Monday, 2 June 2014

My basses: 1978 Wal Pro series bass - PB1291



1978 Wal Pro series bass - PB1291: 



 
   
My Pro bass is a "Pro IIE" which was, according to records at Electric Wood, completed on 24 September 1979.  The Pro Series was Wal's first production bass line (hence "Pro") and the IIE signifies twin pickups and active circuitry. Like my Mark I Custom Series Wal this is another beautifully built bass. It has a translucent (strawberry) red finish over a solid ash body that the photos simply do not do justice to.  It is so rich! The body shape and size is similar to the "Custom Series" basses although the forearm chamfer is much more angular than on the Custom Bass. The neck is much the same construction as the newer Wall basses, although with a larger "paddle" style headstock.  However, the neck profiles are quite different - the "Pro" has a comfortable and fast C shaped neck while the "Custom" is rather more "V shaped".  In addition, the neck features carbon fibre stiffening rods within the construction of the neck.



Visually, the bass is dominated by its large scratchplate on which the pickups and controls are mounted. 

The five control knobs give a choice of master volume, individual pickup volume and tone controls. In addition, the small switches below the pickups activate active tone filters which change the sound of the bass - tending to cut some bass and lift the mid-range. The mini-switch between the pickups is an early variation of the "pick-attack" control on the Custom series basses.

The sound is very different from the "Custom series" bass - much more of a 70s rock vibe although when both pickups are used together it has a huge round bottom end that you just don't seem to find on the "Custom" basses! While I was gigging in a covers band, that tone became the perfect sound for the faux-Motown groove of the Jam's A Town Called Malice. Add in a little tone filtering from the flick switches and a growl appeared which enlivened Britpop selections from Oasis and the like. The neck pickup solo'd produced a perfect old school 70s sound for the likes of Maggie May. 

This bass was picked up second hand in a local guitar shop in 2001 after a haggling session which lasted over a year and a half!  When I first saw it in the shop it was priced the same as a brand new "Custom" bass.  I made a sensible offer which was rejected. Over the next 18 months I watched as the layer of dust on the bass grew thicker, popping in once a month to have a play on it and repeat my offer.

Well, after I had popped in about once every months to offer a sensible price for well over a year the owner eventually relented (after I popped in with a just published magazine article on the model for him to look at which quoted a sensible, at the time, £500 market price. Sadly he wasn't there at the time so is never got to see the look on his face).  A phone call back from the shop that afternoon and the handing over of £550 later... and it was finally mine!  

For more details on the fantastic Wal basses made by Electric Wood and more photographs, check out the detailed history of the brand and this model elsewhere on this blog.

I have gigged this bass regularly alongside my Wal Custom for many years.  However, I temporarily retired it in late 2007 when its knobs (secured by plastic shafts which lock into the pots with fine split shafts) began to fail one by one. Over time these had begun to get rather fragile and, after breaking off a number of them I took the painful decision to retire the bass from regular gigging. In 2009 with Wal back on its feet under the supervision of Paul Herman I took the opportunity to take my Pro into their workshop and have him swap the pots for more normal versions with fixed shafts. That done, the Pro has regained its rightful place in my regular gigging arsenal. More recently Paul managed to source a replacement jack plate with an XLR alongside the jack. This was an after service mod which was available from Electric Wood on an after-service basis. The mod allows me to run the Pro bass in the same twin channel setup with in-ears as I use with my Custom bass.

 

GIG SETUPS...


My old gig set-ups comprised the following...  Two Wals, Aria, Trace Elliott 1215 combo amp (RIP or SWR Workingman's 10 for teeny gigs), Boss tuner, Lehle switch & sometimes just a touch of Boss chorus. 

 

Sadly, my Trace Elliott 1215 combo curled up its tootsies at the beginning of September 2008 after twenty years of stalwart service so it was time to look for new amp.  The final choice was a fabulous set-up from Italian maker Mark Bass. A 500w Little Mark II coupled with a couple of their Traveler cabinets - a 1x15 and the so cute 2x10. It's got an amazingly transparent tone that brings out the real sound of the bass with loads of bass projection coupled a really fantastic presence. Here's a recent gigging set-up: my trusty 1985 Mk I Wal Custom bass, my Signature Jazz bass, the Mark Bass mini stack, Boss TU-2 tuner and Lehle switcher...


 
Now both my Wals are now back in action so my current gig set up is as follows...



6 comments:

  1. Would love to hear the Pro bass Trevor. Youtube!

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  2. Hi Trevor, thanks for writing about your Pro.

    Since 1987 I've been the proud owner of PB1289. It's dated 19-9-79 and was probably in the shop at the same time as yours :)

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  3. Daniel, yes indeed. With serial numbers so close I suspect they were lying next to each other on the work bench. They're clearly brothers in bass!

    If you're on Facebook get along to the Wal group - it would be great to see some photos and we'd love to have you join in the discussion! https://www.facebook.com/groups/2413094311/

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  4. I am also a proud owner of a Wal Pro 2e, mine is P.B.1308.
    Now i have the same problem, I lost my nobs one by one too.
    Any idea or tip where I can get other originals?
    Thanks for help :)
    Walter

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  5. Hey Walter, I would contact Paul Herman at Wal. He may have some spares that he could provide you. Alternatively, you could look at asking him to swap the existing pots for more modern alternatives. He did this for my Pro IIE and it gave the bass a whole new lease of life.

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  6. Hi!

    The knobs are simply RS Pro Collet knobs.. They even supply the dials that go to '11'

    Search for the above and you'll find them on the RS website.

    I found this page while looking for the pot shafts for my 1979 fretless (John Giblin's original!!)

    Anyone know where I can get the original shafts?? Paul very kindly sent me some, but they didn't have the retaining ring around them...

    http://uk.rs-online.com/web/c/passive-components/variable-resistors/potentiometer-knobs/?searchTerm=RS+pro+collet+knob&h=s&sra=oss&redirect-relevancy-data=636F3D3126696E3D4931384E4C446573635461786F6E6F6D794272616E645365617263685465726D266C753D656E266D6D3D6D617463687061727469616C6D617826706D3D5E5B5C707B4C7D2D5C707B5A737D5D2B2426706F3D353426736E3D592673743D4B4559574F52445F4D554C54495F414C5048412673633D592677633D4E4F4E45267573743D52532070726F20636F6C6C6574206B6E6F62267374613D52532070726F20636F6C6C6574206B6E6F6226

    ReplyDelete