Lower-cost instruments are, of course, nothing new, and the old adage of “you get what you pay for” used to ring volumes when one would see a budget-friendly price tag on a bass or guitar. But lately it seems that a number of companies have started to figure out a different formula (great design + quality components + lower profit margins = dependable, lower-cost instruments) and pass it on to us consumers. I remember paying $400 in 1987 money for a not-so-great production instrument, only to trade it later because it was a budget model that didn’t grow with me as a player. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend less than $500 on a well-designed bass that feels at home as a first bass or a go-to instrument as well? Allen Eden Guitars thinks so, and does so with the 34"-scale Disciple 5 bass.
Our test bass arrived in its included hardshell case, and when I performed the grand reveal, I was taken aback. There were a number of things that hit me right away, such as the beautiful honeyburst finish, the clear pickguard (don’t hide that pretty paint!), the maple neck, and the matching headstock. It was the kind of initial aesthetic impression I’d expect from a bass four times its price, because at first glance it looked every bit the part of a small-batch offering from a custom luthier.
One of the cooler factors is the color of the finish, which is applied to a quilted-maple veneer that tops the alder body. (The bass is also available in a 3-tone sunburst.) The abalone dot inlays are also a pro touch, the joints seemed matched up and tight, and the overall construction appeared to be well done. The lone exception was the input-jack plate, which left a small gap because it didn’t quite sit flush with the body.
The company’s site maintains that every bass coming in from China is set up prior to shipping, but a few small truss-rod turns were needed. A little “transit tweaking” isn’t unusual, so I wasn’t too disappointed, especially given that the action on the satin-finished, C-shaped neck felt wicked fast. Unplugged, the Disciple resonated loud and true, but I noticed there were a couple of frets on the floor side of the neck that creeped out just a touch, so maybe a full setup on this particular bass would be in order. The aforementioned frets didn’t effect my playing at all, however, and I was anxious to hear the bass plugged in.