D'Alegria is a Brazilian company founded in 2003 by Daniel Alegria and Rodrigo Werneck. Alegria and Werneck produce high-quality, totally handmade basses and guitars; the pair personally manufacture, test and quality control each instrument and use certified non-endangered Brazilian woods, many of which are completely unfamiliar to European consumers. As always with custom instruments, each template can be personalised in terms of hardware, pickups, electronics and choice of timber.
We've managed to get ours hands on the fully spec'd Defender JB Deluxe. While D'Alegria uses the Jazz Bass as their starting point, they fall short of simply replicating the body shape: the fatter upper horn and smoother, more obviously triangular lower brother with deeper cutaway modernises the concept nicely, and allows easier access to the highest fret. There's a high standard of craftsmanship and quality on show: just look at the superb evenness of the Defender's bevelled edges.
Two different South American woods make up the body: two pieces of freijo, a wood from the lower Amazon region, comprise the core, while the top veneer is pau marfim – a wood often used as a substitute for maple. Flipping it over reveals the freijo's striped grain pattern plus a forearm chamfer, an electronics housing cover and a handy quick-release battery compartment.
To affix the 34" scale neck D'Alegria chooses the traditional four-bolt system but eschews the usual housing plate. The neck itself is about as slim and fast as you're ever likely to find. It's hewn from a single piece of tauari, also known as Brazilian oak, with a pau marfim veneer on a headstock with a contemporary square profile with an arrowhead vibe. Four black Hipshot UltraLite tuners work in conjunction with a chrome string tree below; the nut is bone and, unusually for a bass, there's a zero fret just in front to aid setup and intonation. The fingerboard is garapa (Brazilian ash) with white mother of pearl position dots on its face and smaller black ones on the top edge. Down at the bottom end, the strings are anchored by a Hipshot Type B bridge.
The Defender is loaded with a pair of D'Alegria's own handwound ToneChaser TC-HBP pickups inside cases made from jatoba (also known as Brazilian cherry, although it's completely unrelated to the cherry tree). The pickups are hitched to a ToneChaser TC-3B preamp and a dizzying array of controls: the smaller black knobs are a three-band EQ and the larger ones number Volume (pull for passive mode), Blend, and Vintagizer. This latter control changes the capacitive load associated with the pickups, giving you a selection of starting points from bright and clean to a muddier retro sound. There's also a three-position coil tap switch for each pickup, down being single-coil, centre being humbucking/parallel (giving more treble) and up being humbucking/series (hum-cancelling).
The important thing to remember is that if you like the D'Alegria design vibe, there are other options in terms of woods, electronics and hardware, all of which you can check out on their website.
Build Quality 18/20
Value for money 18/20
Defender JB Deluxe
Description: Solidbody bass. Handmade in Brazil
Build: Two-piece freijo body with pau marfim veneer. Bolt-on tauari neck with 24 medium-gauge nickel frets on a garapa fingerboard. Hipshot UltraLite tuners and Hipshot Type B bridge. Black hardware
Electrics: Active with two ToneChaser TC-HBP pickups and ToneChaser TC-3B preamp. Master Volume (pull for passive mode), Blend, Bass, Mid, Treble and Vintagizer controls and two mini toggle coil tap switches
Left hander: Yes, to order
Finishes: Natural, sunburst or metallic
Range Options: Defender JB £1823.16, JB 5-string £1927.37, JB Deluxe 5-string £2621.65
Scale length: 864mm/34"
Width of neck:
12th fret 54mm
Depth of neck:
First fret 20mm
12th fret 19mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 2mm
12th fret bass 3mm
Contact: Woodview Enterprises