I was on the hunt for an inexpensive four stringed fanned fret bass earlier in 2021 and found a builder on AliExpress who said he could make one for me for $320 USD. I’m not a five-string guy–I’ve tried. Since I had a decent experience with my Rickenfaker bass, I ordered it! He even asked me what kind of wood I wanted for the fingerboard, what color hardware and what kind of finish. I was excited. The main reason I wanted to try a fanned fret bass is my fingers and hands are hurting more and more every week. I’m hoping the fanned frets help with ergonomics. More on this later.
A few weeks go by and the promised ship day comes and goes and the replies to my messages from the seller get shorter and shorter. Long story short, he gives me a bogus tracking number, I file a dispute with AliExpress and get a refund. I’m bummed; now I have to start my search for an inexpensive fanned fret all over again. What’s this? A RedSub fanned fret bass from a retailer in the UK for $315 shipped to the USA, that’s made in Viet Nam. Interesting.
I ordered the bass on a Thursday and received it the following Tuesday. Not too bad of a wait considering the wait and BS that comes with ordering directly from China (customs worries, sometimes useless tracking numbers, etc.). It shipped DHL.
That Tuesday I unpacked the bass, it was double boxed-very nice, and was wrapped in foam sheeting. I noticed a fair amount of fine dust in the box and when unwrapping the bass. Come to find out it was polishing compound. It looked like it was polished one last time before it was boxed up, but not properly cleaned of the fine, white polishing compound that coated everything. On the back of the bass where the neck attached, there was a pretty nasty series of scratches, almost as if someone was trying to buff out a paint imperfection. In the bass’s 1/4″ jack, there was a pretty big build up of compound here (photo below) and under the truss rod cover.
After I got it cleaned up, I noticed quite a few scratches in the black paint that weren’t buffing out and I ended up emailing Gear4U.com’s customer service. They were very nice, apologetic and let met know I could send the bass back if I wasn’t satisfied. That seemed like more trouble than it was worth to me, so we settled on them refunding me 10% of the purchase price. That was fine with me. It’s not like this is a $5000 custom bass. There were a few sharp fret ends, but overall the neck was straight and the frets were dressed okay. Again, one must expect the level of build quality in an inexpensive instrument–you typically get what you pay for in this regard. YMMV.
Other than the paint and the polishing compound, I thought the bass was very well put together. The bridges are pretty good and I was able to intonnate the bass easily with the supplied allen wrench. Having a top-load bridge is great too for changing strings or taking them off if you need to work on the instrument. One thing, or should I say four things, that were disappointing were the tuners. Not the best in the world, so I ordered some Gotoh mini bass tuners in black. They were drop in replacements.
As for the electronics, I’m happy with them, as it’s the only active bass I have other than the Kay-Ric-inspired bass VI I built earlier this year. The RedSub Infinity has a 3 band EQ as well as a pickup blend knob and a master volume. Its soapbar pickups sound fine to me, so I’m in no hurry to swap them out. Of course I changed the strings and opted for Ernie Ball Super Slinkies–I have EB Regular Slinkies on all my other basses. These are strings I had planned on using on an Aria Pro II RSB bass that’s on the bench, awaiting a repaint–there’s always another project!
This bass has been my main standard tuned bass for rehearsal and gigs for the past few months–I also have a different bass tuned 1/2 step down for about 50% of our band’s set. I’m very happy with it and it has many things I like about it and a few things that I don’t.
First the positives. It’s a comfortable instrument to wear and play, nicely balanced, the beveled body doesn’t cut into my arm like an instrument with a binding around the body might. It’s fairly light weight and not crazy long too, which is a plus. The pickups sound good and when I tune to Drop D, that low string has a piano-like ring to it, not floppy sounding at all. I’m interested in tuning the bass to an alternate lower than standard tuning and seeing how it sounds. Fanned frets might seem a bit gimmicky on a standard tuned four string bass, but I’m enjoying it. The fanned nature is not extreme and easy to get used to in just a few minutes of playing. The bridges, like I mentioned are easily load and unloadable for changing strings.
I’m not sure if the fanned frets are ergonomic like I had hoped, but I think having active electronics helps me in a different way. I noticed I don’t dig in as much when I play, not as agressively-it’s not needed when I play an active bass like this one. Because of this, I haven’t had the issues with sore hands since I’ve been using it–although my other 1/2 step down bass is active. In the past, toward the end of a 4 hour gig, my hands would be sore through the next day, many times I wouldn’t want to do anything physical before or after gigs with my hands such as yard work, washing the car, sanding a project bass or any activity where my hands were in a gripped position for long periods of time. So the bass’s electronics, not the fanned frets have had an unexpected, positive effect on me.
The negatives: Fit and finish were the biggies for me. I can’t overlook this, but after it was cleaned up, those things don’t really bother me now. The glossy black paint is prone to scratches I guess, so there’s not much I can do about that other than using some kind of scuff pad and taking the gloss away. That’s a gamble for me, so I’m only 1/2 way considering it. From a couple feet away it’s fine, especially after I waxed it up.
As much as I appreciate the active electronics and their affect on my hands, I’m not sure if they are needed, especially on this bass. Is this really a negative for this article–maybe. It’s as close as I can come. There’s not much I don’t like about the bass, so I may be adding this bit as me thinking out loud as it were.
It seems like most extended scale instruments are usually active, so I’m not sure if this is trendiness or usefulness. There’s always the Jaco or Geddy argument (Geddy only needed four strings, Jaco didn’t need active electronics, etc.–Yes, I know they both played 5 strings at some point and basses with active electronics). I think it’s more of a simplicity thing: A P Bass through an Ampeg SVT or a Les Paul played through a Marshall amp–simple but versatile. You can’t usually go wrong with these combinations.
So, would I buy another SubBass Infinity? Sure, they’re good instruments for the money. Hopefully you get a better finished instrument than I did. I put these above any Squier, Rondo-made instrument or most budget brand basses I’ve played and owned. The two year warranty is nice too, I don’t think many manufacturers can touch that with this price point.