Acoustic Guitar Magazine recently reviews our Solo Bass.
By Brian Fox
Chances are good that your bass-playing buddies can tell a joke or two about the dreaded “bass solo”—that moment during a gig that typically triggers a massive rush on the bar and turns the vibe to a bewildering blend of sympathetic and apoplectic. After all, most would agree that bass is best when played in consort with other instruments. But as physics dictates, low frequencies pose unique challenges in terms of amplification and monitoring, especially in group settings.
With electric bass, those hurdles are typically overcome by bumping the gain on a sufficiently powerful amplifier. When it comes to acoustic basses—often played with the explicit goal of ditching that amp—not hearing yourself over the din of even a mellow jam session can be a major drag. With its Solo Series, Breedlove Guitars brings back much of the joy in jamming, allowing players to monitor themselves through a secondary, waist-side sound hole. Additional features—including a jumbo body, a solid cedar top, a 34-inch scale length, an onboard LR-TCV preamp, and an attractive price—make the Breedlove Solo Bass an excellent option for both social and solo music making.
Parlor, auditorium, dreadnought, jumbo—bigger guitar bodies make bigger guitar sounds. That’s sound logic even a bass player could understand! (Hey, takes one to know one. . .) The earliest production-model acoustic bass guitar (ABG), the Ernie Ball Earthwood, was a massive affair that borrowed its design from the Mexicanguitarrón. Most famously put to righteous effect by Brian Ritchie of the Violent Femmes, the Earthwood’s sound is huge, but its body’s roughly 18-inch width and 6.5-inch depth pose big problems for all but the biggest pluckers. By comparison, the proportions on the Breedlove Solo Bass—17 inches wide and 4 inches deep—strike a good balance between projection and playability.
As far as ABGs go, the Solo is one of the largest on the market, but the attendant volume makes minor adjustments in playing style worthwhile. (Note: Players seeking a smaller instrument might consider Breedlove’s Pursuit Bass, which measures 15 inches across the lower bout and features a 32-inch scale length and onboard USB interface.)
In fit and finish, the Solo Bass upholds the standards you’ve come to expect from Breedlove: an even gloss coats the Solo’s solid ceder top and sapele laminate sides and back; a smooth satin finish coats the nato neck; and construction and hardware appear excellent. Breedlove’s proprietary pinless bridge design is a particularly elegant way to avoid bridge pins, which can be bothersome with bass strings under high tension.
I was immediately comfortable with the instrument’s setup out of the box, but the easy truss rod accessibility indicates tweaks would take minimal time and effort. A hard rubber plug snaps in and out of the Solo’s side sound hole, but since use of the second sound hole has no detectable effect on the frontal sound projection, I’d be inclined to just keep the plug zipped away in the instrument’s foamshell case. Fittingly, the lightweight case itself is laudable, offering excellent protection and neck support with good strap placement and adjustability.
Unplugged, the Solo Bass has something even the tweakiest tone freak should check first in an ABG: volume. No, it’s obviously not break-out-the-earplugs volume (more on that in a minute), but I’d certainly feel confident taking the Solo Bass to an open mic without any kind of backline. For strings, Breedlove opted for a coated D’Addario Phosphor Bronze set, an excellent choice to showcase the Solo’s greatest strengths, which include big bottom and acoustic brilliance, in addition to the aforementioned projection.
An onboard L.R. Baggs-designed LR-TCV preamp gives the Solo Bass its electric voice. If transparency is the goal with this preamp, mission accomplished. Set flat, it was difficult to parse the sound coming from my amp to that coming through the secondary sound hole. Bass, middle, treble, presence, and phase controls allow you to compensate for problematic rooms, and the onboard tuner is accurate and easy to use.
Though I never cranked the bass to ear-splitting volumes, I’d feel comfortable hitting a big stage with the Solo Bass without worrying too much about feedback, especially given the built-in monitoring that comes via the secondary sound hole.
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