Thursday, May 3, 2012

1980 The Aria Pro II SB-1000 Bass Guitar Review

Hi there!

Today we are looking at another gem from the crown of Japanese guitar-building, a 1980 The Aria Pro II SB-1000 bass guitar. Note that I said “The” Aria Pro II, as this logo on the headstock differentiates the early production basses from the later ones.

The original run of these Aria Super Basses was built in Japan from 1978 to 1986, with a fair number imported to Europe and North America. They were adopted by a few popular bassists, such as Jack Bruce, Cliff Burton and John Taylor. They eventually re-issued these basses, and they are now available at premium prices.

As I said, this is an early bass (from around 1980), but it has many features that have been carried on to current production. Most noticeable is the Canadian ash body with neck-through construction. You can see this through the transparent finish, which shows the gorgeous 5-ply maple and walnut neck.

This one is finished with dark walnut stain over the ash, but they were also offered in transparent red, natural, and black. The black ones are as rare as hen’s teeth.

The C-shaped neck is sweet with a 24 medium-jumbo frets sunk into its rosewood fretboard. It Is beefy, with about a 1.75-inch nut. The headstock has a pretty veneer on it, with the usual legend: ”Designed & Approved by H Noble Original Custom Body P. No. 555719 A Product of Matsumoku. 4 11 n.m.”

The hardware is good, with a high-mass brass bridge and a brass nut. A factory brass nut, by the way. There are also nice brass covers over the electronics cavity on the back of the bass. The closed-back tuners are marked Aria Pro II, but they were manufactured by Gotoh.

This is all nice stuff, and it is a beautiful instrument, but what sets these SB-1000 basses apart from the rest is the electronics package. This includes an MB humbucker, 18-volt pre-amplifier, a six-position tone switch and a coil tap switch. Unfortunately, these early models did not have a power LED indicator on the front. Everybody and their brother wants an LED on their bass…

The 6-position tone switch provides most any tone you are looking for, from thick and boomy to sharp and aggressive. I have had a few of the original SB-1000s, and they are pretty consistent in tone and quality. The only downside is the weight, as they are usually around 11 pounds. This one comes in at 10 pounds, 8 ounces.

First series Aria Pro II SB-1000 basses are getting a bit hard to find, and I was lucky to run into one that was in such good condition and that included the original hardshell case in similar shape. If you have a choice, I would recommend picking up one of the original series instead of a re-issue, as they are usually very good basses. The quality of the re-issues is spotty, and if you do purchase one make sure you play it first so you don’t spend 4 figures on a dud.



  1. Hi Rex - nice review! I might add that anybody buying an SB-1000 second hand should also check that the electronics have not been butchered in the cavity. I've been building a lot of BB pre-amp replacements for these "batwing" SB-1000s for people who have bought them in that kind of condition.

    Yours is a beautiful example of 70s batwing. I'm on the hunt for an SB-R150 myself and these are a magnitude more difficult to find than a nice original series SB-1000!

  2. Hi SB-guys,
    I'm a proud new owner of an Aria Pro II SB-1000 fretless '79, and I've found some good informations in your posts, so thank you for that job!
    Kind regards from France!

  3. Helli I got one, same as yours, notplayed since 1992...perfect one.I m in france, I want to sell it but how much does it s cost? thanxxxxx forthe infos

  4. Nice summary. I've owned 3 SBs. The first was an SB-1000 (batwing, flat top, light oak) from new in 1980. I've since had an SB R-60 (a passive version with a wider spaced bridge) and currently play an SB-700 (the passive version of the SB-1000) from about 1981/82. All have been flawless and amazing instruments. However, because of cavity smaller than the SB-1000, SB R-60 and SB-700 are noticeably heavier!

    To be honest, I wanted an SB-900 or SB-700 first time round. I thought the tonal variations of the SB-1000 were great but hardly ever used them as you can wide enough variety from the passive versions.

    But I wouldn't mind reassessing that opinion, now I'm 40-years older...

  5. Stumbled across this post having found my old bass in the loft. I have this very bass but it has 2 extra emg pick ups so has 4 controllers. I'm looking to sell it as I no longer play. Any ideas on worth? It's still in great condition

  6. I just reclaimed my original SB 1000 from long term storage and brought it home to Frannce. I bought it in the late 70s, it still sounds great.