The Aria FEB-F2M offers superb performance and playability for an instrument of its price range. Incredibly versatile, the FEB-F2M has an intuitive four-band EQ, which allows for full customisation of your sound, allowing it to be adjusted to your needs. A flame nato construction gives a balanced natural sound — fully accentuating the acoustic aspects of the tone. Nick Jennison tells us more.
Acoustic bass guitars are unusual beasts. Unlike regular 6-string acoustic guitars, the low-end projection on an acoustic bass is "make-or-break", and considering the "gold standard" for low bass notes in stringed acoustic instruments is the upright bass, achieving this sort of sonic girth in an instrument small enough to be played on someone's lap is no mean feat.
This relegated affordable acoustic basses of old to something of a novelty - unpleasant-sounding, clacky carbuncles that bassists would be forced to endure (rather than enjoy) on the rare occasion that their bands decided to do an acoustic number. You had to pay a lot of money to get a good one, and unsurprisingly nobody was interested in doing that.
I'll be honest, I was expecting to add the Aria FEB-F2M to the "this is bad, don't include it" pile of products that we get in for review but don't make the cut. I'm happy to report that my prejudices were proven to be very wrong.
The FEB-F2M is a medium-scale acoustic bass, constructed of flamed nato and finished in a very attractive open-pore black stain. It's an F-hole design (rather than the traditional soundhole style), which allows for more top wood on that crucial space under the strings between the bridge and the neck join. If an acoustic instrument were a speaker cabinet, then the top would be the speaker and the back & sides would be the cabinet itself, and instruments like this one live and die by how well the top vibrates. Too loose and you have no sustain. Too tight and the low end won't project. I'm happy to report that, despite this being an affordable instrument made of more affordable tonewoods, Aria has got it just right. The FEB-F2M has plenty of lows to be thoroughly satisfying to play, while still providing ample sustain.
The shorter scale and medium-low action all make for a very comfortable playing experience, whether you're chugging away on root notes or playing more involved chord passages or solo lines. On an instrument like this, you're never going to be able to achieve the sort of "breathe on the string to fret it" action found on some modernist electric basses, because the physicality required to make an acoustic bass "work" requires a slightly higher setup to allow the string to "breathe". That said, this is far from the brutal, "unplayable above the 5th fret" action found on many affordable acoustic instruments, and you can quite happily noodle away right up into the higher frets with ease.
Should you find yourself wanting to plug in, Aria has provided electronics in the form of their AEQ-4B preamp. It offers a 4-band EQ along with a phase reverse switch and notch filter for defeating feedback (must-haves on a hollow-bodied instrument this big) and a chromatic tuner that's clear, bright and accurate. To be honest, the tuner alone is worth the inclusion of the pickup system, given how so many headstock tuners struggle with the low E on bass guitars!
The FEB-F2M is a great example of what affordable acoustic bass guitars should have been like all along. It plays very comfortably, has ample projection where it counts, and looks very attractive to boot. If you need a bass for an acoustic number (or set, or tour), or you just fancy a quality instrument to noodle on without having to plug in, this is a great choice.
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