Hohner HZ-FL [fretless jazz copy] Reviews 3

Parkway Music, Clifton Pk, NY. $185 in barely played condition. I have an old Hohner fretless P-type and a Hohner fretless Steinberger copy both of which feature "Ebanol" [resin composite] fingerboards. I've never heard a wooden board whine quite the way Ebanol can, and this HZ-FL has the same fingerboard and was hanging there in such really fine shape, I just had to play it. I liked and it was cheap, so ....

As mentioned, the Ebanol fingerboard is the heart of this thing. It's not a very woody sounding whine, but almost like a superloud mosquito that hums along with your changes. Also soundwise, this is a very deep bassy ax, with no tendency to toward twangy highs on the G string [currently D'Adario flats]. I also like it's looks, a Fender Jazz knock off, black body, black fingerboard, a very red but tortise-shelled pickguard, chrome controls plate, and natural maple headstock with chrome duck's feet.

It has the common shortcomings: a bit heavy, two gain knobs rather than one-gain-with- balancer knob. The tuning machines feel uneven, not smooth [my other Hohner is just the same] but I don't really have a problem using them, it's just an aesthetics glitch. The neck is unlined, with dots, and it also has edge dots, but the edge dots and front dots do not coincide [!?!?]. Whoever was playing it before me definitley intoned only by ear, as the saddles were all backed up all the way [maximizes string length, but 4 strings were all differently intonated].

Seems solid, my older one is holding up well so I'm not worried. The jack is primitive but easily accessed if it needs tightening and the access is equally easy if the pots ever need cleaning. About the Ebanol board, it's a respectable material. All graphite Steinbergers, all aluminum-necked Kramers, and various carbon-enhanced high-end basses feature this on fretted and fretless models. It has its own sound, and wears at least as well as wood. It's a front-routed body, with a seperate chromed plate for the 3 knobs and jack. I looked inside and since the body paint is black, I don't know if it has shielding paint, but with all controls on the metal cover, it's easy to foil-line it myself. Neck is maple with skunk stripe and appears to be one piece including the head. There is a neck-tilt control, although if tilt is needed it's best to experiment using the tilt screw but then finalize by shimming instead. It had some tilt set when I got it but I've gone back to zero and am happy with my new setup. Bridge is stamped, four screws, heavier than the stamped bridge on my Mexican Fender. I will probably replace it anyway

I've got it set up with almost no relief, a middling string height, and the PUs a bit higher than originally. I find this easy to play and it has a very classic [motown] bass voice accompanied by the baritone mosquito of the Ebanol fretless. For me, very cool. I find used Hohner basses are fairly common where I live, and are always in good working condition even when looking rather beat, so they appear to be reliable in general. If you've found a Hohner, and are considering whether to buy, I'd say if you like the way it plays and sounds, and it not been used to dig trenches, at $150 to $300 [depending on model and condition] you can't lose. I'm rating this a 3, not to dump on it but just how high can you really rate a basic "good ax cheap" anyway ?

Golem rated this unit 3 on 2003-03-07.

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