Synergy Custom Basses Custom Fretless 6-string Reviews 5

This bass was hand made in 2001 by Kevin Hartle, a Luthier in Brimingham, UK. He is just starting out in the instrument making business under the trade name Synergy Custom Basses, and this bass is only the third one he has ever made, but it ROCKS. Specs are: 35" scale neck-through 6-string fretless 5-piece maple and rosewood neck with two graphite reinforcing bars 24 fret ebony fingerboard with bubinga fretlines and white side dot markers Mahogany body wings with rosewood top ABM 3-way adjustable bridge, Gotoh GB7 tuners, all gold-plated Seymour Duncan ASB-6 soapbar pickups Seymour Duncan STC-3 onboard preamp with 3-band EQ Controls are master volume with push-pull slap contour, pickup blend, treble boost/cut, mid boost/cut and bass boost/cut NO straplocks Finish is a high-shine tranparent plastic coating Bass came with a very nice Protec gigbag and a set of Status flat-wound strings Price was 1250 pounds Sterling This bass was custom built to my requirements by Kevin over a period of about three months. I am a classical guitar player by training, and wanted to keep my playing position, ie sitting down with my left foot on footstand and the bass on my left thigh. In order for this to be possible the shape and position of the lower 'waist' and lower bout are crucial, and very few production models would accommodate this. I had been using Fender jazz basses until I met Kevin, but when he said he could build me any body shape I wanted I jumped at the chance. The final product resembles a jazz bass with elongated horns and a wider lower bout, and is actually a cross between a jazz bass and a classical guitar. Getting this design right and down on paper took nearly four hours of experimentation, but Kevin was very patient and kept altering his actual-size drawing until we were both happy. He then proceeded to build the drawing! The result is exactly what was intended - a custom bass in every sense of the word.

This bass has a wonderfully sophisticated sound - compared to most other electric basses it has a very even balance of low, mid and high frequencies which give it an extremely mellow, singing tone. This supports without being overpowering or boomy, but is also useful for cutting through a heavier mix. Changing the pickup blend and onboard EQ gives a very wide variety of tones, from thick, dark traditional P-bass to the most snarly, growly, Jaco-esq mwah imaginable! I have never recorded with it, and have only been playing it for about two months, but have yet to find a situation into which it cannot fit. I play through an Acoustic Image Clarus into two 1X15 with horn PA cabs.

The only downside of this bass is its 12 pounds of weight, which make it a bit of a beast to cart around. Apart from that, it is exactly what I need, without exception.

Kevin has only built three basses so far (this is number three) but myself and others agree that they are top notch instruments. Build quality on this bass is excellent: the glued joints all sit perfectly together, all the screws secure in corresponding threaded inserts in the wood, the hardware is well fitted and secured, and the finish is nearly perfect - only one small flaw where the top horn meets the body. The bass was also well set-up by Kevin, and I have not had to make major changes apart from adjusting the truss rod (supplied completely untensioned) as the neck has begun to set. Attention to detail is also wonderful - the control cavity covers are cut from the same wood as the body 'a la Alembic' and the thickness of the point where the headstock joins the neck has been increased to add strength. This bass is a brick - the finish in particular is incredibly tough. Kevin describes it as being like 'liquid formica' and he is not kidding - at my last service the bass had an encounter with the corner of a metal music stand that would have dinged a normal laquer finish, but it only left a tiny, nearly invisible mark on the synergy. The finish also seems fairly resistant to scratching and things like sweat, dirt etc. The bridge is solid machined brass, and the bass holds tuning incredibly well - after the playing-in period I have not have to tune it, just check it! Likewise the truss rod has not needed adjusting after the break-in period. I play without a backup - I have to carry my amp and bass on the bus, so I don't have much choice.

This bass is unique, and hence pretty much irreplacable. It fits me like a glove, and I think my bass-shopping days are over. It plays well, is responsive, dependable and robust. I had the string-spacing made quite narrow (16mm at the bridge) so the neck is not an aircraft-carrier deck. The best bit about the instrument is probably its sophistication - from looks to finish to tone, it is a thoroughbred Rolls-Royce of a bass. Nothing flash or fancy, just great sound! Oh yes, and the price - I challenge anyone to find a custom made bass this good for this price. Better hurry up and order one, before Kevin puts up his rates! I must also mention that one of the nicest things about Kevin is that he deals with his customers one at a time, face to face, and he is REALLY a perfectionist - if the instrument is not EXACTLY what you need, he will take it back and make it so! Also, because he has no templates or standard models, each instrument is truly unique: designed by you, built by Kevin, from start to finish. He even came down to Oxford from Birmingham when I couldn't make it up there to discuss the bass specifications, and put me up overnight when I went to collect it. Now is that customer service or what!!! He is also constantly available to give advice and help after you take the instrument home.

Bruno Goh Luse rated this unit 5 on 2001-11-17.

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