Monday, August 20, 2012

1981 Aria Pro II SB-700 Bass Guitar Review


Today we are looking at a real peach of a bass, and one that you do not see very much anymore - a 1981 Aria Pro II SB-700 bass guitar. I have bought and sold many of these over the years; all of them were all very good instruments, and this one that I found in Japan was no exception.

The SB-700 is essentially the passive version of the SB-1000, which is a legendary Japanese-made bass with hordes of followers. The construction is the same, with neck-through design and a beautifully contoured body. This one has beautifully-grained sen (ash) wings with a matching headstock veneer, and the usual 5-ply maple neck with walnut stringers. They definitely were looking at Alembics when they designed the SB series.

The hardware also came out of the same bins as the SB-1000 basses, as Aria specified the same high-mass bridge and brass nut, as well as the same pointy knob sealed-back tuning machines. The craftsmanship is also first-rate, and the 24 frets are still level and the fret markers are still flush with the rosewood fretboard of this one 30 years after it was made.

Really, the only difference is the electronics package, as these do not receive the 18-volt preamplifier or the 6-way selector switch. They do have the same pickup (MB-1 double coil), though. The controls include volume, tone and a coil tap switch. When playing this one, it definitely has more of a p-bass vibe, which is in keeping with its beefy neck profile.

I have owned these bases in natural, dark transparent brown, transparent red and solid black wings (all with matching headstocks). The black ones are very hard to come by. Generally speaking, they are a few hundred bucks cheaper than comparable condition SB-1000 basses, as none of the famous guys played the SB-700.

If you are looking at these keep in mind that they will be heavy (at least 10 pounds), and be watchful for any “improvements” that may have been made over the years. Bartolini or EMG pickups kill the soul of these basses and they do not sound the same without the brass nut or if a Badass bridge has been installed. Keep in mind that things are only original once.

I have not seen any bad necks on SB-700 or SB-1000 basses, but I cannot say the same for the SB-Elite I basses that replaced these in the mid 1980s. Be careful if you are considering one of those, my friends.

Aside from these few caveats, these Arias are wonderful basses that combine good lucks with fine craftsmanship and materials. Play one and see what you think!



  1. A friend just revealed that he has one of these (westone branded, but near identical) that is factory fretless! I will examine it and report back....

  2. I'm kicking myself for pawning one for a couple hundred dollars. I used it in the studio for a year, loved everything about it, had no idea what I was missing until I tried to replicate the sound. Can't be done. If I can save up, I have seen a few on ebay over the years for 7 -800 bucks, but must be original...idiots want to modify them!

  3. Thanks for this wonderful blog! I am looking at a Aria SB-r60 right now. Wondering if I should get it. I live in Japan and loving the selection of basses out here.

  4. Hello Kokyu

    Prices on these have been starting to climb and I see less of them for sale, so I would suggest buying now rather than later.



  5. i have 81 rb1000 for sale electronics work great bass

  6. John Taylor used an SB700 on the first Duran Duran album, an SB900 on the Rio album then an SB1000 on Seven/tiger. I had an SB1000 for 10 years and nearly always played in passive mode so I bought a 700 and much prefer the tone on it.

    1. Thanks for that info! I never heard that John played a SB900 on Rio. Where did you get that info?

  7. I picked mine up for £180 15 years ago, still all original and would never sell it now.

  8. Im buy one sb700 for 40 dollars in 1993 here in México hahaha in a flea music market