How to choose the right model
Comparison of models
Which Rob Allen model is right for you? All my semi-hollow basses are made from the same high quality materials, and produce the same basic sound, which combines the warmth of an upright with the punch of a solid body. They are all fat, warm sounding basses that are also very lightweight and versatile. But there are some subtle differences, as described here:
Mb-2: This is a full 34” scale semi-hollow bass. Warm woody tone with a strong fundamental due to the hollow wings and solid center block. This is the most versatile of the basses due to the punch of the long scale. This design can produce good staccato tone if plucked back towards the bridge, or pillowy warm tones if plucked over the neck/body joint. Punchy enough to play rock or blues with, warm and open enough for jazz.
Mouse 30: This model is built from the exact same quality materials and electronics as the mb-2, but featuring a 30” scale. The lower string tension means less attack, but more “bloom” on the end of the note. The lower string tension also produces a slightly fuller low end than the mb-2 (to demonstrate this, detune a string one whole step on any bass and hear the tone thicken as the string tension is dropped).
Deep 4 / Deep5: These are the most hollow of the basses I offer. This design still has a solid (although slightly thinner) center block to keep good note definition, but has larger hollow sections than the other models and thinner side walls, and the addition of an f-hole, allowing more “air” around the notes. This is the most “acoustic” sounding of the basses, and sounds the most like an upright. Since the body is less rigid, the initial attack is slightly softer and the resulting notes a little more complex sounding.
Often I receive emails asking about a comparison between these three seemingly similar models, and this is how I usually answer in synopsis:
Mb-2: most versatile, thick organic bass tone
Mouse 30: fattest sounding, slightly less attack
Deep 4/5: most convincing acoustic tone if cost is not an issue
About the wood
I have had many questions over the past 12 years regarding what the different woods sound like. Although there are many wood variations, the basic tone of all the basses offered is about the same within each model, and here is the reason why: the neck and the hollow design of the body, in combination with a wooden bridge and nylon tape wound strings, produce the lion’s share of the instrument’s tone. After making and listening to many hundreds of basses, I have discovered which woods best compliment each other, and each combination is aimed and bringing the tone back to “center” so speak. For example: mahogany is a warmer sounding wood, maple is brighter, so these two are very complimentary as a mahogany body with maple top. By the same rule, swamp ash is brighter and clearer than mahogany, yet walnut is warmer and softer sounding than maple, so these two combine well also, yielding two different wood combinations that are very similar in tone, yet have a significantly different visual quality. Regarding the top wood, it is thin (just about 3/16” thick) so it doesn’t have too strong of an influence on the tone. In addition to this, all materials are hand selected for similar weight, appearance and grain structure, and for this reason you will find very little difference in sound between a maple, walnut or koa top. Do they sound different at all? Sure, every piece of wood sounds different from the next, as each bass does, and there can be as much variation between two pieces of the same species. But the differences are subtle, in the case of my particular designs. So I often suggest that people choose the wood combination that appeals to them visually.
What does the f-hole do?
The more rigid a bass body is, the cleaner and more pure the tone. As the body becomes less rigid, it offers more warmth and overtones, and general complexity. In the case of Mb-2 & Mouse 30 basses, adding the f-hole with soften the attack slightly and add some midrange. It will not however add much acoustic volume (maybe 5~10 percent) as these basses are not designed for acoustic volume. Both of these models are very thick natural sounding basses already without the f-hole, so we are talking about subtleties here. So within these parameters, a bass without an f-hole will be slightly punchier and crisp, and the same bass with an f-hole will sound slightly more round and have a softer attack (more upright like).
Fretted or fretless?
Fretless: For players that normally play a fretted instrument but are looking for a fuller & fatter upright-like sound, I suggest going with a fretless bass. The fretless can be played without any slides or slurs, just as you would a fretted bass, the only difference is that you play on the fretline markers to get proper intonation. This gives the sound of a “standard” bass, but fuller and fatter, and with more character , as the attack of a fretless is a little more complex than that of a fretted bass. It’s surprisingly easy to play in tune, and I have made this suggestion to hundreds of customers without a single return to date.
Fretted: When comparing the fretted and fretless versions of the mb-2 or Mouse 30 basses, the main difference is the shape of the note. Both will have the same full tone; the fretted bass will have a slightly quicker attack and the fretless will have a slower attack with a little bit of swell after the initial sound. The difference will be most apparent when playing slower tempos. The fretted basses are also very good for players that make use of playing chords and double stops, or sing complex vocal parts while playing bass. If you want a warm, yet clear sound with the precision of frets, I suggest a fretted model.
How loud are they acoustically?
All my basses are designed to be amplified. To attempt to create louder acoustic volume would actually compromise the tone. An Mb-2, Mouse 30, or Deep 5 bass will sound about 20% louder than a regular solid body bass acoustically when not plugged in. This makes them plenty loud for practice, but not loud enough to rehearse with other instruments.
Solid 4- solid body electric bass
The new Solid 4 is built with the same concept as all my other basses: that the tone starts in the wood, that it should vibrate well so that notes easily flow out of it, that it produces a fat tone, and has a great worn-in feel when you first pick it up. If you like the very best of 50’s era electric solid bodies, you will appreciate the tone and features of the new Solid 4.