Enfield Lionheart English Rose 4 and 5

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A Rose by any other name, you say? Joel McIver plucks two super-souped-up Enfields.

You may recall the coverage we gave the Enfield range a year or so ago, when the veteran Brit luthiers (now celebrating 20 years in business) brought out their new Lionheart Standard bass range and Super-Quad pickup system. We were highly impressed with both, and here we have a couple of top-of-the-range, extras-packed Lionhearts to kick off the new year with.

Note that you don’t have to spend over £3,000 to bag yourself a Lionheart: these two beauties are deliberately loaded with extras to allow us to experience everything that the Enfield range can do. If you don’t need all the extra bells and whistles, you’ll be very happy with a ‘basic’ Lionheart, which comes in at £1,650 (four-string) and £1,890 (five). Enfield will be happy to build a custom bass for you with all, some or none of the extra features included in this review. Think of it as a pizza with custom toppings, except a few hundred times more expensive and way cooler when worn around your neck.

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Build Quality

Our review models are both based around sublime bits of wood for body and neck, engineered and finished to perfection and eminently strokeable straight out of the bass. Pick either bass up and you’ll note its weight: it isn’t so hefty that it’ll do you an injury, but players in search of a lightweight bass should look elsewhere. Perfectly balanced on strap or lap, these basses ooze quality at all points, as indeed they should for this price.

As always, it’s not just the wood that impresses us when we’re reviewing bass guitars, although the sleek mahogany and rosewood used here are obviously crucial. True craftsmanship comes through when details such as the battery compartment, the ‘English Rose’ inlay text and the remarkably smooth and solid tuners and bridge are taken care of. The Hipshot gold hardware and controls exude a kind of extrovert showy-offness that we love, although – like the amazing LEDs on the side and face of the neck – these cosmetic elements are entirely down to your own taste. Talking of those LEDs, be aware that they cost £580, a lot of money for pure aesthetics. But what the hell, they’re lovely…

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Sounds & Playability

Before you even plug in, what fun you can have with the LEDs, which light the bass up like a Christmas tree, especially if you draw the curtains. How great they’d look on stage at the O2… if your band ever made it that far… Wait, stop dreaming for a second and get down to business.

The controls here are master volume with passive option when pulled, an active bass/treble and mid boost/cut preamp with the bass and treble stacked on one pot. Before we get into the active mode, and indeed the three options for each pickup, have a play in passive mode. Unboosted, the Lionheart sounds solid, reliable and relatively wide-ranging in tone, although of course this is a mere shadow of the performance it gives you when you tweak the volume pot and you slip into active mode. Those top and bottom end boosts are seriously powerful, giving you a ton of tone options before you even consider the Super-Quads.

But who are we kidding? You’ll probably buy a Lionheart just for its amazing pickups. As you’ll recall from our previous reviews, with the flick of a switch each unit changes from a split-coil configuration (plus red LED), to single coil (green) to humbucker (blue). As Stuart Clayton said in his Lionheart Standard review, after a while you start to think of each tone as red, green or blue, a curious side effect which really grows on you. Here, of course, we have two pickups, and so we can combine the three configurations any way you like, offering us 15 pickup combinations. While there are far too many options to list here, especially when you throw the active boosts into the mix, we have our favourites, including a tight, staccato sound with plenty of balls that you get when you select a red and a green tone. We mean, a split and a single…

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Conclusion

We had no hesitation whatsoever in recommending the standard Lionheart Standard basses to you in our earlier review, and we see no reason to change that now. They’re utterly wonderful instruments that you can enjoy for a lifetime. Now, would we recommend these extras-loaded English Rose variants? Absolutely, assuming certain criteria. One, you have tons of money. Two, you want loads and loads of tone options.

To be absolutely clear, let’s look at the extra charges over and above the cost of the bass itself. The English Rose neck is £400. The mahogany body with forward-facing rosewood is also £400, or £600 if you want the back of the body to have the rosewood too. The gold hardware is £180. The three-band Glockenklang preamp is only £40, so you’d be nuts not to add that option. And as we’ve seen, the LEDs will cost you £580. Pick and choose the features you need, and bear in mind that a basic Lionheart four-string with the English Rose neck comes in at ‘only’ £2,050: a lot of bass for the outlay.

You’ll get a great bass whatever options you choose: the only real question is how far you want to go towards the fully-loaded, ultimate instrument – like the ones we have here. It’s been a pleasure to play them.

 

Technical Specification

Price | £3,288, £3,528

Made in | UK

Body | Mahogany core, rosewood top and back

Neck | Rosewood with front and side LEDs

Neck joint | Bolt-on, five-screw

Nut width | 43mm, 51mm

Fingerboard | Rosewood

Frets | 24

Pickups | Sims Super-Quad x 2 with three-way configuration switches

Electronics | Three-band Glockenklang preamp

Controls | Volume (push/pull active/passive mode), active bass/treble, mid boost/cut, LEDs on/off switch

Hardware | Hipshot gold

Weight | 3.5kg, 3.8kg

Case/gig bag included? Yes

Left-hand option available? Yes

 

What We Think

Plus | Where to start? These basses are close to flawless

Minus | Do you really need all those tone options?

Overall | Gorgeous instruments that cost the earth, with high-quality features that repay that cost with state-of-the-art tone and playability

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