Shuker Jazz Bass

by TG-WP on February 11, 2014

In mid December I received my Shuker Jazz Bass and before I give you a breakdown of the spec, let me say, it’s possibly the best bass I have ever played…a true testament to Jon and his many years as a master luthier!!

Specification

  • Ash body with a multi-chambered upper bout and a 4 piece Wenge set-neck
  • Macassar Ebony fretboard – 24 frets at 34″ scale with 17.5mm string spacing
  • Nitro finish Olympic white body and headstock with a satin top coat and black scratch plate
  • Chrome hardware – Schaller 2000 bridge, Hipshot Ultralite tuners and a string tree on the E to G strings
  • Aaron Armstrong pickups (60’s spacing) and John East U-retro preamp

First Impressions

SONY DSCOn opening the case, I was stunned by the beauty of the bass and at the same time surprised by the reflective quality (or lack of) of  the body. It really is a  ‘matt’ finish and the light doesn’t bounce off in quite the way you expect from a bass finished in a solid colour. One notable absence from the beautiful grain of the macassar ebony fretboard are any fret markers. Although this is slightly off putting initially, I have become accustomed to it fairly quickly and now no longer feel anything is missing (to be clear, there are dot marker on the side of the fretboard to help locate positions if needed). This feature, coupled with the black pickups, scratch plate and ebony ramp are nicely offset by the brighter nature of the chrome hardware and controls. With a fairly hefty nod towards the body shape of the more modern custom jazz basses, the top horn is slightly extended almost to the 12th fret and the cutaway between the lower horn and neck is deeper to allow easier access to the higher frets. There is also a very slight curve to the front of the body which adds to the aesthetic qualities of the instrument.

On turning the bass over, I can see the way the Olympic white body colour meets the dark wood of the Wenge at both the set-neck join and on the headstock. The neck heel contour is smooth and feels solid but not bulky, and the lines in the oly white lacquer are very clean. It is evident a lot of care and attention went into the finishing these particular areas of the bass. The rear panel covering the preamp features the LED for an East BLI-01 which, whilst not entirely necessary, does offer an additional comfort and is a useful feature on an already high-spec’d bass. Another striking SONY DSCfeature of the back is the Wenge neck itself. This is wonderfully dark with waves of the grain visible giving the impression of depth and woodiness.

The overall appearance of the bass is one of strong clean lines with some lovely finishing touches. The ramp on the bass has been cropped in such a way as to follow the lines of the scratch plate; the pickups have slight radius matching the neck and ramp; there is an additional tort scratch plate should a change be required; the body is ever so slightly slimmer than a traditional jazz bass, making it feel more in touch with ones body; The lines of the control layout, with the last dial following the body line and the pickup switch placed above and between the last two dials. As with all the Shuker basses I have seen and played, this one exhibits the build quality, attention to detail and finishing that has earned Jon a formidable reputation as a master  luthier.

Sound and performance

On first playing of the bass, I can feel it has a fair weight to it (around 5kg) but once on the shoulders, this looses its relevance as the balance is perfect with absolutely no neck dive or indeed movement in any way other than that deliberately introduced by myself. I should add that I am using a Comfort Strapp which will add a certain amount of stability and grip to the back and shoulders not present with a leather strap. The neck depth is very comfortable at 20.5mm behind the first fret and 22.5mm at the 12th, whilst the nut width is 45mm which all help the neck to feel and play fast if required. Acoustically the bass sounds wonderfully warm and well rounded with the hint of the jazz bass bite we know and love.

The preamp in the bass is the U-Retro by John East which offers three stacked pots – pickup pan with volume on top; a mid control with boost/cut on top of the frequency selection dial; bass boost only with treble on top, and a single pot for the passive tone. The stacked bass/treble features a pull pot with a 6db boost to the higher frequencies (a slap switch!) and the passive tone has a pull pot which switches the bass into passive mode. The Armstrong pickups are both dual coils which sound like they are voiced to emulate a jazz bass sound with a little more depth and girth. There is a pickup switching option of both parallel / both single coil / rear parallel, front single wich when combined with the preamp offers more sonic possibilities than one could ever want or indeed need. If this isn’t enough, there is also an option of wiring the pickups in series should there be a need for yet more width to the sound but I would say in this instance, there would be no need to change anything.

Once the bass is plugged in with the John East preamp engaged, it comes to life. With the pan pot at the centre indent and no boosting or cutting of any frequency, the bass sings with enough body and character to be immediately useable. Panning to the front pickup brings out a more growly p-bass tonal palate while towards the bridge brings out the burpy nasal jazz bass qualities. On a recent session the bass was put through its tonal paces and I found that it provided everything that was required and more when plugged into the desk.

Sound Samples –

Conclusion

Having now been playing the bass for over a month, I feel it has become a valuable member of my bass arsenal alongside my ’74 P-bass and Single-cut Shuker and well worth the investment. So much so that I expect this with be the bass that stays in my gig bag for most dates unless something more specific is required. Once I have the time, I’ll post a video or two demo-ing the bass ‘in situ’. Until then, here are some pictures taken by Darren Saunders to further whet your appetite!!

Shuker Jazz Bass - FrontShuker Jazz Bass - BackShuker Jazz Bass - Headstock ShotShuker Jazz Bass - Controls PickupsShuker Jazz Bass - Strings

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: