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Veillette Singlecut 5
by Jonathan Herrera, Bass Player, June 2003

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Some heavy musical vibes must have sunk their way into Woodstock's picturesque soil on that late-summer 1969 weekend. The legendary counterculture climax left a lasting impact on the serene little New York town, forever aligning it with boundary-breaking music and progressive attitudes. No wonder Woodstock is home to several of the bass community's most venerated and creative builders, like Michael Tobias, Stuart Spector, Harvey Citron, and Joe Veillette. Veillette, whose `76-'83 partnership with Citron yielded Innovative and influential exotic basses, has most recently offered a unique line of acoustic-electric basses and guitars. The Singlecut, a collaboration between Veillette and luthier Martin Keith, is Veillette Guitars' first solidbody, non-piezo pickup-equipped bass, but it's far from traditional. its distinctive neck joint, bridge construction, and unusual shape exemplifies Veiliette's longtime commitment to inventive design.

Veillette designed the Singlecut to combine vintage-like bolt-on tone with the enhanced frequency response, clarity, and stability he perceives in single-cutaway neck-through basses. The novel instrument's unique element is its neck joint, which uses three large hex-bolts to screw the body into threaded metal neck inserts. The extra support provided by the body extension results in an extremely stable joint, while the broad contact area augments neck-to-body resonance. The beautiful custom-made wenge and brass bridge contributes to the Singlecut's resonant sound. With the bridge, Veillette wanted to capture the woody tonal qualities of his near-acoustic instruments while retaining total three-dimensional adjustability. The large wenge block houses big brass saddles and is held into a precisely fitted body slot by string tension, not woodscrews.

The petite Singlecut is beautifully constructed and designed. Staffers agreed that the natural-feeling, stone-colored stain was an elegant match for the dot-less fingerboard and big bridge. Though the fingerboard is wenge, a notoriously difficult wood to work with, the fret installation on the test bass was faultless, with excellent

The petite Singlecut is beautifully constructed and designed. Staffers agreed that the natural-feeling, stone-colored stain was an elegant match for the dot-less fingerboard and big bridge. Though the fingerboard is wenge, a notoriously difficult wood to work with, the fret installation on the test bass was faultless, with excellent beveling, crowning, and seating.
beveling, crowning, and seating. Despite a few earnest Sheehan-esque neck bends, I couldn't budge the neck joint. The Citron humbuckers were firmly seated, but about halfway through the Singlecut's two-month stay the G-string-side neck-pickup screw stripped out, causing the pickup to pop up. Though a few drops of wood glue and a broken-off toothpick quickly remedied the problem, it's not the sort of glitch I expect from a pricey boutique instrument. (Veillette responds: `We are currently sourcing out a threaded insert vendor. Future basses will have inserts for the pickups and the control-cavity cover.") The bridge is a model of simplicity and function, but the slot for the B string's end was cut too narrow to accept anything but a taper-wound string. Veillette is obviously conscious of his bass's resonant qualities: Nearly an Inch of each string rests on the wide brass saddles after the breakpoint. A solid coupling like this enhances the transfer of string energy into the bridge and body.

A peek inside the Singlecut's control cavity revealed skilled assembly and excellent shielding. Two 9-volt batteries, residing in a separate compartment, power the venerable Bartolini NTBT pre-amp. The top-notch electronics assembly was near faultless, though I prefer threaded Inserts for the cavity and battery covers. I liked the knobs' rubberized texture and prominent position markers, but the blend knob had a slightly uneven resistance to turning.

The Veillette's superb balance and back-saving light weight make it extraordinarily comfortable. The poplar body wood, Gotoh tuners, and pint-size body shape all contribute to the Singlecut's guitar-like 7½-pound weight. The shallow-U neck profile is a just-right compromise between meaty vintage and barely-there modem profiles. On my lap without a strap, the skinny Singlecut's narrow lower bout put the strings slightly closer to my leg than I'm used to, but I adjusted quickly. The Veillette's strap coziness us remarkable; long gigs and rehearsals went by without a tinge of shoulder or back fatigue.

Out in the field, the Singlecut continued to deliver the goods. At a pop rehearsal ... the Veillette poured out rich, blooming tone. On a Jazz gig, the Singlecut excelled at delivering crisp, clean solo tones.
Woodstock Speaks
I like to get an initial impression of an instrument's sound from its acoustic tone; usually, good-sounding unplugged electrics make great-sounding amplified Instruments. My first impression of the Singlecut's acoustic tone -- big --became a theme for the rest of my sound tests. Everything about the Single- cut seems small, except for its big, bailey tone. It's a testament to Veillette's ingenious and resonant design that the svelte bass speaks so authoritatively, in our Soundroom, through a Demeter/Crest/Eden rig, the Singlecut had a thick low end, throaty mids, and sparkling and complex highs. Staffers described the fiat-EQ, blended-pickup tone as "throberiffic" and "sweet." The Singlecut has an aggressive upper-mid punch, but ft never seems harsh or honky. I found the Veillette's fundamental tone to lie somewhere between a vintage Jazz Bass's growl and a modern instrument's active- pickup-induced clanty and depth. With an Ashdown EVO500 and Bergantino HT322, the Singlecut's B string was tight, focused, and even. One staffer noted that the Singlecut "sounds different in every body's hands -- it's very expressive."

Out in the field, the Singlecut continued to deliver the goods. At a pop rehearsal, through an Aguilar DB750 and GS112 cab, the Veillette poured out rich, blooming tone. In this straightforward musical setting, I particularly liked the onboard bass boosted three-quarters with the neck pickup nearly soloed. On a Jazz gig, the Singlecut excelled at delivering crisp, clean solo tones. My only `gripe is with the onboard preamp's treble control: I wish it were voiced a little higher to extract super-sizzle for finger pops. With the pickups blended and the bass slightly boosted, though, it's hard to fault the Veillette's robust thumbstyle thump.

Thanks to Innovative and passionate craftsmen like those at Veillette Guitars, Woodstock continues to remind us of the magic in certain locales. The magnificent work of its bass-loving citizens, exemplified here by a brilliantly designed, excellent sounding, versatile bass, does Justice to an unforgettable musical legacy.

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