Douglas Pisces Bass Review

Douglas Pisces Bass Review

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Douglas Pisces Bass

Douglas Pisces Bass Initial Impressions

This bass is basically a ‘lookalike’ of a ’51 P-Bass, or if you like, early Telecaster Bass. The model I have is the two-tone sunburst, and I have to say, first thing, that the finish on this bass is just absolutely gorgeous. I’m sure it’s a polyester or polyurethane finish, but it doesn’t seem to be any thicker than a nitrocellulose lacquer sunburst finish would be. It’s very well buffed out, to a fantastic high gloss. I’m not such a huge fan of that enormous black scratchplate, but I think if it were white, against this finish, it would be even more obtrusive. I plan to take it off and see what the finish underneath looks like, and if it’s as good as the rest of the body that’s not hidden by the scratchplate, I just may make a replica from Plexiglas, either plain clear or in a tinted/smoke type, so you can see the sunburst outline thru it. Enough about the finish…suffice it to say that it’s very, very nice. When I first pulled it out of the box, my mouth involuntarily formed the word, ‘Wow!”. That just about says it all.

I found just one little issue in my first few minutes with the instrument; that of its tendency to want to ‘spit out’ the cable plugged into its input jack. The jack’s tip-contact tang was a bit long, so it didn’t “latch” onto the plug tip properly. I tweaked it with a pair of needlenose pliers until it worked, but it’s still not optimal, so I’ll be replacing the jack with a new one very soon.

I had to do the tiniest bit of tweaking on the setup to eliminate a fret-buzz here & there, and it will probably be a bit of an ongoing process until the neck gets fully ‘settled in’ with being played on. The intonation, as best I could determine by ear alone, seemed just about perfect right out of the box.

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Douglas Pisces Bass Action, Fit, & Finish

I’ve already raved about the finish, so I’ll just move on to the other things. The fit of all the parts is far better than one should expect from a $130 bass! Nice tight neck pocket fit, and all the screws mounting the scratchplate, bridge, etc. seem to actually be perpendicular to the part they’re screwed into (something that is sometimes a bit of an issue on low-cost instruments). Everything is fitted up just perfectly as far as I can tell.

As for the action, well, I expected to have to do a little tweaking on that, and I did ‘un-relieve’ the neck just a tad and lower the action a tiny bit. There are still a couple of minor fret-buzzes down around the second thru fourth frets, but I’m going to let the neck really settle into the relief I have in it now before trying to address those directly. Many times, those buzzes disappear once the neck settles. But the action just seemed a little high out of the box, so I couldn’t leave it alone. So far, I haven’t noticed any fret-end hand-snaggers along the edge of the fingerboard that you usually see in instruments in this price range. If they’re there at all, they’re very minor.

Douglas Pisces Bass Hardware

The bridge is a generic stamped & chromed unit, but it seems plenty robust. The four individual string saddles are fully adjustable for action & intonation. The strap buttons appear to be quite solid and stout; no problems there. The chrome plating on the bridge, control plate, neck plate, and knobs seems to be more than adequate, and is very smooth and clean in appearance. I’m sure the control pots & capacitor could benefit from an upgrade to better CTS and Mallory parts (or the like), but they seem to function plenty well for now. The tuners are chromed, open-geared ‘elephant ear’ types, and function smoothly and accurately. They might benefit from a little lubrication, however. All in all, the bits & pieces appear to be well-made and finished. I just love those big ol’ knurled chrome knobs, too.

Douglas Pisces Bass Playability

The neck has a Jazz-Bass-like width taper out to the nut, which really suits my smallish hands, and is very comfortable to play on. I find the end of the pickup to be a perfect thumb rest for my plucking style. I had to add a piece of neoprene sponge underneath the pickup to ‘firm up’ the mounting, since once I adjusted the height where I like it, it seemed that the pickup was ‘off the springs’ and is able to wobble around in the cavity. A piece of sponge under it stabilized it nicely. I had to dig up some slightly longer screws to use on the pickup mounting, too, as once I had installed the sponge rubber underneath and set it where I wanted it, it seemed that the stock screws were barely engaged into the wood.

The instrument’s strap-manners are excellent. It has no neck-diving tendencies at all. And it hangs on a strap with just about perfect left-right placement as well, meaning that it doesn’t hang with the body on-center with mine, and the neck sticking way out to my left, like some basses tend to. It hangs such that I’m very comfortable in my arm/hand positions while playing.

The weight of the instrument is about the same as any other ‘P-Bass’ shaped bass made from Alder. It’s not really light, but by no means is it oppressively heavy. It’s a full-scale bass guitar, after all….it’s not going to be a featherweight.

Douglas Pisces Bass Tone

The single-coil pickup is bright & punchy, but with a fairly solid underlying low-end. Being a single-coil unit, it will have a tendency to pick up 60 Hz hum and other annoying electrical noise, but so far that doesn’t seem excessive. Time will tell how annoying that might become, and the pickup might end up being replaced with a dual-rail Strat-type pickup, which is a direct drop-in replacement. We’ll see….the jury is still out on the hum (so far ‘non’) issue. The overall tone is just a bit treble-heavy, but rolling back on the tone knob easily brings that under control. It has that sort of open, airy, almost ‘organic’ tone that only a single-coil pickup seems able to give, and it appears to have reasonably stout output, as well. I find that the pickup responds extremely well to ‘pop &slap’ playing, with very snappy and quick response; quite ‘spanky’. Played with a pick, the bass has a quite percussive attack, with excellent sustain characteristics, too.

All in all, the bass has kind of a ‘P-Bass’ sort of tone, but with even a little more ‘airiness’ and ‘quack’ to it. Maybe it’s not for just any musical genre, though. I don’t feel that it has the bone-crushing bottom-end that you’d want for Metal, for instance, but it will fit into most any musical situation. Still, I would like to have some more ‘thickness’ in the low-end. The thing I like most about this bass is its attack characteristics. The beginnings of notes are very well defined and punchy, which makes me a much more careful player when doing any kind of fast runs, because its crisp attack will definitely expose any sloppiness on the player’s part.

Douglas Pisces Bass Conclusion

What can one say about a $130 bass guitar that looks, plays, and sounds as good as ‘name-brand’ basses costing as much as three times more? I’ll be very honest with you…I’d much rather spend $130 on this bass than $300 on one of the higher-end Squier basses I’ve seen & played on in stores. I truly feel that the quality is equal, and as for the argument about buying a Chinese brand instrument as opposed to an American brand, well….where do you think Squiers are made…? Does the word ‘Indonesia’ ring any bells?

Seriously, if you’re reading this in the process of making a decision about buying a bass or other instrument, I’d highly recommend that you give careful consideration to the SX/Agile/ Brice/Douglas lines that are imported to the USA by Rondo Music. We here at diyguitartone.com continue to be highly impressed with their products. Every one we’ve gotten our hands on so far has been an amazing value for the money, compared with the name brands’ offerings in the same price range…and even well above that price range.

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UPDATE:
After letting the neck 'settle' for some time now, it does appear that I may have to do some spot fret-leveling to get rid of a couple of 'buzzes' here & there. I tried tamping the offending frets down in the hopes that they were simply not well seated, but the buzzes remain. This sort of thing is pretty much to be expected in an instrument of this price range, even among the American guitar companies' import lines, such as Epiphone and Squier....I've had the very same issues with those. I still say that the SX/Agile/Douglas lines are the best dollar-values out there. And for one who knows how to address these little issues, or even if you have to spend $50 or so for a luthier the fix the buzzes, you're still way ahead of the game.