sound wave. At a certain distance, the top
of the bass and the amp’s soundwave are in
sync and the vibration of the top is reinforced
by what it hears from the amp. A tell-tale
sign of what’s going on is that the instrument
sounds bassier as it gets in sync. Enter the
Phase Reverse button. When you push this
button, it flips the soundwave that’s sent to
the amp by 180 degrees. Voila The feedback
settles down and you can get back to playing, although the instrument loses some of its
bottom end at the same time.
Phase reversal is not foolproof, so there’s a
notch filter as well. The notch filter sweeps
through the instrument’s midrange frequencies as you turn the knob. Essentially, this is a
midrange cut control that affects a very narrow piece of the sound spectrum. If the bass
starts feeding back, you can turn the knob
until you hit the offending frequency. Both the
phase reverse and notch filter are especially
helpful for an ABG, because most of the instrument’s sound is in the midrange region. Ideally,
though, you’d prefer to use neither control for
a bass, because either of them will take away a
little beef from the sound.
The onboard preamp had one more handy feature: a built-in tuner activated by another push-button. More mature (older) players may find
that the tuner’s readout is a bit small and ends
up close to your face when playing on a strap.
You’d better have those progressive lenses on,
or it’ll be a little difficult to see the note name
and the higher/lower arrows. If you have the
eyes for it, it is a great addition.
Taking a Test Drive
My first efforts at playing the BJ350/CR4 were
a bit difficult. I plugged the bass into my little
GK combo, the one with the metal box that’s
favored by so many upright bass players.
WOOOOO! Instant feedback. Okay, I guess
the lively top really does respond to amplification. I turned down the amp a little, turned
down the onboard preamp a bunch, and gave
it another try. Better; no feedback this time. I
tested out the tone controls, which provided
what I was looking for. Boost the mids and
treble a little and it has that guitar-but-lower
tone. Take the mids and trebles back down,
bump up the bass slider, and you get more of
a foundation to the sound.
Next, I pushed the volume up and tried the
feedback killers. The phase reverse button
worked just as expected—sometimes it cut
feedback, sometimes it didn’t help too much.
And it took off a bit of the bottom end, also
as expected. But in the right setting, a phase
reverse button can be very useful. The notch filter also worked its magic to ward off feedback.
With this preamp, it’s a simple and easy control.
Turn up the volume until feedback begins and
then sweep the notch filter knob from one end
to the other. I found that the notch setting generally kicked in at the middle of its sweep.
Once I was comfortable with the sound-shaping
possibilities of the BJ350/CR4, it was time to
head off to a band rehearsal. We were playing
blues in a low-volume format, with harmonica
run through a little Kalamazoo amp and electric
guitar plugged into an old Champ. The BJ350/
CR4 was again plugged into the little metal GK
combo (I didn’t think it could compete volume
wise au naturel). We sang without a mic, so the
volume level overall was pretty manageable.
This group mostly plays restaurant gigs, a good
use for the BJ350/CR4.
In this setting, I had no feedback problems,
although a few notes resonated the top and
got some extra sustain if I let it happen. I was
asked to provide a foundation, so I eased back
the treble and mid sliders and pushed the bass
slider up. That gave a thump to the sound, with
the attack enhanced by the top to produce
something beyond just a bass boom. After
playing awhile, though, I felt that the string
response wasn’t quite even. The two outside
strings (the E and G) were a little quieter than
the inside strings and had less treble clarity
than I’d like. Sometimes this results from greater pressure on the pickup element, because the
saddle is higher for the middle strings. A poor
saddle fit can also cause sound unevenness.
While I didn’t slide out the pickup to check the
groove underneath for evenness, I did find that
the saddle itself was fit quite tightly, which can
impede string vibration pressure from reaching
the pickup consistently. The Baggs installation manual recommends that the saddle be
snug, but removable with the fingers. For this
instrument, I actually needed padded pliers
to remove the saddle. A small quibble related
to this is that the pinless bridge design nearly
prevented the coated bronze D’Addario strings
from lifting up enough to remove the saddle
without bending the strings back.
The Final Mojo
In all, this is a quality axe, although one that
won’t fit the variety of recording and gig styles
of a conventional electric bass. But it’s a beautiful instrument that’s finely crafted from topnotch materials and reflecting excellent design
choices in the bracing, the inclusion of the JLD
bridge truss (helps avoid top bow at the bridge),
and the excellent Baggs electronics that provide
the essentials in an easy-to-use layout.
If you’re looking for a big, aggressive bass
sound, this BJ350/CR4 probably isn’t it. But
that wasn’t what it was designed for. On the
other hand, if you want to expand the sonic
palette of your gear toward a more acoustic,
string-on-fret kind of sound, the BJ350/CR4
might be just the ticket.
you’re oriented toward an organic
bass sound, play at low-to-moder-ate volumes, and like to occasionally jam on the back porch with a
guitar-player friend or two.
you like your music loud and
aggressive, played through a big
amp and stack of speakers, or if
your bass needs are for a conventional electric sound.
Head online to hear sound
clips of the bass in action at
Breedlove Guitar Company