Bassists have got used to the idea of laying the old lady down between sets, knowing that she might suffer yet another disfiguring rub to her patina or worse – damage to her rims. But now the Hercules company has produced a safe and secure collapsible stand, that will support the bass in an upright position, taking up less space on stage and making the instrument much less prone to damage.

Modelled on the highly popular ‘A’ style stand with its low centre of gravity, the lightweight DS590B has specially formulated, highly durable, close cell rubberised foam on all contact points that cushions and protects the bottom of the instrument, while keeping it just off the ground. In use we were amazed at just how stable this stand is and it’s certainly a space saver. The only thing missing was a padded tote bag. But then, perhaps it’s just easier to sling it into the back of the van as is.

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Whether you consider an acoustic bass guitar a necessity, a luxury or a curiosity there’s now no need to spend a fortune to acquire a high quality pro-level model. Indeed it’s the combination of fine workmanship and a price tag of £600 that distinguishes the sumptuous looking German made Ortega basses, available in a variety of finishes from the classic blonde spruce topped, flamed-mahogany bodied KTSM-5 model, high gloss black finish version in the D1 series, or the stunning golden brown Dao wood and mahogany of our D3C-5 review bass.

Indeed, there’s no doubting the wow factor when pulling this beauty from the accompanying padded snug-fitting Ortega gig bag, that also comes complete with comfortable leather strap, security strap locks and a handy allen key. All of which adds up to a thoughtfully produced package that Ortega should be proud of. Good looks are one thing but this bass also scores highly on playability and sound as well. The long scale neck has a 22-fret rosewood fret board, with the high gloss finish on the back of the neck enabling easy mobility across the full tonal range. The discreetly embedded Fishman Isys+ pickup system includes bass and treble controls and a handy inbuilt tuner, all configured on the compact control panel that’s conveniently positioned on top of the bass’ upper body curve for easy access while playing. The electronics produce a wide range of resonant tones from deep yet punchy bass notes to clear guitaristic sounds for chords or melodies. The stylish Florentinestyle cutaway allows for greater access to the upper register and when strapped on the bass is wonderfully comfortable and lightweight. The Ortega website features a video of these instruments getting the full hand-crafted treatment and it’s Ortega’s attention to detail and elegant styling that’s produced one of the best looking, most playable and rich-sounding acoustic bass guitars we’ve ever seen.

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Back when Leo Fender created his now iconic Jazz, or J, and Precision, or P, basses they cost little more than these entry level Jive Bass instruments now cost today, while a vintage 1960s or 70s Fender start around £5K and then rocket up to dizzying five-figure sums. But the options for entry-level musicians have never been better. The Bass Collection Jive Bass is a case in point – retailing between £249 and £295 these instruments offer players of all abilities truly stunning instruments that are more than adequate for getting to grips with the finer points of becoming a working musician, or a proficient hobbyist for that matter. Taking the ‘collection’ tag for drawing together the best bits of Leo Fender’s definitive bass designs the Islington Blue Jazz style bass we tested sounded great straight out of the box.

Sporting a silver ‘ashtray’ neck pickup cover it looks every inch the cool retro bass, but to really get to grips with it we removed this to try to achieve the full range of tonal possibilities across both pickups. These are surprisingly varied considering the control set up simply includes a volume knob for each vintage style single coil pickup and a single tone control to add or remove brightness. All those classic tones are there, with a back pickup selected that Jaco-style ‘burp’ is easily achieved, while fuller throatier tones including a thick slap sound, are there with both pickups turned up or just the neck one soloed. A good bass lives or dies by the quality of the neck and fingerboard and this is where the Jive Bass excels, the matt-finished maple, vintage ’60s neck profile and 22-fret rosewood finger board offering an incredibly fast playing experience. What this bass may lack in sheer depth and variety of tone, it more than compensates for in extreme playability, stylish looks and lightweight design. With a range of designs that include sunburst and sparkling red gloss finishes in both ‘P’ and ‘J’ style basses, these brilliant instruments are a steal at this price point, in fact it’s hard to think of any bass range that offers so much quality for so little money.

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The DPA4099 microphone pickup has long been considered the ultimate sound system for the upright bass player, but it has always been more than a tad awkward to not only fix to the rim of the instrument, but also to make sure that it stayed in place throughout a performance. And so it is that DPA have come up with an ingenious rubber wing (rubber = minimal reverberation) that carries a central microphone locator and clips under tension onto the undersides of the ‘G’ and ‘E’ strings just below the bridge. This not only makes the whole system more secure, but also makes it a lot easier to optimise the sound reproduction of the 4099.

It is essential that the microphone is fitted to the wing and secured with the nylon lug before the wing is attached to the strings, as trying to fit the microphone into its locator afterwards is all but impossible. Being attached below the strings just beneath the bridge, makes it much easier to place the head of the microphone just to the outside and just behind the soundpost and with the help of the baffle, as close as possible to the top of the instrument for optimum response. Needless to say, the system works very well and the sound reproduction is, as might be expected, exceptional. But DPA could well do with taking a leaf out of fellow British pickup and electronics manufacturer Headway’s instruction manual, as it took us far too long to figure out how to set the system up and there was no indication that the microphone needed to be attached prior to installation. No Brownie points on that one then.

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Have you ever wished you could fold up your string bass and pack it in a case, airfreight it and know it was going to reach the other end in one piece? The French Dupont company has come up with the answer. The Volante isn’t a stick bass and on the face of it looks very much like its acoustic cousin. The top and bottom bouts fold back and the neck comes off (all in about three minutes) and it all packs into a nicely decked out hard case measuring 45” x 12” x 12”. Coming with a quality Despiau bridge, a David Gage pickup and Schaller machines there has been no short changing on the accessories. But what makes this instrument stand out from other fold-away basses is the use of a perfectly profiled acoustic bass neck and heel and a three ply spruce soundplate set on a hollow block back, giving the Volante its resonance and a remarkably natural acoustic sound. Other features include an ebony fingerboard and nut and fully adjustable string action. And the fully cased instrument weighs in at 19kg, just shy of the airline’s baggage limit of 20kg.

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