Go to www.zonguitars.com. Go on, we don’t even mind you clicking off this page for a few moments. Zon have included a nifty little ‘build your own bass’ facility at their website, and having been on it while preparing for this review, we can confirm that it’s a lot of fun, a bit like going into a Ferrari showroom and asking the bloke in the Armani suit if that red car over there comes with any optional extras. Have a look at the Sonus Custom 5 option; when you’ve added all the possible extras that you can think of (posh finish, matching headstock design, gold hardware), you’ll arrive at a figure not un-adjacent to $8600, a sum which we don’t need to convert to sterling to know that it’s a hell of a lot more than the £3000-less-a-quid which the review model on these pages costs you. And that’s an offline, real-world price too. Of course, £2999 is still a large chunk of money, and not generally to be parted with for a bass unless you’re extremely serious about your playing and/or very rich. Is the Sonus worth all that hard-earned currency? Let’s find out.
We review a lot of high-end, high-spec basses in this magazine, although we also pride ourselves that we also include budget models for balance. One disadvantage of getting your hands on a bass of this calibre is that after a fairly short time you start to run out of superlatives to describe them. In this case, foaming at the mouth and searching for words in Roget’s Thesaurus that mean ‘completely, mind-blowingly lovely to play; we want to have children with this bass’ is deserved. The build of the Sonus is flawless, at least in the absence of an electron microscope to examine it. The swamp ash body and spalted maple top are supremely smooth to the touch and balanced on the strap; the tuners turn with elegance and finesse; and the neck… well, the neck makes recalls the expression ‘getting wood’, if that wasn’t highly inappropriate because it’s made of graphite. This is what we’re reduced to. Told you we couldn’t find the right words anymore.
Sounds And Playability
Plug the Sonus in, taking care not to smack the headstock on anything and remove a grand from its value, and you’re instantly rewarded with a wide, easily locatable range of tones. Basses of this calibre are sometimes let down by their designers’ insistence on making the controls over-complex: this isn’t the case with the Sonus, which is quick and easy to manoeuvre in tonal terms. Find your sweet spot with the volume and pickup blend and then it’s just a matter of finding the right cut or boost courtesy of the appropriate control: you may not even need to take that second step as the pickup blend control alone allows you a broad range of sounds. From the thunderous lowest notes, afforded us by those amazing tonewoods under your fingers, to a cutting, almost saxophone-like slap tone and onward to the brightest end of the spectrum, the Sonus has it all. Well, almost all. This is a passive instrument and, while the pickups sound perfectly hot enough to us, some players may feel that active circuitry should be an option at this price point.
Playing the Sonus is a joy. The graphite neck and phenowood fingerboard are the core of the experience, with the super-slippery neck allowing your thumb to slide up and down like a cat on an ice rink. The action on our review model was set low, which combined with the fast neck made us feel tempted, nay driven, to pull off a bit of soloing at the top end. We know it’s a lapse of taste, but this instrument begs you to attempt a Billy Sheehan on it. Slapping is at least three times easier than on any other basses, too. Really.
Any negative points? Well, simply that a lot of bass players still don’t like graphite necks. The sound of wood, and all that. That’s simply a matter of taste, and the subject of ‘fake’ versus ‘real’ necks is one that we don’t have space for here. You can buy us a pint after the London Bass Guitar Show and we’ll have a go at it then…
The Sonus Custom 5 is an expensive bit of gear, and worth every penny of its wallet-threatening price. The usual caveats apply, of course: for three grand we could name at least a dozen other amazing bass guitars that would compete just as well. This is a bass that shredders will love, slappers will adore and everyone else will just stroke lovingly; if you’re into the graphite neck and the exotic woods, you may well find that it’s the right one for you. We mentioned the Zon website’s custom bass design page in the introduction for good reason, mind: check out the other options before you pull out your Visa card. If you don’t want to do that, though, you can still rest easy: the Sonus we played here is a complete, dyed-in-the-wool, copper-bottomed triumph.
PRICE | £2999
BODY | Swamp Ash
TOP | Spalted Maple
FINISH | Polyester gloss
COLOUR | Natural
NECK | Composite, bolt-on
FINGERBOARD | Phenowood, side dot markers
FRETS | 24
NUT | Graphite
WIDTH AT NUT | 1.875”
SCALE LENGTH | 34”
ELECTRONICS | ZP-2D by Polyfusion
CONTROLS | Master volume, pickup blend, bass, treble and midrange controls boost/cut ±15dB
PICKUPS | Bartolini, wide-aperture, passive, dual-coil
BRIDGE | Zon machined brass
TUNERS | Gotoh GB-7
What we think
PLUS | Pretty much everything. This is an utterly lovely instrument
MINUS | Some people will never accept graphite necks
OVERALL | A bass that makes you feel like twice the player you actually are – but at a price
Build quality | 10/10
Sound quality | 9/10
Value | 8/10