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Review: Rob Allen MB-2 5 String


getz out

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Last September, I placed an order for a Rob Allen MB-2 5-string fretless bass. This is a bass I have lusted after for about 3 years.

 

- curly maple top

- alder body (semi-hollow)

- lined ebony fingerboard and ebony bridge

- Labella tapewound strings

- body binding

- birdseye maple neck, bolt-on 35" scale

 

www.roballenguitars.com

 

Rob Allen is a fine craftsman. The instrument is very well built and combines classic shapes with stunning, simple, direct beauty. There is minimal finish on this bass. The finish is actually MinWax Wipe-On-Poly. Rob Allen suggests this lets the instrument breath and resonate. I am no luthier, but whatever he is doing is working for me.

 

The instrument weighs in at about 6 lbs (about half of the weight of my Warwick Thumb 5 neck-through).

 

The controls consist of a volume on the treble side of the bridge and a rear-mounted trim pot which rolls off the high frequencies (passive tone cut).

 

The instrument is extremely playable. It is a 35"-scale and I have not had any difficulties with this feature. The tapewound strings are extremely forgiving regarding intonation. I have never sounded so good on a fretless.

 

The sound is upright-ish with mwah. I fell in love with the sound. When cheating up to the 15th fret with my right hand, I can coax the percussive-like quick decay of an upright which is surprisingly convincing on tape. Working the right hand towards the bridge gives some extreme mwah. There is a lot of mwah in this bass that yearns to get out. I am happy to oblige.

 

I took the bass to a rehearsal with chancer this week. I was worrying about being able to elbow my way in with a drummer and two distorted guitars; it performed amicably. I was honestly surprised.

 

For kicks, I ran the bass through my pedalboard. Now, some say happiness is a warm gun. I do not disagree, but an MB-2 through a Z.Vex Woolly Mammoth into a decent rig (SWR 350 into an Avatar B212) is a pretty rocking time as well. Feedback due to the semi-hollow body was fun and sent my guitarists running for cover.

 

Pictures will follow. Check out roballenguitars.com for examples. Most buyers seem to go for swamp ash bodies. I was after the more mellow tone of the alder body and I am very happy with my decision.

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Thanks all.

 

SW, you'll get your hands on it soon enough. We'll do a fish-exchange... ;)

 

Wade, I have not yet had a chance to play it through either the Kern/Peavey/Bergantino rig or the Demeter/Stewart/Acme rig. I plan on firing up the Demeter/Stewart into the Bergantinos tonight, though.

 

Alex, if you swing by you can check it out.

 

Jeremy - another bass? Come now, I took a page from your bass and told my fiance that I needed to by 4 new basses. We settled on just one. :D

 

Fred, let me know if you haven't been getting the email alerts. I think we have two shows coming up in the next couple of months. I'll probably use the MB-2 for the March-11 show at Luna Lounge (the fairwell show for us, as the Luna Lounge is closing and moving due to a rent hike).

 

I just designed and I will start building a small speaker cabinet (about 1 cubic foot) with two 6.5" woofers. I'm planning on using it with this bass; to be powered by Tech 21 SansAmp Acoustic DI as the preamp and a Stewart PA-200 power amp (5 lbs., 200 watts). But that's a whole different thread, eh?

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Nice report - thanks !!

 

Seems like bass-evil-ness at the rehearsal. Make those guitarists run. Mwah-ha-ha-ha !!

 

Looking forward to getting my claws on it!

 

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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I played the bass in question this evening. It is an excellent instrument. Nice feel. Lightweight. Terrific sound. Personally I liked how it sounded w/ a little palm muting, but it sure can sing in the upper registers.

 

Congrats again!

 

Peace.

--s-uu

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Originally posted by Dr. Sweet Willie:

I played the bass in question this evening. It is an excellent instrument. Nice feel. Lightweight. Terrific sound. Personally I liked how it sounded w/ a little palm muting, but it sure can sing in the upper registers.

Indeed. Willie let some of the mwah out. I think there's plenty left.

 

In exchange, I fingered the Fish O' Luv. Indeed, it is asthetically stunning and has a GREAT neck. A plethora of sounds were available from the dizzying array of controls, but in passive mode I fell in love with the finger-funk and slap tone. Great ax. Well done, doctor.

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I like the Godin ax. I tried it a couple of times in various shops and was always impressed, but it still sounded kind of "electric" to me. Once I tried in a shop that had roundwounds and it was miserable. The two other auditions had the stock flatwounds.

 

Part of the difference may relate to the strings; the Rob Allen comes stock with tapewounds. I think this adds a lot to the character of the instrument.

 

The Rob Allen sounds a lot more "acoustic" on the verge of upright-ish to me versus the Godin.

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So, I took the MB-2 out for an open mic night last night at The C Note in alphabet city.

 

Mwah.

 

The fellow who played before us went up on stage with an 8-string (multi-course) bass, plugged into a Fender Deluxe, and cranked the reverb and played and sang. It was pretty cool. I chatted with him after he played, and it turns out it was Britt Strickland (recently wrote articles in Bass Player - interview of Interpol and The Cure).

 

We (chancer's guitarist/singer, guitarist, and myself) played three of our tunes in our first slot. The Rob Allen rocked - very upright sound. It was actually the first time I have ever played a fretless live with an audience (previously I have only recorded fretless). Those tapewound strings are VERY forgiving. I don't think I could ever play fretless with roundwounds or flatwounds again. :D

 

The MB-2 sounds huge in the mix. Very upright. Exactly what I was looking for.

 

After we played, a woman named Angela played a couple of songs and played keys. I was impressed - it was much like Tori Amos. I was digging it.

 

It was slow. Since there was an opening, we filled another slot, and this time Mr. Strickland hopped up on stage and played some drums. The jam was on. We then convinced Angela to come up and play another one of her tunes and she called out the chord changes. After that, there was a 5 minute jam and some random woman started reading some whacked poetry while we jammed on E minor. It was cool, but I forgot to bring my black turtleneck (at least I had my dark rimmed glasses).

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Originally posted by getz76:

After that, there was a 5 minute jam and some random woman started reading some whacked poetry while we jammed on E minor.

Ah, fond memories of those jam nights in London. Though you'd need to extend that jam to a minimum 10 minutes and more like half an hour, which is only achievable when most of the audience are also the players/poets... Self-indulgence at its worst! ;)

 

Alex

 

P.S. Black polo necks are so last year, much better off just bringing the monkey.

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Originally posted by getz76:

After that, there was a 5 minute jam and some random woman started reading some whacked poetry while we jammed on E minor. It was cool, but I forgot to bring my black turtleneck (at least I had my dark rimmed glasses).

I've played electric upright with some poets and some quasi-percussion before. Very strange experience, but cool nonetheless.

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Originally posted by Nicklab:

Originally posted by getz76:

After that, there was a 5 minute jam and some random woman started reading some whacked poetry while we jammed on E minor. It was cool, but I forgot to bring my black turtleneck (at least I had my dark rimmed glasses).

I've played electric upright with some poets and some quasi-percussion before. Very strange experience, but cool nonetheless.
Quasi percussion as in your drummer hitting somebody's head.....yes, I've those pictures :D
Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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  • 3 months later...

Bu-Bumpity-bump-bump..........

I've been thikning about these basses A LOT recently. Right now I'm seriously considering a major purchase, as I have some extra cash flowing my way in the next week or so. I'll be stopping by Mr. Allen's shop in 2-3 weeks to finger some basses and get a more tangible idea on these wonderful instruments. I've been reading up the reviews, interviews, and website, so this seemed like the next logical step. What can you offer on the bass now that you've had some more time with her? Oh, and as long as were back on this thread, what has becom of this mini rig consisting of sansamp, stewart, and custom fabricated wear?

Gracias.

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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Good option, I had forgotten about wendler basses. How's the mwah factor on your Wendler?
Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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