Testbericht Marleaux mBass Custom Fünfsaiter

Review from "Bass Player"-U.S. Issue 02/2003
Zur Marleaux mBass Custom Produktseite

Winner of the Bass Player Editor's Award!!

When we get our hands on a Marleaux Consat Custom 5-string for a November '99 review, we were bowled over by its elegant craftsmanship, innovative programmable preamp, and superb playability. Consequently, when I heard that Marleaux's two-person lutherie team had devised an innovative bass designed to combine the best attributes of a neck-through and a bolt-on, I knew I finally had to figure out those tricky international dialing codes.

With the M-Bass, Marleaux wanted to create a versatile instrument with a quick attack and complex harmonic personality. To that end, Marleaux engineered a distinctive "through-glued" neck and a single cutaway to enhance the neck-to-body connection. These innovations don't come at beauty's expense, though: Marleaux also made sophisticated good looks a facet of the M-Bass's design dogma.

It's exciting to encounter a well-built bass whose contours follow an atypical design. The M-Bass's unique, graceful lines and gorgeous construction are executed with enviable attention to detail. Each of the Marleaux's fluidly integrated components combine in an extraordinarily beautiful way. It's exciting to encounter a well-built bass whose contours follow an atypical design. Marleaux has a way with wood; I was intoxicated by the handsomely figured sonokeling (a rosewood-related species) top, ebony-covered pickups, perfectly sculpted body curves, and skillfully-applied poly/oil blend finish. The fretwork and hardware installation were top-notch. Other staffers were particularly impressed by the pewter-like Schaller M2000 tuners and the elegantly engineered ETS "Tuningfork" bridge. My only construction complaint was a slight A-string buzz on the zero-fret, caused by a slightly shallow nut slot that prevented sufficient downward string pressure.

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A versatile Marleaux active preamp controls the M-Bass' firmly seated Music Man-style "Jazzbucker" pickup and J-style neck pickup. In addition to the active mode's treble and bass boost and cut, setting the preamp into passive mode by depressing the push/pull volume pot engages a separate passive tone control (treble roll-off). For even more flexibility, a mini-switch-activated coil tap transforms the humbucking bridge pickup into a single coil. The flawless control cavity features extensive copper-foil shielding, perfect soldering, and neatly arranged components-however, I prefer a separate battery compartment. I treasured seeing the threaded-brass screw inserts for the cavity cover's four well-placed screws - a stripped cover screw is a real bummer. Every staffer who picked up the Marleaux commented on its supreme playability. Its elegant design is both beautiful and functional. The peculiar-looking upper horn contributed to the Marleaux's wonderful lap and strap balance. The neck joint is a joy; I accessed the high frets comfortably thanks to the graceful neck-through-like heel. Given these lithe qualities, I was initially surprised by the M-Bass's burly neck, but it was expertly shaped with a smooth, shred-friendly finish. The M-Bass's setup was medium-low, with well-calibrated intonation. Smooth and Supple

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Plugged into our Demeter/Crown/Eden rig, the M-Bass sounded the way it looked. Its creamy sonic personality is smooth and elegant, without any harsh overtones or hollowness. Marleaux's glued-through neck successfully meets its design goal. The M-Bass is punchy, with the aggressive leading-edge attack characteristic of a bolt-on, but it also exhibits the full-spectrum richness and sustain most often found in neck-throughs. With the onboard controls flat, the M-Bass did not have the high-end sizzle of many active basses; its voice was centered in the low-mids, giving the bass a dark, thick thump that sounded huge. One staffer dug the M-Bass's "chocolaty smoothness," but thought it was inherently too dark for some styles. The M-Bass has a diverse range of tones, with equally usable passive and active modes. Soloing the MM-style pickup with both coils on produced a convincing Music Man facsimile. Blending both pickups, with the bridge pickup in single-coil mode, is classic J-Bass: thick, punchy mids, aggressive highs, and big bottom. Without the preamp engaged, the good old-fashioned passive tone control superbly managed the tone. I was glad to hear no discernable output difference between active and passive modes; instead of becoming a different animal with the preamp engaged, the M-Bass's rich passive sound goes a little deeper and higher. Other staffers commented on its "buttery" smoothness and "serious" bottom-end. We all were impressed by the B-string, which was admirably clear and focused for a 34"-scale bass.

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On a funk gig, through an Aguilar DB 750 and a Demeter 3 x10 cabinet, I was pleased with the M-Bass's comfortable body and terrific balance-it was a great all-night companion. The passive tone control is great for dialing in sound on the fly, when fiddling around with EQ may be too cumbersome. I favored the bridge pickup in dual-coil mode, as blending in the neck pickup gave the M-Bass a big, dark low end that was too boomy in the medium-size club. Even so, I discovered that no matter what I did, it was difficult to get a truly bad sound out of the M-Bass; the EQ is very musical and well voiced, with extremely low noise. Another staffer used the M-Bass at an R&B rehearsal with a Genz Benz GBE 600 head and an Accugroove El Whappo Jr. He dug its comfortable balance and diverse blend of good, usable tones but at one point his bandmates asked him to adjust his sound to cut through more. The M-Bass is a very impressive instrument. Each of its well crafted components are integrated in an intelligent and innovative fashion. It successfully incorporates an ingenious neck design and ultra-versatile preamp with a beautifully shaped, ergonomic body. Marleaux deserves attention for crafting a striking instrument that presents very few barriers to musical expressions. It exhibits the outstanding qualities an expensive, handmade bass should.

Pros: Gorgeous body; ingenious neck design; versatile tone
Cons: Sonic personality may be too dark for some

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Technical Data:

Scale length: 34"
Weight: 9 lbs, 10 oz
Color: Natural
Options: Numerous exotic wood tops and bodies
Other model: mbass Basic and mbass Signature
Made in: Germany
Warranty: Two years limited

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