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Fret-King Esprit Bass

Issue #61

We have a 22 fret Rosewood fingerboard fixed to a Maple bolt on neck which has a smooth satin finish along it's length. The carve is akin to a P bass I feel; it's a C neck shape that feels comfortable in hand.
Dan Veall


A feast for the eyes and ears.

All 'full-on’ settings sound enormous.


Neck heavy

Limited effect of Vari-Coil on this example

Guitar Interactive star rating: 5 stars

Fret-King Esprit Bass

MSRP (UK) £629 (US) $TBC

Fret-King Esprit Bass

Dan Veall casts an eye over another exceptional release from British axe-makers Fret-King, in the shape of the Esprit. First introduced in the late nineties, the Esprit was the first guitar and bass design in decades to revive the stepped body front, popularised in the ‘60s. As changes were made to the Esprit, this design feature was phased out, but now the stepped front is back and looking better than ever.

This issue, we are looking at another fine Trevor Wilkinson bass creation from the Fret-King brand. The Fret-King Esprit comes from their Black Label range which I understand has been created to “prove that it’s possible to create guitars that are totally acceptable as a ... working tool … yet affordable to all..” The full quote can be seen at the Fret-King website.


A large familiar shaped headstock with four elephant ear style Wilkinson tuning keys set this instrument off with the Fret-King logo front and centre. It's a straight headstock so we have the usual tree fixed between the D & G strings providing that necessary nut break angle. The nut is 42.5mm width, neatly cut to a playable height.

We have a 22 fret Rosewood fingerboard fixed to a Maple bolt on neck which has a smooth satin finish along it's length. The carve is akin to a P bass I feel; it's a C neck shape that feels comfortable in hand.

Flying in the face of “convention” is this rather cool off-set body. It has a certain nod to classic basses that we are all more than familiar with, but at the same time a bit different. Inventive yet somehow familiar? It doesn’t stop there as the Alder body features a stepped ‘two tier’ body. Maybe a nod to those classic American cars of yesteryear after all eh?

The steel bridge is a Wilkinson model (with brass saddles) as is the Wilkinson Platinum Series WJM pickup. It's at this juncture we talk about the sound of this bass!

Unplugged the Esprit is clear if a little toppy, almost begging to be 'dug in' to for a bit of fret rasp and some Squire or Entwistle action! Plugging in though is a warming experience. The large dual-coil passive pickup with all controls maxed sounds full, bright and zingy with a good amount of bottom end. Oh, and it's a high output model!  The bass has a wide range of tones available from some simple controls too. We have a master volume and a usual passive tone control as you might expect; In addition to that, some clever configuration in the inclusion of Fret-King's 'vari-coil'. This introduces another tonal option for the bass. Some intriguing onboard passive wiring allows the control of the pickup coils giving a constant sweep using the third knob. By progressing the knob from zero to ten, the ‘always on’ bridge side coil is, or appears to be joined by the neck side coil. I did find the point at which they mix 50/50 to be sudden and very close to zero on the dial meaning that the rest if the dial didn’t seem to do a great deal. I suspect a change of potentiometer value would improve matters or the possibility of dropping an active mix pot in there of some sort.

The bass has an air of coolness about it – I can definitely see it being slung low, cranked up plugged into the front end of a big valve amp. Nice!  I do have one minor niggle with the ‘bird-esque body shape: It's the balance when sat on your knee – or rather lack of. It is a headstock heavy bass that does tend to plummet a bit if you take your hands off it. I seemed to get around the problem in the video by resting my arm on the top of that rear upward pointing body horn. This forced me in to a strange playing position that really affected my picking hand. I played it safe with some very simple and at times random noodling to demonstrate the tones of the instrument instead. I think that the balance will be better stood up with a strap so not a big issue if you spend more time in that position. Worth mentioning if this fine instrument is on your shopping list though. Could be a deal breaker for some. Don't be dismayed though.

Rounding up, a good bass with a strong loud voice with tons of visual character. A simple control set on board that can dish up a wide range of tones. A large headstock and off-set centre of balance mean it will neck dive sitting down, so take this into consideration when looking to purchase. The overall set up on this bass wasn’t too bad, but the action could have come down just a tad as I felt I was fighting this example.


Two-Piece American Alder Body

Medium Jumbo Frets

Maple Neck

Fret-King Platinum Series WJM Pickup

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