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Nordstrand NX5 Review


zeronyne

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This is a short review of my two week old Nordstrand NX5. The 23 months of configuring ordering and receiving it are documented in THIS THREAD.

 

http://rhee.net/LDLD/negativ/final_front_600.jpg

 

Nordstrand NX5 ( http://www.nordstrandguitars.com )

Five string set neck, NX body style

34.5" scale

Soft maple body

Maple neck

Ebony fretboard

Banjo Frets

Gloss black finish (finished neck)

Hipshot A bridge & Hipshot tuners

Nordstrand Dual Coil Pickups with ebony covers

Aguilar OBP3 preamp

Electronics config (from neck to bridge): Volume (pull passive), Blend, Passive Tone (pull coil tap), Treble Boost/Cut, Mid Boost/Cut, Bass Boost/Cut

 

In my 2 years or so of seriously trying to play bass, I've been lucky enough to own quite a few instruments: MIM Jazz, several Ibanez Ergodynes, Warwick Thumb 5 NT, KSD Fretless 5, a homebrew P Bass, and a few others. The thumb came closest to having my "ideal" sound and feel. Hopefully, this will give you a bit of perspective on my comments concerning the NX.

 

Fit and Finish

The finish on this bass is flawless. The inky black is absolutely opaque and there are no issues with the gloss coat. It's going to be hard to keep it fingerprint-free, but it's exactly what I asked for. I was a little concerned about the ebony looking brownish, especially when butted up against the black paint, but in normal sunlight, it still looks black. The exposed polepieces push through perfectly sized openings in the polished ebony pickup covers. Overall, it's a badass-looking bass.

 

Ergonomics/Playability

This body shape totally works for me. Carey Nordstrand has explained that he designed it to utilize the advantages of a singlecut with more of a doublecut look. I'm not sure about the impact of the increased neck/body contact area, but what I can attest to is its absolute immobility on a strap. I would use the word "balance", but that implies some sort of teetering fulcrum. This bass, when slung over the shoulder, does not move of its own volition whatsoever. Of course, with the strap pin sitting over the 11th fret, one would expect stability.

 

Because of the absolute lack of neck dive, the considerable weight of this bass is not an issue.

 

I was concerned about the finish on the neck. I've played a few Les Pauls that were a bit sticky, but this neck is like glass. Even after a bit of playing and the finish gets warm, it's still slick. The neck joint (or lack thereof), combined with the severe lower cutaway makes it easy to play the upper registers. In fact, the wide, flat neck makes me sort of wish I had ordered a 6 "just in case" :D .

 

The severe difference in humidity between the West Coast and Midwest necessitated a pretty significant truss rod tweak, but now that the neck has had time to settle, it plays like a dream. I may still give a bit more relief (or raise the saddles a bit), but that is more of a stylistic preference. I thought I preferred the lowest action possible, but Carey has given new meaning to "low, playable action". Nut and bridge spacing are fairly standard, and the B string makes a nice thumbrest for the 99.9% of the time it's not being utilized.

 

Overall, it's exactly what I thought this bass should be. That is not some sort of backhanded compliment...after playing some of Carey's basses at NAMM and having some time with my teacher's NX7, I expected user interface perfection, and that's exactly what I got.

 

Tone

I have DR Black Beauties on this bass, and I've auditioned it through my Bass Pod Pro XT running through headphones, my studio monitoring rig (M-Audio BX8s plus a sub), and through a power amp/Acme Low B1. I also ran it through a Mackie preamp and an Avalon 737.

 

First let me just say that I am the opposite of a "keep it all passive and flat" kind of guy. There are almost zero factory patches left on my synths, and I don't have a single factory preset on my Pod or Bass Pod. I like to tweak, tweak, tweak. I certainly am not against the "P Bass with flats through an Acoustic" vibe, but that ain't me.

 

The OBP3 was a puzzle at first. I had heard raves about this preamp, but it seemed to only have a small window of usability on each band before it got to be too much. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's going to take some subtle knob turning to dial in my favorite tone...

 

...or so I thought until I pulled out the volume knob and got the passive sound.

 

My goodness. I wasn't quite prepared for the authority and growl that these Dual Coils put out in passive mode. It sounds nearly IDENTICAL to the Thumb NT to my ears. Plenty of low mids and upper end bite (which is easily tamed by the passive tone control). I usually favor the bridge pickup on just about any bass I play because I find most pickups need more top end, but this one has that sound with the blend on the center detent.

 

It occurred to me at that point that Carey had listened to my concerns and hopes, and he had made that the default sound on this bass. The preamp and coil tap are there for versatility, but just about everything I need comes from Passive and Flat. "Passive and Flat" - sounds like an unaggressive law firm.

 

I am actually recording a 30 second spot for a Flash site this evening, so I will put up clips tomorrow.

 

Overall

Despite my blind and somewhat fanatical trust in Carey Nordstrand, I was taken aback by just how much this bass reflects my (self-perceived) personality. For me, it was an education in craftsmanship and commissioned artwork. In this day and age, it's startling to experience truly individualized attention.

 

This bass is simply the best stringed instrument I have ever played. It was comfortable from the get go and sounds ballsy and aggressive. Although I haven't utilized the coil tap or the active eq yet, they seem to span the range of usable tones. I will definitely mess with them as I record clips.

 

Carey has a new line of Jazz Bass clones that, by all accounts, are incredible and have a huge range of options considering that they are his "production" line. He had stopped taking orders for his NJ, SC, and NX basses earlier in the year, but I believe that there is exactly one build slot left for a custom.

 

I am a thoroughly satisfied Nordstrand customer. The wait was excruciating, but it was worth it.

 

I'd like to publicly thank Dr. Sweet Willie and Scott Pazera for letting me mess with their Nordstrands (and Adrian, too, although he wasn't present at the time), and many thanks for Jay at Blueberry Hill Bass for facilitating this transaction.

 

Oh, and since it isn't real without a grainy, out of focus picture, here's the NegatiV in its new home (closet) amongst its brethren.

 

http://rhee.net/LDLD/negativ/NX_closet.jpg

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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OK, you can't play in shirts with buttons. No belt buckles. Watches, rings and bracelets are discouraged. Use only very soft flannel polish cloths. When changing strings, entire body must be protected. Only play in padded rooms. You get the point, don't scratch it!

I'm jealous,

:D

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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So cool - but like Rocky I would be so scared of scratching it!

 

Regarding the OBP-3's excessive power, it's only really obvious when you play through something like an Acme that is so reactive to changes in EQ. Through a more normal amp all that boost and cut is more useable. However, like you I've found that most of the time I like to bypass the preamp.

 

Alex

 

P.S. That looks like a dangerously loud closet - I hope it's soundproofed!

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Thanks for the thorough review.

 

Congrats to you and Carey on reaching such a marriage of art and function.

 

From my own Kinal experience, I understand something of what you've been (and going) through. My requirements were not quite as specific, but I am quite happy with the results.

 

It will scratch and ding. After 4 years, I have a number of imperfections. None are serious, and the thing still looks new, but I know where the "oops" are. I had to decide up front to take care of it, but not sweat it too much. Just wipe it down (especially the body) to limit the marks. Over time, finger marks can become permanent etchings in the finish.

 

As to the sound of the preamp, I am thinking about the non-amplification testing (unlike Alex, who looked at the Acme). I find that when I listen through headphones, all of the EQ tweaks are more profound than when I play through a rig (i.e. speakers). I almost ignore my tone when using my Tascam Guitar Trainer for that reason.

 

Enjoy :thu: (sounds like you are).

 

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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Great review Sam! It was a lot of fun working with you and Sweet Wills on your Nordstrand projects. SW has had a jones for a Nordy jazz for a while...I have a feeling he'll be coming back for more before too long! ;)

 

Just to clarify one thing, while Carey has stopped taking orders for customs, people can still place custom orders through me. The note on his site that he was opening up 5 slots pertained to direct orders only. If anyone wants a custom Nordstrand like the ones that you and SW ordered, they can still be had (through a dealer, just not direct through Carey).

 

Enjoy your new baby and play 'er in good health! :thu:

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Originally posted by zeronyne:

Originally posted by CMDN:

Hmmm. What kinda sticker are you gonna put on it?

http://rhee.net/LDLD/negativ/sticker.jpg
Oh my lord!!!

 

J/K

Thanks for the great review Sam. I'm glad you got the neck adjustment sorted out and I'm extra glad that you feel the bass is such a success for you. I hope you enjoy it for a long time.

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Originally posted by Carey Nordstrand:

Originally posted by zeronyne:

Originally posted by CMDN:

Hmmm. What kinda sticker are you gonna put on it?

http://rhee.net/LDLD/negativ/sticker.jpg
Oh my lord!!!

 

It's OK, Mr. Nordstrand. That bass isn't vintage yet. ;)
My whole trick is to keep the tune well out in front. If I play Tchaikovsky, I play his melodies and skip his spiritual struggle. ~Liberace
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Carey, that's an awesome bass you built!

Congrats to 09 for getting to play it! I'm green....er...black with envy. :)

Tenstrum

 

"Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face."

Harry Dresden, Storm Front

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Poor Carey comes here hoping to see a nice review and sees that sticker. What a heart attack!

 

Just the same, I'd pay for a sticker like that. I won't put it on my bass, but I'll find a place to show it. Nice work 0-9

 

And when does this work of art have a public exhibition?

 

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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Woo... Now THAT'S a sticker everyone should have!

 

Seriously, 09, veddy nice fishy you got there.

Enjoy it in the best of health.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Maybe Carey could recall the bass... let's say his legal counsel recommends that he recall the bass because, um, "it has been determined that certain aftermarket accessories cause undesirable anomolies in the finish."
- Matt W.
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