German maker Duesenberg is known for its high-quality guitars and basses, that combine seamlessly Art Deco-chic and ingenious improvements in many details, such as the hardware and electronics departments.
The Duesenberg D-Bass is a good example of this, promising both P- and J-style tones from a passive, one-pickup instrument.
The Duesenberg D-Bass (current price in Finland: 1.729,90 €) proves that you can build a bass from classic tonewoods without having to resort to copying others.
This is a four-string, passive bass, built using a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard mated to a bound alder body. The top of the body sports elegant carving.
The generous rib cage bevel adds a great deal of comfort to the D-Bass.
The body comes in a fetching gloss finish, while the neck has received a thin, vintage-tinted satin finish.
I feel that Duesenberg’s three step headstock looks even better in its bass guise than the smaller guitar version.
Duesenberg use their own locking Z-Tuners on the D-Bass. The string is first fed into a well in the tuning post until it comes out of a small hole in the tuning machine’s back. You cut off the surplus length of string, pull back the string by a couple of millimetres, lock it in place and tune up. Voila, a clean and uncluttered solution that leaves no sharp string ends.
Duesenberg employ a PLEK-robot to give all their instruments a perfect fret job and set-up.
Thanks to the angled neck joint an excursion to the dusty end of the fretboard is fast and easy on the D-Bass.
Duesenberg’s bridge and tailpiece combo are made of chunky bits of milled brass.
In addition to action and intonation the bridge also offers the adjustment of string-to-string distance. After adjustment you can lock everything in place with allen grub screws.
The D-Bass’ two-part pickup is situated on its own, oval pickguard.
Duesenberg’s Toaster-pickup may resemble a Fender Precision-pickup, but it really has its own thing going on in terms of construction. While the venerable P-Bass is equipped with two singlecoil pickups (one for each pair of strings), which are hooked up to form a humbucking unit, Duesenberg’s design uses two small humbuckers with open covers.
The passive controls are found on the bass’ larger pickguard and comprise a master volume, the Mid-Shift control and a master tone.
The Mid-Shift control uses a nifty bit of wiring voodoo:
When Mid-Shift is fully turned up, both coils of each pickup are used fully, but some of the top end signal is filtered by a capacitor. This is how the D-Bass achieves a P-style sound.
Turning the potentiometer counterclockwise fades out the signal of one of each humbucker’s coils, while lessening the capacitor’s effect on the signal. Fully counterclockwise, this gives you a brighter and more focussed, J-type tone.
You can find a similar wiring trick on Seymour Duncan’s web page, showing you how to wire up a humbucker in such a way that you can use a control pot for going from humbucking to singlecoil by feeding one of the pickup coils to earth.
The Duesenberg D-Bass comes in its own quality hard case.
Duesenberg’s bass is a beautiful instrument with a nice, medium weight and a great balance, both in you lap or hanging on a strap.
The neck profile is a Precision-style wide ”D”, but combined with the D-Bass’ larger fingerboard radius and its jumbo frets the playing feel is decidedly more modern and slinky than vintage.
My only small gripe is a strictly cosmetic one: I would like to see one or two screws added to the larger control scratchplate, as the current layout doesn’t make the plate fit snugly on top of the body’s top contour, leaving a few edges standing proud of the body surface.
This Duesenberg has a very healthy acoustic ring, completely devoid of any of the quirks often associated with vintage basses (like an over-enthusiastic low G or a dead spot around the high c).
Amped up you’re in for a real treat, as long as you’re not after that type of extreme EQ, only achievable with active preamps. Duesenberg’s Mid-Shift control is a really ingenious addition to the D-Bass, resulting in a much more organic palette of sounds than a mere coil-split could provide. The volume drop going from the P- to the J-variant is negligible, which is another positive effect of not using a straight coil-split.
I always play the same motif twice in each sound clip – first with Mid-Shift full on (P), then with Mid-Shift turned down fully (J).
I must say, I liked the Duesenberg D-Bass very much. It is a great instrument for connoisseurs of passive bass tones. The Mid-Shift control isn’t ”in your face”, but still manages to provide you with an ingenious way of tailoring the bass’ sound to your needs.
Finnish distributor: F-Musiikki
+ Mid-Shift control
– pickguard fit (read the review)