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Veillette Mk IV Lined Fretless 5-string Bass
Bridging the gap between electric bass and the acoustic upright is no easy task. Can Veillette complete it?
by Stuart Clayton, Bass Guitar Magazine, February 2008
Intro & Background
Veillette basses and guitars are built in the USA by a team of three experienced luthiers headed up by Joe Veillette. Veillette certainly knows the guitar building trade: after training as an architectural designer in his youth he encountered a problem when neither of three expert luthiers could fix the broken headstock on his guitar. He therefore decided to study guitar building, his reasoning being that if he could make a guitar, he would be able to fix his own. He soon lost interest in architecture and pursued guitar building full-time, opening Veillette–Citron with fellow luthier Harvey Citron in the late 1970's. A good number of well-respected guitarists and bassists have made a path to the Woodstock workshops in New York including Michael Anthony, Eddie Van Halen, Billy Sheehan and Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band.
|In many ways it really does offer the best of both the electric bass and the upright...|
The Veillette features a single cutaway poplar body which in this instance. is topped with quilted maple and stained Deep Blue. The quilting of the maple looks fantastic, but I personally found the colour of the stain a little on the dull side. The body shaping reminds me of a Les Paul guitar, an impression reinforced by the lack of edge contouring. The top bout is a little uncomfortable against the body when seated because of this, although is less noticeable when standing. However, the sharpness of the edge of the body can be quite painful against the right hand wrist in either position. (Note: The new "Paris" version of this bass features a more comfortable contoured top) The lined pau ferro fingerboard looks great, and the angled headstock is attractive, especially since it features a matching quilted maple veneer. The neck to body join of this bass is unusual in that it features just one bolt. A single ¼-inch machine bolt screws through the body into a flanged steel tee-nut inside the neck making for what Joe and his team believe to be a rock solid connection that is vastly stronger than the usual wood screws. Unusually, upon arrival this joint had actually come apart in what was believed to be transit damage. A quick call to Joe Veillette saw a replacement bolt delivered in days and the bass was easily repaired. The neck to body coupling is also reputed to allow huge sustain and great tone - even without plugging the bass in the sustain was certainly impressive.
In use the Veillette balanced well both seated and on a strap, and aside from the lack of edge contouring was very comfortable to play. The black tapewound strings felt great and the graphite strengthened maple neck felt especially nice, boasting a sleek profile and smooth finish. The three top mounted control pots felt sturdy whilst the onboard preamp is powered by two 9- volt batteries concealed beneath the bridge in two spring-loaded battery cases. These are without a doubt the best examples I have ever seen. Battery changes will literally take seconds with this system.
Price: £ 1850 as tested
Made In: USA
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
NeckJoin: Single bolt-on
Scale Length: 34-inch Pickups: 1 x bridge piezo, 1 x magnetic pickup
Electronics: 18V 0- Tar Timberline preamp
Controls: Mastervolume, pickup blend, treble roll-off
The Pottery Shripney Lane
Bognor Regis P022 9NR
Tel: +44(0)1243 865938
What We Think|
Plus: Covering new ground instead of revisiting the past
Minus: Lack of body contouring
Overall: A welcome addition to high-end bass guitars
The bridge itself is a wooden affair with an unusual construction in that it is not secured to the body with screws or glue. Instead, it is 'dovetailed' into the body and held in place by the tension of the strings. This is another strong wood-to-wood coupling that is designed to increase sustain and make for a natural acoustic sound. This method of connection means that when you remove the strings the bridge comes away from the body easily. Unusual, but it works.
Overall, the build quality of the Veillette appeared to be excellent, although there were a few very minor dings and blemishes on the finish. Aesthetically, I thought it was a shame that the wenge tailpiece bridge looked 'washed-out' in comparison to the gorgeous fingerboard.
While the standard Veillette bass comes with just the bridge mounted under-saddle piezo pickup, our review model was also fitted with the optional Citron magnetic pickup, placed in the bridge position. The Veillette has an onboard 18-volt D-Tar Timberline preamp with three controls situated on the top bout of the instrument. These are, from left to right: Master Volume (with detents), Blend (with centre detent), and Tone, which is a treble roll-off.
Acoustically the Veillette had a tremendous voice with a rich, long sustain. Plugging in revealed a deep, smooth, natural tone that was both powerful and inspiring. Soloing the magnetic pickup resulted in a universal tone that would be appropriate for most musical environments. The thunderous low-end meant that it fit in well during a pop covers gig and with a lot of treble rolled-off was right at home in a small jazz combo. Soloing the piezo pickup understandably resulted in more bite: my preferred setting however was with the two pickups blended slightly in favour of the magnetic pickup. Doing so resulted in a gorgeous fretless' mwah' that was silky smooth and a joy to play. The tone control makes a huge difference to the sound, and while I often like "Plugging in revealed a deep, smooth, natural tone that was both powerful and inspiring" a top-heavy tone in certain situations, this bass arguably sounds better with treble rolled off. The overwhelming factor is the sheer power behind it - the 18- Volt circuit ensures plenty of headroom, and best of all, it's quiet, and very useable.
Weighing in at just over 91bs the bass was comfortable enough to play for a couple of hours at a gig. The low B string sounded full and well rounded at all times leading me to believe the Veillette had a 35-inch scale neck - it was in fact a 34-inch scale. The company offers different scale lengths to suit the individual player as well as the more regular options for woods and finishes.
The Veillette has been something of a revelation. For a bass that looks so simple and unassuming it packs an awful lot of punch. There are some wonderful tones on offer here, and playability is exceptional. In many ways it really does offer the best of both the electric bass and the upright: it boasts the playability and tones of an electric but also offers the kind of warmth and 'thud' that you'd expect from an upright bass. The lack of contouring was uncomfortable, especially on the top bout, but was otherwise very pleasurable to play. Veillette basses remain a serious investment: the basic 4-string model retails at £1450 in the UK, although our test bass with options would retail at £1850. The Veillette targets a rather small niche in the bass market, but those who have the money to spend on a high quality instrument should certainly add Veillette to the list.