As the eldest sibling in a reasonably large litter, it has always been my job to bear the focus of my parents as they set off on the first lap of the child-rearing racetrack.
As time wore on, and subsequent siblings arrived, the authors of my days became more relaxed and liberal as experience allayed their deepest fears and allowed them a little more elbowroom in their approach. Now that’s not to say I turned out stilted for that extra pressure, quite the opposite, I am the flagship. I’m the first thing they got right and some might say the others are softened for having not sat under the heat lamp for as long as I did. In this metaphor I am the iconic Stingray bass and the young’un under the microscope today is the Cutlass, one of the newest weapons to join the Ernie Ball Musicman arsenal
THE APPLE NEVER FALLS FAR FROM THE TREE
The Musicman lineage is renowned for being the first company to properly open up the world of modern tonality for those of us operating in the lower register. Famous for the Stingray’s laser sighted mid-range, streamlined aesthetic and active electrics they are truly a company that sought to seriously rethink the way bass players see themselves as well as their playing. Subsequent models have seen the design team tweak and nudge this blueprint in ever more interesting directions and the Cutlass is nothing if not a prime example of this relentless experimentation.
On first glance the whippersnapper’s visage isn’t too far removed from its older brother; the sleek curves, high gloss poly finish and chrome hardware are familiar enough. However, this is about where the association ends. It’s made of the same tough stuff, select maple body and neck, rosewood fretboard and hardened, chrome-plated steel everywhere but it looks to its predecessor with a sneer as if the association offends its sense of individuality.
The biggest difference is in the way it’s brain works though. The electrics are passive here, which is territory that the makers don’t often venture into. This coupled with the single, split coil pick up means the characteristic is much closer to a snotty P bass or even, if pushed to extremes a Grabber. The low end is focused and aggressive, the highs bright and steely and that infamously nasal mid range pluck is almost completely absorbed by the outer extremities of the frequency range.
In a way it’s as if where the Stingray would try to nestle into it’s own comfortable corner of a mix, the Cutlass says “Bollocks to that! You’ll make room for me once I’m in there” as it rips through its own version of whatever song you were playing at breakneck speed. This punk kid is, to me, a welcome addition to the Ernie Ball Musicman range. Every bit of the accuracy and build quality is there but with a sizeable helping of grit and moxy thrown into the mix.
For more information, visit cmcmusic.com.au
Hits and Misses
Bright, punchy voicing
Refreshed design and attitude