Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #32
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Most of the exciting ideas in bass guitar still seem to come from small manufacturers. Typical of the breed is Rob Elrick, from the USA. Dan Veall checks out two examples of his work.
New to Guitar Interactive magazine's most important department, 'The Bassment' (I'm selling popcorn for the fight - Ed), come two handsome instruments from Elrick Bass Guitars, hailing from USA. Rob Elrick opened his doors in 1993 launching a new range at Summer NAMM. He offers top spec' 'Platinum', 'Gold' and 'Master' series models, which are handmade in the USA, using fine exotic woods, neck thru and semi-hollow designs and all the stuff we've come to know and love from handmade basses, but he also offers European models in his 'Expat' range. These are, apparently, made from the same woods and components, (actually shipped from the USA) but are assembled in Europe. Elrick's website doesn't say where but Eastern Europe would be our guess. Although still fairly costly, it's two of these less expensive 'Expat' range we are looking at here.
Elrick Expat 5 string
Let's start with the Expat 5 - a beautifully lightweight swamp ash bodied bass of the bolt-on neck variety. With the maple neck in combination the instrument acoustically has a wonderful brightness to it that is detailed and rich in overtones. It comes strung as standard with Elrick's 'Fundamental Strings', which are bright, new and zingy as you'll hear in the video demo.
Up at the top end is Elrick's squared headstock adorned with five lightweight Hipshot tuning keys that take the strings over a zero fret to the angled back headstock. Speaking of fret work, it's tidy all the way down the wenge fretboard and there are a full 24 medium sized each expertly installed. Moving along the instrument, the 35” scale doesn't feel at all cumbersome and the instrument remains well balanced and super quick in the left hand owing to its fairly skinny proportions. That said, the string spacing at the Elrick bridge is 19mm which may seem wide to some. You do have a 48mm nut bringing the spacing in nicely at the headstock though.
Round the back of the instrument, I just had to point out in the review the almost invisible laser cut rear battery / control compartment lid. I love how Elrick has worked on lining up the grain of the wooden lid with the rest of the body. It's that attention to detail that will set a manufacturer apart from the rest in my book.
Around to the front of the body, the black hardware is a perfect contrast to the light coloured swamp ash. A high mass bridge is installed, though I'm wondering how the bass would look if the bridge had rounded corners to match the curves of the body. What do you think?
The instrument features Bartolini single coil pickups wired via a pan knob directly to a Bartolini NTMBF three band EQ for a huge amount of tonal flexibility. I'm hoping that in the video review you can really hear what subtle differences the three way mid frequency switch makes to the instrument! Please do use decent speakers or large earphones, as laptop speakers and ear buds won't do the bass justice alone!
The three band EQ has a huge amount of cut and boost available. I would urge you to be careful how you apply the cut on the bass control. I found that the EQ centre meant that cutting away those lows erratically meant that a great deal of the instrument's natural low end power was lost. Boosting however added depth to the acoustically rich bass guitar tone.
To round up the five string bass Elrick, I can tell you that it is under 4Kg making it super comfortable for long playing gigs and in the hand the satin finish is a joy to navigate whilst getting funky with it! The slim profile neck will reward you with hours of trouble free playing.
Elrick Expat Evo 4 (see above image)
Moving on to the Expat Evo 4 fretless, once again I make my apologies for my attempts at playing fretless bass, but I feel utterly drawn in by the instrument and maybe a fretless will be featuring on a wish list somewhere soon!
The specification for this bass guitar is quite similar to the Expat 5. Again the swamp ash body is light in weight and with the maple neck it greets us with a bright resonance rich in overtones on the open strings. We have Hipshot tuners again, but this time on a 34” scale. This is coupled with an ebony fretless neck that features maple fret markers across all 24 fret positions. The fingerboard is wonderfully smooth and urges you to get playing to wring out some of those rich 'mwaaaah' effects, slides and vibrato! The profile on this fretless bass neck is slim and modern with a 40mm nut width - no problem for even the smallest of bass playing hands.
Again round the back of the Expat 4, the near invisible control compartment is very welcome - maybe using magnets instead of screws to hold the compartment in place would further the seamless look of the back view, but aside from that thought, I like this a great deal. Bartolini J coils are installed and are once again connected to the wide band Bartolini NTBMF three band EQ. I felt that playing the fretless with its softer top end and naturally warmer fretless tone meant that the midrange controls were more subtle than the Expat 5, though that isn't saying that the EQ is any less useful. There's still much cut and boost to be had from this three band system.
Even lighter, the Elrick Expat 4 doesn't even get as far as 3.5Kg and is well balanced on the knee meaning it'll feel comfortable for hours in a standing position.
Thumbs up as both models come with Elrick's 'zero gravity' padded semi-hard foam padded case to protect your investment.
Despite being the least expensive Elrick basses, we are still looking at premium priced instruments here and there is definitely competition around, not least from some of the specialist builders here in the UK and other countries. All the same, I like the body outline of these instruments, enjoyed playing them and felt that they offered character and a rich tone that ticks shopping list boxes. Well balanced and lightweight, I'd say give these a go and see if they fit the bill. They're not your run of the mill instruments and certainly deserve your attention.
Our thanks to Bass Direct in Warwick, UK for the loan of these review instruments.