What happens when you take a Z1 and a Z2 and put them together? You get a Z3, of course! Mike Brooks runs the rule over a Dingwall tone machine
We’ve reviewed several Dingwall basses in the past, and no matter how often we hear the question ‘does fan-fretting actually work?’, we always come away from a review with a glowing appraisal of Sheldon Dingwall’s work. The man never rests on his laurels, with new models and reworkings of existing models appearing regularly. So what does this Z3 bring to the party?
You can always be assured that a Dingwall will be exquisitely crafted and built, and the Z3 is no exception: the body shape, contouring and all round craftsmanship are wonderful. The body itself is so comfortable to wear, and although there is no front chamfer on the upper body, the cutaways are deep, with great access to the upper frets. The Translucent Black gloss finish looks classy, with just enough of the ash grain visible, while the satin-finished, lightly-coloured bleached maple neck and fingerboard provide a familiar but striking contrast, topped off by the matching headstock veneer and finish.
There is some headstock dive, as you might expect on a bass with a neck of these dimensions: the scale varies from 34 to 37 inches on the low B string. This is remedied when the Z3 is placed on a strap. Although the neck is long, it is extremely comfortable: the way the bass sits on the player is a testament to Sheldon’s design skills and ergonomic outlook. The slim, shallow D-shaped neck profile draws the player in: playability is a serious priority here, despite the 53mm nut width and the use of banjo fretwire instead of regular fretwire. The 18mm string spacing also helps to give the Z3 a slinky feel.
Luminlay side dots assist the player in low light, and a Neutrik locking jack socket has also been incorporated. The lightweight Hipshot tuners reduce the weight burden and operate smoothly and solidly, as indeed do all the controls and hardware on this bass. The three FD3 pickups are well-matched with the Glockenklang three-band active preamp, with controls for volume (passive tone control in passive mode, activated by push/pull), a rotary pickup selector, and a three-band EQ. Extra switches control mid-frequency selection and series/parallel switching for the neck and bridge pickups.
Sounds and Playability
The tonal concept for the Z3 was to offer three of the most popular pickup tones, namely the split-coil tone of a Precision, the twin single-coil performance of a Jazz and the humbucker punch of a Stingray, and with that aim in mind, I’d say Dingwall have done a pretty good job. All three pickup configurations have been approximated, along with the bridge pickup soloed for some tight midrange honk. Switching between each of the four settings, the similarities to the original tones are clearly evident.
Throw the EQ and pickup switching options into the mix and you have an extremely versatile instrument, with one of the best-sounding low B strings anywhere: its performance is made even better by the 37” scale length. The fan-fretting needs to be mentioned, of course – and for anyone who doesn’t get on with this system, a good tip is to simply look at the fret ends along the top edge of the fingerboard. If you don’t look at the angled slant of the frets, your fingers should naturally land where they need to, or at least mine did. Maybe the mind plays tricks on one’s eyes!
The many switching options may seem a bit daunting at first, so try leaving the EQ alone to begin with so that you can get accustomed to the nuances of the pickups. Once I was familiar with the tonal characteristics of each pickup and setting, then I was able to bring the EQ into play and achieve some classic tones. Is there anything this bass can’t do?
The Z3 is a solidly built, tonally flexible, highly playable and comfortable instrument, and anyone purchasing one should feel very pleased with themselves. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing and reviewing it. At this price, you’ll need deep pockets – but considering how many players have ventured along the Dingwall route in recent times, there will surely be many bassists interested in putting this instrument through its paces. Enjoy!
Price | £3750
Made in | Canada
Body | Dual density swamp ash in Translucent Black finish
Neck | Maple, 34” to 37” scale
Neck joint | Bolt-on (four bolt attachment)
Nut width | 53mm
Fingerboard | Maple
Frets | 24
Pickups | Dingwall FD3 ‘Super Fatty’ pickups x3
Electronics | Glockenklang active three-band EQ
Controls | Volume (active/passive push/pull), rotary pickup selector, bass (+/- 14 dB @ 40 Hz), middle (+/- 9 dB), treble (+/- 18 dB @ 18 kHz) (passive treble cut), neck pickup series/parallel selector, mid frequency selector (250 Hz/550 Hz), bridge pickup series/parallel selector
Hardware | Gotoh ruthenium lightweight tuners, Dingwall black bridge units
Weight | 3.9kg
Case/gigbag included? | Gigbag included
Left-hand option available? | No
What We Think
Plus | Vast tonal palette, supreme playability, balance and comfort, killer B string
Minus | The price tag may be off-putting, but this is a hand-built bass. Listen to the tones!
Overall | A top-notch instrument, built with care and attention to detail