Phil Maneri’s
BASS
LAB

An acoustic electric bass that comes apart and fits in an airline carryon bag? Okay, that’s worth looking at. Upon further inspection, we find a carryon bag with an acoustic bass guitar body in one side and a neck in the other, with strings and such all still hooked up. With a simple bolt-on neck screw, the whole thing tightens up, and to my surprise, it was in-tune without touching a tuning key. Okay, that’s cool.

There isn’t really any wood to talk about here; it’s all carbon fiber. That makes the instrument pretty bulletproof and very hard to break. The back and sides and neck all show the carbon fiber material and the top is painted a nice shade of purple. The body is ergonomically intentioned with thinner depth on the bass side than the treble (the Manzer Wedge©™ design). There is a big cutaway on the treble side and a forearm bevel over the bass side forward body edge. All this adds up to comfort, as it plays well seated or standing – even considering it’s not a slab instrument and has a depth much past what you’d expect on most acoustic guitars.

The short scale (27”) is a full 7” shy of the usual Fender scale (34”). Obviously, this shorter scale is part of what allows it to fit into an overhead bag. Interesting, though, it sounds quite balanced up and down the neck, for as short as it is.

The passive pickups appear to be similar to K & K body transducers run directly to the output jack. This is an efficient concept, although perhaps not my ideal choice for electronics in an acoustic bass guitar.

The Grover tuning keys and the neck attachment system are the only hardware to speak of. The keys are simple and lightweight, and open-frame. The attachment system is proprietary and very well made. In fact, the whole instrument is pretty well constructed.

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The acoustic sound is pretty good and louder than you’d guess, given its size. However, when amplified, it is somewhat prone to feedback – at least when played at “concert volume levels” – and seems bigger than expected in the bass, and a little scooped in the mids. I suspect the pickup might be the culprit, here. With a different under-saddle transducer, combined with a buffer or onboard EQ, this instrument might really kill it at higher amplified volumes.

Compared to my vintage Fenders, it plays a little stiff, but its saddle has plenty of room to adjust to taste, and the dual-action truss rod is a welcome addition. It’s a little weird to get used to, initially, but not insurmountable. One unique advantage of the detachable neck is that it makes it a simple affair to swap bridge saddles, and also makes it very easy to shim the neck.

This is an interesting design aimed at people who play bass and travel. It’s solidly built and ingenious in its carry on implementation, though I suspect it has a very small market niche. The price point initially seems a little high, but considering the carbon fiber construction, it’s probably right about where it should be.

bass test
Kinal Guitar

Journey Instruments OB660
Overhead Bass

CONFIGURATION

Strings:4
Style:Single-cut (“single-scoop,” actually)
Overall Length:36.5”
Body Dimension:18” long x 12 ½” wide at lower bout
Body Contouring: Minimal
Weight:4.1 lbs

NECK

Scale length:27”
Neck width at nut:1.783”
Neck width at 12th fret:2.295”
Neck width at joint:2.295”
Neck thickness at nut:.964”
Neck thickness at 1st fret:.800”
Neck thickness at 12th fret: 1.061”
Neck thickness at joint:1.061”
String spacing at nut:.406”
String spacing at saddle:.712”
Fingerboard radius:16”
Descriptor for neck shape:wide C
Peghead break angle:12 degrees
Bridge break angle:35 degrees
Afterlength at nut:1.589” – 3.149”
Afterlength at saddle:.386”
Attachment:Unique bolt-on
Pocket gap:N/A
Truss rod type/access:Dual-action / peghead side
Fret count:17
Fretwire:100x29

ELECTRONICS

Pickups:Proprietary piezo transducer
Pickup location(s):Underneath bridge
Electronics:N/A
Controls:None
Shielding:N/A
Preamp circuit voltage:N/A

CONSTRUCTION

Body Woods:Carbon fiber
Neck WoodsCarbon fiber
Fingerboard:Carbon fiber
Body Finish:High gloss polyurethane and paint
Neck Finish:High gloss polyurethane

HARDWARE

Strings:D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Roundwound
Gauge:.045, .065, .080, .100
Attachment:At bridge
Bridge/color:Proprietary / bone
Nut:Bone
Tuners/color:Grover / chrome
Knobs/color:N/A
Pickguard:N/A
Control cavity cover:N/A

GENERAL

Company:Journey Instruments
Austin, Texas
www.journeyinstruments.com
County of origin:China
Warranty:Lifetime for body, neck & neck attachment; 1-year on pickup and bag; lifetime warranty on tuners through Grover
Price:$1,219.99 (high gloss or matte black, fretted), $1,249.99 (high gloss black, fretless), $1,249.99 (electric purple
Options:Fretless
Accessories:Travel Backpack
Available colors:High gloss black, matte black, electric purple
Acquired from:Journey Instruments
Dates:Spring 2017 to Spring 2018
Locals:Ohio
Test gear:Epiphone El Capitan, Bergantino B|Amp, Bergantino CN212, Ampeg Micro-VR, Ampeg SVT-210AV

TEST RESULTS

1-5 (unacceptable to impeccable)

In-hand

Features: 4
Tonal Flexibility:3
Ease of Use: 5
Aesthetics:4
Ergonomics: 4
Tone: 4
Value:3

In-hand Score 3.86average

On-bench Score 3.75average

On-bench

Overall construction4
Wood choice5
Materials choice4
Joinery5
Fretwork4
Fit and Finish of adornments4
Quality of finish work4
Ease of repair 3
Potential range of setup3
Balance on knee4
Balance on strap4
Overall electronic quality2
Solder joints, wire runs4
Clarity3
Noise4
ShieldingN/A
Quality for Price Range3

SONIC PROFILE:

Low: Deep and clear acoustically; bigger and more round amplified
Mids: Open and balanced acoustically; somewhat subdued amplified
Highs: Amplified tone does not have harshness common to many piezo pickups


TONE-O-METER:

This little bass definitely delivers the “acoustic bass guitar” tone when played acoustically, and sounds more like a cross between an ABG and an EUB when plugged in. It has impressive acoustic volume, and no piezo harshness when plugged in.