At long last, here is the second part of my F Bass BN5 review. Yes, this has been a long time coming and I apologize for anyone that’s been waiting to read my final verdict on this amazing instrument. However, this review will probably not be quite like any other that you’ve read – but I feel I need to be honest with my readers – so here it goes.
First of all, the reason for the delay in the review is that I wanted to offer a fully balanced review; even a basic F Bass costs a lot of money, so I thought it was only fair to try to put it through its paces as much as possible to give a fair representation of the worth of the instrument. To me, this meant playing the bass in a full band environment - because the ultimate measure of a bass isn’t what it sounds like solo, but what it sounds like when sitting in with a full band.
How well does it ‘sit in the mix’? Does it offer a good foundational tone without being muddy and indistinct? Can you get a lot of different sounds on it?
Unfortunately for me, the ideal chance for me to jam with the BN5 in a band setting didn’t materialize. I waited and hoped it would happen, but unfortunately my possession of the F Bass also coincided with some changes in my life that saw regular band rehearsals and gigs pretty much dry up. I bided my time but the situation didn’t improve. To be perfectly honest with my readers, for a long time now I’ve been working two jobs and finding the time to squeeze in music has been a challenge. Planning time to practice has been hard enough to manage without trying to coordinate the schedules of the other musicians that I know.
Still – I felt that I needed to complete this review; I couldn’t in good faith leave my review in a perpetually uncompleted state. They say all humans expect an ending – whether you’re talking about a movie, a book or song – otherwise we’re left feeling uneasy. Seeing the unfinished part 2 of my BN5 interview sitting in my drafts folder for months on end was bothering me, so that’s why I’m writing this now. Take this review for what it is: the best I could manage under the circumstances from someone that has already openly proclaimed himself a huge fan of George Furlanetto and his amazing bass instruments.
So with that said…
I did manage to get in a single jam with my brother, who is a hard-hitting rocker of a drummer that likes to play loud. Since I’m his twin and like the hard hitting rock stuff myself, I have to say that this particular jam was perhaps one of the most blissful moments in my life.
Even though there wasn’t the heavy and distorted guitar that I was used to playing along with, I was very much impressed with the sound of the bass and how clearly it ‘spoke’ against the sound of the drums. I know that a lot of the credit goes to George’s custom pickups, because I own an Ibanez BTB505 bass guitar that has the same body wood (ash) and neck (maple) and is also equipped with Furlanetto’s custom internal preamp, but it doesn’t come anywhere close in the tone department to a true F Bass. There’s more nuance, texture, depth and bite to the F Bass, not to mention more volume too!
My brother noticed as well. He asked what was the difference between the F Bass and the other basses he’s heard me play over the years, the others being mass-produced imports from Japan or Korea. I had to admit that I was momentarily at a loss to explain as well. Yeah the pickups are the obvious guess (and for the record I absolutely fell in love with the isolated pickup volumes and the tone control that was functional in both passive and active mode) but I think it goes beyond that.
I think the difference with a custom bass like the F Bass BN5 is that you have an instrument that has been designed from the first moment with tone, fit and feel as the primary requirements rather than cost. The pickups and electronics have been created from scratch to complement each other perfectly; the woods are of the highest quality and have been dried for months or years before they are used to build the instrument.
[Editors note Re: moisture level in instruments: I saw watched a New York “Bass Brunch” gathering from a few years ago on Bass Player TV - it was a monthly gathering of working bassists that would sit around and talk shop. This particular session was filmed and a well respected luthier by the name of Jimmy Coppolo (the man behind Alleva Coppola bass guitars) was in attendance.
He was asked if there was a way for a player to determine the quality of the wood of a bass before purchasing it. Coppolo responded by mentioning that having a finish that allows the wood to age and the actual moisture content of the wood is a big reason why most mass-produced instruments sound inferior. It’s very important for the wood to be dry and become stable before it is fashioned into a musical instrument, this is something that manufacturers who churn out bass guitars on assembly lines are less likely to do. Check out the interview yourself at www.bassplayer.tv – BP Events – Bass Brunch – Jimmy Coppolo]
Hey, like I said in the first part of this review – it’s the wood that makes it good!
My reflections after that jam with the BN5 were pretty startling; compared to the other basses I’ve played – the F Bass just seemed to sound amazing with zero effort. Plug it in, turn up the volume and just play; there’s no hunting for the one ultimate sound on the bass (and everything else sounding like crap) the bass sounds amazing (to my ears) on just about any setting. Instead of hunting for the tone, you can think more about what’s best for the song and make slight adjustments to the pickup volume, tone control or your hand position as needed.
I loved playing with the pickups in series; the bass had plenty of clarity and growl while bringing gobs of low end support as well. What really blew me away was the balance in sound and tone from string to string. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached for a note on the D or G string with other basses and have to strain to hear it. The F Bass was just as present across all the strings. This was particularly noticeable while jamming with only the drums since I needed to venture up the fret board a little more frequently to keep things interesting.
The other thing that I noticed about the F Bass is that it brought the best out of my Trace Elliot AH400 SMX. I’ve been using the same rig for almost 10 years at the time, and I heard nuances in the compression settings on the amp that I’ve never noticed before; it was almost like getting a new amp!
By now I think it’s safe to say that this reviewer was highly impressed with the F Bass, and I can think of no better bass in the world to shell out $3,000 or more dollars for. The BN5 with the maple neck and fingerboard simply made me feel like I’ve been wrestling with a brick instead of playing a bass the past few years. While you can pay out a lot more for an F Bass by opting for one of the amazingly beautiful exotic tops they offer, I think the basic BN5 is a steal for the versatility, tone, comfort and pure joy it affords its owner.
In all fairness to my Ibanez BTB505 which retailed for somewhere less than half of the cost of the F Bass when I bought it new – there is no comparing these two instruments. The BTB is a good and solid bass – even more so with the F Bass preamp in there, but it is completely soulless compared to a real F Bass. There was less hassle with finding the right sound and less effort required to have the music flow out of the BN5 – the sounds just seem to jump out at my command.
When I originally planned to conclude this article, I was going to state how I was sold on the bass and purchased it right then and there to keep forever. That was the way it was supposed to go; but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way. After being in my possession for an extended amount of time, I ended up having to return it to the dealer.
Yes, there is a real person on the other side of this website believe it or not, and while I’m truly passionate about this 5 string bass, I have some competing priorities that I’m financially obligated to right now. Suffice it to say that I fully intend to get my hands on another BN5 with dual volumes, maple neck, maple fingerboard and slab ash body at the soonest opportunity; whether it’s brand new or used.
I am happy for having had the chance to experience an F Bass and put it through its paces with my own gear (albeit not with a full band). I commend Mr. Furlanetto for crafting a bass that is every bit as functional and terrific to listen to as it is to lay eyes on. Thank you George for making what I think is the ultimate 5 string bass for me, and I intend to own another one of your fantastic basses in the near future.
Truly…bass nirvana! Thanks for reading about the F Bass BN5 review part 2. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.