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.



  1. Hi there,
    I was lucky to be 'given' one or two basses in the 80's, one was a SB900(0) and a Westone Thunder II. My SB9000 was a special order for me which was active and fitted with an XLR socket to allow both passive and active signal simultaneously (just like my Westone). How I miss it and would love to track it down.

    1. Was the special order to make it active done by Aria Pro?

  2. I've just bought an Aria fretless bass, i think its the SB 700 but the electronics have been got at, original pick up changed and dual tone switch disconnected and it has a 9v battery that im not certain was part of the original electronics set up, i got it priced accordingly and apart from that its in great condition, do you know where i can find the serial numbers on line for these basses.

  3. I am the original owner of an SB900 I bought in NYC Sam Ash in 1982 serial 2111234 I would probably never sell it.. but was thing of upgrading the pick ups... any recommendations_

  4. I sold my first SB-900 in a moment of GAS for other stuff. It just took me a couple of days to start regretting it, but 2 years to find a replacement in nice condition. This will stay with me. It is the bat-ear headstock model and just about 14kg. Resonant and very nice. I also got an SB-R80, 2pcs RSB-900, a fretless SB-1000 and tomorrow I will collect an early SB-1000. For me these are the basses I always returns to. Distinctive sound and a comfy neck. OK, my fretless are heavy, but the rest of them are not too bad and I like the feeling of a solid piece of tool.

  5. In 1980, I was offered a bass, for just under £200 (I can't recall exactly how much). It was an Aria Pro II SB-900, although being relatively new to bass playing, this meant practically nothing to me. However, "everyone" told me it was a good bass; and, to me, it looked good, it was great to play, and as for the sound: Wow! Needless to say, I bought it.

    Simply put, it's the best bass I have ever played (and I've played a good few; not to mention those that I have since acquired). In the 40 years since I bought her, she's played 1,000+ gigs, numerous rehearsals and recording sessions; all without a single glitch. Better still, my bass sound was regularly complemented on by various musicians and members of the audience alike. IMHO, this is one of the great features of the SB-900: Roll back the neck pickup's volume, just a touch, and she can be played, pretty much, through a flat EQ, but nought else, save perhaps, a little compression (especially when recording) and some "dirt" should you so desire (although I generally played "clean"). She also handled any cabinet configuration that I played her through with consummate ease e.g., a single 1×15", 4×10" or 4×12", or combination of your choice.

    In summary, it's now 40 years down the line, and I still have my SB-900 (and most definitely not for sale). She's having a well earned rest at the moment, but she'll be back quite soon. I mean, I have a compliment of other more contemporary basses on duty right now, but good as they are, none measure up to my Aria Pro II SB-900.

    Hey!; but that's just me...

  6. I have recently bought what I now believe to be one of these from a seller om EBay.
    I was confused to find no active circuit in it. But looking at it again compared to your photos it is almost the same wiring including the blue wires although someone may have added a massive .047m oil capacitor to the bottom right hand side pot as in your photos. Any bright ideas out there.
    I believe it was brown but is badly stripped of and a wing of the head stock needs sweating off and refitting as it has been done badly before. I don't care as I have been looking from time to time for one for over 30 years. Story goes I bought one in a muso shop in Uxbridge UK many years ago. It was a custom shop active either 1150 or 1200 or something like that. Oil finish ble bla bla. When I went to collect after my over £550 cheque had cleared some stupid twat who worked there was playing it as I walked through the door wearing a big show off brass buckle belt. Yes buckle rash over the back of a customers brand new bass.
    Money was eventually restored to me and I bought a Westone thunder 2 active from another shop. But I always regret not having that very special bass
    Such is Life.