The Famous Five
We’ve fested upgrade fours, we’ve fested higher priced portable amp rigs and so, at last, it’s time for that favorite journalistic fest of all – the five string. For those of you new to our Fest Tests, then what lies before you is the most comprehensive test arena for bass equipment today.
Tester Stuart Clayton is keen on the quilted maple of the Lakland 55-02 Custom that is finished in a superb Cherry Sunburst high gloss lacquer. Close inspection reveals the top to have an average depth (the amount the quilt moves under light) but the consistency is better than some basses we’ve seen costing three times the price.
The Lakland Skyline 55-02 Deluxe fulfills founder Dan Lakin’s ideal of combining traditional and modern bass design elements. Holding up the traditional side is a simple, lightly contoured ash body, with a quilted maple top, bolted to a maple neck with maple fingerboard. Five screws are utilized in recessed washers, thereby eliminating the need for a neck plate. The modern elements come from a full US spec Bartolini active circuit and pickups, Hipshot lightweight tuning pegs and Lakland’s own design through-body stringing bridge. Again, fit and finish are pretty much flawless, as one would expect on a bass costing well over a grand. We particularly liked the quality feel of the active circuit pots, which included controls for volume, bass, mid, treble and pan, plus a micro three-way toggle switch that provides independent switching of the twin coils of the Bartolini bridge humbucker. Further adjustments are available from the two internal controls, which are accessed via the backplate, providing settings for overall gain and four choices of frequency center for the midrange. To cap it all, the preamp can be bypassed via the master volume, which operates as a push-pull pot, for a more traditional tone. Ralph can feel the quality of the circuit before the bass even gets plugged in. “The combination of US quality circuitry in a Korean made bass really shows through because the pots have a wonderful feel to them, the best Lakland Skyline 55-02 Deluxe of the bunch by far.”
The Lakland 55-02 generates an even more favorable response from Ralph. “this has an awesome low B and its output is a little higher. There’s more presence all round, more meat to the tone for me.” Experimentation with the comprehensive Bartolini tone circuit brings every sound we can think of from crisp slap to grunting fingerstyle. Ralph even finds a setting we hadn’t thought of by mixing the neck pickup with the rear humbucker set on the second (i.e. the closest to the bridge) coil. “It’s a piezo-like sound without the need for a piezo”, he declares. “The Music Man Stingray doesn’t feel as good to me after the Lakland. The latter oozes a certain quality and has such a thick sound. It feels like the bass Larry Graham would play! This bass has a classy, punchy, classic tone. A USA sound to my Brit ears. You sound like Nathan East when you play it.”
The Lakland is a good all-rounder, which we’d be happy playing on any gig. It has superb build quality and Stuart is shocked to discover it’s one of the Skyline Series because he feels it’s one of the best made here. Its lower price is also a major bonus.