OLP Tony Levin Signature Five String Reviews 3

I've played bass professionally for 44 years. I currently play in a praise band in a local church and also do studio work. I favor rock but have played just about every style, even -- shame -- disco. Favorite players include Paul McCartney, James Jamerson, Tony Levin, Chris Squire, Joe Osborn, Bob Glaub and Sting. ----------- OLP Tony Levin Signature Five String: Peach with matching headstock that has a Tony Levin characature and signature; maple neck w/rosewood board; 34' scale; 11' radius; 22 frets; 1.75' wide at the nut; four-bolt neck with neckplate; alder body; pearl pickguard; single pickup with alnico magnets; active three-band EQ. Standard 4+1 headstock. Ernie Ball Slinky roundwound strings.

Purchased online in early 2009 from 8th Street Music in Philadelphia. 8th Street was the only place I could find this bass in Peach. I'm a Tony Levin fan and wanted the TL vibe and sound without paying for an EBMM Sting Ray 5. I also needed a backup fiver that I could string with roundwounds as an alternative to my Lakland 55-94, which usually has flats. MSRP: $350, but I paid $230 without a case or bag. FYI: The OLP line was discontinued in 2009, so finding a new TL might be difficult. This bass was meant to replicate Tony's famous 'Barbie Flesh' SR5. The OLP Peach is close, but darker. TL worked with OLP in designing this bass and insisted that they use alnico magnets in the pickup because that's what was used on his bass. EBMM had switched to ceramic magnets but has gone back to alnico on the current SR5.

The TL Sig sounds very close to TL's workhorse EBMM; in fact, TL used the OLP on his 'Resonator' CD a few years back and it sounded fine. Tone when set flat is standard Music Man -- lots of bottom and top but few mids. Tweaking the three-band EQ makes a big difference, but it's possible to overdrive the preamp if you max out the controls. If you have played and liked EBMM SR5's, you will like the neck -- string spacing on the OLP is identical. Nice slap tone.

The OLP TL is heavy -- over 10 pounds -- but that's to be expected with an alder body and in my experience is typical of cheaper foreign-manufactured basses. As stated above, the preamp can be driven to distortion if you crank the EQ knobs, especially the bass, but in most situations that kind of EQing is unnecessary. I prefer to leave the bass set flat and adjust my amp EQ. I don't like the string spacing or the neck profile, but I am spoiled by my Lakland fivers, which have compound radius necks that get thinner as you ascend and wider spacing (19mm) at the bridge. I'm well aware that many bassists love EBMM spacing and profile, so it comes down to personal taste. The B string is OK as far as tension, but in volume overrides the other fours stings, and I found it next to impossible to compensate for this by lowering the B side of the pickup. But again, I'm spoiled by my Lakland 35' scale basses and the fact that the sound of the Lakland is absolutely even from top to bottom.

Although made in China, the fit and finish is fine. Mine has no 'fret sprout' or high frets, and the finish is flawless. Neck pocket is tight. Action was set medium-high from the factory and produces no fret buzz.

If you're a closet Tony Levin and looking for the TL SR5 look and sound on a budget, this bass is the ticket. It may be difficult to find a TL model now that the OLP line has been discontinued, but there are still a few OLP MM3 fivers (not TL Sigs) available on Ebay for around $400.

Laklander rated this unit 3 on 2009-11-30.

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