hope you enjoy the review. Please comment and feel free to ask any questions and I will surely answer :)[/size][/size][/font]

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So you don't like it then?
How do you find playing on the top 7 frets, the bolt-on heel looks a little restrictive?

Beautiful piece of construction though!

Si

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That is spectacular, and a very good review too!
They are very close to me and I never knew... scary stuff.

Hope you continue to enjoy it.

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[quote name='Sibob' timestamp='1449243820' post='2921926']
So you don't like it then?
How do you find playing on the top 7 frets, the bolt-on heel looks a little restrictive?

Beautiful piece of construction though!

Si
[/quote]

Can't stand it ;)

Top seven frets are no problem at all! I honestly find it no less accessible than any other SC or DC bass I have had, very comfortable throughout the scale.


[quote name='Mattpt85' timestamp='1449243959' post='2921929']
That is spectacular, and a very good review too!
They are very close to me and I never knew... scary stuff.

Hope you continue to enjoy it.
[/quote]

Thank you! Pay them a visit ;)

Edited by Kev

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Must admit I am not really in to the looks of the bass, but I do not like any basses from any maker in the coffee table style so really I guess I am not being fair about how it looks as it is obviously down to personal taste I can tell it has been done to a high standard :) I like the black hardware and I am quite amazed with the electronics part of the bass some thought and skill went in to getting that wired and running :) looking forward to sound samples enjoy the bass mate

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Beautiful instrument. I especially like the way the flow of the wood runs from the top left to the bottom right rather than the traditional left to right!

I wonder though, why have such gorgeous wood on the back? Wasted because no-one can see it!

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I know! I chose walnut as it is an excellent tonewood, why not go for a gorgeous piece? Besides, I get to see it ;). They could have made several topwoods out of that piece too - check the build diary to see the size of the original slab! Haha :)

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Ive just put an order in for a Cobia as im not a fan of single cuts, similar top wood, maple neck and single active pup for my 50th in september so thats a similar build time, I must be the first person ever to be looking forward to hitting the big 5-0 haha. That is a very very impressive looking instrument indeed.

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Some fabulous woods, and used really nicely. Also I love the headstock - both the shape and the lamination.

Value for money on custom builds is really impossible to judge - if you love it, and keep it forever (as I am with my Shuker) then they are an easy 10/10. If however you ever want to sell one they aren't a patch on a bog standard Fender for holding their price. Pretty sure you're going to love this one for a long time!

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