The sixth and final guitar that I got in 2014 wasn’t a guitar at all. Well, it was….it was a bass guitar. More than that, it was a Chapman bass.
Having bought my Chapman ML-2 at the start of the year, I’d got involved in the Chapman forum and watching all of the Chapman / Anderton’s videos. I’d been enjoying playing my Yamaha bass with Rocksmith, and started to feel a bit of an itch for another bass guitar, partly for variety and partly for different tunings. I discovered on the Chapman forum that there was a new bass on the way, and I watched the videos of the early prototypes with interest.
I liked what I saw. The bass had a pleasing shape and it had some unusual and very distinctive wood, including Bubinga for the body cap and wings and a Wenge fretboard. It was a neck through design, with a 5-piece Maple and Wenge neck that looked great – I always thing that neck through construction is very logical for a guitar, since the strings are attached to a single length of wood without a joint. It also has humbuckers, unlike my Yamaha RBX170, so not only did it sport a lot of attractive features but it would also complement my existing bass.
I had been looking at some of the Ibanez basses, particularly the SR series which look and feel very smart. A friend has an SR500, and I thought some of the higher end basses in that series looked stunning. The design of the Chapman MLB-1 was not too dissimilar to the SR series, albeit with its own distinct flavour.
I decided to take a chance and preorder one of the first batch of Chapman basses. I ordered it to be shipped to my house, but they were delayed, and as I was coming to England just after Christmas, I decided to collect it from Anderton’s instead (coincidentally, the day after I bought my Epiphone Rosso Corsa).
The MLB-1 has become my firm favourite of my two basses. This is not entirely surprising since it cost three or four times the price of the Yamaha, but once you’ve paid the money for an instrument the cost becomes irrelevant. I really enjoy playing it – I find it a very comfortable instrument to hold and play. The body is relatively small, but it’s still quite heavy because the woods must be quite dense and I don’t think it has any weight relief. Now, around 20 months after getting it, I am still very happy with the bass and I’ve had no desire to look at other basses.
My only question mark – not even really a criticism as such – concerns the design of the controls. It has four knobs – a tone, two volumes and a pickup blend. The two volumes and the pickup blend seem to be a bit redundant – you could get the same functionality from two knobs instead (either the two volumes, or a single volume and a blend, like the Yamaha). For me, that isn’t actually an issue. All of my bass playing is done through Rocksmith (I don’t have a bass amp), and for that I just leave the bass on the bridge pickup all the time, and don’t touch the controls. If that was a real problem, though, it wouldn’t be too difficult to change the controls, since there is a deliberately large control cavity in the back of the body.
This instrument had another major impact on me, since I decided to make a video review of it to publish on YouTube. That was my first video, and I’ve gone on to produce many more videos since then, and now this has led onto the creation of my website. That video is still one of the only videos of the MLB-1 not made by the Chapman Guitars team, and it has had the most views of any of my guitar videos.
It’s a shame that Chapman Guitars has not made any other bass models. I think it’s a great instrument and I’d like to see them build on the success of the design (I don’t know how commercially successful it has been), possibly by making basses with different finishes, or something else like a five-string.
See the Chapman Guitars website