The following is part one of a two-part F bass BN5 Review. The first part deals with my solo observations of the George Furlanetto 5 string bass, while part two will include observations noted in a live playing environment with other musicians.
F-Bass BN5 Review
Finish: Blue Burst Nitro
Body: Ash (1pc Solid Ash upgrade)
List Price: $3,750/ $3,910 as reviewed
Misc: Choice of Gigbag, or Hard Shell Case
For more Info: www.fbass.com
This review didn’t come by chance, it was the result of an admiration I have for George Furlanetto’s instruments that dates back to 2000. That’s when I noticed a review in Bass Player magazine for an F Bass BN5 with a turquoise ceruse finish that knocked my socks off. I’ve spent the years since keeping tabs on F Bass, even having the opportunity to visit the shop in 2004.
The more I learned about my particular ‘likes and wants’ in a bass guitar, the more it seemed the F Bass BN5 was the instrument for me. I had the opportunity to play two BN5’s and a BN6 early in 2006 and was amazed. It seemed to me that all the praise I’d read online was warranted. So when the opportunity fell into my lap to order and demo my ‘dream bass’ (without any obligation to buy) how could I say no?
If you’ve never seen an F Bass in person, you simply have to take my word that photos do not do them justice. The bass I ordered is the standard BN5 model: (maple neck and fingerboard) except that I upgraded to a one piece ash body. You don’t pay extra for the matching wood pickup and control cavity covers which add a nice aesthetic touch and help to distinguish the bass from the rest of the pack.
I opted for a Blue-Burst finish and was initially disappointed when I saw photos of the bass since it appeared to be merely trans-blue (albeit with a gorgeous grain on the ash body). In dim lighting the bass appears the dark blue of frigid water, but when placed directly beneath a light, the dark to light-blue burst was finally revealed. Hallelujah!
The F Bass has a classy look. The design blends the best of vintage and modern styles for a distinctive look that isn’t overbearing. To my eyes, the BN5 is a bass that can sit in on a blues, jazz or a rock concert and not look out of place. Not only does it look great, it is perfectly balanced and comfortable to play whether sitting or standing.
The Hang Factor
Strapping on the F Bass was a real eye-opener for me. Compared to other basses I’ve played, the BN5 seems to pull itself more towards the body. I found that this made the first position frets more accessible and less strenuous to play. The bass came with a great low set-up that was buzz free and extremely playable with absolutely no dead spots anywhere on the neck.
F Bass has aspects that many other basses in its price category do not.
The only ‘stock’ items on the bass are the Gotoh tuners and the Hipshot bridge – I’m not sure who makes the input jack, but it’s high quality as well. Everything else from the pickups to the preamp is proprietary F Bass design items. I give brownie points for the cool stylized “F” logo on the back of the tuners, which was a pleasant surprise.
The control knobs are made of African Blackwood, chosen for its durability, beauty and ability to match most any finish. For those of you like myself that subscribe to the Kenny Roger’s Roasters theory that: ‘it’s the wood that makes it good’ – having the knobs, pickups and control covers made of wood is a great thing. Who wants more plastic or metal on their bass?
The pickups may or may not be hand-wound, but are made to George’s spec – either way he refuses to sell them as an aftermarket mod (I know because I asked a few years ago). There is a coil tap to switch between series and hum bucking for different sonic possibilities or to reduce hum (I only noticed it if I heavily favoured one of the pickups). The preamp features a three-band (low-mid-high) boost only EQ along with a passive bypass option.
The 2+3 headstock configuration used to be a custom order option a few years back but is now standard. It allows for more length and a tighter, more responsive B string.
The setup on this bass was immaculate right out of the case, perhaps benefiting from the short distance from the shop to the dealer (approximately 45 minutes). The low setup made the bass almost effortless to play, along with the aforementioned ‘hang factor’ I found the bass to be very comfortable.
The BN5’s slim neck starts out with a “C” profile in the first position and becomes more like an oval shape as you slide up the fret-board. The satin finish feels great to my hands. I’m happy to report that the first position is extremely playable on the E and B strings, I didn’t encounter any ‘pins and needles’ when playing for prolonged periods.
At first glance the preamp controls might seem confusing with six different knobs on the bass. Once you get the hang of the layout, it’s quite intuitive.The row of knobs closest to the pickups control the neck pickup volume, bridge pickup volume and tone – like a classic Fender Jazz bass. The active EQ and single coil pickups are engaged in the default position; to switch to humbucking or passive mode pull up on the bridge pickup volume or tone control respectively.
Another great feature: the tone control functions in both active and passive mode.
The active preamp section includes the three knobs closest to the edge of the body. The bass knob is closest to the neck, the treble is closest to the bridge and the mid control is right smack in the middle. I find this to be a very intuitive layout as the controls mimics the tones you get as you shift your plucking hand towards the neck (bass) or bridge (treble).
Powering the EQ section is a single 9-volt battery – another plus if you’re not into battery-guzzling basses. The battery drain begins as soon as you plug into the input, even if you’re in passive mode, so unplugging is best if you’re taking an extended break.
The BN5 has a great sound without any tweaking involved; just plug and play. Using only a monster bass cable direct into my Trace Elliot AH400SMX (with all EQ bypassed) and matching 4x10 cabinet with horn, the bass had a full and balanced sound string-to-string. Since the bass sounds great without EQ – you only need to reach for it if you’re going for a particular sound, like boosting the mids to bring out finger-style presence. Boosting all the EQ to the max is not for the faint of heart – and will dramatically bring up the overall volume if that’s what you’re looking for.
The B string was tight and distinctive, blending in well with the other strings. Even the G string had more girth to it than I’m accustomed to. Chords bloomed and double-stops cut through – each note holding its own rather than being smothered by the other resonating strings.
I enjoyed experimenting with the separate pickup volumes. I soloed each one and tried various blends of the two combined. This configuration offered plenty of tone choices, and the sixty-cycle hum only reared its head with a solo pickup in single coil mode.
The hum-bucking mode is perhaps two-thirds of the volume of the single coil mode, and does a great job of matching the tone without the hum. The tone does change slightly; I noticed chords didn’t speak quite as clearly as in single-coil mode. Even with the volume and slight tone trade off – this feature is indispensable for those occasions when zero hum will do.
It’s been years since I played a bass with a maple fretboard and I was surprised at the attack; you can do loud and clear hammer-ons effortlessly with one hand. With its fast neck, the BN5 had me dusting off my favorite Rush bass-lines to channel my inner-Geddy!
Thank you for reading part 1 of the F Bass BN5 review at Bass Guitar Rocks. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Furlanetto BN5 review!