In a previous edition of Guitar Interactive, Nick Jennison had the pleasure of reviewing Aria's Jet-II guitar—a sleek looking offset with an outline that's both familiar and yet totally unique. In the spirit of that same premise comes the Aria Pro II JET-B'tone. Featuring 21 frets over a 30" scale neck, the JET-B'tone can seriously meet all of your low-end needs and more. Here's Nick with the review.
If you've followed this magazine for a while, you'll know that I just love baritone guitars. Sitting squarely between a regular 6-string and a bass in both size and tuning, these instruments have a deep and sonorous tone that's perfect for slide, surf, fuzzy riffs and huge chords. Unlike 7 and 8-string guitars, Baritones are familiar enough to play because the string-to-string relationships are the same as on a conventional 6-string, but the low tuning and sheer size of these instruments coaxes ideas out of you that you'd never think to play on a regular guitar, while also making your worn-out licks and chord voicings sound fresh and exciting. I don't know if you've picked up on this yet, but I love baritone guitars.
I was immediately enamoured by the look of the Jet, but when I laid eyes on the Jet B'Tone… oh man, it all makes sense now. The offset body combined with the longer neck looks superb, with a sense of "forward motion" that you'll frequently find in automotive design. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here…
The Aria Jet B'Tone is a baritone guitar with a number of very interesting features. Firstly, it's a whopping 30" scale, which means that with the right strings, you could tune it E-E like a bass VI. It also means that the string feel is tight and positive, and the tone is brighter and more piano-like than you'd expect from a typical 27"-28" baritone (in the same way that a 25.5" scale guitar will generally sound snappier than a 24.75" scale guitar).
The pickup configuration is the same H/S layout as the regular Jet guitar, with an alnico V single-coil in the neck and a moderate output alnico V humbucker in the bridge. This config actually works really well on a baritone guitar since the bridge humbucker offers tons of meaty punch for more aggressive styles, while the neck single coil is clear and chiming with plenty of articulation. Often, neck pickups can sound muddy to the point of being unusable on a baritone, but that's definitely not the case here. Set clean, the neck and middle pickup selections sound positively piano-like, with a huge low end and gorgeous shimmering highs. It's a sound that you can easily lose hours playing.
With baritones, playability can be a barrier to entry for many players, but that's absolutely not going to be the case with the Jet B'Tone. The neck, while very long, is a slim and comfortable C-shape that's reminiscent of a J-bass, but with a very pronounced fingerboard radius and immaculate fretwork that makes for a super comfortable play feel. The body is surprisingly light, and balances perfectly on either leg or on a strap without a hint of neck dive.
Another unique feature of the B'Tone is the synchronised tremolo system, something rarely seen on baritone guitars. It's a little on the stiff side - it has to be to balance the massive string tension - but it works very well for chord shimmers and more subtle touches. You might not be able to go full Brad Gillis with this trem (and on a baritone, why would you want to?), but for adding a little colour, it's a very welcome addition.
This brings us to the most impressive feature of the Jet B'Tone: the price. You can look this up yourself, but I couldn't find a single baritone for less money than the Jet B'Tone. This is frankly mind-boggling, since it's such a great sounding and well-constructed instrument. If you'd told me the price was three times what it actually is, I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. I'm genuinely staggered at how much guitar Aria is giving you for the money here, and I'm struggling to think of an excuse not to buy one myself.
The Aria Jet B'Tone looks, plays and sounds like a million bucks but cost about a million Ugandan Shillings. If you don't have a baritone guitar in your life, you need this guitar. If you already have one, buy this one anyway and string it up as a bass VI. Consider this instrument highly recommended.
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