Sandberg Electra Series TT and VS

_MG_1135001Two examples from the Sandberg stable look to offer affordability and killer tone at a player-friendly price, Mike Brooks gives them the once-over

The Sandberg team have been producing consistently high quality basses for a considerable amount of time, and their popularity in the UK has been gradually gathering pace over the last 10 years. What we have here are two basses from the new Electra series, designed to appeal to players on a limited budget who require a bass that delivers without costing the earth. Under review are the TT and VS models, based on Fender Jazz and Precision basses respectively: a Stingray variant is also available. How do these German offerings stack up?

Build Quality

Both basses are reasonably weighted around the 4kg mark, due in no small part to the basswood bodies. They feel substantial and solid without giving the impression of being lightweight. Surprisingly, both instruments exhibit a considerable headstock bias, but as with most basses, once put on a strap either bass sits perfectly well on the player’s body. The TT bass looks every bit the classic Jazz bass with its Crème High Gloss finish and red tortoiseshell scratchplate, but the VS bass suffers from its satin finish. The colouring and tone of the Tobacco Sunburst finish look great, but the choice of satin over high gloss is an acquired taste. The smooth bodylines and contouring are as you would expect on models such as these.

The TT bass follows the neck profile dimensions that one would associate with a Jazz variant: a sleek, fast Canadian maple neck with a slim profile and narrow nut width. The neck feels ‘woody’ and natural, in no small part helped by the satin neck finish. The frets are extremely well dressed with no sharp edges, and a good setup and action means this is an easy bass to adapt to, as it feels so familiar. Chrome hardware has been used throughout: a simple but effective three-way bridge design allows the string spacing to be adjusted to the player’s requirements, set at 19mm from the off. The Californian open gear machine heads, taken from Sandberg’s own California range of instruments, operate smoothly and a supplied Allen key allows the player to adjust the tension of the machine head axis to their liking, a nice touch.

The chrome string retainer, Graph Tech nut and zero fret complete the neck hardware. The four-control layout comprising volume (with a push/pull operation for active/passive switching), pickup pan, bass and treble is simple yet effective with smooth, gradual increases and decreases from each control. The VP model has similar features in terms of construction, hardware and electronics aside from the inevitable single split-coil pickup, featuring one large single magnet for each string, a plain black scratchplate, black hardware and no pickup pan control. Both basses make use of fliptop battery holders on the rear of the bass and it’s worth noting that both basses will operate in passive mode without a battery inserted, should that be your preference.

Playability And Sounds

Playing both basses acoustically, there is little tonal difference between them. The body shapes are obviously different and the neck dimensions feel different, although the VS neck doesn’t display the familiar rounded, bulky nature that a lot of Precision necks offer. Putting the TT through its paces, and running both pickups at 100 per cent in the centre position, the bass displays all the classic tonal hallmarks of a twin single-coil Jazz bass, rounded with some zip in the top end and a throaty midrange that gives the overall tone some distinction. Adding some bass EQ works wonders, providing some solidity and power to the bottom end. Surprisingly, the treble EQ sounded a little excessive and extreme, so use with caution._MG_1151001

No matter which pickup was used or how the pickups were panned, the bass exhibits a defined woody character that some players may like while others may not: personally, I thought it gave the bass an identity of sorts rather than conforming to the standard Jazz sound. Access to the upper frets was fine, but it became a bit of a reach where the neck joint occurs in order to reach the dusty end of the fingerboard. On the subject of the neck joint, there was a slight gap around the neck pocket – but the neck was undoubtedly firmly attached to the body with its six-bolt attachment, so have no fear.

The VS model was equally impressive in its sonic display, exhibiting all the tonal characteristics that a good Precision bass clone should, yet with some extra ‘oomph’ to boot. Naturally, the active setting offered more tone shaping and overall power, but the passive option was far from muted in comparison and showed that it was perfectly usable, either as the main tone or as the failsafe option should it be required. The bass and treble EQ inevitably have a considerable impact on the tone and tonal options available to the player. With both added wisely, this really is a super-powered P-Bass with a considerable amount of body plus an equal amount of grit and twang.

Conclusions

What we have here are two price-conscious basses that are well made and have been designed to do the obvious things well. To that end, there is little to remark upon or complain about. As gigging instruments, I can’t see anyone being disappointed by either bass as they are comfortable to wear, with a sensible weight and tonal options on tap to cope with most styles and playing requirements. The Sandberg name carries some weight and their reputation for solidly built, reliable instruments is definitely growing, but how would either bass stand out from a crowd of similarly spec’d, classically designed basses? Neither bass carries an excessive price tag and they definitely fit into the ‘what have you got to lose’ bracket. If a vintage-style active Fender clone is on your shopping list, take a look, try them out and see if they fit the bill.

 

Sandberg Electra Series TT 4

Price: £569

Colour: Crème High Gloss

Body: Basswood

Neck: Canadian hardrock maple

Fingerboard: Rosewood

Pickups: Sandberg-designed single-coil x 2

Electronics: Sandberg-designed 9-volt active/passive, 2-band EQ

Controls: Volume (push/pull active/passive), pickup pan, 2-band EQ (bass/treble boost/cut)

Tuners: California open gear tuners

Bridge: Sandberg-designed bridge, three-way adjustable

Made In: Korea (assembled in Germany)

Nut Width: 37mm

Neck: Bolt-on, six bolt

Scale Length: 34” (864mm)

Frets: 22

Weight: 4kg (8.8lb)

Left Hand Model Available: None

Gigbag/Case: None

 

What We Think

Plus: A good all round bass that delivers everything you would expect a Jazz clone to offer. Sensibly priced, comfortable and playable, as it should be

Minus: Just lacks the killer punch to stand out from the crowd

Overall: A sound purchase, solid, reliable with a good degree of tonal flexibility and classic looks

 

BGM Rating Out Of 10

Build Quality 7

Sound Quality 8

Value For Money 8

 

Sandberg Electra Series VS 4

Price: £499

Colour: Tobacco matt

Body: Basswood

Neck: Canadian hardrock maple

Fingerboard: Rosewood

Pickups: Sandberg-designed split-coil x 1

Electronics: Sandberg-designed 9-volt active/passive, 2-band EQ

Controls: Volume (push/pull active/passive), 2-band EQ (bass/treble boost/cut)

Tuners: California open gear tuners

Bridge: Sandberg-designed bridge, three-way adjustable

Made In: Korea (assembled in Germany)

Nut Width: 37mm

Neck: Bolt-on, six bolt

Scale Length: 34” (864mm)

Frets: 22

Weight: 3.7kg (8.1lb)

Left Hand Model Available: None

Gigbag/Case: None

 

What We Think

Plus A classic bass design with extra tone shaping, excellent feel and playability at a pocket-friendly price

Minus Some may see it as just another P-Bass clone, which it is, but it has more to offer through the active EQ

Overall If you are in the market for a Precision-styled bass, this should be on your shopping list

 

BGM Rating Out Of 10

Build Quality 8

Sound Quality 8

Value For Money 8

 

Info: www.bassgear.co.uk

 

 

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