This a fabulous bass that you just do not see very often: an Ernie Ball MusicMan Big Al bass. These were introduced at the 2009 Winter NAMM show, and have a few things not seen on MusicMan basses before.
For starters, there are two different pickup configurations available, a single humbucker or (gasp) 3 single coil pickups. And the other new thing is that there is a switchable passive mode on these basses.
The body is made of African mahogany and, of course has an innovative profile and shape and is nicely balanced. The Jetson shape is derived from their Albert Lee signature guitar.
It is equipped with a single humbucker, and I might need to explain what all of those knobs and switches do (it is a bit of a knob farm). There is a volume control, a knob for tone that only works in the passive mode, and the two concentric knobs are a 40band equalizer that only works in the active mode. The two switched are the series/parallel switch and the active/passive switch. It has an 18-volt preamplifier for a little extra mmmmmpf.
The neck is a dream, with a nice dark rosewood fretboard. The five bolts really hold it solid to the body, and the fret pocket is really tight. It is true, and the truss rod wheel makes adjustments a snap. The frets have the fine finishing that I expect from MusicMan. Final quality touches are the Schaller tuners and a compensated nut.
It plays well (of course), but the electronics and tone are where this bass really shine. I do not do much knob-twiddling, but having a passive option is something I have been hoping for from MusicMan for quite a while.
Unfortunately, like any good thing, these are not terribly cheap. The list price on these basses is $2300, and the lowest price online is $1679. Call around and you can do a bit better.
Why don’t you see more of these? I would have to think that if they ever marketed this bass (or their Bongo bass), or got one into the hands of a big name artist on stage, that they would sell a metric F ton of these.