This article published in #Issue 18 in winter 2016.
Michael Pedulla and Mark Egan both need no introduction. But, in case you have been living under a rock for the last 40 years or so, we have features and interviews with both gentlemen in this very issue! Mark Egan was the first player to have a signature model from Mike Pedulla, and now that the men are celebrating 40 years of affiliation, Pedulla has introduced the 40th Anniversary Mark Egan Signature Bass.
Mark is widely acclaimed for his fretless chops, and naturally, the Mark Egan Signature Bass is available as a fretless. You can think of it as a somewhat refined Pentabuzz (more on that, below). But the Mark Egan Bass is also available as a fretted instrument, which would make it a somewhat refined MVP5. Whether you prefer frets or the lack thereof, the 40th Anniversary Mark Egan Signature Bass makes a compelling argument.
All of the Mark Egan Signature Basses share some common characteristics. They all have 5 strings, 19mm spacing bridge, Bartolini P/J pickup configuration, greater than 5A flame maple bodies, thinner neck, ebony fingerboard, bone nut, and an integrated thumbrest/ramp. They all feature a scalloped heel, with unimpeded access to the 25th fret position. The preamp controls are volume, blend, treble boost/cut, bass boost/cut, and a toggle switch to engage a midrange boost. The options include any current color offered by Pedulla, hardware in gold, black or chrome, and of course, fretted or fretless. If you are dialing up a fretless, you have the option of going with or without fretlines, as well as with or without side dots. Pedulla also offers a custom “sideline” option, which features small lines on the side of the fingerboard, only, for each fret position.
Our test bass was a fretless model, with fretlines, caramel finish and gold hardware. It arrived extremely well boxed and inside of a new and most excellent gig bag. The finish on this bass is just amazing, and its “in person” beauty definitely eclipses what can be captured in a photograph. The gloss finish is just perfect, and while I am normally not a big fan of gold hardware, on this bass, it looks very much at home. Our test bass weighed in at 9.6 lbs., and it balanced very nicely on a strap or on my knee.
A Closer Look
Considering that our test bass is a fretless model, the obvious comparison is to the venerable Pentabuzz (and, hey, I happen to own a mid ‘80s Pentabuzz!). The Pentabuzz is perhaps the most famous fretless bass model that hasn’t had its frets ripped out by Jaco. It features a classic, timeless body style, and this bass, more than any other, defines “mwah.” Comparing the two basses, the Mark Egan Signature Bass is more clear and precise, while the Pentabuzz is more warm/round – though some of this is likely attributed to the age of the strings on my Penta. I have always really liked the neck profile on my Pentabuzz, but the slightly thinner (front to back) neck on the Mark Egan Bass was even more comfortable and very non-fatiguing.
The Mark Egan Bass has crazy low action, but it is very playable up and down the entire neck, even for someone more accustomed to a higher setup, like myself. It has a nice hint of growl, and it’s very easy to coax more out of this bass. There is amazing balance as you pan between the two pickups. While you do notice a slight loss of low end when you pan all the way to the bridge pickup, the overall volume stays nearly identical as you pan from neck to middle to bridge. As expected, soloing the neck pickup is more reminiscent of a P-bass, and soloing the bridge pickup is similar the bridge pickup on a J-bass. The tone with both pickups fully blended is more similar to the P-bass tone. As you blend away from center, the tonal differences are fairly subtle, at first. Favoring the neck pickup thickens things up slightly and smooths/rounds things out a bit. Favoring the bridge pickup adds clarity and bite.
The tone controls are also very simple, yet effective, and both the bass and treble offer a usable range of options from full boost to full cut. I cannot say that about many preamps. I found myself preferring to leave the midrange boost switch in its “up” position, but if the mix gets a little busy, or if you need to occupy a little more sonic space, engaging the mid-boost gives you more authority in the low to middle-mids. This is not an overwhelming boost, so it won’t upset the overall balance of the mix, but it will help you stand out a bit more.
Comparing the 40th Anniversary reissue to the prior Mark Egan Signature Bass, the new bass has a deeper heel cutaway, a deeper treble side cutaway, the addition of the thumbrest/ramp, new electronics, new finish, and another 20 years of experience and evolution.
After 40 years of building world-class instruments, Michael Pedulla seems to be on another level, and I believe he is currently making the best instruments of his career. The Mark Egan Signature Bass reflects a high-water mark in an already exemplary lineup. Whether you prefer your basses with frets or without, the 40th Anniversary Mark Egan Signature Bass is about as nice of an option as you are going to find, anywhere.
|Manufacture:||M. V. Pedulla Guitars|
|Model:||40th Anniversary Mark Egan Signature Bass|
|Controls:||Volume, Blend, Bass, Treble, Mid-Boost (switch)|
|Number of Frets/Positions:||25|
|Accessories:||Gig bag, truss rod tool|
|Options:||Fretted or Fretless (lined or unlined, dots, sidelines)|