Lakland expands its USA-made line with four new basses
(Dave Molter | Posted 2011-01-17)
Since 1994 when it introduced its flagship 55-94 five-string bass, Lakland has continued to gain widespread acceptance among bassists who want high-quality workmanship, great sound and a vintage vibe in basses with modern features.
For 2011, Lakland has rolled out two new USA-made models, the 44-51 series and the AJ series. The 44-51 basses are updated replications of the original 1951 Fender Precision bass, which featured a non-contoured "slab" body, a single-coil pickup and a pickguard that covered both upper and lower horns.
The main differences between the Fender '51 and the Lakland 44-51 are apparent: first, there's the oval Lakland bridge; second, there's the Lakland headstock. The Fender '51 had a smaller, Telecaster-like headstock with a two-saddle, "angle iron" Fender bridge and string-thru body. The Lakland bridge has four adjustable saddles and thru-bridge or thru-body access.(For flatwound players, note that most flats should be strung through the bridge to avoid sharp bends in the string at the bridge end.) The tribute to Fender's original design is completed with a chrome pickup cover. Although the original Fender P also had a bridge cover, Lakland apparently prefers its proprietary oval shape to be seen. The other departure from paying strict tribute to the '51 Fender is that neither of the new Laklands has the wooden "tugbar" mounted below the G string. The new 44-51M updates the slab body with belly and arm contours as well as the use of a single Lakland hum canceling split P-style pickup.
Lakland offers both 44-51 models with the player's choice of nut width: 1.625" (standard on most Lakland 4-strings and newer Fenders); 1.5" Jazz taper; or 1.75" -- the width of older P basses and also the standard on Lakland's 44-64 (formerly the Bob Glaub), which is patterned after the 1964 P bass. Other features common to both models are:
Width at Final Fret: 2.48"
1st Fret Neck Depth: .87" (.77" optional)
Fingerboard Radius: 10"
Scale Length: 34"
Bridge String Spacing: .78"
Quarter-Sawn Rock Maple neck with Graphite Reinforcement Bars
Body wood choices:
Swamp Ash (standard); Alder (standard option-sunburst and opaque finishes only)
13 color options
Fingerboard: Birdseye Maple with Ebony Dots;
East Indian Rosewood with Birdseye Maple Dots;
Lined or Unlined Fretless with Ebony side dots only
Hipshot Tapered Shaft Reverse Gearing tuners;
Hipshot D-Tuner (optional)
Neck Heel Truss Rod Access
White/Black/White 3 Ply;
Aged White (Mint) (Optional);
Tortoise Shell (Optional);
MSRP for each of the 44-51 models is $3,800 USD.
The new AJ Series is Lakland's replacement for the Darryl Jones Signature Bass, which Lakland dropped after Jones withdrew his endorsement in 2010. They are sweet-looking basses available in 13 colors.
The original Lakland DJ model (debut in was a replication of the Albey Balgochian-made Jazz-style bass that Jones then was playing. The AJ series is available in 4- and 5-string models (AJ-44 & AJ-55, respectively). Each features a downsized Jazz bass-style body with slightly shifted contours, a bound and blocked rosewood neck/fingerboard and a Vol/Blend/Mid/Bass Treble(Stacked) Control configuration. Because the bodies are flamed maple, no pickguard is installed, but a quilted maple top is an option. Lakland LH preamp and LH pickups complete the electronics package.
Tuners on the 44-AJ are reversed-gear Hipshot tapered shaft; the 55-AJ has Hipshot Ultralites to reduce headstock weight. Nut width for the 44-AJ is the standard 1.5" Jazz width with a 10" radius and 20 frets; the 55-AJ has the standard Lakland fiver nut width of 1.81" with a compound 10"/13" radius and 22 frets. The AJ-55 comes standard at 35" (As do all Lakland fivers) but 34" is an option.
MSRP for the 44-AJ is $4.500 USD; the 55-AJ retails at $4,900 USD.
My main bass for 10 years has been a Lakland 55-94, and I firmly believe that there is no better USA-made bass. However, I can understand that the MSRP of these instruments take them out of the realm of all but gigging pros. With luck, interest in the new models will be such that Lakland will produce made-in-Indonesia Skyline versions of the 44-51 and AJ series, which will bring street price to around $1,300.
If you're sold on the looks of the 44-51M, bear in mind that Fender is offering a 60th Anniversary Precision Bass with almost identical features with an MSRP for "only" $1999.99
Dave Molter is Managing Editor and Bass Guitars Editor of MusicGearReview.com. He has played bass professionally for 46 years.