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New/used Pulcinella Level 5


Ben

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I just bought a Pulcinella Level 5 from Matt Pulcinella. It was his own bass for the past few years, transparent white, birdseye maple/ash. It has passive Aero pickups in wood covers. It arrived yesterday. UPS had managed to punch two holes in the box, but the bass and case are fine.

 

It's a very nice bass. I put Schaller straplock buttons on it, and lowered the action a bit, and it plays and sounds great. The balance on a strap is terrific, as advertised, and it weighs about 8 lbs. Nice pieces of wood!

 

And it has the sound I was looking for – nothing like single-coils. FWIW, my usual rig is an Avalon U5 + Stewart World 1.2 + pair of 1x12 cabs (either Bergantino or Epifani), and the Level 5 with Thomastik jazz flats sounds plenty punchy through this rig.

 

I have been playing since 1968, and have only had active basses for the past 3 or 4 years. I'm going to keep an active bass around (Lakland 55-01 w/Sadowsky preamp), but I really only play one bass at a time, so the Level 5 is what I'll be using 99% of the time.

 

I have a couple of gigs this weekend and am looking forward to them and will report back.

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Have they sorted the couple of little construction quibbles from the Bass Player review. One of them involved screws on the control cavity cover stripping out due to a lack of threaded inserts (can't remember 100%).

 

But there was definately with the area into which one of the screws was screwed splitting. (Does that make sense?) On the side of the control cavity there is a little "shelf" for one of the retaining screws to sink into. The problem was that the hole for the screw was drilled too close to the edge of the shelf, so the wood split, turning the hole into more of a dent in the side wall of the control cavity.

Free your mind and your ass will follow.
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Congrats on the Level 5. Matt's own instrument? Guess he's making himself a new one ;)

 

Can you comment (now or after the gig) on the Aero pickups? Do they have a different tone?

 

I've wanted to try a Pulcinella - sounds like a cool instrument.

 

Enjoy!

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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After playing a couple of gigs this weekend, I am very happy with this bass. The guys in the band yesterday oohed and aahed at the finish and the birds-eye fretboard. More importantly, the drummer (who also plays a little bass) oohed and aahed at the tone.

 

Single coil pickups have a certain “punch” to the sound that, IMHO, you can't get any other way. The Aero pickups certainly have that punch, and they also have a big, well-rounded tone. The one downside of passive pickups is the limited maximum output if you are used to an active setup. I had to turn my amp up by about 10 dB when using the Level 5 as compared to my Lakland-with-Sadowsky.

 

It's hard to do comparisons of pickups unless everything else is the same, so I can't really compare the Aero's to other pickups, except to say they sound about as good as I have ever heard from single coils. The other basses I have around include a '69 Precision, '99 Mexi-Jazz, MTD Beast 5 wenge/poplar, and the aforementioned Lakland 55-01 w/Sadowsky. On Friday I used the Mexi-Jazz and the Level 5 sounds quite like the Jazz, except a little more high-end punch (which you might expect from the maple/ash Level 5 vs. the rosewood/alder of the Jazz) and a lot more bottom (which IMHO most 5 strings have compared to 4 strings due not only to the obvious presence of the B string but also because of the more massive neck).

 

My favorite-sounding bass up until now has been the MTD Beast 5. It has nice Bartolini single-coils in it, with exposed pole-pieces that are arranged in an arc that keeps the pole-to-string distance more constant. I played this for about a year until it was apparent that the asymmetrical neck was, alas, wreaking havoc with my fretting hand. The Beast also has a long reach out to the end of the neck. I can't do a direct comparison between Beast and Level 5, since I have “place holder” strings on the Beast and my favorite TI Jazz Flats on the Level 5. But I am at least as happy with the Level 5 tone as I was with the Beast, which I mean as a true compliment.

 

I got the Lakland for the skinnier neck profile and shorter reach. The preamp that comes with the 55-01 was OK, but I put a Sadowsky preamp in it and like it a lot. This bass has a well-broken-in set of TI flats on it, and sounds very smooth, not a lot of twang or punch. I cut the nut down a little, since the frets on the 55-01 are so small, and set the action really low, so it's not a “dig in” bass any more, but it works great for a big, smooth sound for the folk and Celtic that I sometimes play. The Sadowsky preamp works well for me – adding a touch of low end can really round out the sound at low to medium volumes.

 

Comment on tone controls – I tend to find a tone I like, and leave the bass set that way, and do tone modifications with the amp. I also tend to leave dual pickups set evenly to minimize hum; then set the neck pickup about as close to the strings as I can and back the bridge pickup down a little lower. My knob settings for the Level 5 so far are to leave the tone controls all the way to treble and the balance control even. I also found that backing the tone control for the neck just a bit smooths the tone out a bit for low-to-medium volumes.

 

Nick, this bass is a few years old, so it has the three screws. Mine is fine - I looked in the control cavity once to see what was in there, but don't anticipate taking the cover off very often.

 

Last comment – Matt knows what he is doing with setup. I lowered the bridge settings on all the strings initially, as the setup seemed high compared to what I was used to on the Lakland. After playing for a while, I moved the setup back up a bit, especially on the B and E strings so they wouldn't rattle when digging in around the 3rd or 4th fret. So my setup is pretty close to what Matt did – kudos to him.

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