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This article was originally published in issue #18
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Boulder Creek's innovative design ideas have already earned serious praise from our GI Quiet Room colleagues - so how do the company's basses stack-up? Dan Veall finds out.
Boulder Creek Guitars, hailing from California and originally started by bass player Mike Shellhammer, is a relative newcomer but is far removed from the dreary procession of 'me too' clone makers that, regrettably, are all too common these days. Boulder Creek is different, born from an idea that Mike had over 15 years ago which has led to some really quite different ideas in guitar design. Though Mike has now retired, his concepts are still proving themselves very effective.
Mike's concept was to break away from the traditional wood bracing patterns that had been around since the 19th century and to develop a system using aluminium rods as 'suspended bracing' that could support the tension of acoustic strings, yet leave the soundboard to vibrate intact. Interestingly it seems that trial and error brought Mile to the choice of aluminium, which ended up being a key ingredient in the Boulder Creek Guitar's tone shaping.
Although we were unable to test the theory in the studio, Boulder Creek says that its bracing system also minimises feedback that can hamper other acoustic guitars too. This has got to be a good thing when playing loud gigs in small environments! Certainly, my guitar colleague Tom Quayle was very impressed with the Boulder Creek six string, which he reviewed in issue 17 - and Tom knows his way around a guitar!
So let's get up close and personal with a bass version
The perfectly finished 'jumbo solitaire' body of our review sample featured a thick solid cedar top with a small sound port positioned away from the centre instrument, designed to maximise the soundboard area whilst helping to tune the output the instrument in conjunction with the bracing system.
The back and sides of this EBR3-N4 model are mahogany and the colour is rich under a satin finish. It's understated, but there is a real air of quality that was very noticeable in our review model. Speaking of sides, we have this wonderful feature - a key element in the range - a sound hole actually facing the player. This really is great! It may look like a novelty, but as Tom found with the Boulder Creek guitar, it really works! You get to hear the full tone. The difference between the sound of this Boulder Creek and that of the budget acoustic bass I have at home was very marked!
Next to the sound hole is a simple to use four-band pre-amp with tuner - it's clean sounding with a balanced output. The overall tone transmitted to our in house system through the piezo bridge pickup was lively and rich. It's a loud bass when not plugged in too - but don't expect it to keep up with noisy acoustic guitar players thrashing away. As I have said before, all acoustic bass guitars suffer from not being able to produce huge amounts of volume, especially if they are concentrating on a really fat tone, but some do a great job of maximising their output through design. That said, this bass is one of the loudest and fullest acoustic instrument models I have played and with an excellent balance between tone and volume.
Moving up the neck, we have a wonderful piece of rosewood for the fretboard with a tasteful two-a-side headstock finishing off the balanced a contemporary outline on what is an easy to play instrument that really delivers.
This isn't a cheap instrument and you would really want to have an acoustic bass as a main instrument to be willing to spend this much money (unless you are rolling in it, of course!). However, if a really top-notch acoustic bass is what you want then this is one of the best.