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This article was originally published in issue #25
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And now for something completely different! The Enfield Lionheart is a hand-crafted bass with a revolutionary quad pickup.
If you've not heard of the UK-based Enfield Guitars before then I'd say you're in for a real treat! Specialising in basses and highly advanced pickups, the company is headed by its founder, Martin Sims, who has a background in high-tech engineering, having previously worked with Class 1 offshore racing powerboats, as well as F1 racing cars. In 1994, he started Sims Custom L.E.D., which won him instant international recognition for introducing LED fret markers that can not only be installed as part of a custom build but even as an after market add-on to your favoured instrument, with stunning results!
The instrument side of Martin's business began as a personal project and grew out of the Sims Spray Shop, based in Kent, UK. Martin had already added custom spraying to his LED skills and now added a manufacturing facility for instrument necks, bodies and components. Finally, he had what he needed to launch something truly different in the bass field - which is what I'm reviewing here: the Lionheart bass.
The Lionheart is, as Martin describes it, a 'simplified version' of the company's popular Cannon model, sharing the same body outline but with more traditional body contours. Our sample came with what is described as a vintage Daphne blue body and matching headstock with a satin finish. Other colours are available, as is a gloss finish. In fact, Enfield lists many other options, including gold hardware, carbon fibre neck wraps and of course those famous LED installations. There is a 5 string version of the bass too.
The Lionheart excels in all its areas, so it's hard to single out any one for praise, but let's start with component quality. I love the two-a-side headstock design featuring premium light weight tuning keys from US makers Hipshot. The bridge, too, is a tried and trusted Hipshot design - and that means quality! The tonewoods are great, also, starting with the choice of East Asian mahogany for both body and neck. Standard options for the Lionheart range includes either Indian rosewood or maple capped fingerboards but there's an Indian ebony upgrade available too, if that's more your style. And speaking of fretboards, the 4 string version of this bass features a 43mm nut and there's a 5 string version with a comfortable 51mm width. The neck carve is described as a vintage B profile and I found it smooth, actually slimmer than I was expecting, and ultimately very gratifying all the way up the 24 very tidy frets.
So far what we have is a very well made bass with a five bolt neck joint, kitted out with top quality hardware. And here is where things start to get really interesting!
One of Martin Sims' claims to fame is that he has pioneered a 'single solution' massive pickup - the Enfield Super Quad (originally featured in the Cannon model) that is capable of multiple sound configurations. Enfield says “it's like having 15 pickups in one bass” and that's a fair claim I found. The Super Quad has been around for a while now and having proved his point with the design, Sims has also made this revolutionary pickup available as an aftermarket add-on, as well as on models like our review Lionheart.
A quad pickup? In short, these fully enclosed soap bars feature sets of coils that allow a true representation of well known bass pickup configurations all at the flick of a three way switch. A three colour LED provides visual indication of what configuration you are currently in, so it is child's play to work out what you are doing, even on stage in the middle of a hectic gig. The Sims system uses what he calls Tri-Logic circuitry which means that when the pickup is switched to a split coil, the LED shows red, single coil transforms it to green mode and when switched as a humbucker you get blue. Incidentally, if this appeals as an after market transplant for your own bass but you are worried about the complexity, don't be. The pickup and harness supplied are quite 'idiot proof' in that the complete unit can be hooked up and installed in a bass within minutes with just three terminals to solder in place!
So how does it work? The pickup internals are divided into separate coils that have been tweaked to accurately deliver the tones of either a split coil pickup (think P- bass) a single coil (a Jazz type pickup) and finally with the coils in parallel, delivering those zingy humbucking Musicman tones. The pickup is intentionally wide, to ensure that the spacing between the coils matches the pickup configuration they are modelled on and I think this really works well. Martin also advises that the 4 and 5 string pickup models will drop straight in to nearly all basses, as they are able to sense a wide range of string spacings.
What's frankly more incredible is that the Lionheart features a pair of these fantastic pickups independently switchable via their own toggle switches. A pan control on board the bass mixes the outputs of each unit together. The tones almost appear endless with just two switches and a pan control! WOW!
For further tonal tweaking, if this wasn't enough already, there's also a 2 band boost/cut pre-amp made by Glockenklang that really supports the sounds available from this bass.
Martin has also been aware of the overall weight of these basses and the 4 string model here comes in (on average) at a very respectable 3.5Kg whilst the 5 string is barely noticeably different at just 3.85Kg! I think I'd be more than happy playing a two hour set with either of these!
So how does it work as a package? Even without the superb pickups on board I love the Lionheart. It feels familiar and has a strong tonal character of its own. The balance is great and as I said earlier, lightweight but with a big sound. With the addition of this very clever pickup arrangement, however, amplified, the bass takes on multiple tone personalities via the Super Quad pickups all of which really are usable and again, I'm going to use the word 'superb'. We also think it's great value for money because what you are getting here is a handmade bass of the finest quality for less than you can pay for some factory produced basses these days.
The Enfield Lionheart started off great even before we plugged it in. And when we did it took us to new levels of tone with these fabulous pickups. As I said: just superb!