Got a spare four grand? If so, this slab of delicious Dutch-ness may be for you, declares Joel McIver
When the courier delivered this bass to BGM’s command bunker, we wondered why Rikkers had sent it in a massive flight case the size of a small blue whale. On opening it up, it was obvious why: this Hollowline bass is a thing of pure, sculpted beauty. The finish looks durable, but bump or scratch it on the furniture after a few glasses of sherry and you will pass out in despair. This is the most strokable bass we’ve seen in ages, and with a price tag as eye-watering as this one, let’s hope its quality is worth the courier’s spinal osteopathy fees.
The nitrocellulose lacquer and the precision of the lutherie on offer here make this bass look like a neck-thru model rather than a set-neck. That’s how seamless the joins are between the components. This attention to detail extends to the rest of the bass, from the silky neck and buffed fret-ends, via the hardware and super-chunky controls to details such as the ‘30th Anniversary’ plaque inset into the fretboard. The walnut top oozes old-school class – a bit like the surface of the desk in Winston Churchill’s War Room – and the battery and electronics compartments fit with atomic accuracy. All this quality comes at a price, of course, and not just a fiscal one: the Hollowline weighs around 4.6kg, or the best part of a stone to you imperialists. It would have been even heavier if the body hadn’t been hollowed out beneath that super-snooty walnut surface. Which brings us neatly to…
Sounds And Playability
The Hollowline’s neck is a pleasure to play, as indeed it should be at this price. Your fingers glide up and down it, helped along by a slim profile that is almost flat for most of the rear surface. Access to the 24th fret is easy on the higher three strings, although you’ll struggle on the E and B strings thanks to that narwhal-shaped single cut body. However, that extra chunk of wood does help to give this bass one of its most striking characteristics – its sustain. Pluck a note and it resonates deeply and long, thanks presumably to those hidden, hollowed-out spaces.
Had Rikkers focused primarily on the body and neck, the Hollowline would still have been a splendid bass, but dig a little deeper to the tone circuit and controls and there’s a whole other story to be told. The Aguilar preamp that gives this active bass its power is just one of the available options, regulated via three controls, two stacked. The first (from the pickups downward) is the master volume, with an outer ring for pickup balance. The second is treble (pot) and bass (ring); accessing both the top and bottom ends via a single control might seem odd at first, but in fact it should save your fingers a bit of mileage, at least in theory. Next is the mid control, with a pull function for a boost at 500Hz. These operate much as you’d expect, although the surge of bass and mid when you dial those controls fully up is genuinely not to be taken for granted.
Rikkers hasn’t stopped there, with the fourth control (with centre detent, like the others) a stacked pot with a ring for passive tone and a central pot controlling the Hollowline’s secret weapon – the piezo pickups in the bridge. Roll off the other pots and whack up the piezo signal and you’ll be rewarded with the sweetest tone we’ve heard in some time. It’s hard to describe – words like woody, nutty and synthy all come to mind – so you really need to give the Hollowline a shot yourself.
Rikkers might be forgiven for leaving the tone options there, but no: in addition to active, passive and piezo options, they’ve also applied Switchbucker pickups to the Hollowline, each of which features two tiny switches to control the coil options. They could have been a touch bigger for my liking; each one is only a few millimetres long, presumably in order not to detract from the aesthetics. On each pickup, push them towards each other and you get a humbucker configuration; to the left or right, and it’s left and right coil; and apart from each other, it’s a parallel-coil option. The differences in tone are marked in each case.
For me, there are way too many tone options. I’m no Luddite when it comes to bass technology, but consider the number of combinations you have to play with. In each mode – especially active and piezo – you have a wide tone range accessible thanks to the EQ. Even the passive tone control gives you plenty of options. Add the many switchable configurations in the pickups and it’ll take you months, maybe years, to analyse every conceivable tone – and that’s before you work your way through fingerstyle, pick and thumb, or even fiddle with your amp. The Hollowline is utterly amazing in every way, let us be clear about that, but sometimes enough is enough, right?
After two years editing this hallowed magazine, I confess that I’ve become infatuated with the idea that small, lightweight bass bodies are beautiful and that simple circuits are divine. I’ve reviewed – and commissioned reviews of – so many heavy, overcomplicated, high-priced basses that only a small number of professionals will ever play, let alone acquire, that the idea of lighter, more affordable, mid-spec instruments has begun to feel like the way forward.
However, I’m delighted to have my expectations overturned by this stunning example of bass craftsmanship. The key point for me is that at “only” £4000 (I know, but bear with me) the Hollowline comes in at around half the price of several, equally amazing bass brands that I could name but won’t, because they too deserve their reputation. Four grand is a lot of money, but when you come across a bass that costs twice as much and plays more or less the same, with more or less identical tone options, suddenly you gain a sense of perspective. Great job Rikkers – let’s hope we see more of your basses soon.
Price | €4950 (approx £4040)
Made in | The Netherlands
Body | Pommele mahogany, figured Dutch walnut top
Neck | Bigleaf maple
Neck Join | Set neck (bolt-on or neck-thru available on request)
Fingerboard | Calamander
Frets | 24
Pickups | Rikkers Switchbuckers,
Graphtech Ghost piezosaddles
Preamp | Aguilar OBP3
Controls | Three-band cut/boost, Rikkers piezobuffer
Tuners | Gotoh Resolites
Weight | 4.6kg
Case or gigbag included? | Flightcase with leather strap and set-up tools included
What We Think
Plus | A top-of-the-line professional instrument in every possible way
Minus | Range of tone options may be over-the-top for some players
Overall | An utterly amazing bass that easily competes with others at twice its price