If you’re going to do something, do it well, as the saying goes – and Michael Pedulla has done just that. Mike Brooks checks out the ‘buzz’ on the street
Michael Pedulla has been celebrating 40 years of making his finely handcrafted instruments this year, and there is reason to celebrate. Trends come and go, but Pedulla instruments remain as revered today as ever. We don’t see too many of them on this side of the pond, but fortunately for us, the fine chaps at Bass Direct here in the UK thought it about time that Pedulla basses were more visible to bass players here. Let’s dig in…
The Buzz’s curved body with its deep cutaways, slim horns and mild contouring feels incredibly functional, and with both the body and neck finished in a glorious purple high gloss finish, this custom ordered bass already scores big points in the looks department, the gloss emphasising the colouring to the max. The AAAAA solid quilted maple body wings and three-piece maple laminate through-neck merely add to what is already an eye-catching but tastefully assembled instrument. The bass sits perfectly against the player’s body, despite only minor chamfering to the top body bout, and feels very comfortable.
Comfort has obviously been a major consideration, and although the basic MVP/Buzz design hasn’t changed radically over the last 35 to 40 years, it is very much a winning formula – as the overall playability is stunning, irrespective of the fact that this is a fretless instrument. The balance and tilt factor are excellent, but the neck is where the action is really at. With a 40mm nut width, the fingerboard is hardly broad but in combination with the shallow ‘D’ neck profile and neck depth, there is enough timber to feel substantial without detracting from the comfort factor.
The unlined ebony fingerboard has been coated with a polyester lacquer, which some players may not enjoy: however, this not only offers protection to the ebony but gives the notes a ringing quality, projecting everything you play with more presence and sustain. The only position markers are white side dots along the top edge, adding to the Buzz’s minimal fuss in terms of appearance.
Black hardware has been used throughout: the ABM bridge allows the player to adjust the 19mm string spacing using rolling saddles. The active Bartolini circuitry and soapbar pickups are well matched with controls for volume, pickup pan, bass boost/cut (+/-15dB), treble boost/cut (+/-15dB) and a midrange boost/cut toggle switch. Located inside the control cavity are adjustable trimpots for the level of boost and cut to the midrange and overall output of the circuitry.
Sounds and Playability
Michael Pedulla claims that he uses these electronics only to amplify the natural characteristics of the strings and woods. Well, on this showing, he’s definitely hit a home run. Fretless basses tend to have a more woody sound, with the string naturally vibrating and coming into contact with the fingerboard, and this particular Buzz has an amazing tone from start to finish. The maple body and neck resonate like crazy and harmonically, this bass sings – there’s no other way to describe it. The pickups convey every nuance of your playing, so if your fretless technique is a little rusty, expect every mistake to jump out at you!
If you want bottom-end thunder to reduce the intrinsic mids and ‘mwah’ that fretless basses emit, this provides it. If some extra top-end sizzle is in order to accentuate those melodic lines and make them stand out, there is plenty of boost headroom. Kicking in the midrange boost and cut needs a little experimentation depending on your playing situation, but the trimpots are easily adjusted and you can tailor the midrange to your exact requirements.
I found the neck to be incredibly playable: the lacquer gave the board a sleek slipperiness that I enjoyed, while the hardness of the surface and underlying timber provided an audible shimmer that illustrated the overall tonal character.
There are no two ways about it: this is a bass of the highest quality, a seriously top-end instrument, just as Pedullas always have been. You almost don’t want to play it for fear of marking the bass and its hyper-glossy fingerboard. The instrument is a joy to play and fits the player like a glove. At almost four grand, it’s a serious expense – but if fretless bass is your passion, why not indulge it? Buy with confidence.
Price | £3,999
Made in | USA
Body | Solid AAAAA maple
Neck | Three-piece maple, 34” scale
Neck joint | Through-neck
Nut width | 40mm
Fingerboard | Ebony (polyester coated)
Frets | 24
Pickups | Bartolini soapbars x 2
Electronics | Bartolini preamp, three-band EQ
Controls | Volume, pickup pan, bass (boost/cut +/-15dB), treble (boost/cut +/-15dB), mid boost/cut switch (adjustable internally)
Hardware | Black chrome Gotoh tuners, black ABM three-way adjustable bridge
Weight | 4.2kg
Case/gig bag included? | Yes, hardcase
Left-hand option available? | Yes
What We Think
Plus | Extremely desirable fretless bass that ticks all of the boxes
Minus | The price tag is prohibitive, but fretless basses don’t come much better than this
Overall | If fretless is your preferred choice, you couldn’t want for more. Try one, you may just be converted!