Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Wal Pro II bass review by Jimmy Bain of Rainbow and Wild Horses (Beats International, July 1980)

Jimmy sticks his neck out
The latter weeks of 2015 and the first few of 2016 have been a sad period for the music world, with so many great musicians from the heydays of 1970s rock passing away over a short period of time. So it was with great sadness that I read only a few days ago of the passing of bassist Jimmy Bain. A member of Richie Blackmore's Rainbow, Dio and Wild Horses and a collaborator with the likes of Philip Lynott and Gary Moore his distinctive bass playing and songwriting was embedded within the hard rock landscape of the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

His passing, reminded me of an article from the July 1980 edition of Beats International which I had picked up a few years ago on eBay. In the article Bain gives his opinion, as an experienced player, on the passive Wal Pro II bass. The article is reproduced below and I hope is some sort of fitting tribute to him as a bass player. Rest in Peace, Jimmy. 

Hi-Res scans of the original article can be found here:

WAL Pro ll Bass

Price: £529 inc. VAT

Reviewed by: Jimmy Bain


What we have here is the second in a range of four basses made and distributed by Electric Wood in High Wycombe (Tel: 0494 442925/6). In all honesty it's one of the most powerful basses I've ever tried out. I normally turn the bass up full and set my Marshall on about 6. With this bass full on, 2 on the Marshall is easily loud enough.
Getting down to details, the head on the bass is very square in design, very sturdy, and fitted with Schaller machine heads which are the best heads for basses you can buy. They're accurate and keep their tuning well. The strings run through metal pieces on the head which keeps them down low for a smooth action.

The neck is a lovely piece of work. The centre section is hornbeam and the outer section is maple. The neck is inlaid with red stripes which are made of a sympathetic wood from the Amazon called mukalunga. It's chosen because it's totally non-porous and remarkably straight. On top of all this lies an Indian rosewood fretboard which is shipped from Bombay to Germany. In Germany the wood's cut (Germany have the best cutting equipment) and it's then shipped to England.

So with so much effort put into its construction, how does it feel? Actually, it's very good. It has the accuracy of a Rickenbacker and the feel of a Fender. The way the action was set up when I got it was perfect. It lets you play fast and it's very decisive. The action remains true even in the higher registers. It's medium in width so it's OK if you've got short fingers, and the rosewood fretboard makes it very easy to the touch.

The body is crafted from ash, which is a very dense wood giving the bass a good sound even without amplification. Overall it's quite heavy, though not too heavy, and , is perfectly balanced.

The pick-ups are their own design, and they both have eight individual coils in them, giving a fat spectrum of sound and equal string response. Each pick-up has a plastic sliding switch under it. When the switch is pushed towards the neck, the two poles (each containing four coils) are wired in parallel. This effectively produces an extended top end.

When the switches are pushed away from the neck the poles are series wired, which loses some top and boosts the bass end.

The controls are all secured on the plastic scratch plate that hides the electronics. There are individual volume and tone controls for both pick-ups, a master volume control and a three-way pick-up selector switch. The set up gives you a lot of variables to play with.

All controls are very responsive, and well positioned, though perhaps the three-way selector switch could be moved a little closer to the rest of the controls. The master volume control effectively overdrives the sound to give you that little bit more sustain without having to go to the amp.

Although there are a lot of controls they all serve a purpose and are not just added for the sake of it.

Strings fitted to the bass are the twenty quid a set Rotosound RS77's, which have an adjustable ball on the end. The wire that runs through the coil of the string is the bit that actually touches the bridge which again gives the bass more sustain.

So right down to the jack input (which is also extremely sturdy) you have a real pro's guitar. At £529 (a custom case is available for an extra £75) the Pro 2 is not cheap, but you are getting a lot for your money. There are cheaper ones, the Pro 1 is £439, but I think everything they've put on this guitar was well worth the effort, and I look forward to playing it some more.

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