G&L SB-2 Tribute

As the last part of the Leo Fender trinity, G&L has produced a couple of bass classics in their time. The brand may not be as present among the bass playing community as Fender or Music Man, but its quality is rarely called into question. Reliable, versatile and flexible are three adjectives that suitably describe any G&L bass. The Indonesian-built Tribute series is a more affordable version of the US-made models and the range has been extremely popular over the past few years, but now, the SB-2 Tribute is moving away from the standard G&L humbucking pickups and incorporates a split-coil and single-coil setup. Quite what impact this has on the instrument’s performance, we shall see.

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Build Quality

The SB-2 body shape is instantly recognis- able. It feels very familiar with standard front and back contouring, while the body horns are smoothly curved, facilitating deep cutaways to give good access to the upper frets. This format holds few surprises, it’s a classic-looking bass with its metallic black sparkle gloss finish: you know where you are as soon as you pick it up. As with most basses, there is a slight balance issue without a strap, and the basswood body with its lighter mass perhaps contributes to this. Once on a strap, the bass balances fine and assumes a decent playing angle.

The medium ‘C’ profile gives the player a neck to get stuck into, but it’s very comfortable to play and, with a 39mm nut width – very Jazz-like. With 19mm string spacing at the bridge, this is an easy bass to play and adapt to. The four-screw neck joint is tight if a little chunky, and there is evidence of some sharp fret edges in the upper regions of the underside of the neck, but this aside, the set-up is good and the bass is very playable. The neck’s satin finish has been applied evenly and is smooth to the touch.

IMG_1947Chrome ‘elephant ear’ tuners are arranged four in a row, on a standard G&L shaped head- stock along with a plastic nut and chrome string tree. The neck features mother-of-pearl front position markers and white side dot markers. The single-ply matt black scratchplate hides the control cavity with chrome volume controls (there is no tone control) and a jack socket sitting on top. The saddle locking, two-way adjustable G&L bridge looks solid, substantial and reliable and the Magnetic Field Design pickups consist of a single-coil pickup in the bridge position and a split-coil humbucker in the centre. Made on a budget, it will be interesting to hear how this bass sounds, especially as there is no tone control to speak of.

Playability And Sounds

The flavour of familiarity that this bass exudes from the start continues with the acoustic tone. It is clear and resonant with a strong fundamental presence, and although it doesn’t give the impression of having a tight natural tone, it sounds potentially powerful. In terms of playability, there are no major issues as the set-up is good, the weight is reasonable at nine pounds and although it isn’t exactly lightweight, it won’t result in a visit to the back specialist any time soon.

Plugging in, there are no surprises, but the tone is a letdown. With no tone control to improve matters, you are left with the two volume controls to adjust your tonal flavour, which isn’t ideal. Running each volume control also highlights an annoying trait that volume pots occasionally suffer from, whereby there is no discernible change in signal level from two to eight, then a huge shift in signal volume from eight to ten. The central pickup shows more of a gradual increase and decrease in level, but again the bridge pickup shows very little change from two to eight. Once it comes into play between eight and ten, it helps to smooth out the throatier tone of the central pickup and adds a ringing top end.

IMG_1939There is no disputing that the split-coil pickup provides the guts to the sound of this bass, so a rounded tone is virtually guaranteed unless you’re soloing on the bridge pickup. A classic P-Bass thump is easily attained and the chunky pick tone from the single-coil is impressive. The slap tones are reasonable, but the bridge pickup is definitely required to give the tone some brightness, otherwise the throatiness of the single-coil dominates the signal.

The tonal limitations mean that each player will really have to look at their playing approach and style in order to get the best from this bass, which is no bad thing as so many of us are guilty of using fancy active EQ systems on our instruments to cover up bad technique or sloppy playing. Although the volume controls could be a little more player-friendly, there are definitely usable tones on offer here and the fingerstyle tones are functional, if not exactly subtle or enticing.

Conclusions

Rock players will no doubt make good use of this bass, although that’s not to say that players of other musical styles wouldn’t be able to coax some great lines from it. It’s a functional instrument that is comfortable to play, but when it comes down to the sonic delivery, it doesn’t have the special ingredient to make the player want to keep returning to it.

At this price, there is so much competition that the G&L label doesn’t grab the attention of the bass community as much as it should. Being built to a budget holds the SB-2 Tribute back, and the fact that those volume pots aren’t linear in operation is a drawback. It’s difficult to knock its physical attributes and construction. By all means check the SB-2 Tribute out as you may find it ticks all of your bass-buying boxes. Our overriding impression is that this bass could, and should, be better.

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Technical specification

PRICE | £630

COLOUR | Metallic black sparkle BODY|Basswood

NECK | Hard rock maple

FINGERBOARD | Rosewood

PICKUPS | G&L Magnetic Field Design split coil humbucker and single coil pickups

ELECTRONICS | Passive

CONTROLS | Volume x 2

TUNERS | Standard open back ‘elephant ear’ style

BRIDGE | Saddle lock, two-way adjustable MADE IN|Indonesia

NUT WIDTH | 39mm

NECK JOIN | Bolt on, four screw attachment

SCALE LENGTH | Top-loading

FRETS | 21

WEIGHT | 4.08 kg (approx 9lb)

NECK JOIN | Two band pre-amp with passive tone

CASE/GIG BAG INCLUDED | No

LEFT HAND MODEL AVAILABLE | Yes

What we think

PLUS | A functional, playable bass with a strong solid tone, will stand up to life on the road

MINUS | Tonally limited, poor volume controls that don’t operate in a linear fashion. It faces stiff competition at this price

OVERALL | A usable bass that does what it does with very few frills

 BGM rating
BUILD QUALITY | 7/10

SOUND QUALITY | 7/10

VALUE | 6/10

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