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bnt

NBD: HB Enhanced MP-4EB

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Full details here, including better pictures than I can take at the moment. It only arrived 1/2h ago, but first impressions are positive. Feels very solid and fairly heavy: maybe 4kg, though I don't have an accurate scale. Thomann said the whole box was 3kg, including one of their premier gig bags: I don't think so!

I might want to lower the action at the bridge, but neck relief at the 8th fret is about 0.35mm, maybe a bit less, which is pretty good. So I don't think I'll need to touch the truss rod any time soon.

I haven't done any detailed listening tests yet - it's the middle of day and I'm supposed to be working - but I can tell the P pickup is powerful compared to the MM HB at the bridge. Adjusting pickup heights may help there, the MM has got room to come up a bit. No comment on the active EQ yet, don't know if I want to keep it or go passive.

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Looking forward to your review. This is one of the two remaining HBs on my hit list. No funds right now as I'm selling to buy amps and cabs but it's sitting winking at me evry time |I glance at my basket. I wouldn't have said the blue would be my first choice. How does it look in real life?

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Harley Benton has some interesting stuff these days - I am tempted by their Fusion series guitars... roasted maple necks with stainless steel frets for under £350?!

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Cool - interested in hearing more about the more upmarket stuff they're introducing. Cerainly looks the business.

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Posted (edited)

I don't know if I'm going to write a proper review as such. I haven't owned a lot of different basses in my life, and so I don't have a good sense of what's out there for comparison. This is the first bass I've bought in over ten years, and for most of that time I only had one: the Tune TWB43 I describe here. Any references to "the other bass" will be to that.

This HB is at least a kilogram heavier than the other bass, though only slightly larger, which is mostly down to the wood, I think. It looked bigger in the hands of other players, especially Julia from Thomann, who says this is lighter than the MJ-4 J-style version. I'm 6 foot in socks with muscles, so I'm OK. Both are basically Sandberg-inspired, mine being a clone of the Californa VM4. I didn't really want the blue, and it looks like I'm not alone there, since the other two colours (cream and natural) are sold out for the next six weeks at least. But I can live with it and may consider refinishing it some day.

One disappointment: the pictures seem to indicate that the body is sloped to accommodate the picking arm more ergonomically: it is, it's barely cut down at all, so it's more of a slab. So I'm not totally happy when playing seated, but less bothered when standing. On a strap, there's a little neck dive: nothing that a decent strap can't handle. The bridge is solid and looks more complicated than it is: each bridgepiece has an optional locking screw to hold it down once you're done with adjustments. These arrived loose, presumably in case the player tries to raise the action and can't. Through-body stringing is standard but optional, and I believe the supplied strings are the specified D'Addarios. 

I mentioned the neck already: modern C shape, satin finish on the back, and I don't think I'll need to touch the truss rod in the foreseeable future. If I did, it's an easily-accessible wheel method. I've been learning more about setup, starting with Fender's advice here, and the feeler gauges told me the relief was just under 0.35mm, which was spot on. However, the action at the bridge was way too high, about 4mm (double the recommended 2mm), and I struggled with that a bit. Today I lowered it to about 2mm, and am much happier. The bridgepieces are low but didn't bottom out - a problem I've had before. (On the other bass, I ended up sinking the whole bridge in to the body to get the range of adjustment I needed, as a project, rather than use shims. I have a little buzz low down that tells me the neck may be a little too straight now, but nothing requiring action yet.)

So I like the construction so far, I think I have a solid base for modding. Which is good, because they have skimped on the electronics. First of all, the pickups are decent, I think. The split-P is definitely powerful. The MM HB not so much, but it sounds good, if a bit anonymous. After adjusting that up and the P down, the balance is better. The P is now nearly 3mm below the strings, and I am not short of signal. I might replace the HB with one of these, but it doesn't seem urgent at this time, since it's adequate and the P is the priority.

The other bass is active, but with everything pegged it's still not as loud as this P pickup in passive mode. Which is where it will spend most of its time, since the electronics let it down badly. I thought the electronics in the other bass were average, which makes this new bass' below-average. The pickup balance pot only seems to "blend" around the centre: more than a few degrees either side and it might as well be a switch. The low EQ seems to add boom, the high EQ seems to add string noise, and both seem to be off-centre: not flat when centred. The 9V circuit seems to lack headroom, since there is audible distortion from the P when it's up full. (I thought it was 18V for some reason, but that was probably my mistake.) .

I don't have an amp - too antisocial - so I'm testing using two different headphone setups: a cheap-and-nasty Amplug clone - great for practising while walking around - and a tc electronic SpectraDrive, which has two TonePrint sections. On the SpectraComp side I like the Captain East preset so far - a great all-round compressor. On the TubeDrive side, when I use it, I try a few different TonePrints: Dark Horse for distortion, Natural Drive sometimes, most of the time that section is off. As other reviews have noted, the P-signal takes distortion well. The best tones I get so far are from the P in passive modem, which was my top priority, since my other bass is more Jazz-like if I want that.

I am already planning a total rewire to passive mode, 2V2T controls, maybe a HB coil split switch, and stereo out (Rick-O-Sound style, switchable). I would rather have no circuit than bad circuit, and the SpectraDrive has a 4-band EQ already.

  • Pro: solid construction, good bridge, string-through, zero fret. Good setup range. Very good passive P tone, not affected by lower action.
  • Con: the colour, electronics, the weight if you're weedy.

I'll add more updates / impressions over time.

Edited by bnt
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That's great, a really balanced review. Thank you.

So the colour didn't win you over when you had the bass there in your hands then?

I wonder how similar the electronics are in this to the lower priced HB I bought recently. I really dislike active basses as a rule but was so impressed with these - simply because of how subtle they are. It could be the case that what I liked about them is exactly what you didn't. I don't mind a bit of weight in a bass, so that's fine.

However, all of that becomes irrelevant if there is neck dive. That's the only deal breaker for me when choosing a bass. I can't stand even the tiniest bit.

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1 hour ago, stewblack said:

So the colour didn't win you over when you had the bass there in your hands then?

I mean ... it said blue, and it's blue ... maybe it'll pop under stage lights, but in today's grey daylight, it's just ... blue.

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Posted (edited)

it's been brought to my attention by PM that these basses may be shipping with pickups different to those advertised, and that appears to be the case here with the Split-P at least:

  • advertised: Roswell PM-4A AlNiCo-5 split-P, which is not on the Roswell website.
  • installed: Roswell PM-4 ceramic.
  • advertised: Roswell MA-4 AlNiCo-5 MM HB at the bridge
  • installed: Roswell MFR4-N/B, also ceramic magnets. This is a more powerful pickup than the MA-4, which may explain why it didn't seem as weak to me as other reviews have said.

I'm told that Thomann will swap the pickups out on request if it's a problem. I'm not a pickup connoisseur, and given the budget nature of the bass, I'm not immediately bothered by this. I already remarked that the passive P-tone is powerful, and I like it so far. I'm definitely looking for a fat, powerful tone, given that one of my favourite bass tones came from John Wetton's P-bass during his 1970s King Crimson "Bass Beast of Terror" phase. But it's definitely something to keep in mind if your tone requirements are more specific than mine.

Edited by bnt
Added MM HB details.
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I had their cheapo Jazz copy a few years ago. It was unbelievably heavy! Drilled some wood out from under the pickup cover which helped slightly, but was still very chunky! excellent bass to play though! Bet this is similar!

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3 hours ago, Elfrasho said:

I had their cheapo Jazz copy a few years ago. It was unbelievably heavy! Drilled some wood out from under the pickup cover which helped slightly, but was still very chunky! excellent bass to play though! Bet this is similar!

Been planning a similar hatchet job on mine. Have no luthier like skills so can't do anything sensible but would you say it is worth doing?

 

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1 hour ago, stewblack said:

Been planning a similar hatchet job on mine. Have no luthier like skills so can't do anything sensible but would you say it is worth doing?

 

Nope! 😂 

 

I could've went substantially deeper, so if you take more away then yes it'll make a difference. 

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I got one of these a few weeks ago.

very happy with it in many ways.

electrics are my only area of concern.

 

i find the pickups really dark in passive mode but liven up considerably as soon as it’s in active mode.

 

They are unusable for me in passive mode, far too dark but sound great in active with just a little treble.

 

I agree that the preamp has no headroom.

Distorts as soon as much Bass is added.

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On 02/05/2020 at 02:37, ribbetingfrog said:

 

I agree that the preamp has no headroom.

Distorts as soon as much Bass is added.

Does the preamp have a trim pot?

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No trim pot on the side that's accessible without removing the whole preamp, at least ... I have some parts on the way for mine, it's getting rewired something like a Rickenbacker, passive with stereo outs. I might even add the "vintage cap" to the bridge pickup to hear the effect.

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Posted (edited)

Today I re-wired the bass as planned: passive with stereo out. It's close to a Rickenbacker wiring, VT & VT, except that the pots are 500k, not 330k, and there is a single TRS jack and no pickup selector switch. The P-pickup is wired to the tip and the MM-pickup to the ring of the TRS jack. I may install a switch some day, but until then if I use a mono guitar cable, I only get the P-pickup i.e. it turns in to a P-bass.

I did some measurements, which confirmed that the two pickups are not well matched as supplied. Some typical pickup DC resistance values are listed on the Seymour Duncan website here, where higher resistance generally means more windings and therefore more powerful output. (I know it's not exactly that simple, with varying impedance by frequency, but it's something.)

  • Fender Jazz: 8.7 kΩ
  • P-Bass: 10.8 kΩ
  • SD Quarter Pounder: 11.5 kΩ
  • Roswell MFR4-N/B (this bass): 4.8 kΩ
  • Roswell PM-4 (this bass): 15.2 kΩ

That is just nuts, and it's no wonder it caused clipping in the onboard preamp running on a 9V battery. I have the preamp out, and it's all connectors and SMD components, nothing adjustable. The pickups were wired to the balance pot, before going in to the preamp, and that 250k pot is one of those where both pickups are on full in the centre position, and when you deviate from centre, one side stays on full resistance while the other side is shunted to earth. I don't like it - the response was too coarse, as I described above. The 2V / 2T setup gives me much better control over each pickup's volume now.

For a recording test I run a stereo  / 2 x mono cable in to the two channels of a Mackie Onyx Producer 2•2 preamp, setting pickup gain separately, in to an Apple iPad 2018,through a powered USB hub and the Apple CCK. In Aum I could set up a mixer channel for each pickup and treat each separately. (The first thing I discovered was that the pickups were out of phase, which was simple to fix, thankfully).

This is the first time I've been able to do separate pickup processing, so I'm just starting to learn how to make it work. I'll probably do a separate post on this later. For example, I tried a compressor plugin on the P and an amp sim plugin on the MM, which sounded OK, but may benefit from some EQ tweaks. With the P signal relatively plain and e.g. a phaser on the MM, the MM volume control on the bass effectively becomes an effect intensity control, so I can fine-tune the effect on the fly. If I use this kind of setup live, monitoring is going to be crucial. It doesn't have to be an iPad, of course: you could run two channels of pedal effects, just beware of potential phase problems. The Line 6 Helix range also supports dual inputs e.g. that's what this guy is doing in his quest for Chris Squire tones.

Edited by bnt

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