There seems to have been a real upsurge in both the popularity and availability of retro-appointed basses this year. The quirky Eastwood Airline Map, sultry Italia Rimini and thudding semi-acoustic Ibanez Artcore all doff their caps to a bygone era, and now Washburn has joined the party with the introduction of their stylish Idol bass.
Variety is, after all, one of life’s spicier ingredients, and the Idol offers a variation that’s undeniably handsome and fairly sexy to boot. The upper horn looks like someone took the Telecaster template and squashed it a bit. The spiky, dorsal fin vibe of the lower horn severs this connection, but in doing so doesn’t quite open up the highest frets for easy access. Another appealing feature is the carved top which starts out as a plateau in the centre and slopes downwards to the body’s edge, which is framed by an off-white binding with thin black stripes on the top. The body design is completed by oval rear bouts with the upper being of slightly greater mass and slightly flatter along its top edge.
There are neither ribcage nor forearm chamfers, and as the body is 40mm deep, some of you may find it a little uncomfortable. You may also find it a fraction heavy, but the main reason for this is the solid chunk of mahogany lying beneath the luscious, glossy Trans Red finish. There’s nothing spectacular to report on the balance front: the slight headstock bias is easily curbed by a restraining forearm in seated position. However, it would definitely be more comfortable for fingerstyle players if the body was less chunky and had a top edge chamfer or even a rounded profile to the edge of the binding.
The neck is also hewn from mahogany. In similar fashion to the Ibanez Artcore we reviewed in issue 19/1 (January 2008), the neck is retained using the glued 'set-neck' method which is purported to produce better sustain than the bolt-on system. While this is definitely old school, the shallow profile of the neck itself makes it as fast and comfortable as many of its contemporary cousins. It's actually a two-piece affair, spliced at the first fret which provides the requisite strength to facilitate sharp slanting of the headstock, creating a decent break-angle to maximise string tension over the nut. The headstock is a subtly widening oblong framed by more binding with a flourish on its furthest edge and is home to four Washburn diecast tuners.
After passing over the nut, the strings are greeted by a bound rosewood fingerboard with medium nickel frets – although 24 is a rather un-retro number. The old-fashioned vibe is restored by pearl 'wing' inlays that adorn its face, and you’ll find smaller black dots buried in the binding on the top edge. Anchoring duties are performed by a separate stop tailpiece and a chrome tun-o-matic bridge, with general raise-and-lower adjustment available via two vertical screws and separate saddle intonation tweakable by a flathead screwdriver.
Electronically, the Idol is passive. The two Eden soapbar pickups have individual volume and treble roll-off controls with an additional three-way pickup selector allowing rapid shifting between settings.
Description: Solidbody bass. Made in Indonesia
Price: £499, including padded gig bag
Build: Mahogany body, set-in two-piece mahogany neck with 24 medium nickel frets on a rosewood fingerboard. Diecast Washburn tuners, Buzz Feiten tuning system, Washburn tun-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. Chrome hardware
Electrics: Passive, with two Eden soapbar pickups. Two volumes and two tone controls, three-way pickup selector switch
Left hander: No
Finishes: Trans red, black
Range Options: None
Scale length: 34"/864mm
Width of neck:
12th fret 53mm
Depth of neck:
1st fret 20mm
12th fret 23mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 2.5mm
12th fret bass 3mm
Contact: Sound Technology
Build Quality 18/20
Value for money 16/20