Sheldon Dingwall has brought the design first showcased in Leo Fender's Precision bass straight into the 21st century with his Dingwall line of Bass Guitars. Utilising the benefits of fan fret technology which gives a more balanced tone and reduces dead spots, his instruments are arguably the finest take on an old-school classic. Dan Veall reviews the Dingwall SPJ4.
It's super! It's a PJ, and it has weaved its way from Saskatoon, Canada having passed through the skilled hands of the staff at Dingwall Guitars to us via Bass Direct here in the UK.
Heading up the specification here is a premium Alder body mated with a Maple neck featuring dual carbon fibre spars. Alder and Maple is a classic tone combination, and the wood choices here have a lovely resonant sound acoustically. Expertly finished, a Wenge fingerboard (a wood choice I love in neck-through laminates) with a very even grain throughout is contrasted with pearl white block markers. Both eye-catching and useful for placing yourself whilst playing. The scale length of the instrument runs from 34.25" on the E to 32" on the G. I will, of course, point you towards my past reviews of Dingwall basses as we have covered the Fan Fret system in much detail in those and why Dingwall basses feature it: Issues 8, 39 45 and 56, all of which you can access via the Guitar Interactive website!
This SPJ4 example isn't a shy little thing, and it wants to be noticed; the satin finish is called Ferrari Green, and much like its supercar namesake, the SPJ4 here has similar sporty appointments in the shape of a 'carbon pick-guard'.
Dingwall is a company that I love, who constantly strive to push new ideas and have created their own identity in the marketplace right down to the smallest details like even manufacturing their own design knobs in house.
Once again, Dingwall brings their eye for tasteful design to the bridge assembly. It has a19mm spacing - It's made to high tolerances for accuracy and best tone transfer. It looks the part too!
Electronics on the SPJ4 are once again designed and made in house - in this example; we have a Dingwall FDV vintage-voiced pickup in the bridge and a Neodymium P style pickup in the neck position. Onboard, a four-way switch pickup selector offers the three usual settings but the addition of a series pickup configuration for more mids and output. Great for fingerstyle and rock tones. The pickups mix 50/50 beautifully, and I love the slightly brighter upper midrange that makes notes pop with zing without the need for active electronics on board. The pickups are encapsulated inside Dingwall shells, again, all made at their workshops in Canada. Love those curved edges, no corners to dig into your thumb after hours of gigging!
Speaking of which, If you are a fan of long exciting gigs like I, then you'll be pleased to hear that this example isn't going to leave you with shoulder pains - the lightweight tuning keys installed mean that there isn't any unnecessary additional weight bearing down and this instrument in total measures up at 3.7Kg - perfectly reasonable I feel!
For your hard-earned "reddies", not only do you get a decent set of tools with your bass but they and instrument arrive snuggled up in a professional and deluxe gig bag—a great addition to protect your investment.
The Dingwall SPJ4 is of course based on the vintage P bass, but dragged right up to the present day with modern-day tech'. It's a versatile machine even without a million knobs and switches with a naturally brighter and mid-present sound. Yes, this is a high-end offering, there are no two ways about it, but it is a lovely instrument without a doubt.