West Country luthier Chowny brings us a unique semi-acoustic bass. We send Duff Battye down the M4 to check it out
The Bristol-based brand Chowny has come up with an interesting take on bass guitar, proactively seeking a gap in the market and looking to fill it. The space Chowny found was for a semi-acoustic bass guitar – and the mission was to produce an instrument that is both stylish and affordable. With an RRP midway between £300 and £400, the latter aspect is in no doubt – but how does the CHB-1 feel under the fingers?
The Chowny bass comes with two plain maple finishes and six flamed maple burst finishes: the only optional extra is whether you want it with or without a pickguard. Our cup doth not run over with a multitude of tweaks and variations, then, but here lies the real charm of this bass guitar – in its simplicity, both in form and function. For a semi-acoustic instrument it feels weighty and well-constructed: after all, the nature of us bassists means that instruments should be designed for the occasional dink. Did I say clumsy?
The test model we have is a beautiful bass to look at. The extended bridge is a lovely flowing design, and sets the tone for a fine-looking, vintage-styled instrument. There are four simple chrome control knobs, old-school metal machined-look pickups, a smoothly curved semi-acoustic body, classic pearl inlay fret markers and a two-by-two headstock. Even the Chowny logo is classic in its look.
Sounds and Playability
Plaudits must go to Chowny for spotting this gap in the market: straight out of the case, you instantly realise what a great practice tool a semi-acoustic bass is. There’s no fiddling with cables or amps, obviously: I sat down and ran through scales unamplified. The acoustic body, combined with the D’Addario roundwound strings that come as standard, gives a full and clear tone. It actually took me a few hours to plug the bass in, as I was enjoying the freedom that a genuine acoustic practice bass gives you.
Plug in – reluctantly in my case – and it’s obvious that the electronics and controls on the bass are simple and hassle free. There’s no active mode to bewilder the player: simply plug it in, turn it up and play. The four dials handle tone and volume for both pickups and there is also a pickup selector switch on the body.
The ebony fretboard is short scale and easy to find your way around. As you would expect, the tone is naturally velvety and resonant: the lower frequencies ring through the semi-acoustic body. The bass lends itself again to this classic sound – a full warm envelope. I tried it through a distortion pedal and it was fun, but it perhaps lacked the clarity and focus that a solid-body bass would give. There is a touch of buzz at the low end of the bass frequencies – but given the price point of this instrument, it really supplies some lovely tones.
It would be unrealistic to think that bass players buy instruments just for their sound quality. Styling and name are important. The very nature of a semi-acoustic instrument lends itself to a certain style, look and sound, and the Chowny bass is no different in this respect. If you want a warm, rich-toned bass that gives clear sounds, this is a great instrument at a great price. Add the benefits of being able to play unamplified, and it’s clear that this gap in the market has been filled with aplomb.
Price | £340 (plain maple), £360 (flamed maple)
Made in | China
Body | Maple with semi-hollow construction
Finishes | Plain maple finishes (white gloss and black gloss) or flamed maple burst finishes (Emerald Burst, Red Wine Burst, Sunburst, Sapphire Burst, Tobacco Burst and Purple Burst)
Neck | Maple, 30.7” scale
Neck joint | Bolt-on
Fingerboard | Ebony
Frets | 22
Pickups | Twin Artec Vintage Style Humbuckers
Controls | Two volume, two tone,
Hardware | Chowny Chrome
Weight | 3.5kg
Case/gig bag included? | Yes
Left-hand option available? | £10 upcharge
What We Think
Plus | Good looking; perfect practice tool; great value for money
Minus | Vintage styling and trad tones not to everyone’s taste
Overall | A robust, well specced entry into the bass market