The Company Line

Long Term Test Drive LogoThis Fibenare (FIH-BEH-NAH-REH, derived from “sons of Benedek and Clare”) story is LONG overdue, but better late than never, I suppose. While the “Fibenare Guitars Co.” company only dates back to 1998, the real story goes back farther. The founders of the company are the three Benedek Brothers (Attila, Csaba & Árpád), and music runs deep in the Benedek family bloodline as a family of classically trained musicians in their hometown of Kecskemét, Hungary. However, the brothers began to gain interest in more modern forms of music (rock, blues, jazz, etc.), which also drove a need for more modern electric instruments. But the iron curtain hung strong in those days, so the instruments we take for granted here in the States (Fender, Gibson, etc.) simply weren’t available. Driven by availability (or the lack thereof), budget, and need (three instruments, not just one), József Benedek (their father) convinced them to start making their own guitars; this was around 1990. Turns out, they had a great gift for making fine instruments, so they also found themselves making instruments for other people. First, for family and friends, but then as they refined their craft, professionals began to use them, as well. This drove the need to establish a company, which took place in September, 1998. The company has since expanded to include new highly skilled instrument builders and is currently located in Budapest. They currently build around 50-60 instruments per year. While they’re definitely best known for their guitars, they also build some very amazing basses, so we couldn’t resist doing a product review (or two!).

After a few years of getting the company established, they began attending trade shows, starting with Music Expo, Wanted-fest, Hang-fest, the largest guitar-camp, called Guitarmania, and the largest music expo in Hungary, called Hangfoglalas. Their first year at Musikmesse Frankfurt was 2003, and their first Winter NAMM was 2007. These days, you can also find their instruments at national exhibitions in Europe, such as HUVEL in the Czech Republic, the London Guitar Show, and the Fuzz Guitar Show in Sweden. You can also find them at the Dallas Guitar Show, here in the USA, through their dealers.

I personally didn’t meet Csaba and Gabor until the 2009 Musikmesse, which was also the first year Fibenare attended the Montreal Guitar Show. I’m not sure if I missed them in 2007/8 because they didn’t have any basses in the booth, or, maybe more likely, because they were down in Hall E jammed in with the tightly packed mass of smaller booths, and we simply (sadly) missed them in our frenzy to cover the show as best we could in the time allowed (always a challenge). It wasn’t long, however, before Bass Gear Magazine decided we needed to get some instruments in for review, and quite honestly, personal purchase. The more we got to know the Fibenare team and their instruments, the more we wanted to experience the instruments firsthand.

What I think sets Fibenare apart from most other builders and luthiers is how much of their instruments are built in-house, in their relatively small shop in Hungary. Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – except the tuning machines is made in their shop. All the wood parts, all the hardware (sans tuners), and all the electronics. And as you’ll read later, it’s all right up there with the best available on the market, anywhere. They even make their own high-quality custom and very unique hard cases in house.

bolt-on Globe 5 fretted bass

Details

For this review, I will be looking at two different iterations of their Globe Bass model. Let’s first talk about the common features/materials. Both basses are 5-string, bolt-on models – Fibenare also offers the Globe Bass as a neckthrough and as a single-cut (neckthrough). The pickups are their own “Vazul” model dual-coil pickups with Alnico 5 magnets. Both pickups are wired to split the coils to parallel, single, and series, going from the 3-way switch being in the “up” position (closest to the strings) to the bottom position, respectively. When in single-coil mode, it’s the coils closest to the neck in both cases. There is also an active/passive switch, volume, pan/blend, bass, mid, and treble controls for their 18V FET-based preamp. The treble operates with a center frequency of 6kHz, the mid is centered at 800Hz, and the bass is centered at 40Hz. All EQ controls are +/- 15dB. There’s a small LED integrated into the electronics cover on the back, which starts blinking if the battery power gets low.

The tuners are Gotoh® GB707’s. They both have a brass nut, the Fibenare “Twin” bridge, which has an aluminum plate, but brass saddles, which are adjustable for string spacing, as well as height and length (intonation). The strings are anchored by a separate tailpiece from the bridge, itself. The neck is held on by five large screws, and the body has recessed metal inserts for their screw holes. All the knobs are chrome knurled domes. The cases are also custom made in-house, out of fiberglass. As a result, they’re highly protective, despite how thin they are.

 

bolt-on Globe 5 fretted bass
bolt-on Globe 5 fretted bass

The fretboards have a “conical” radius, which is a non-constant radius from the nut end to the body end, which essentially makes a conical shape as it goes from 8” at the nut to 15” at the body. Fibenare believes the conical fretboard allows for better action settings and also wilder string bending capabilities on their guitars. The neck shape is a standard “C,” and uses a double-action truss rod (also made by them in-house). The bodies are both made of alder, though the fretted model has a much more exotic woodgrain to it. The scale length is 34”.

Now for what’s different. This fretted model is more of a “premier” instrument, where the fretless is a bit more “basic.” For example, on the fretted model, the EQ knobs are a little smaller than the volume and pan/blend controls, the fingerboard and pickup covers are padauk, the neck is a 5-piece lamination of flamed maple and padauk laminates, the top is highly figured maple with a thin accent laminate between it and the body (something light in color, maybe maple, but it’s not documented), and it has a headstock that matches the figured top on the body. There are also 24 vintage regular nickel silver frets (1.2mm x 2.5mm). The fretless model sports ebony for the fingerboard and pickup covers, with maple inlays where the frets would otherwise be located. Interestingly, they also place the side markers ON the fret lines instead of between them as they would be on a fretted bass (or most other fretless instruments, in my experience). Finally, the fretless model has the usual conical strap buttons, but the fretted model has Dunlop Dual Design Straploks®.

Fit and Finish

These are beautifully hand-crafted instruments that nicely serve both artistic, as well as functional, masters. The fretwork and nut work are both excellent, and the neck joint is excellent, with a flowing curve on the neck heel into the sculpted body contour where the neck is received. Even the bolts holding the neck on look great with the brass inserts in the body and the smooth, oval, chrome screw heads, which are perfectly flush with the back of the bass. The finish is deep and rich, and really brings the figure out in the fretted model. All the hardware works perfectly; the bass takes a great setup, and it stays in tune, despite a lot of time, climate change, and/or transport. I can find no flaws on either of these basses. The closer you look, the more impressed you are with what they do in their little shop.

bolt-on Globe 5 fretless bass
bolt-on Globe 5 fretless bass

On the gig

These basses have the top horn button right at the 12th fret, making them balance perfectly on a strap, and the lower cutaway design allows both for easy access to the higher frets, as well as a comfortable seated playing position, resting the bass on the right leg. The neck feels very pleasant and “slender” to me; very easy to play and move around on. The fretless side markers being on the fret lines (instead of between them, as I’m used to) really ended up being harder for me to get used to than I thought they would. I’m sure that’s just me being set in my ways, however. Logically, it does make more sense to be on the lines.

Tonally, wow! What a palette of sound! Despite the very broad spectrum of tones available on both instruments, I never felt overwhelmed at the controls. I always felt I knew how to get exactly what I wanted with very little fiddling around. What you get when you make a change to the coil configuration or EQ settings is exactly what you expect. I even found myself doing a lot of blending between different coil configurations, such as series for the neck pickup and either single or parallel for the bridge pickup. What pleasantly surprised me with the series mode, is while it expectedly had higher output than single or dual mode, did not present a difficult balancing challenge. I was able to get a pretty darn good “P-type” sound by putting the neck pickup in series mode, for classic rock and blues, while going single or dual for both pickups for a more modern funk/slap tone. And for that burpy bridge sound, pretty much all settings left me smiling. I also like that they used both of the “forward” coils in single mode, because that keeps the bridge pickup from being too narrow or thin sounding, and then by having the neck pickup use its “furthest” coil, allows for a broader tonal blending capability.

The fretted model weighs in at 9.6 pounds, where the fretless model weighs in at 8.5. This makes the fretted bass a bit on the heavy side for my taste, and the fretless bass right in my wheelhouse. That said, the ergonomics are such on these basses that I didn’t really feel like the fretted bass was overly heavy, so keep that in mind. The cases are surprisingly strong for their thin profile due to the fiberglass construction, and easy to carry, as a result. However, their unique shape makes them a bit of a challenge when it comes to storage at home in a closet or packing with other gear in a vehicle. Very minor issue, however.

I should point out that our Technical Editor, Phil Maneri, did get an opportunity to review the fretted Globe 5, but he has not seen the fretless, so there is only one Bass Lab technical review associated with this “in-hand” review.

bolt-on Globe 5 fretless bass
bolt-on Globe 5 fretless bass

The Bottom Line

The guys at Fibenare really set the bar high on their instruments, and their instruments deliver. When it comes down to tone, flexibility, quality, playability, and beauty, they leave nothing to be desired. It’s impossible for me to imagine a style of music these instruments couldn’t easily support. Given your budget allows for such a fine custom instrument, your biggest challenge will probably be simply trying to make up your mind on tone selection when you’d have so many great options to choose from, and of course putting the bass down so you could finally get some sleep.

Globe Bass 5 Bolt-On Fretted

bolt-on Globe 5 fretted bass

GENERAL

Company:Fibenare Guitars
Budapest, Hungary
Phone: +36 70 310 3343 (English and Spanish)
Phone: +36 70 398 8676 (English)
Email: info@fibenare-guitars.com, fibenareofficial@gmail.com
Web: http://www.fibenare-guitars.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fibenare/
Country of Origin: Hungary
Warranty: 20 year, non-transferrable, limited to material/workmanship defects
Price:$3,540 (base 5-string) $5,240 (as tested)
Accessories:Custom Fibenare hard case (included)
Options:

  • Figured top: $700

  • Flamed maple neck: $700

  • Laminated neck: $300


Acquired From:Fibenare Guitars
Locales:Illinois, Ohio
Test Gear (in-hand review): Gallien-Krueger Legacy 800, Aviom, GK Neo II 1x12, Fractal Audio FM3.
CONFIGURATION
Strings:5
Style:Double cutaway
Overall Length:44"
Body Dimension:20” long x 13.5” wide at lower bout
Body Contouring: Moderate
Weight:9.6 lbs
ELECTRONICS
Pickups:Fibenare Vazul N/B (Alnico 5)
Pickup location(s), from 12th fret:11 ¼” and 14 11/16”
Electronics:Proprietary Fibenare
Controls:Volume (push/pull for active/passive on current models), blend, active/passive switch (now push/pull on the volume knob), bass, mids, treble, two 3-way coil switches for parallel/single/series
Shielding:Foil
Preamp circuit voltage:18v
CONSTRUCTION
Body Woods:Alder
Neck WoodsMaple/Padauk
Fingerboard:Padauk
Body Finish:Gloss urethane
Neck Finish:Satin urethane
HARDWARE
Strings:Stainless Steel Roundwound
Gauge:.045, .065, .085, .105, .125
Attachment:At bridge
Bridge/color:Fibenare Twin bridge / chrome/brass/black
Nut (Guide):Brass
Tuners/color:Gotoh GB707 / chrome
Knobs/color:Knurled dome / chrome
Control cavity cover:Plastic / black

TEST RESULTS

1-5 (unacceptable to impeccable)

In-hand

Features:5
Tonal Flexibility:5
Ease of Use:5
Aesthetics:5
Ergonomics:4
Tone:5
Value:4
In-hand Score 4.71average
SONIC PROFILE:

Low: Rich, round, and full
Mids: Focused and punchy
Highs: Clear and sweet


TONE-O-METER

This bass represents a broad spectrum of tones, much like a blank canvas for an artist to do anything he wants with. There won’t be anything lacking from a tonal, practical, or aesthetic point of view. It can do it all.

Fibenare_TOM

Globe Bass 5 Bolt-On Fretless

bolt-on Globe 5 fretless bass

GENERAL

Company:Fibenare Guitars
Budapest, Hungary
Phone: +36 70 310 3343 (English and Spanish)
Phone: +36 70 398 8676 (English)
Email: info@fibenare-guitars.com, fibenareofficial@gmail.com
Web: http://www.fibenare-guitars.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fibenare/
Country of Origin:Hungary
Warranty: 20 year, non-transferrable, limited to material/workmanship defects
Price:$3,540 (base 5-string) $3,840 (as tested)
Accessories:Custom Fibenare hard case (included)
Options:Ebony fingerboard $300
Acquired From:Fibenare Guitars
Locales:Illinois, Ohio
Test Gear (in-hand review): Gallien-Krueger Legacy 800, Aviom, GK Neo II 1x12, Fractal Audio FM3.

CONFIGURATION

Strings:5
Style:Double cutaway
Overall Length:44"
Body Dimension:20” long x 13.5” wide at lower bout
Body Contouring: Moderate
Weight:8.5 lbs

ELECTRONICS

Pickups:Fibenare Vazul N/B (Alnico 5)
Pickup location(s), from 12th fret:11 ¼” and 14 11/16”
Electronics:Proprietary Fibenare
Controls:Volume (push/pull for active/passive on current models), blend, active/passive switch (now push/pull on the volume knob), bass, mids, treble, two 3-way coil switches for parallel/single/series
Shielding:Foil
Preamp circuit voltage:18v

CONSTRUCTION

Body Woods:Alder
Neck WoodsMaple
Fingerboard:Ebony
Body Finish:Gloss urethane
Neck Finish:Satin urethane

HARDWARE

Strings:Nickel Flatwound
Gauge:.045, .065, .085, .105, .125
Attachment:At bridge
Bridge/color:Fibenare Twin bridge / chrome/brass/black
Nut (Guide):Brass
Tuners/color:Gotoh GB707 / chrome
Knobs/color:Knurled dome / chrome
Control cavity cover:Plastic / black

TEST RESULTS

1-5 (unacceptable to impeccable)

In-hand

Features:5
Tonal Flexibility:5
Ease of Use:5
Aesthetics:4
Ergonomics:5
Tone:5
Value:4
In-hand Score 4.71average
SONIC PROFILE:

Low: Rich, round, and full
Mids: Focused and punchy
Highs: Clear and sweet


TONE-O-METER

This bass represents a broad spectrum of fretless tones, nicely mellowed by the ebony fingerboard (as opposed to some hard coated fingerboards). It can be earthy and classic, but it can also be edgy and modern with a twist of a few knobs. You want fretless, you got fretless.

tom o meter
bolt-on Globe 5 fretless bass
bolt-on Globe 5 fretless bass
author avatar
Vic Serbe