Come and ‘AV’ a go, says Ellen O’Reilly of this bouncing Czech bass
Ales Vychodil, an experienced luthier with a signature brand, AV, since 1999, creates some of the most varied and beautiful instruments around. Hailing from the Czech Republic, he was inspired by the playing style of the Corrs bassist Keith Duffy, and contacted him in order to collaborate on a signature instrument. Duffy, one of Ireland’s most in-demand session players who works with the likes of Boyzone and Ronan Keating, had specific requirements that led to the inception and subsequent creation of the AVBP/J five-string bass. This instrument was designed to fulfil Keith’s expectations as a performing musician as well as those of producers and musical directors in regards to sound and tone. As a primarily Fender Precision player, Keith wanted an instrument that would reflect the P-Bass in terms of aesthetics and tone while incorporating a low B string. Paul Turner of Jamiroquai has also contributed to the development of the AVBP/J five-string, adding a bridge pickup resulting in a bass that will take you from studio to stadium.
At first glance the P-style qualities in the AVBP/J speak volumes. From the hipshot vintage bridge and tuning pegs to the Precision-esque scratchplate, it’s a fitting tribute to the original tried and test- ed Fender design. There are some quirky modern twists, however; the headstock is slightly more streamlined and angular, the horn and heel have a sharper shape and the traditional circular string guide is replaced with a bar which fits across all five strings above the nut. The tuning pegs are all kept to one side of the headstock to give it that vintage look, along with the positioning of the pickups and tone controls.
There’s a 12” radius on the fretboard which gives the neck an overall vintage feel and the rosewood is silky smooth to the touch, allowing greater mobility and ease of use. The body is available in either ash or alder, the latter making it a much lighter bass to sling around your neck than many other five-strings; however, it is quite neck-heavy, and has a tendency to dive. This is easily rectified once you put a strap on it. The varnished neck gives it a nice feel when playing, although the neck is a bit wide for smaller-handed players with a thickness of 21.7mm under the first fret to 25mm at the heel. This can lead to it being trickier to get around, but on the other hand there is more accuracy when playing with slap technique.
The American maple neck is a standard bolt-on configuration with easy access to the truss rod via a purpose-built gap through the pickguard, which allows you to make quick adjustments using a 4mm metric hex-head key. The string height is easily adjustable too, given the standard bridge saddles. The 34” scale neck is divided by 2.4mm wide frets and mother-of-pearl dot fret markers, topped by a Graphtec Tusq nut. The white pickguard covers the pickup and electronic cavity, while the body is covered with an acid-cured lacquer gold finish, especially chosen to represent the orange tone in the Irish flag when it was exhibited at the Dublin RDS Music Show 2012. As it happens this bass is the first model – serial number 001. AV basses are made to order, so it’s possible to get them in practically any colour and finish: solid, sunburst or metallic with a wide range of pickguards.
Sounds And Playability
The aesthetics of the AVBP/J5 may be a little on the safe side with re- gards to its resemblance to a Fender, yet this standard look ensures the AVBP/J5’s broad appeal and accessibility to players who prefer the looks of a classic. This can also be said of the sound and play- ability of the AVBP/J5: the combination of the Precision split pickup at the neck and the Jazz style single coil near the bridge are strategi- cally placed in order to give the player a wide variety of tones to choose from. The P/J pickup configuration combines the best of both worlds between the clearly identifiable tones of a P-Bass or a Jazz, the fact that each pickup has a dedicated volume/tone pot results in easy blending and allows for greater tone control. The lower half of each pot controls the tone whilst the upper half adjusts the volume, I have found that by experimenting between these deceptively simple controls you can dial in almost any tone you desire. I quickly and easily found a typical honky vintage Jazz tone, a more modern punchy 80s tone and then a full round tone expected of a P-Bass. This versatility is what makes it so desirable. The radius on the fretboard gives it a very familiar feel: it can cheat you into thinking that you are playing a vintage instrument. I would like it better, however, if it had a wider tonal range to choose from, and a few more frets to get stuck into when soloing in the higher register wouldn’t go astray. The tone is solid and even across the neck, and the generous heel on the body allows for adequate access beyond the 12th fret.
While the AVBP/J5 is not exactly awe-inspiring to look at, it really comes to life once you plug it in. Its tonal capabilities and versatility make this bass a real workhorse. Although it is a bit on the pricey side, it’s an instrument built for the working professional and takes into consideration the requirements of the modern session player and fulfils them to great effect. It’s a purpose-built gigging machine, and does exactly what it says on the tin.
|PRICE | £2180
MADE IN | Czech Republic
BODY | Alder
FINGERBOARD | Indian Rosewood
NECK-JOIN | Bolt-on
FRETS | 21
SCALE LENGTH | 34”
MACHINE HEADS | Hipshot Ultralite chrome tuners
BRIDGE | Hipshot Vintage bridge PICKUPS|Nordstrand passive NJ5 bridge position and NP5 neck position
CONTROLS | Passive electronics, stacked Volume/Tone pot for each pickup
HARD CASE | Yes
What We Think
PLUS | The quality and variety of the tones available make the AVBP/J a good investment
MINUS | For this price tag it could have been made more aesthetically pleasing
OVERALL | A joy to play, but still a little out of budget for many of us