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Review: Dave Maize Bass Guitar

 

 

Note: I sold this instrument about 2006, but I still own a fretless model.

 

 

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Dave Maize is an Oregon luthier who specializes in acoustic bass guitars. His instrument was reviewed in the December 1993 issue of Bass Player magazine, so I'll avoid duplicating the information presented in that review. Maize's instruments are top-quality in craftsmanship, appearance and sound. Woods used for the instruments are either recycled or from controlled-yield sources.

Dimensions

The 34-inch-scale instrument has a 24-fret neck, roughly 1-9/16" (39.6mm) wide at the nut and 2-3/8" (60.3mm) at the 24th fret. The neck joins the body at the 16th fret, which for me made the cut-away body option unnecessary. (The cut-away extends to the 21st fret). The large body has a rounded back, and its waist is narrower than the traditional dreadnought shape. Body dimensions are approximately 21-1/4" (53.9cm) long, 18" (45.7mm) wide and 5-34" (146mm) depth; overall length from headstock to "tail" is 48-3/4" (123.8cm). Weight is slightly over 6 pounds (2.7kg).

Click for a page of additional photos.

Pricing

See Dave Maize's home page

(*) The standard inlay is a 1" (25mm) circular figured burlwood insert with a decorative inlaid border.

Your choice of woods does not generally add to the price, though there may be exceptions.

This bass has a Bigleaf Maple back and sides, mahogany neck, western red cedar top, Highlander pickup/preamp, thumbrest, locking gold Sperzel tuners, and custom hard case.

Appearance

The overall workmanship is superb. The body binding inlay work is wonderful (a three-part binding using walnut, a black stripe and a light-colored wood). The cross-grain figuring of the Bigleaf Maple gives the body a velvety textured appearance below the perfectly smooth clear finish.

Dave chose Katalox (pronounced "KAT-a-losch"), a Yucatan wood, for the fingerboard and bridge. Katalox is a hard, dark wood similar to ebony but it isn't endangered. The rounded jumbo frets are perfectly set with no gaps or sharp edges at the edge of the fingerboard. The instrument arrived well setup with nearly perfect intonation; though I'm a stickler for exact intonation, it isn't easy to achieve with the fixed saddle. All I had to do was tune up. The neck is finished with a slight gloss; this will burnish nicely to a smoother satin finish with playing. The nut is made of "Tusq," a synthetic ivory product. The locking Sperzel tuners and the slip-in bridge allow for easy changing of strings, especially to achieve a different sound. Position markers are inlaid along the side of the fingerboard; there are none on the face of the board.

Tone and Playability

Tone is very mellow, with the expected acoustic snappiness, but it isn't overly strident. Plugged in, the Highlander pickup transmits this acoustic tone without adding color — the instrument's sound gets louder with amplification, without sounding like an electric. Dave advises that as the finish and the wood age, the low tone will improve further.

My first live use of the instrument was for an electric rock/country gig (two electric guitars and drums). Sound was fine; the phosphor-bronze strings had more than enough treble to cut thru the mix. Feedback only occurred when I faced my amp within a couple of feet, and then only if I wasn't muting the strings with my hand. Because the instrument's deep body positions the neck farther from my body, I'm getting used to playing without seeing any strings except the low E. And, though I have long arms, my right hand is more "hooked" to reach around the big body to the strings.

I also played unplugged at an acoustic rehearsal session, with two acoustic guitars, flute/sax and fiddle/mandolin (all unplugged, of course). Though I would have preferred to hear myself better, I was told that the instrument easily projected about 8 feet to the far side of the circle of musicians, and I got compliments on the tone. I was playing harder than I normally would on an electric, but fatigue didn't become noticeable until after about three hours.

The Electronics

The Highlander IP-1 pickup consists of a coaxial pressure transducer "probe" installed in the bridge saddle, and a handmade solid-state preamp contained in a metal tube which serves as the output jack and strap pin combination. This pickup, I'm told, comes from US submarine sensor technology, adapted to musical use. Boasting a 100dB dynamic range, the Highlander's frequency response is flat from 10Hz to over 800KHz! (Yes, eight-hundred.) It's powered by a single 9-volt battery installed in a flip-out compartment (earlier instruments located the battery inside, definitely less convenient). The preamp, which has no controls, has circuitry to automatically adjust the transistor bias to compensate for ambient temperature and battery voltage.

You Got Some Case

The custom hard case is also impressive. This Fort-Knox of a case is made from plywood and covered with black canvas material (I think Dave said they call it "Bull Hide.) It's lined with a burgundy "fur" (from what kind of animal?) and it weighs an astonishing 18 pounds (8.1kg) empty. The case snugly and securely holds the instrument, latching with five gold-tone steel latches (one has a keyed lock). Although it's heavy to carry, I doubt there will be any worry about damage (but it isn't ATA-rated so it can't be trusted with baggage handlers).

Conclusions

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but I'll wrap up by again saying that this is one sweet bass. Since there's always got to be a complaint, my only one is that Dave Maize's delivery schedule was difficult to endure. His original delivery estimate on my May 28th order was November 1994 (about five months) due to a small backlog, but events stretched things out until February 1995. (Dave attributed part of the delay to the time he spent building a new spray booth along the way.) Even under ideal working conditions, it takes about 3-4 months to complete an instrument. Add in the realities of other orders, a sensible work schedule and some time spent managing business issues, and it's easy to understand a six-month delivery estimate. On the positive side, it's a way to budget the purchase price over the longer time.

I currently play this bass almost exclusively for folk gigs, because it looks as well as sounds perfect for acoustic music. I tend to play it in the style of a string bass (which I've never played), capitalizing on the initial "boom" of the instrument. Naturally, its sustain when amplified extends far longer than that of an upright bass. For practice sessions, it's nice to be able to travel light and play without aid of electrons.

Dave Maize sells direct, so you can't try one of his instruments before buying, unless you're lucky enough to catch him at a music show or know an owner; as a result, he allows a three-day full-refund trial period. The instrument carries a five-year original-owner warranty.

Copyright © 1995-2016 - Rick Auricchio