The Sandberg

This is my Sandberg Basic Ken Taylor 30th Anniversary 5-string bass. I love it and it’s starting to be nice to me.

Here are the basic specs for the gear nerds. For more, check out the website.

NECK 6 x bolted / canadian hardrock maple
FRETBOARD 24 frets, 30th Anniversary Inlay
SCALE 864 mm / 34″
FINISH OPTIONS black highgloss, alder body, matched head
HARDWARE sandberg
PICKUP 2 sandberg powerhumbucker / PU-split, metal covers
PREAMP sandberg 3-band, active/passive, passive tone control

Now, I’m not much of a gear nerd, which is why when I first played this baby, I thought it was broken. Compared to my Sound Gear SR900 neck-through, it sounded dull and I thought I’d never get a decent slap sound out of it for Uptown Funk.

What I didn’t realise is this bass, worth three times as much as the SR900, had a warm tone. My bass teacher, John Lebesis, was immediately impressed and was  like “Wow, the tone is unbelievable!”

Is it?! I said it sounded dull and wondered if there was an issue with the pickups compared with the SR900. He plugged in the SR and gave it a bash. (A harmonically perfect bash with a bit of slap and a few pop triplets thrown in.)

“Yeah, so you can hear this has got a really brittle tone, where the Sandberg is really smooth.”

After I snapped out of being amazed by his technique (happens every time I hear and see pros play), I agreed that I did hear that.

He played the Sandberg and made it sound like Jaco Pastorius and explained some things about woods in the construction as well as the quality of the pickups.

Basically what I was hearing was the difference between alder (Sandberg) and hard maple (SR) bodies. The Sandberg also has a rosewood neck as well, which rudimentary research suggests has a warmer tone than the SRs maple neck.

Now, the reason I got the Sandberg wasn’t for its warmer tone (I won’t say it’s a superior tone, because brittle has its place as well). It’s because I thought I needed a 5-string.

Another mate who’s been on the Australian music scene for years had started a new band project called Mollydooker and I reckon they sound so awesome I begged to take the bass gig when their bassist wasn’t available.

First thing he said was the music was tricky (he loves to mess around with time signatures) and the second thing was I needed a 5-string bass for some of the songs.

Now, the tricky music didn’t phase me too much. I figured I’d learn – it was a goal worth striving for – and while it might take a bit of time, time wasn’t money. Money is money and you need it for such things as buying a 5-string bass.

Around the same time I had started dating Helen who is far more fiscally responsible than me and couldn’t understand why six guitars  (including two basses – I had a Hofner Club Bass as well) wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t about to jeopardise the trajectory of our skyrocketing relationship by displaying fiscal irresponsibility so I put the idea to the side.

Only when I started this new band project, in which Uptown Funk (which sounds so much better on the low B) was to be a part of the song list, did I have a stronger argument.

First I did some research and went to the Bass Centre in South Melbourne where I was treated to a cavalcade of fine instruments around my figurative $2000 budget.


The Laklands were in my range, the SR just looked weird and the Warwick didn’t really grab me that much.

The Sandberg looked coolest and even to my untrained ear at the time, sounded best. This was the California VM2 and I liked it straight away out of that bunch. The fact that it was $800 over my fictitious budget might have had something to do with that.

The budget was fictitious because I didn’t have a spare two grand at the time, but I did have a clean credit card and figured some weekly discipline here, a tax return there and it’d be topped up in no time.

Helen was less than excited about that plan so to get this guitar, I needed to come up with a budget-neutral solution.

Gumtree and Facebook sales pages became my friends. I put the Hofner up and got $950 for it. Next to go was a little Orange Terror Bass 500 hybrid amp I used to sling over my shoulder. Geez I regretted that – it was an awesome little amp.

At that stage I was playing the SR900 through a Hartke HA3500 and VX410 + VX115. I call it my newb rig.

Hartke rig

I call it my newb rig because I got it because it looked cool as a loungeroom ornament, but in a practical sense, it lacked. It was ridiculous to think I’d be carting both cabs around to anything and even lugging the 3500 with the 410 was a pain in the lower back.

The idea of cranking it to 11 and running both bins at once in the loungeroom had eviction written all over it so essentially it was never going to get used as the manufacturer intended.

The Terror Bass and the 115 (which was my very first rig) would have been more than adequate and after seven months of carting around the HA3500 and 410 along with the bass, pedalboard and stands using a hand trolley, it made perfect sense why such a neat little amp was a cool option.

I’ve since upgraded to a much lighter combo.

In the meantime, I’d been scouring eBay, Gumtree and Facebook for a Sandberg and lo! The Ken Taylor appeareth in the Adelaide suburbs and I saw that it was good. It was also $500 cheaper than the VM2.

I can totally recommend Pack & Send for delivery, by the way. When it arrived in Melbourne, the store guy called then happily disposed of the wrapping after checking it hadn’t suffered damage.

I slung the gig bag over my shoulders and returned to work. Never more excited, showing everyone who cared to look. Nothing beats that new bass feeling.

Anyway, I’m rambling. I’ll write more later. Gotta get in some practice before the gig on Saturday!


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