Originally produced by Guild in the late 1980's, these unique instruments were later made in
Korea under the DeArmond label beginning in 1999 until Fender Musical Instruments decided to discontinue the
This unusual bass instrument was designed to reproduce sounds similar to an upright string bass, but is extremely portable.
|Guild L - DeArmond R|
Its solid one-piece body and neck is just thirty inches long, and weighs in at only two pounds. Its small size allows for easy portability, and makes it comfortable enough to wear over another instrument. And, its signature silicone rubber strings produce a low-end response to rival that of any upright bass.
The Ashbory Bass has master volume, bass and treble controls, and features active circuitry that allows an array of varying tones. For the punchy sound of a standard electric bass, turn up the treble and pluck the strings close to the bridge.
For that true acoustic bass sound, simply adjust the on-board bass and treble by turning them all the way up. And with the Ashbory's patented preamp powered transducer, any configuration will yield an exceptionally low signal-to-noise ratio.
The eighteen inch scale length of the Ashbory's neck, with its much smaller than standard frets, allows players to make reaches that would otherwise be impossible with an upright. This lets bassists play faster than ever before, without sacrificing any of the clean tones that are associated with the acoustic upright bass.
The scale is slightly one half of that of a standard bass guitar, 18 inches for the Ashbory, 34 inches for a Fender-style bass guitar.
The key components of the Ashbory are the pickup/bridge, strings, body/neck, fingerboard, and the tuners. We'll start with the things that create the unique sound of the Ashbory, which are the pickup system and bridge, and the strings.
The Ashbory bridge is a special bridge with an integrated piezo saddle pickup system. The bridge is not adjustable, and is designed specifically for the use of the silicon rubber strings. The piezo transducer element is not completely unlike what one might find in an acoustic/electric guitar.
I have already mentioned the strings are made of solid silicone rubber. They have a warm, deep sound which is picked up by the piezo transducer. It is the strings which create the distinctive Ashbory tone.
|Guild models had a rest|
Faltering creates warmth in the tone of any instruments, and with the Ashbory the faltering occurs mostly in the strings as opposed to body and neck of a bass guitar or upright bass. They also make up a higher percentage of the instrument's tone compared to a standard electric bass guitar. The strings are also extremely low tension compared to their metal bass guitar and upright bass counterparts.
The body and neck is one piece of wood, with no truss rod for added neck rigidity. Since the silicone strings are lower tension and short scale. With virtually no neck tension, there is no need for the steel neck reinforcement found on a traditional instrument. The small size makes the Ashbory Bass very portable and easy on the back, less than 3 pound total weight.
The fingerboard is a printed piece of plastic with 'fret lines'. The fret lines are there to give a reference to where notes are on the neck. As with any fretless instrument, it is up to the player to adjust their fingers to achieve good intonation.
The tuners on the DeArmond Ashbory are open geared units designed for Ashbory use.
They are different and an improvement from the friction peg design that was used on the original Guild models.
The Ashbory sound is often compared to an upright bass and depending on how it is played, it can make some convincing upright-like sounds. By virtue of the expressive nature of the strings, it is more versatile than an upright and can also make some full, deep tones like those normally associated with an analog synth by use of finger vibrato and tapping.
I recently got to play one of these basses. The sound is unlike that of a bass guitar. The feel is unique. It would take some getting use to in order to gig with this instrument.
|Ashbory Bass Prototype|
Though the line of DeArmond guitars was discontinued, the Ashbory bass was recently reintroduced and is available online. Average price is $269.
With the new found popularity of ukuleles, I have run across electric bass ukes that utilize the same strings as the Ashbory Bass.
Since DeArmond guitars and basses are no longer is being made, Fender has been selling the Ashbory under the Fender brand.