what you're paying big bucks for,
both the front and back pickup
are housed in the wood taken
from the body, mimicking the
same layers and pin-striping:
these take three entire days to
craft and cost $550 on their own.
If the build quality is strong,
the playability of this bass is
where you really discover what
a remarkable instrument this
is. I've played expensive basses
before, and they always make
me sound way above my ability
level. The Monarch has the same
effect: running up and down
the fretboard, I appear to have
acquired a far superior bassist's
hands and fingers. There is no
issue with action: it almost feels as
if the bass isn't there. You'll also
notice that there is no apparent
drop-off in output, whichever
fret you are holding down.
Remarkably, the open E has the
same clarity and boom as the 12th
fret of the D string or the 24th
fret of the G string.
Tonally the bass comes into its
own, with a huge range of options
- and here is definitely where
a large chunk of your £11,000
is being spent. The Monarch is
equipped with a self-explanatory
active and passive switch, a switch which changes between dual and
single coil in the pickups and a fairly subtle mid frequency switch. The
real pleasure comes in the active treble, mid and bass controls. Each move
of each switch has a discernible effect on the sound, and the permutations
of the whole set-up are vast. A quick Billy Sheehan impression yields
a powerful tap tone. Dial through the options and you'll easily access
scooped tones that would work in a metal band. Reggae and soul options
are there at the tweak of a dial. Take all the treble out and play full bass on
the front pickup with an open E and there isn't a hint of fuzz: just a lovely
all embracing warmth.
The volume sits on top of a dual dial that has a passive tone treble
roll-off beneath it. A nice touch is that the tone works in active as well as
passive mode. Much like the active controls, the pan dial also does exactly
what it's meant to. Each dial also has a noticeable detente at the midpoint,
making them easy to navigate.
So far, so standard for any bass worth more than a grand. So why
pay 11 times more? Simply this: every other bass I have played involves
compromise - on sound, tonal variety, playability, and controls. This bass
doesn't appear to know what compromise is. It is an instrument that
you just don't want to put down. Everything else - practice, rehearsal,
tweaking sounds - comes after this.
I sat with this bass for two hours. It was effortless to play. I had to drag
myself away from Bass Gear to get on with my day.
It's difficult to think of an instrument as close to perfection when it also
comes along with a price tag of £11,000. But if you have that much money
to spend on a bass, perhaps that sum doesn't mean to you what it means to
most people. Whether it be cars or motorbikes or bicycles or guitars, if you
pay at the top of the relevant price band you should get something special.
If you accept that you could spend a quarter of this price tag on a
very good bass, and that the more you spend over that amount the
smaller the incremental payoff will be in terms of improvement, you'll
appreciate that what you have here is close to the very best. Personally,
I fell in love with this instrument, and if I had £11,000 to spend, I would
buy it in an instant.
P R IC E I £11,000 approx
B O D Y I Ash, alder tone block, amboyna
burl topwood
N E C K |
Five-piece maple neck with bubinga
stringers and flame maple core, 34" scale
N E C K J O IN T I Thru-neck
N U T I width 19mm
F IN G E R B O A R D I Rosewood
F R E T S I 24
P IC K U P S I 2 x Fodera/Duncan dual-coil
E L E C T R O N IC S I Active Fodera/Pope
custom three-band pre-amp
C O N T R O L S I Coil tap, dual/single switch,
active/passive switch, mid frequency
switch, pan control, volume plus tone
integrated control, treble, mid and bass
H A R D W A R E I Fodera bridge and machine
E IG H T I 4.15kg
C A s E/G IG b a g i n c l u d e d ? I Fodera
L E F T -H A N D O P T IO N A v A IL A B L E ? I Yes
P L u s I Faultless sound and
playability and great looks
M IN u s I The cost, the cost
and oh yes - the cost
O v E R A L L I The closest to perfection that
you are ever likely to find in a bass guitar,
depending on your personal preferences.
Now, where's that spare £11,000?
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