Turner Guitars Renaissance 5 Fretless Reviews 5

I have a thing for hollow bases, and I prefer fretless to avoid all the klik-klunk-wizze noises that hollow basses amplify from finger-to-string and string-to-fret noises. I also like an extra-wide 5-string. Maybe my preferences stem from my being a total bass-klutz, but Turner did his best to address my needs, so there must be more of us B-Ks out there! Anyway, the Bass Palace offered this one as "new, demo" so I went for it.

This is a fairly long review because almost everything about this bass is different than your typical magnetic PU, solid body, steel string bass. The sound of this ax is incredible. After trying a Carvin AC50, this is an whole other world tone-wise, and it feels even lighter [altho they are similar weights]. You can get an extremely similar voice from a juggernaught fully hollow fretless ABG, but they're not much cheaper [for the 5-strings] and are a pain to transport and to play. The only ABG that actually sounds this good [better, actually...] is the Taylor which dwarfs all other ABGs and has a very impressively huge price tag. The bronze-nylon RW TI strings have a very light touch, but I'm not yet convinced that they are worth their annoying surface feel. I wish they were flatwound. BTW, I still have a Godin A-4 and so can testify that the Turner is a much better URB-mimic. The unique simplified appearance of the Turner is also a pleasure, and I like to think the "anti-gadgets" look tells your audience that great sound is your own doings, not some cooked up electronic effect. It's a no-frills all-business look. But I'm still going to check it out on the wah-wah box !

The downside of this wunderkind must be taken seriously before you leap without looking. It's just a little bit too long and wide for most cases and gig bags, and must be somewhat more fragile than solid body basses, similar to any f-hole thin-body ax. Mine has the "strap balance dingus", which provides decent hang-balance but prevents it from fitting into a few cases that would have otherwise been useable. I definitely do NOT wish to remove the "dingus". There's no place to hang your thumb except the edge of the neck. This is not ideal for tone. Picking it closer to bridge sounds much better. While all the strings do have great tone, the D&G sound like they are on some other ax, although they are NOT twangy or thin-sounding. Maybe this could be an asset, but presently I don't see it that way. The rosewood fretboard is not very thick. Maybe it should be expoxied to avoid wear from roundwounds. A 35" scale and thru-body stringing means that some standard "long scale bass" string sets will be too short. Immediately on starting practice [as soon as I got it home] I realized it would take some adjustment of style due to the very "rubbery" strings. I had only a couple hours of messing around with it before I took it on stage -- a bit premature, but not a a disaster, it's not THAT weird. My main problem was the fast stuff, as the soft strings do not catapult my fingers away to the next string the way fat steel strings do. Maybe I just learned that my own right hand habits are not what they should be; after all, I am the Bass Klutz. Also I discovered by accident, after a guitarist let his curly-coil cord drag across the tone controls on my combo, that if you crank the treble way up on this ax it sounds like a giant angry bee or wasp. Could be useful sometimes. Of course, a deep bass version of "angry wasp" is what this ax is all about.

The sides are curved hardwood, and the back looks like the same wood. Top is cedar. Whole body has fairly thin finish for a natural appearance and fine acoustic tone. Bridge is a typical acoustic bridge, housing the piezo PU under the bone. There's a wide inner center block which allows the thru-body stringing. The graphite reinforced maple neck appears to be seamless, with a 35" scale lined rosewood fingerboard, about 22 non-frets long. Staggered 4-bolt neck joint is even stronger with the "dingus" installed. The socket seems precise [I didn't take the screws out to check it]. Head is of a darker maple, and joins at a large inset V-joint in the neck, under the lowest two "frets". As mentioned by another reviewer, the MOP side dots really are a problem. Various dots randomly shift from dark to light as you move about and the contrast against the maple just disappears. I painted new ones. Tuners are small open-geared and are very smooth [maybe partly due to the low-tension nylon strings]. White nut, no zero-fret :-( Truss rod cover is at the nut, but I have not had to use it. All string paths run straight-line across the nut to pegs. Strap buttons are extra secure by their large-headed mushroom shape. PU is in bridge. The whole pre-amp slides out of the lower edge of the body for battery access [2x9v], and is retained by 2 screws. There are two recessed trim pots visible next to the output jack for tweaking EQ. The only control knobs are the gain and tone knobs on the forward edge of the body above the neck. Players need to be cautious not to bash the lower edge where the pre-amp lives, as there's some odd structure there.

This is an amazing ax, priced well below even the lower realms of true exotica, but there is no free lunch so it has its various shortcomings. Since the tone alone is worth the price, and none of the shortcomings are very serious, it's a keeper. At it's price, it rates a "5", and anyway, even at 3 times the price, nothing is ever really perfect. A "5" means "best", and I don't think there's a better version of this genre out there. But, please Mr T, when you design a fretless around a set of ROUNDWOUND TIs, you ought to provide us with a nice reassuringly thick hard ebony finger board that can survive many resurfacing jobs. Not for rock stars, string-snappers, or children under 52" tall, YMMV.

Golem rated this unit 5 on 2003-10-30.

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