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This article was originally published in issue #37
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Sandberg, better known for its premium range instruments, is edging into the mid-market area with these Korean prepared Electra series basses that are assembled and quality checked in Germany. I understand the wood, routing and varnish processes take place in Korea before heading to Germany for completion and checking, which means you can now get a bass with the prestigious Sandberg name on the headstock for a more accessible price, which has to be good news.
What we have here is undoubtedly a super slick four stringer. A Canadian hard rock maple neck on all models is decked with a rosewood fretboard on to which 22 frets are neatly installed. The naked 'board looks clean with only dots on the upper edge to help guide you. It looks great and with a 34” scale length, top to toe, it feels familiar of course. Let's not mince words - it follows the basic lines laid down by Fender many years ago with the Precision. The Electras sport basswood bodies and you have the option of a vintage cream or this lovely glossy black finish to complete the look. On the Sandberg website the VS4 and TT4 models featured have a tortoiseshell pick guard to go with the cream finish but it's not available on the black it seems.
How does the VS4 feel to play? Well, to my left hand, the neck feels much slimmer than a vintage P bass and the action is low, fast and lively. This is no doubt down to the profile and that I understand the necks are PLEK'd back in Germany as part of the set up process. That means the action on these basses will go low with very little buzzing (although we didn't adjust this review instrument ourselves.) Not many basses at this price point get that treatment, which is something worth bearing in mind.
I drop-tuned the bass prior to recording and loved the grind through our review rig speakers. This bass really does enjoy Eb! Onboard electronics come courtesy of Sandberg designed two band EQ and a Sandberg split coil 'P bass' type pickup. The pickup has lots of midrange bite and a fatness that is I am sure due to those big pole pieces grabbing at the string movement. The Sandberg two band EQ system provides the instrument with low end balls and top end bite when needed, but actually, as the instrument has a push/pull switch on the volume control to bypass the pre-amp completely, you'll be pleased to hear that the bass is more than capable of delivering classic P tones without the added boost. It's great when you do kick it in though!
Hardware onboard is also Sandberg's own too. It's great to see a nice hefty but stylish quick release bridge installed and it's not just an 'off the shelf' offering either. A nice touch. The tuning keys are unspectacular but they do the job and are not causing any sort of neck dive problems despite the 'four-a-side' headstock.
The Electra sits in a tough area of the market. There is any number of Precision-influenced basses around (not least from Fender itself) but the Sandberg is definitely one to watch. It combines high quality Korean sourced woodwork with German thoroughness in setting-up and has that very useful active EQ as an attractive extra. Get it on your shopping list and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised when you compare it to the alternatives.