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This article was originally published in issue #15
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We make no secret here at GI that we're huge fans of France's Patrice Vigier. We think he and his team produce some of the world's finest instruments. Fortunately, we're not alone in that opinion with players like Guthrie Govan, Ron Thal, Geezer Butler and Roger Glover agreeing with us! And speaking of Roger Glover - he's into Excess - Vigier's classic bass. We gave one to Dungeonmeister Dan Veall to see if it would rock his world.
The Vigier Excess Original basses from Patrice Vigier's workshops are a more classic design for those who prefer something a little more traditional. Don't be fooled though - we aren't talking Fender Precisions here! This bass design takes classic styles and melds them with modern ideas, materials and manufacturing techniques, the adds with custom electronics to deliver a truly great sounding, thoroughly modern bass.
Vigier makes it clear that the company's instruments are all about the small details. You only have to look at the individual descriptions online to see that they mean business, using very accurate tolerances for the instrument measurements and specifications. The may look very seek and sexy, but they are made with really precise engineering at the heart and serious - nay fanatical - attention to materials quality. The maple neck wood on this instrument, for example, has been naturally dried for three years. Whilst on the subject of the neck, Vigier has employed Patrice's '10/90' system on bass necks for the past 18 years or so. This method completely negates the need for a truss rod by adding ten per cent carbon fibre to the wood component and provides the stability needed under the tension of the strings and in changing climate conditions day to day. The success of that system is one of the reasons so many top line professionals are using Vigier's instruments. Not only do they tick the appearance, sound and playablity boxes, but you can fly from Singapore to Helsinki and the neck won't move!
Fretboard options come in the form of rosewood, maple and Delta Metal. Yes indeed, a fretless metal fretboard is available too! I've played a couple of Vigier fretless basses with the metal fretboard and they sound really good. Still, our review sample comes complete with a rosewood board, which I understand is shaped to within 100th of a millimetre - pretty impressive stuff! The 24 stainless steel, medium sized frets were perfectly fitted to the modern 300mm radiused board.
Moving along to the body, the Excess models feature naturally dried solid alder. Two pieces are joined down the centre. Expertly I must add! There's a whole array of finishes available for Vigier basses. All of the models get a five week drying time for the varnish finishes before they are completed.
Vigier turns to Schaller for tuning keys and as always, the hardware from the German manufacturer is of top quality. There's a really nice 'quick release' bridge on this bass too. Yes, you guessed it, I get to mention it being a 'high-mass' type too, something I really like on a bass. The saddles on this bridge lock in position further aiding tuning stability and sustain.
Underneath the strings are a pair of Vigier soapbar pickups. There are two 'Alnico 8' magnets per string and pure copper and silver alloy wire is used for the coils. The whole unit is then wax potted in to the outer shell that features four screws to attach to the bass body. It;s interesting to see what Vigier says about these: "Active hum-cancelling circuit eliminates the hum usually associated with single-coil pickups to create a true studio-quiet performance: single-coil tone without the hum." In use, I agree, the single pickup sounds were crisp and open like a single coil pickup tone. In the spirit of keeping things quiet at high volumes, Vigier also uses a conductive coating inside the control cavity to keep electronic noise to a minimum too.
To finish off, the output jack, a Switchcraft type, is recessed in to the body for a more secure physical connection.
Tonally, there's a good amount of options available when sweeping the pan control back and forth. A sweet front pickup tone mixes effortlessly with the back pickup to provide a modern recording tone. The back pickup has a good rasp to it that with boosted lows from the two band EQ can cut through a mix with ease. I really liked the 'both on' setting with just a small amount of boost from both the treble and bass controls. The active pre-amplifier on board is silent and certainly there were no issues with hiss from our studio system. Check out the video for proof!
The Excess Original bass feels good and at 3.8Kg isn't too unwieldy, so will be fine for those long club night stints!
Finally, this bass comes complete with a hard case and a 2 year warranty from Vigier.
As you'd imagine, an instrument of such quality, built to the highest standards and incorporating advanced technology, isn't exactly cheap. Then again, at under $4,000 (less at street prices) or £2,000 you have to start wondering about the prices being charged for some far less advanced instruments from certain well known 'heritage' brands! Judged like that, the Excess doesn't seem expensive at all. This is a thoroughly professional instrument built to the very highest standards. If you're looking for that class of four string bass, you owe it to yourself to check it out.