Bass Gear Issue 10 : Page 26
Reverend Guitars Decision 4-string Bass Guitar “Decisions, Decisions; DECISION!” By Alan Loshbaugh When it’s time for me to grab a bass and go to work, that can be a complex decision; and not just because I have several pretty nice basses to choose from. It’s a decision that can be complicated by other factors: which band, what type of material, what club, what bass goes best with which bass rig... There have been times when this was less complicated, because I didn’t have many choices. One of those points was right after my divorce, and I was down to just three or four basses.    Two of those basses were Reverends: one Jazz type, and one P/J. More often than not, I’d take those two basses to the gig. It’s pretty easy to cover almost anything with a good J-type and a good P-type. Reverends were not common at that point in time, and I picked both of them up used, relatively cheaply. Though I got into them at the time because of their affordability, I quickly found out their value on the used market had nothing at all to do with their quality or functionality. I was quite happy to have them as my primary basses. They played superbly, they sounded great, and they looked awesome on stage. The sound guy at one club called me “The Reverend” during that period, and still does, sometimes. Reverend made five models of basses. I’ve had at least one of each, and several of the models I like best. I still have my two all-time favorites. After a production run of nine years, Reverend got out of the bass business, which was a drag, as I really liked their product. So, when Reverend sent us one of their new basses to check out, I was really pretty excited about it.
Reverend Decision 4-String Bass Guitar
“Decisions, Decisions; DECISION!”<br /> <br /> When it’s time for me to grab a bass and go to work, that can be a complex decision; and not just because I have several pretty nice basses to choose from. It’s a decision that can be complicated by other factors: which band, what type of material, what club, what bass goes best with which bass rig... There have been times when this was less complicated, because I didn’t have many choices. One of those points was right after my divorce, and I was down to just three or four basses.<br /> <br /> Two of those basses were Reverends: one Jazz type, and one P/J. More often than not, I’d take those two basses to the gig. It’s pretty easy to cover almost anything with a good J-type and a good Ptype. Reverends were not common at that point in time, and I picked both of them up used, relatively cheaply. Though I got into them at the time because of their affordability, I quickly found out their value on the used market had nothing at all to do with their quality or functionality. I was quite happy to have them as my primary basses. They played superbly, they sounded great, and they looked awesome on stage. The sound guy at one club called me “The Reverend” during that period, and still does, sometimes.<br /> <br /> Reverend made five models of basses. I’ve had at least one of each, and several of the models I like best. I still have my two all-time favorites. After a production run of nine years, Reverend got out of the bass business, which was a drag, as I really liked their product. So, when Reverend sent us one of their new basses to check out, I was really pretty excited about it.<br /> <br /> Wait; what? You’ve never heard of Reverend basses? Reverend guitars? No? Well, let’s back up a bit then... <br /> <br /> Meet Joe Naylor <br /> <br /> Joe Naylor is the man behind Reverend Guitars, and he’s been at it a long time. “I come from a musical family; Dad played bassoon, Mom taught classical piano, and three brothers played guitar. I bought my first electric guitar in 1980, at the age of nineteen. Within one hour, it was completely disassembled, and I decided right then and there that the rest of my life would revolve around guitars. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. It hit me hard!’’ <br /> <br /> Though Joe studied industrial design in college and has worked as a graphic designer, production supervisor and bicycle mechanic, early on, he also worked as a guitar repairman. “After graduation, I felt a need to learn more, so I went off to Roberto-Venn to learn real luthiery. Next, I opened a small shop specializing in buying, selling and repairing vintage/used guitars and amps. That morphed into a micro-factory, called J.F. Naylor Engineering, known for Naylor Amps. I sold Naylor in 1996 and launched Reverend Guitars, producing our first guitar in 1997.” <br /> <br /> Not Just Another Fish Story <br /> <br /> The original run of Reverend basses were anything but ordinary, both inside and out. The five bass models included: the Rumblefish, Rumblefish XL, Rumblefish PJ, Rumblefish 5L, and a Brad Houser Signature 5-string model. 4-string Reverends were 34” scale; 5-string models were 35” scale. The first thing I thought of when I saw one was “1957 Chevy Bel Air tail-fin!” When I picked my first one up to play it, I thought “Man, that neck feels perfect!” Width and depth that felt great together, nicely rolled fingerboard edges, beautiful fretwork and a wonderful vintage tint. Then I plugged it in and got a kicked by a big, fat, wonderfully organic vintage tone, with enough edge and mids to push right through a live mix: excellent stuff.<br /> <br /> Their construction was every bit as unique as their looks. All models were semi-hollow. Their bodies were either phenolic or aluminum laminate, and held a mahogany block that was filled with a steel sustain bar. 4 and 5 string models came loaded with a variety of passive electronics packages that were as innovative as the rest of the bass was. Pickup choices included J/J, P/J, and stacked humbucking “Double-J.” There were innovative pickup switching choices for the J/J’s. On the Brad Houser model there were 3-way coil taps for each “Double-J” that provided single coil, dual parallel, and dual series.<br /> <br /> From 1997 to 2006, Reverend produced @ 1,035 basses here in the USA. In other words, about 100 basses a year. Not that many. “We built USA instruments for nine years, and tried to hold out as long as possible. We couldn’t keep the selling price under a grand, so by the time we went to imports, orders for USA instruments had diminished to almost nothing. My options were import or go out of business.’’<br /> <br /> Decision Time <br /> <br /> So, the decision was made to drop bass production, and to move guitar production overseas to South Korea; more specifically to the Mirr Music plant. “They’re a smaller plant by Korean standards, and we are one of their primary customers, but they are an independent company and they do some work for other brands as well. The owner, Hank Cho, is a third generation guitar builder. He knows what he’s doing.’’ The Reverend Guitar line carried on, but for the ensuing five years, anyone interested in a Reverend bass was left in the tough position of wrangling one up on the used market.<br /> <br /> Then, in 2011: “The timing felt right. We had previously dropped basses, amps, cabinets, speakers, and pedals from the catalog in order to get the company re-focused back on guitars, which is what we do best. After we got that back on track, we felt the logical progression would be basses. Players, dealers, and bands were asking for them, so we pulled the trigger.’’ <br /> <br /> Welcome Back!<br /> <br /> Reverend re-entered the bass market with five new models: three bolt-on neck models, and two set-neck models. All Reverend basses feature necks that are bound and blocked, and have black headstocks. Four of the five new basses also feature a bound body. All Reverend basses feature korina bodies, and 5-piece maple/walnut necks. All Reverend basses are 34” scale, with one exception. All Reverend basses are passive, and have a volume/tone/blend control layout.<br /> <br /> The bolt-ons include: the Decision, a spin on the tried and true P/J setup; the Justice, a J/J model; and the Mercalli... well, that kind of looks like it might be a P/MM setup, but it’s not, really! Those big pickups are called the Split Brick, and the Thick Brick. The two setneck models are: the Thundergun and Dub King, both of which carry the Split Brick/Thick Brick pickup selection. The Dub King is a 30” scale semi-hollowbody.<br /> <br /> Now, let’s have a closer look at those pickups, as they’re all rather unique, and they’ve all changed compared to older model Reverends. All the new pickups are hum-canceling. The Split Brick and Thick Brick sorta look like something you’re probably already familiar with, but they’re really not what you think, especially the Split Brick. The twin-blade J-Rails is a unique piece of work, as well.<br /> <br /> “I just wanted to come up with a new platform that would sound right and look good across the different models. The ‘Brick’ was perfect for this. I could make it sound like a full-size humbucker, or change the polepiece layout for a Pbass type sound; and it looks great on all the models. It also gives some visual consistency to the line. With the J-Rails, we wanted to capture some of the percussive qualities of a true single coil, without the hum. It’s a unique pickup. It’ll pop if you yank on it, but it has enough mids to cut through a rock mix, too.” <br /> <br /> Out of the Box <br /> <br /> Time to get this baby out of the shipping box and into my grubby little mitts! Reverend Guitars do a great job of packing things, that’s for sure. The bass, in its case, was protected by a layer of large-dot bubble wrap, and additional cardboard: well done. The hard shell case the Decision came with is a very nice unit from Access, with nice stitching, piping, and a metal plate with the Reverend logo etched into it. The latches secure positively, and the velour lining has supplemental padding to help secure the instrument in place, as well as a storage bin large enough for tuners and cables.<br /> <br /> Taking the bass to hand, there’s much to admire. The “Party Red” paint is rich, lustrous, and well applied. The white binding on the body and neck add a nice touch of class, and have a bit of a vintage tint to them. The parchment pickguard is well cut, matches the body shape all the way around, and fitted nicely to the pickup, as well. The route for the J-Rails pickup is clean and tight, and the blades are contoured to match the fingerboard radius. The bridge is a hefty stringthrough- body unit, with large locking saddles. The controls are volume, tone, and pan, and all have a nice, smooth feel to them – but turn with a little resistance, which I like. The neck pocket is well cut and a snug fit.<br /> <br /> Though older Reverends were built with more traditional designs, Reverend necks are now a 5-piece maple and walnut unit. The move to the 5-piece design was “mostly for stability. A laminated neck will require less truss rod adjustment, and will have less chance of warping over the long term. It’s also stiffer, so the sustain and fundamental note are a little stronger. The walnut just provides a nice contrast.” The neck has a stout connection to the body with six bolts, has a rosewood fingerboard, and is bound and blocked. The black headstock with white logo is a nice contrast to the body. The neck is finished in a satin amber tint which both looks and feels great. The rosewood is nicely figured, and the blocks are set into the rosewood neatly. The fretwork looks and feels very nice, and the fret ends are rounded off, giving the neck a nice worn-in feel.<br /> <br /> The nut is cleanly cut and shaped; the tuners are light-weight, open-back units that turn easily and smoothly. Nut width is 1 21/32”, and the back of the neck is a shallow C profile. This all adds up to a very comfortable feeling neck that slots neatly between traditional J and P dimensions.<br /> <br /> Unplugged, the Decision sits agreeably enough on your leg, though you need to be aware of the fact that the lower horn is short. You can slide it off your leg if you move around and don’t maintain awareness of that. The Decision setup out of the box was good, it plays out well. It has a warm and articulate unplugged voice, with a nice little snap when you dig in. “We use korina for all guitars and basses. It’s very resonant, which results in a lively and responsive instrument. It’s a fairly evensounding wood without any particularly peaked frequencies, so it works well with just about any style of pickup. It’s incredibly consistent, as far as being mediumlight weight, and it looks good, too.” This bass seems to agree with all that, and weighs in at a “comfortable to wear” 9lbs 2oz.<br /> <br /> At the Job Site <br /> <br /> So, what do you get when you pack up this Party Red beauty, and take it to work? The first thing I noticed strapping the Decision on is that the upper horn is much longer than the old models, coming to about 11th position, versus 14th on the older models. This means a much easier reach to first position; this is a nice ergonomic improvement. The second thing I noticed is a little bit of neck dive. Nothing dramatic; the headstock is not going to nose dive into the floor when you let go. In the Decision’s defense, here, I was using a narrow Reverend nylon strap, and a wider leather strap with the “raw side” on your body probably would cure this.<br /> <br /> Plugged in, the Decision maintains the same warm, punchy, articulate voice it has unplugged. The Split Brick is a bit fatter down low then a traditional P pickup, and has a bit more of an extended treble range: sort of a more modern “P-bass Plus.” I like it, and it did a great job of both driving the band, and filling sonic space. “It is in the traditional P-bass position. The extra beef you’re hearing comes from the ceramic magnets and large pole pieces. The sneaky thing I did was to reverse the position of the pole pieces, so that the E and A poles are closer to the bridge. This makes the tone of the E and A strings slightly tighter, and that extra clarity helps control the extra girth this pickup puts out.” The J-Rails pickup splits traditional ‘60s and ‘70s J bridge positioning, and though it is in essence a “dual-coil humbucker,” it does a fine job of delivering singlecoil bark and grind: well done.<br /> <br /> In live use, it’s just what you want a P/J to be: fat and driving in the Prange of blend, and cleaner, clearer, with more bark in the J-range of the blend. The Split Brick is a good Pvariant. I enjoy the extra low end and treble response. The J-Rails, to me, really passes for single coil, without the hum: cool. The volume/tone/blend control layout is not what I’m used to. Everything else I own is volume/blend/tone. At first, I found myself grabbing tone when I wanted blend and vice versa, despite the fact that the blend knob is of a different type than the other two. The blend pot has a nicely useful range, which lets you dial in a wide variety of subtly different tones; this is a nice change of pace from many which seem to do all they’re going to do right off the center detent. The tone pot also delivers a nice range of tones before really starting to darken up at about 70% closed. Once I got the control layout firmly in my mind, it was easy to change things up on the fly and change from full-on Split Brick for fatter sections, more towards center for a little more definition, or cross center detent to let the J-Rails bark out solo sections.<br /> <br /> The Final Decision <br /> <br /> The Decision provides a great spin on an old favorite of many players: the one bass you can “cover any gig with” – the P/J. The Split Brick and J-Rails bring a bit their own flavor to this well-known bass favorite, providing some nicely controlled beef and edge. The dimensions and feel of the neck mean it’s super comfortable to play all night long, across all positions. The short lower horn provides easy access to the upper register. Yes, the looks are a little non-traditional, but, that’s always been one of Reverend’s strong points, in my opinion. Reverends have never been a bass that people don’t notice when you take out it of the case!<br /> <br /> If you’re in the market for a great P/J, this bass is more than worthy of your consideration. The Decision is a solid, well-made, great sounding and great playing bass that I enjoyed spending time with. But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it: Meshell Ndegeocello decided on The Decision!<br /> <br /> BASS LAB<br /> <br /> Reverend Decision<br /> <br /> Naylor’s little guitar company has grown up quite a bit over the years. His affection for ‘50s Dano Masonite guitars touched a nerve in consumers that has gained steady momentum as the company morphed into a new product line that pays homage to its kitschy origins. This current offering is a new take on his original theme. It has his now-typical Reverend body and peghead shape, although the body seems to be made from solid wood, rather than a kitchen table.<br /> <br /> That neck has ‘70s Jazz Bass style blocks and binding around a fret job that is well within what you would expect at this price range. There are some tooling marks, flat tops and irregular fret ends present, but you can’t pay someone for better work than that and keep the price as low as it is. It is strung through the body around a stout-looking bridge. The instrument is made in Korea, and feels like it; however it’s fun to play and, with good EQ, sounds very inspiring.<br /> <br /> The body is heavier than I like and balances funny without a strap. Strapped up, it plays fine. The bass has hardware that is functional, and fine for the price range, as well. The keys looked pretty cool. The electronics sound unusually good, as does the whole bass, given its $1,000 price point. The bridge pickup is a side-by-side humcanceler with blade pole pieces. That’s matched up with a big humbucker-sized neck pickup that is really a reverse P-bass pickup in disguise. That reverse thing is pretty smart, too. The two pole pieces that address the D and G string are closer to the neck than those that address the E and A, and as such make them slightly darker. That’s a good thing, as usually the D and G can get thin sounding as you move up the neck. This reduces that tendency.<br /> <br /> I wouldn’t think those disparate pickups would play nice together, both full-on, but in fact, they work great together. The passive lineup, with 500K blend pots, a 500K master volume and tone work well on this bass. Its shielding falls short of the top of the control cavity, and as such creates more problems than it solves. Nevertheless, the bass sounds fine and is not noisy, proving once again that passive systems aren’t in need of near as much shielding as their active cousins.<br /> <br /> If you are looking for a bass for around a thousand bucks, you must put this on your audition list. It’s a strong bang for the buck candidate.