Date: 05 July 1999
Reviewer: Roger Newell
With a space-age design and a unique sound, does the G3 boldly goes where no bass has gone before?
Luthier Simon Farmer's association with the bass stretches back along way. He made his first instrument at school when he was just 14 (a fretless!), so it's hardly surprising that he's found time to experiment with innovative bass design.
After a close look at the green sunburst model at last year's National Music Show, I was keen to get one in for review. But I fancied a different colour. Simon said that was no problem and, true to his word, produced this stunning metallic purple finish specifically for Bassist. What's more it arrived with the serial number 007. All part of the 'service' it would seem.
Undoubtedly eye-catching, the root of the Gus design is its moulded construction. It begins with the cedar neck and spliced headstock being glued to the body with the usual socket joint, then a carbon fibre 'skin' is moulded around this wooden 'skeleton'. This makes possible the curve of the body surfaces and the chromed metal tubing blending into the body. The fingerboard is ebony and the distinctive opposing edge fret markers have a slight glitter in the finish.
Virtually all the components are purpose-built from Aircraft Grade Aluminium (that's as good as it comes, folks), the only exception being the Hipshot Ultralite tuners. Finished in the same brushed effect, they blend in perfectly. Particularly unique is the bridge design which features individual saddle assemblies that allow the strings to be loaded from the back. The unusual half-round shape of these saddles not only looks good, but is very practical too - it avoids sharp string angles, thus negating those break points. Each string sits on a brass ferrule that offers height adjustment by means of a grub screw accessed at the rear, making the whole thing very neat and extremely comfortable.
The two Gus Tube single-coil pickups are ceramic magnet design, hand wound by Kent Armstrong with humbucking attributes, and the perfect choice visually. The Volume, Tone and Pickup Selection controls are subtly sunken into the body surface and an angled jack socket is positioned at the rear of the body. Straplocks are provided as standard.
If you imagine that the G3 is going to be unwieldy or uncomfortable, then think again. This is one snug-fitting power drone that balances beautifully and just loves to be played. Sitting or standing, it feels great but the strap locks are essential when standing as the upward sweep of the top horn would soon disengage from a worn strap.
The neck feels like a very early model P-bass, but from here on comparisons with other instruments become difficult. That's down to so much of this bass being purpose built. What's more, it also has a sound that's very much its own and with enough tonal diversity to make it fully capable of suiting your individual needs.
Actually the tone control itself seems rather restricted in ability, but that's probably because the 4-way pickup selector switch is so absolutely amazing that it completely overshadows it. It performs logically and efficiently, providing a remarkable variety of sounds emanating from either pickup individually or from two alternative humbucking combination settings. In fact it works so well you'd suspect it was actually offering 'pre-shape' EQ settings rather than basic pickup switching. In reality, when using both pickups together you are being presented with series or parallel wiring which gives very different results.
For series, think Music Man, for parallel, think Jazz and that will give an idea of what to expect. There's also some really nice warmth here with added definition and sustain, and, should you require it, some pretty substantial top end. But it's those curious combination sounds that I found particularly inspiring. Perhaps a little less hollow-sounding than I expected, but still very fat and useable nonetheless. Talking of pickups, the adjustment screws at the back would benefit from being flush fitted and apparently that oversight will be corrected by the time you read this.
It certainly looks 'space age' but there's also a touch of classic 'motor bike' about this too. Maybe it's the colour, the curve of the body, the chromed metal horns, or that headstock badge. But whatever the reason, like a good bike, this looks both cool and sexy. Altogether a damn good design and very original. What with that and having appeared in the Lost In Space movie, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is a visual extravaganza without sonic substance, but you'd be seriously wrong.
And you don't just have to take my word for it, for many of you will have seen and heard Leigh Marklew of Terrorvision playing his G3 on TFI Friday and TOTP and there's one guy who most definitely has a very full-on approach to his bass sound. That said, good as it undoubtedly sounds, most people will be tempted to buy the Gus G3 for its looks. But, whatever the reason, if you buy one you won't be disappointed.
Copyright Bassist ©1999. Used by kind permission of Bassist.