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This article was originally published in issue #29
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We welcome back ESP to the Bassment - and with a very warm welcome at that. Did you all enjoy seeing the excellent LTD RB series bass we had in for review in issue 28? The Rocco Prestia model was a beautiful instrument with a superb tone, so we couldn't resist asking if they had any more like that on the way! Well, it seems they have, because the company has now sent us another fine specimen, this time coming from totally different angles: pointy ones! - There's your pun, I promise no more for this review (there'd better not be! - Ed).
Visually, this beast suggests Rock – and Rock seriously! But first a short digression to explain the various options on offer.
ESP produces models of Stream basses. There is the 'Original' model, built in Japan featuring top grade specification including seven piece padouk/maple/walnut necks, flamed tops over a white ash bodies, EMG pickups and electronics and Hipshot hardware.
The 'ESP E-II' model is built in ESP's California facility and although very similar to the Original model it swaps out the seven piece neck for a maple one. A flame maple top offering looks tasty with a translucent finish and there's solid black and white finishes on these models available too. Hardware, interestingly, switches to Gotoh. I'd expected to see the Hipshot hardware on the California made basses and Gotoh on the Japanese models, Gotoh being a Japanese company, but there you are! I'm not sure why it's 'the other way round' but I've used both Gotoh and Hipshot for years and they are both well respected, quality hardware manufacturers. It really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.
Naturally, coming from the main ESP brand, these instruments are premium quality and come with a price tag to match. Those on more frugal budgets, however, will surely relish access to the Stream styling and approach in the shape of the LTD brand Stream 204 model that we have in for you here. LTD is ESP's less expensive brand, but as we've repeatedly seen both here in the Bassment and over in the widdly section of Guitar Interactive, the gap between mainstream ESP models and the less costly LTDs can be very small- far smaller than it can with the offerings of certain other well known guitar brands, that's for sure!
The LTD 'Stream-204' comes in solid black, or the great looking tobacco sunburst our sample came in. Both models have mahogany bodies that are bolted to a skinny neck which is super fast to navigate. 21 frets top to bottom are installed neatly, flanking those big block markers. With the sunburst finish it gives the bass a certain vintage styling that reminds me, naturally, of some of Gibson's offerings. Nothing wrong with that. The one thing that I will most definitely make a point of mentioning though - and I point it out on the video - sat down this bass is very well behaved. It doesn't neck dive - so there the obvious comparison with a Thunderbird ends! I have to say though, for me personally, as cool as it looks, I still struggle with that upward body contour. My long arms mean that my elbow falls foul of this bass guitar's forthright stylings!
The Stream 204 is really acoustically resonant and is full of upper mid range tonal richness. The pickups on board transmitting that richness out to your amplifier are ESP designed 'SB-4B' models that have a good output on their own, but as I found in the review video, the passive pickups were very well supported by the active 2-band EQ on board. To put it in perspective, when it comes to equalisation I believe in a 'less is more' sort of approach. I don't really like maxing dials out. I have to say though, the 204 almost willed me to push that bass control up. It seemed to support the instrument, positively in bringing it to life.
Have a listen to the video and decide for yourself whether you agree with me that this is a purpose-built Rock monster of a bass. It not only has the looks of a stadium-shaker but it's well designed, well built, easy to play and has a sound to match. It is lacking something, however. The price. This is another very aggressively priced bass from a company that is impressing everyone at GI with some blisteringly good offerings. Great stuff!