Vigier Bass: Arpege IV 4-string bass & Passion IV 5-string bass Review
Since they first started making instruments in 1978, Vigier has always taken an innovative approach to building guitars and basses. They’ve pioneered and championed various construction improvements such as carbon fibre neck reinforcement and composite fretboards and have never shied away from the unusual, such as a fretless guitar with a metal fretboard.
The basses always stand out from the crowd too, as we found in our March 2008 review of the Excess Roger Glover signature. This month it’s the turn of the Passion IV 5-string and, first up, the Arpege IV 4-string.
Even though it cuts an up-to-the-minute figure with its extended upper horn and chamfered lower cutaway, you can still see hints of the Jazz in the Arpege IV’s design. Edges are bevelled into gentle curves, and forearm and ribcage chamfers add playing comfort. Our review model has a rich amber finish through which you can clearly see the beautiful concentric grain pattern of the two-piece flame maple top. Vigier have also decorated the back with flame maple, with a chunk of good old alder being the meat in the maple sandwich.
Secured by five bolts, the neck is made using Vigier’s 90/10 System in which maple is reinforced by a dense carbon fibre strip. The boon of this system is that the improved strength and stability makes a trussrod redundant and minimises the need to regularly set up action and intonation. It’s a slim, fast neck, comfortable under the hand, and it culminates in an amber-finished flame-maple veneered distorted oblong headstock with centrally-placed logo and four chrome Schaller tuners.
As well as a Teflon/graphite nut, Vigier fit a zero fret (designed to reduce tonal differences between open and fretted notes) and a Phenowood fingerboard. Phenowood is made from wood pulp injected with phenolic resin and the result is extremely stable and hard-wearing and, says Vigier, has better resonance than pure wood. There are 24 medium nickel frets, and small dot markers along the top edge. The Vigier bridge takes the form of four individual units, each with locking saddles.
Active electronics power a pair of Vigier soapbars and a three-band EQ, but the presence of two 9v batteries and three knurled chrome stack knobs reveals the Arpege’s major feature: each pickup has its own EQ. This is the first time we’ve ever encountered this system and it promises great things in the way of tonal variation.
The Arpege IV really does play like a dream and the basic sound is good, with a solid bottom end, a clean and even midrange and highs that haven’t been trespassed upon by high mids. Some might argue that without nasal zing you haven’t got a true contemporary bass sound, but it’s refreshing to get a proper, full-range tone.
The dual EQ system is interesting as it allows two levels of boost in twin pickup mode. Dialling in one Bass EQ produces warmth and increases stylistic versatility, while adding the second simply amplifies this a little – it doesn’t go seismic and it’s highly practical with plenty of definition and undeniable rock’n’roll leanings. Back in single EQ land, the neck pickup is all earthy thud; the bridge has a subtle nasal gurgle but, with added bottom, it’s fat and practical.
The story is similar elsewhere: one Mid boost pushes your tone forwards, adding a hint of funky gurgle, a second dose increases this effect a little. Single boost on neck pickup induces the sort of wiry bark you get from a Fender Jazz, whereas with the bridge pickup the notes are snappier and more solid – and funky and practical with Bass boost added. The Treble knob produces plenty of cut and bite with open, musical highs; you get a touch of finger noise, but it’s not excessive. In single pickup/single EQ modes, more subtle use of the Treble control lets you polish or add aggressive intent to each variation without much fret clank.
Other than the extra string, the Passion is put together in the same way as the Arpege IV. Beneath the amethyst purple finish we get a flame maple top and back over an alder core, more even rear bouts, a less access-chamfered lower horn and a slightly slimmed-down, spiky-looking upper horn. The neck is just as speedy and enjoyable; it too uses the 90/10 maple/carbon system, and on the dot-free Phenowood fingerboard the 24th fret of the B string is sacrificed for art’s sake.
The headstock matches the body and is of identical mass, even though it bears an added tuner. The individual bridge units are the same as on the Arpege IV, too. The main difference is in pickup placement: here the bridge soapbar is very close to the bridge (10mm closer than on the Arpege) and the second pickup is only 17mm away from it. Powering for the active electronics also requires two 9v batteries but the roster of controls is simpler: Volume, Balance, and a three-band EQ.
The Passion has a fairly tight, focused B-string while the other overiding first impression is that the twin pickup sound is too nasal; there’s reasonable bottom and some treble response, but it’s a bit buried. Involving EQ here gets you plenty of rumble, cut and bite, and upping the mids proves a partial antidote to the scooped sound.
The neck/centre position is better – more full-range with a nice even midrange and open highs – and the bridge pickup, while snappy with a burpy edge, is also a more useful option. Introducing EQ improves the bridge pickup, keeping the growl and snap but adding width. The same action with the neck pickup gives an earthy variation with sweet highs and lots of old soul and rock applications.
These are really well-made basses, styled and built making sensible use of modern techniques and materials. With the Passion, nasal bias notwithstanding, you get a tight B string and a musical EQ system with some decent variations on offer. The Arpege’s twin EQ assault is innovative and practical and set up to enhance a really good-sounding instrument. The prices are steep, but if you’re looking to splurge on something special or just treat yourself, Vigier basses are worth checking out.
Description: Arpege IV – Solidbody four-string bass, Made in France – Passion IV – Solidbody five string bass, Made in France
Price: Arpege IV – £3159 inc. hard case/Passion IV – £2919 inc. hard case
Article Source: http://www.guitar-bass.net/