Phil Maneri’s
BASS
LAB

Sadowsky’s New York shop is renown in the bass world as building some of the finest gig-worthy workhorses ever produced. They are consistently constructed at a high level, with attention to detail that is impressive across their multi-decade run. This bass is a masterful recent example of their classic J-style bass, with a couple new twists.

To start, the body is chambered okoume, an uncommon choice, but one that is gaining popularity as a tone wood. It is “mahogany like,” but not mahogany. It’s a softer hardwood that could lead to shorter notes, but not in this bass. The neck is maple, and solid as a rock. It wears a classic ebony fingerboard. There are no inlays in that fingerboard, save for the abalone/MOP inlay of the New York skyline at the 12th fret.

The electronics are fascinating. On the surface, the pickups look similar to two huge MM-style humbuckers. However, under the covers, I discovered that they are both rather different. The neck “Super P” has four coils set so it can be a big humbucker, or split to be in a more classic P-bass split-coil setup, either D/G strings closer to the bridge like a standard Precision, or reversed with the D/G closer to the neck. 

The bridge “Super J” pickup is built differently. From the top, it looks like the pole pieces are offset, but they aren’t, at all. They are centered on two long, narrow quad coils that look like single coils, and spaced so they are quite close together. They then wire it up with a couple mini switches that deliver a variety of classic Leo Fender bass pickup tones. The placement of the coils is quite deliberate. Each measure out to a position very close to the vintage instruments they intend to duplicate … more or less.

The switches map out like this (3 positions moving bridge/middle/neck on each switch):

Switch 1 (near the pickups)      

Neck pickup: classic P-bass style, all coils (parallel), P-bass style reversed

Switch 2 (across the plate towards the floor)

Bridge pickup: bridge-side coil (‘60s position), all coils (parallel), neck-side coil (‘70s position)

There is some interactivity in the center of the blend knob, which complicates those relationships, and some bleed across poles in the ‘70s bridge coil tap position, as they have to short the bridge to the hot side to make the tap work. Common practice in guitars. Suffice it to say, there are a whole lot of subtle shades in pickup selections, here; all honor classic Fender basses.

Hardware is straightforward. It sports a vintage-style plate bridge, with slightly more mass than a vintage bass, and useful upgrades, like quick-release string ball slots. It has the ubiquitous Hipshot keys, all in matte black, which is a very nice contrast to the Candy Apple Orange metallic finish on both the body and matching peghead. 

The finish is meticulous, as usual for Sadowsky. In fact, everything in the fit and finish is meticulous. Sure, there aren’t neck-through sandwich joints here, and everything is covered with a coat of paint we can’t see through, but what we can see fits better than a glove.

The Sadowsky design isn’t anything new, but that’s what makes it comfortable and familiar. It is a slightly undersize J-bass body with a bolt-on, J-width neck. Tried and true. Like all Sadowsky basses, this sounds just like a Sadowsky. P/J-bass, with ass for days, and notes that sustain until next week. It really is a perfect working person’s electric bass. It plays excellently and sounds great all around, with minimal dead spots or wolf tones. It is an expensive instrument, and it sounds like it.

This is a high-end working person’s instrument; it doesn’t belong in a showcase, like so many other instruments in its price range. It is consistent, great-sounding, professionally made, to last a really long time under the stresses of travel and daily work. This is something you work with, live with, carry around and play every gig you can get with, until you die or can’t get up anymore. It needs nothing, hence the perfect marks.

Doesn’t matter how much it is, it’s worth it; or it will be once you look back across your career and see how it has served you for decades.

 

bass test
Sadowsky Guitars – NYC Custom 4-21 Fret Bass Guitar

Sadowsky NYC Custom
4-21 Bass Guitar

NECK MEASURES

Scale length:34"
Neck width at nut:1.542”
Neck width at 12th fret:2.241”
Neck width at joint:2.378”
Neck thickness at nut:1.113”
Neck thickness at 1st fret:.834”
Neck thickness at 12th fret:.981”
Neck thickness at joint:1.130”
String spacing at nut:.404”
String spacing at saddle:.792”
Fingerboard radius:12”
Descriptor for neck shape:C shape
Peghead break angle:4 - 11 deg
Bridge break angle:19 -22 deg
Afterlength at nut:6 11/16” - 1 3/16”
Afterlength at saddle:1 1/8” - 1 3/8”
Pocket gap:0
Truss rod type/access:Compression rod / bridge end
Fret count:21
Fretwire:93 x 50

TEST RESULTS

1-5 (unacceptable to impeccable)

On-bench

Overall construction :5
Wood choice:5
Materials choice:5
Joinery:5
Fretwork:5
Fit and Finish of adornments:5
Quality of finish work:5
Ease of repair:5
Potential range of setup:5
Balance on knee:5
Balance on strap:5
Overall electronic quality:5
Solder joints, wire runs:5
Clarity:5
Noise:5
Shielding:5
Quality for Price Range:5
On-bench Score
5.00average