Date: 04 February 2000
Reviewer: Nigel Pierce
Bored with the big brands? Fancy something a little special?
Gus G3 Four: Unique appearance, player-friendly function: regular readers will be familiar with Simon Farmer's Gus guitar designs. 'Our guitar versions came first, and the body shape and materials evolved over time: Simon explains. 'When it came to designing the bass we already had the guitar as a point of reference, and that really helped the overall bass design: The resulting Gus G3 Four with its sleek glued-in neck, carbon fibre-reinforced construction and chrome-plated horns looks almost shockingly futuristic - but behind the non conventional materials we have a bass that feels and sounds reassuringly familiar.
The body itself is formed by two primary components: a solid Canadian Western red cedar centre and two chrome-plated aluminium bolt-on horns that define the upper body outline. A very definite concave back and convex front neatly negates the need for any comfort contours. The wood parts - the body and the neck, also cedar - are laminated all over with a carbon fibre outer skin which adds considerable stiffness. According to Simon, cedar has many favourable properties - it's a lightweight wood with good resonance and is very compatible with the carbon fibre moulding process.
Extending out to the l2th fret the larger upper horn provides an excellent balance point and gives the relatively small body additional length. Top fret access is superb, the dinky body on the treble side curving away from the last fret, unimpeded by the lower horn. The strapped-on balance is excellent, but although the lower horn acts as a leg rest when playing seated in this position the bass does feel a little top-heavy.
Looking like Rosewood, the Cocobolo fingerboard Is a Gus standard and reflects Simon's enthusiasm to use alternative timbers and materials whenever possible (of course, he's a custom maker, so more traditional timbers can be used on request). The fingerboard itself features 24 large frets (approx. 3mm wide x 1.7mm high) with the typically huge Gus trademark position markers on the face and side of the fingerboard... an acquired taste, yet a practical feature which adds much to the instrument's striking appearance.
As space-age as the instrument looks, in terms of shape the neck feels very familiar. It has a Precision-like width and an oval shape at the nut which broadens in width and flattens out in profile by the 9th fret. It feels chunky and substantial without being stodgy or slow to play - if you find a Precision neck comfortable, you won't struggle here.
Behind the nut we have a narrow, streamlined head stock with three beautiful-looking Gotoh 510 series tuners positioned along the top edge and a single tuner on the treble-side. The single-action truss rod adjustment cavity is located just behind the friction-reducing black plastic nut.
At the body end of the string path we have a substantial-looking aluminium bridge with solid brass saddles, designed and made by Gus. Basically, it's a larger version of the guitar bridge. The chunky base plate has four slots into which the semicircular saddle bases fit and can be locked into position once intonation is set. At the top of these saddle bases are smaller brass inserts on which the strings actually sit; each Is threaded and can be adjusted for height, with an Allen key, via rear placed access holes.
The two single-coil pickups (made by Kent Armstrong and designed in collaboration with Gus) continue the Dan Dare visual vibe with a rather retro lipstick tube-like appearance. They are controlled by a master volume and a stacked active bass and treble boosts. The middle placed knob is a four-way rotary pickup switch which offers bridge pickup only, both pickups in parallel, both pickups in series and finally the neck pickup on its own. The active circuit is powered by a single 9V battery located in its own compartment located on the back of the bass.
It may look radical but the Gus G3 Four sounds reassuringly warm and familiar - not at all harsh or metallic. The basic sound with the EQ switched out is warm and guttural; the lower strings have plenty of individual character and presence and the upper strings ring through with clarity and definition.
The pickup selector defines the overall tonal character of the bass and each selection creates a very different tone. The bridge pickup on its own, for example, unleashes a very plausible nasal tone with plenty of mid-charged power and punch. The next two settings offer both pickups together in either the thinner parallel or more punchy series. Typically, the series tone is a much richer, more solid sound - fat and rounded, like a typical Music Man humbucking sound. The thinner, more contemporary tone of the neck pickup on its own still has depth but isn't as wide as either of the dual pickup selections.
The active treble and bass boosts on our review model are just one of the available options offered by Gus. As it is, however, the boosts add another dimension to the core tone and add considerable colour to the excellent core sounds. Personally I'd prefer a 3-band eq with cut and boost which would takes things a stage further but, as Simon pointed out, anything is possible and special circuits can be fitted on request- it's down to personal preference.
Copyright Guitar ©2000. Used by kind permission of Guitar.