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Review

Boulder Creek EBR3-N4 Acoustic-Electric Bass

Issue #47

How does it sound? I love the big articulate tone from the instrument, which I'm pretty sure results from the use of the rich colored solid mahogany - no ply finish here - used for the back, sides and the neck.
Dan Veall

Pros:

Lightweight! Of course!
Big sound for an acoustic
Beautifully finished
Great acoustic sound
Great pre-amp sound

Cons:

Smaller players may need to stretch a bit on the full size Jumbo body

Boulder Creek Solitaire EBR3 - N4

Acoustic bass guitars have plenty of applications but some of them can be pretty uninspiring to play. Dan Veall has found one that isn't. And how!

Boulder Creek is back in the Bassment again, this time with the very tasty EBR3-N4 acoustic bass which features some exciting design aspects that promise to bring out the detail and clarity often lost in what is essentially, for luthiers, a design that is fighting physics. I’ve said this before in reviews of acoustic instruments and I’ll sum up quickly. A double bass is a great big instrument for a reason. It needs a large body to carry the depth of tone, and of course volume, to be heard.


Guitar building geniuses have been utilising different methods throughout the years in order to balance the ability to get an essentially downsized body to produce enough usable volume without sacrificing tone and resonance. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Often an instrument will be loud, but the volume will come from the midrange, making the acoustic bass sound boxy. Alternatively, to get the low end the player desires, overall volume has to suffer.

Boulder Creek seems to have opted for very sensible middle ground here I and have managed get both low end and volume from what is a very playable, and in fact very usable, instrument.

So how loud is it without being plugged into your amp? It is loud enough to play against a single acoustic guitar, certainly when finger picking is used, but I think that any acoustic instrument of this type will struggle up against a drummer, even with brushes.

Thankfully we have amplification options in the guise of a Fishman piezo element in the bridge under the saddle which the onboard AB4-T pre-amplifier. This features bass, middle, treble and presence controls as well as a phase switch to help cut out feedback when playing on stage with loud monitors, so it has all you need to tweak your sound and just for good measure it will tweak your tuning, too, as it comes with a built-in tuner.

How does it sound? I love the big articulate tone from the instrument, which I'm pretty sure results from the use of the rich coloured solid mahogany - no ply finish here - used for the back, sides and the neck. The top, meanwhile, is solid cedar that is carefully braced with Boulder Creek’s unique ‘Suspended Bracing System’ that allows the strength and rigidity required between bridge and neck yet allows the top to resonate in an unhindered way. That has to be another reason why this bass works so well. The top is moving in ways that a conventionally braced top wouldn't. Add the D’Addario strings (fitted as standard) and the instrument comes to life marrying rich over tones and harmonics with the warmth and resonance of the body.

 

Is there nothing about the Boulder Creek that isn't right? Well, not really, no, other than that you have to understand that it is a jumbo sized instrument, which it has to be if it is going to stand any chance at all being used unamplified.  This does mean that if you are used to a downsized ‘super bass’ then you will undoubtedly notice the difference. The neck profile, although I couldn't measure at the time, felt like it had more girth to it than that of a modern C carve, but that's hardly to be wondered at, either as we all know bigger necks produce richer tones (ask Jeff Beck!). That said, I didn’t feel like I was in anyway struggling with the carve and I’d welcome it for the extra tone it delivers.

Still on the subject of tone, the EBR3’s sound hole has been moved from the usual middle ‘resonant sweet spot’ over to the upper horn, a calculated and tested choice by Boulder Creek, which has added a second sound hole on the top edge of the bass. I’m a fan! The idea is that it helps to project the sound of the instrument up to the ears of the player so that he can enjoy the sound of his hard-earned money without having to find ingenious ways to lean over the front of the body!

Overall, this is a cracking instrument with a very welcome rich tone. The sound is big, warm and articulate, yet still loud enough to use in a number of situations unaided. Plug it in and the Belcat circuit is a tried and trusted way of getting that sound into your amplification.

There are less expensive acoustic basses around, of course, but usually something suffers in a bid to get the prices down and what you are getting here is a professional instrument that simply oozes class and tone. It's thoroughly recommended!

 

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Issue #49

Andy Timmons

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