Sunday, April 8, 2012

1980 Aria Pro II SB-900 Bass Review

Hi there!

I love the early 1980s Aria Pro II Super Basses, and have owned dozens of SB-700 and SB-1000 models over the years, but only one SB-900. In fact, this SB-900 is the only one that I have ever seen.

The original run of Aria Pro II Super Basses were made in the 1970s and 1980s, and were the top of the line basses coming out of the Matsumoku factory in Japan. They were kind of a poor man’s Alembic, with multi-laminate neck-through construction and trick electronics. Aria found some high profile endorsers, including Jack Bruce and John Taylor, which gave them instant credibility.

At the time, all of the Super Basses had single pickups except for the SB-900, which had two MB-II double coil (humbucking) pickups. These were wired through volume and tone controls, as well as a rotary 3-way pickup selector and two “dual sound” (coil tap) switches.

But, unlike the SB-1000, the SB-900 did not get active electronics, so it is really more like a two pickup SB-700 pr an SB Elite II.

Aside from the electronics, the SB-900 received all the same good stuff as the other Super Basses. This includes a rosewood fretboard, a brass nut, a brass high-mass bridge, Gotoh tuners, and a nicely-figured body finished in natural, black or trans red.

I found the one you see here at a music shop in New York City about 10 years ago. According to the serial number it is from 1980, and it bears the original “The Aria Pro II” moniker and the early batwing-shaped headstock tip so this is an early example.

The overall condition was very good, with the usual dings and scratches as well as a relocated strap pin, but the electronics were unmolested and the original frets were in fabulous shape. The weight was not too bad for this one, coming in at around 10 ½ pounds. I have seen some Super Basses that weigh as much as 12 pounds. Ouch. It even came with the original hardshell case.

This all sounds good until you factor in that it had a weak tone with no mids, which made it too much like an SB-700, and I really prefer the SB-1000 tone. If I could have found an 18-volt SB-1000 or a MusicMan Bongo pre-amplifier to put in this thing it would have made a formidable instrument, but as it was, it was uninspired.

Fortunately, it was rare (which made it collectible), so despite its mediocre sound I did not have any trouble selling it. This SB-900 eventually went to an Aria bass collector (there are such people), which was probably the best result I could hope for.

Mahalo!

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