Formed in the 1930s by native New Yorker John D’Angelico, continued through the 1960s by onetime apprentice Jimmy D’Aquisto, and purchased in 2011 by guitar collector and businessman John M. Ferolito, Sr., the D’Angelico brand of guitars has long been regarded as one of the world’s finest, especially in the realm of arch-top instruments. This year, D’Angelico has shown some love for the low end with the introduction of its EX-Bass , a set-neck, medium-scale hollowbody. While D’Angelico offers a premium of American-made guitars built by luthier Gene Baker at the Premier Builders Guild Workshop in California, its Standard Series instruments—including the EX-Bass—are manufactured in Incheon, Korea.
From its arched flame maple top and back to its wooden knobs, block inlays, crème-colored body binding, and distinctive headstock bling (an Art-Deco nod to the famous the New Yorker Hotel), the EX-Bass oozes elegance. Unlike a semihollow bass, which would have a center block running under the pickups from the neck joint to the bottom-side strap button, the EX-Bass is a true hollowbody. Played acoustically, the D’Angelico has sustain and resonance unlike any other hollowbody I’ve played; notes sounded rich and full, and felt as if they could ring for days. The bass’s 32″ scale length, rounded neck profile, and Jazz-like width at the nut make for a comfortable combination, particularly when played while seated. On a strap, the bass hangs reasonably well, but it does have a tendency to neck-dive. The bass’s overall construction quality seemed excellent, with smooth fret edges and solid hardware. The saddle-and-tailpiece style bridge looks elegant and intonates relatively easy, but only allows for gross saddle height adjustments, with no set screws to change individual string height.
Finding the sweet spots for pickup placement on a semi- or hollowbody bass can be tricky—too far in and it’s overly woofy, too far back and the bark turns thin and clacky. Here, D’Angelico nails the formula. The neck pickup, placed roughly at where the 23rd fret would be, is woofy but not wheezy, warm but still articulate. Similarly, the bridge pickup, which sits a bit further inland than many basses of this style, has the punch of a Musicman-style pickup with none of the nasal characteristics of so many solo’d bridge pickups. Despite the EX-Bass’s tremendous acoustic resonance, I had no problems with feedback when I plugged in and turned up.
Style goes a long way, and the D’Angelico has that part down in spades with its entry into the bass market. But where it matters most, payability and sound, D’Angelico is equally on the mark. For that, we give it a BASS PLAYER Editor Award. By BRIAN FOX