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 Post subject: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 21st, 2017, 3:18 pm 
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Joined: March 9th, 2008, 7:46 am
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Location: West Orange, NJ
Hey, how about a new review? It occurred to me we're not using this area enough. :)

Today I'm posting my review of the Hadean UKB-23 ukulele bass. This was purchased directly through Rondo Music, though can also be found on Amazon. This is their mahogany model, though they also offer lefties in a flamed maple too (UKB-29) . This is Rondo's offering of a cheaper alternative to the popular Kala U Bass, listing for only $149. Doesn't come with a gig bag or case. For anyone not familiar with a U Bass, it's a little larger than a ukulele and in combo with it's preamp and unique rubbery strings results in a massive upright tone that beguiles the instrument's size.

The concept is nothing new. Guild first introduced this style of bass way back in 1985 in their Ashbory bass. (And later by DeArmond, which I still own a righty converted to lefty). But that instrument was strictly a fretless solid body (with "suggested" fret lines for intonation at best), and the original polyurethane strings were prone to snapping at any given moment. (Be thankful if your face wasn't in the line of fire when that inevitably happened). The newer uke models offered today have taken the Ashbory's initial concept a step further and are now offered in many varieties (fretted/fretless and acoustic and sold body offerings). String development has improved greatly as well, as companies such as Aquila have developed more durable strings with different plastics and an overall better/smoother feel, since one major complaint about these basses has been sticky, rubber strings that are difficult to move and slide on. There are even round wound and nickel plated over gut strings available now. Anyway, back to the review...

The first one I received had some horrible buzzing on the A string around the 5th fret, so I returned it. Rondo was prompt in sending me another one. The second one was better, but there was still a noticeable buzz. I then swapped out the stock Aquila strings for a set of their new Red Series Thunderguts. Better still, though a decidedly more midrange tone resulted than the stock strings. And still a buzzy A. I then realized that the piezo bridge had collapsed slightly under the string tension. After loosening and restringing the instrument again, holding the bridge in place, I got near perfect results with an ever slight buzz still left. I next put a thin shim under the piezo bridge only under the A and E strings. Better again. And finally, I just added a piece of paper under the A string at the nut. Finally, no more buzz! In the instrument's defense, there is a bit of a learning curve in playing one, not only due to the condensed size/tighter fret spacing, but it also requires a much lighter touch than I'm use to and the action is much looser and rubbery in feel than a conventional bass. If your placement of fingers is not right up against the frets or plucked at the proper angle or position, you will get some buzz or even poor intonation. (I pluck way back near the bridge for the tightest string tension available and also found plucking straight downwards 90 degrees helps vs. coming at the strings at any other angle).

The new Thundergut Red strings, while much smoother and easier to the touch to move on, still have an amount of stickiness and rubberiness to them, so I applied a fine coat of baby powder to them for the first week or so. Now they're fine. Regardless of the brand or design, however, one can expect a substantially longer acclimation period for these strings to settle in, as they take a while to eventually hold their tuning, so be prepared to tune often at first. The frets have some sharp ends, so at some point I will bring it in to my repairman for a dressing and filing (and maybe there's a better solution to all I've done to eliminate the buzzing), but since the whole point of buying this thing was not to spend the money on a U Bass, I'm reluctant to throw much money into getting it perfect. We'll see. The overall build quality and wood grain are very nice otherwise.

I really like the preamp on board. There's an onboard tuner, master volume, and 3 band EQ, and they do make drastic differences to the tone. The bass already has a crisp, trebly top end to it, so I've been rolling that back, as the piezo is very sensitive and will pick up every little scratch, tap, and touch of your fingers not only on the strings but on the body. if the treble's too extreme, the overall sound just sounds too crackly (not the preamp's fault, just the nature of the beast/piezo). I like the EQ right around 3 O'Clock (Bass), 1 O'Clock (Mids) and 10 O' Clock (treble). Preamp's powered by a 9v, easily accessible via a back panel, which also serves to access the bridge and knotting of the strings behind the bridge (Yes, there are no ball ends, you have to simply tie knots in your strings fat enough to hold them to your bridge).

So how does it sound? Fantastic, IMO. A huge booming tone that can approximate an upright bass. it is obviously a niche instrument with limited versatility (You're not gonna be slapping on it, though check out YouTube videos of guys who've strung their U Basses with the new round wounds. You may be pleasantly surprised) and a bit of a learning curve, but for anyone looking for a U Bass for a fraction of the cost and you're willing to put a little bit of time and work into it, I can recommend it. Just make sure you get a good one from Rondo, as I suspect the QC could be hit and miss.

http://www.rondomusic.com/ukb22nmlh.html

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Full specs:

Measurements:
Overall length: 29 3/4"
Scale length: 20"
Length of body: 14""
Thickness of body: 3 3/4"
Width of upper bout: 7 1/2"
Width of lower bout: 10 5/8"
Aquila Nylgut string size: .085, .105, .145, .185
Width of neck at the nut: 1 13/16"
Width of neck at the 9th fret: 2 1/8"
Thickness of neck at the nut: 11/16"
Thickness of neck at 9th fret: 7/8"
Weight: only 4 pounds!
Set up with the same notes as a full size bass guitar (E, A, D, G), this portable bass ukulele is a joy to play
The included preamp for amplified use is configured with knobs for volume, bass, mid, and treble control
Built-in chromatic tuner with LCD display
The installed Aquila Thundergut strings absorb less moisture to assure tuning stability and provide increased accuracy of fret-intonation
Rosewood fretboard
Entire body is crafted with mahogany wood
Now with rear access panel to make string changing easy


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 21st, 2017, 9:55 pm 
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Joined: November 26th, 2008, 6:14 am
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Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Great review! I have a Kala U-Bass, with Aquila strings on it at the moment (prefer them over the originals...), but bought a set of Thunderguts recently from Rondo that I'm looking forward to putting on... I've been considering buying, and installing an EQ module, so I appreciate your thoughts on that... of course, I could just by a Hadean, and spend less money for the mod! :)

I'll have to try the baby powder thing... here in Hawaii, the humidity makes it impossible to play these strings at times, so I use Gold Bond Ultimate hand lotion to keep them silky, and not sticky... glad you're enjoying it - the mini-basses ARE cool to play - if I was in a reggea band, this is ALL I would play!

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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 21st, 2017, 10:51 pm 
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Joined: March 9th, 2008, 7:46 am
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Location: West Orange, NJ
Thanks. It's a fun little thing to experiment on. :)

Here's a couple of sound links to the round wound strings offered for anyone who can't get used to the feel/sound of the standard plastic/polyerethane strings on these basses.

First one is strung with Pyramids silver plated copper over nylon core (very expensive @ around $60). I personally think these sound great. Not nearly as much low end as the Thunderguts, but a very acoustic bass sound at the portable size, if you like that tone. I've never been a fan of acoustic basses in general, as I always wish they could put out more volume/sound unamplified, and if you have to amplify them anyway, what's the point? String your U Bass up with these round wounds then, as size doesn't matter. This will get you there, and with the added onboard preamp on a Hadean or some EQ tweaking on your amp, I think you could dial in more than enough low end.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK6bOM3g48k
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JzF-5k0pog

The second is Kala brand silver plated over nylon core (around $20). Not as nice a tone, IMO, but again a different flavor one could EQ further if needed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ_8tDqUOh8


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 22nd, 2017, 4:02 pm 
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Joined: July 9th, 2012, 10:30 am
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I got one of these at the holidays and overall love it for it's fun factor (and low, totally reasonable cost). I did have to mess with the under-the-bridge pickup to get it to evenly amplify the strings. I called Rondo about the problem and they were very helpful, explaining what could be the problem and offering to send a replacement if my fix didn't work (which it did). I like the factory strings. Super fun as long as I remember to not try any vibrato - it's such a weird feeling to "roll" the strings and doesn't really work. I agree with the review about the preamp and EQ. One weird thing that I've just let slip by... my headstock doesn't say Hadean -- it says... nothing. It's just a plain black headstock. At first I thought something was up and maybe I was getting jipped or something, but I've let it go... Also, I get so, so many questions and weird stares whenever I play the uke bass. It's definitely a conversation starter. I'm a +1 for a worthy investment for a fun instrument.


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 23rd, 2017, 7:02 am 
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Joined: March 20th, 2008, 12:23 pm
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The only one they show currently at the Rondo website is a solid body. Wonder how it sounds.

http://www.rondomusic.com/ukbe22lh3ts1.html

The do seem to sell out of models quickly.


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 23rd, 2017, 11:00 am 
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Location: West Orange, NJ
rdavidson wrote:
I got one of these at the holidays and overall love it for it's fun factor (and low, totally reasonable cost). I did have to mess with the under-the-bridge pickup to get it to evenly amplify the strings. I called Rondo about the problem and they were very helpful, explaining what could be the problem and offering to send a replacement if my fix didn't work (which it did). I like the factory strings. Super fun as long as I remember to not try any vibrato - it's such a weird feeling to "roll" the strings and doesn't really work. I agree with the review about the preamp and EQ. One weird thing that I've just let slip by... my headstock doesn't say Hadean -- it says... nothing. It's just a plain black headstock. At first I thought something was up and maybe I was getting jipped or something, but I've let it go... Also, I get so, so many questions and weird stares whenever I play the uke bass. It's definitely a conversation starter. I'm a +1 for a worthy investment for a fun instrument.


Cool. What was your fix for the bridge problem?


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 24th, 2017, 9:19 am 
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pjmuck wrote:
Cool. What was your fix for the bridge problem?


When I got the uke bass it sounded like the pickup was much hotter on the low strings (the E and A) vs the higher strings (the D and G). I messed with the EQ to rule that out -- it just sounded like the pickups were hotter on the two low strings.

I contacted Rondo (again, their customer service seems to be awesome) and they said "This can happen if the pre-amp - under the strings on the bridge is making uneven contact. You can try to fix by removing the strings and pressing down on the bridge pre-amp... The bridge can sometimes get bumped in shipping causing the problem."

I loosened the strings (taking them off seems like a major pain!), removed the bridge, and pressed down hard and evenly on both the pre-amp and the bridge after putting it back in place. That seemed to fix it! (And now touching either end of the bridge comes through loud-and-clear because of that piezo pickup - before only touching the lower side came through...) I haven't had the problem since. Hope this helps.


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 24th, 2017, 6:17 pm 
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That is a bizarre fix. Almost sounds like when you have a loose solder joint wire or bad cable and you wiggle it around until you find a connection again. Hopefully it stays stable.


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 24th, 2017, 8:20 pm 
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Great review Peter.


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 25th, 2017, 10:05 am 
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pjmuck wrote:
That is a bizarre fix. Almost sounds like when you have a loose solder joint wire or bad cable and you wiggle it around until you find a connection again. Hopefully it stays stable.


Good point. So far it's been fine... I hope it doesn't resurface. If it does, I'm pretty confident Rondo will be accommodating with a replacement.


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 Post subject: Re: Hadean UKB-23 Ukelele Bass
PostPosted: April 25th, 2017, 10:09 am 
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Joined: August 1st, 2015, 6:36 pm
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Location: Cambridge, MA
I had this same problem with my Dean acoustic when I first bought it. It was sawdust under the saddle. Took the luthier 5 minutes to loosen the strings, pull the saddle, blow/scrape the debris out of the bridge, and reassemble. He didn't even charge me for it.

Thank you for this review! I've been thinking about getting one of these to "share" with my kids, who are becoming more interested in my instruments, but are a bit young for instruments of their own.


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