Michael Tobias Design
BY DAN BERKOWITZ
Let’s start this review at the end: the MTD 535-24
five-string electric bass is an outstanding instrument that easily merits a 5-out-of- 5 rating. It isn’t a
question of good or bad—if this bass matches your
preferences and your budget, it would be a fantastic choice for a new axe.
Okay, now it’s time to dig into the details.
Choosing Wood for Form and Function
The MTD 535-24 is designed and built by one of
the founding fathers of American boutique electric
basses, Michael Tobias. (Just to be clear, we are
talking here about the handmade American model
rather than the imported MTD Kingston).
The bass I received for review has an ash body
and a maple burl top, with a beautiful red-to-orange-fade stain. Its finish includes an epoxy
base coat and a catalyzed urethane topcoat that
looks like oil but is much more durable. This
makes for a thin finish, allowing the wood to
remain as lively as if it were naked. Speaking of…
the curves of the body are sensuous and round,
the waist cutaway deep and comfortable, the feel
of the wood warm and smooth. Mmmmm.
This bass also has an optional matching headstock and trussrod cover plate. On the rear of
the bass, cover plates for the control cavity and
battery holder were matched to the orange-stained grain pattern. The ash grain on the
back was stunning, a two-piece book-matched
body with close stripes in the center spreading
out to wider grain on the edges. As you would
expect for an instrument at this level, both
removable covers used machine screws and
threaded inserts for long-term durability.
Little design details stood out, too. The upper
horn, for example, was subtly flattened at the end
to help the strap button fit flush and snug. The
other strap button was located a little higher than
usual, helping create a nice strap balance. The
jack was placed on the body edge, but not on the
lower curve like most basses. Instead, it was placed
a couple of inches below the body’s centerline,
angled upward so that if you sit down and play,
the plug doesn’t mash into your seat. It’s a great
ergonomic detail that should be standard on all
basses that mount the jack on the body edge.
In Another Neck of the Woods
The neck deserves special attention, too. This one
was made from ash rather than the usual maple.