Thursday, March 22, 2012

1977 Aria Pro II Precise Bass Review


I am always a sucker for nice Japanese lawsuit-era guitars and basses, and yet another has found its way into my studio; this time it is a 1977 Aria Pro II Precise Bass, a bold knock-off of a Fender Precision Bass

This one has a contoured 4-piece P body that looks like it is made of basswood, but it must be alder because it is heavier than expected, coming in at around 9.5 pounds. It is finished in a bright 3-tone sunburst, with a classic tort guard.

The pickup appears to be original and it is very hot, and as I usually dime the volume and tone controls on my P basses, this one really sounds bitchen. By the way, check out those goofy knobs – they have to be replacements. The bridge is Fender-esque, but with extra screws holding down the front corners. The original bridge cover came with the bass, so I popped it on.

This Aria’s maple neck is a corker, with a fat D profile and a 1 5/8” P width plastic nut. I would not hesitate to put Jamersons on this one as it is a baseball bat. The 20 original frets are very flat (think fretless wonder), so I am not sure if they have been dressed or if they have always been like this. There is a very thick coat of poly on the fretboard that makes the frets seem even shorter.

The Precise Bass’ headstock shape is an exact copy of Fender’s, and somebody installed Schaller tuners somewhere along the line. Tokai always puts goofy small print on their headstock decals, and this one is no exception. These decals inform the sharp-eyed amongst us that this bass was produced by “The World-wide Brand” and that it has a “Distinguished Custom Body by Matsumoku”. Matsumoku is the factory that built many of the lawsuit instruments for various Japanese companies.

This bass in in very good overall condition, particularly when you consider it is 35 years old. There are some minor dings and scratches, but no deal breakers. I restrung it with Ernie Ball Group III (0.040 to 0.100) flats, and they are a good fit with the character of this bass. Despite the low frets, it is a good playing bass with no buzzing and a low action. As I said earlier, the pickup is strong, and there is no buzzing or static. It is pretty much a peach, and I like it a lot.

These older Aria Pro II Fender copies are still a good value, with prices hovering around the $400 mark for decent examples. I think that values can only go up, so now might be the time to buy if you want one.


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