Review Date: Tuesday 19th of February 2013 11:54:09 AM Last Updated: Thursday 1st of January 1970 01:00:00 AM Reviewed By: Gareth Morgan
This dreamboat bass from France combines all of Vigier’s technology with traditional materials. Review by Gareth Morgan
Since they first started making instruments in 1978, Vigier has always taken an innovative approach to building guitars and basses.
They’ve pioneered and championed various construction improvements such as carbon fibre neck reinforcement and composite fretboards and have never shied away from the unusual, such as a fretless guitar with a metal fretboard.
The basses always stand out from the crowd too, as we found in our March 2008 review of the Excess Roger Glover signature. This month it’s the turn of the Arpege IV 4-string.
Even though it cuts an up-to-the-minute figure with its extended upper horn and chamfered lower cutaway, you can still see hints of the Jazz in the Arpege IV’s design. Edges are bevelled into gentle curves, and forearm and ribcage chamfers add playing comfort. Our review model has a rich amber finish through which you can clearly see the beautiful concentric grain pattern of the two-piece flame maple top.
Vigier have also decorated the back with flame maple, with a chunk of good old alder being the meat in the maple sandwich.
Secured by five bolts, the neck is made using Vigier’s 90/10 System in which maple is reinforced by a dense carbon fibre strip. The boon of this system is that the improved strength and stability makes a trussrod redundant and minimises the need to regularly set up action and intonation. It’s a slim, fast neck, comfortable under the hand, and it culminates in an amber-finished flame-maple veneered distorted oblong headstock with centrally-placed logo and four chrome Schaller tuners.
As well as a Teflon/graphite nut, Vigier fit a zero fret (designed to reduce tonal differences between open and fretted notes) and a Phenowood fingerboard. Phenowood is made from wood pulp injected with phenolic resin and the result is extremely stable and hard-wearing and, says Vigier, has better resonance than pure wood. There are 24 medium nickel frets, and small dot markers along the top edge. The Vigier bridge takes the form of four individual units, each with locking saddles.
Active electronics power a pair of Vigier soapbars and a three-band EQ, but the presence of two 9v batteries and three knurled chrome stack knobs reveals the Arpege’s major feature: each pickup has its own EQ. This is the first time we’ve ever encountered this system and it promises great things in the way of tonal variation.
The Arpege IV really does play like a dream and the basic sound is good, with a solid bottom end, a clean and even midrange and highs that haven’t been trespassed upon by high mids. Some might argue that without nasal zing you haven’t got a true contemporary bass sound, but it’s refreshing to get a proper, full-range tone.
The dual EQ system is interesting as it allows two levels of boost in twin pickup mode. Dialling in one Bass EQ produces warmth and increases stylistic versatility, while adding the second simply amplifies this a little – it doesn’t go seismic and it’s highly practical with plenty of definition and undeniable rock’n’roll leanings.
Back in single EQ land, the neck pickup is all earthy thud; the bridge has a subtle nasal gurgle but, with added bottom, it’s fat and practical. The story is similar elsewhere: one Mid boost pushes your tone forwards, adding a hint of funky gurgle, a second dose increases this effect a little. Single boost on neck pickup induces the sort of wiry bark you get from a Fender Jazz, whereas with the bridge pickup the notes are snappier and more solid – and funky and practical with Bass boost added.
The Treble knob produces plenty of cut and bite with open, musical highs; you get a touch of finger noise, but it’s not excessive. In single pickup/single EQ modes, more subtle use of the Treble control lets you polish or add aggressive intent to each variation without much fret clank.
Here's a video demo (for those that don't speak French we apologise, but the sounds are all there nonetheless!)
These are really well-made basses, styled and built making sensible use of modern techniques and materials. The Arpege’s twin EQ assault is innovative and practical and set up to enhance a really good-sounding instrument. The prices are steep, but if you’re looking to splurge on something special or just treat yourself, Vigier basses are worth checking out.
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