Years passed. Occasionally I’d think about ABGs, but, remembering the previous disappointment, abandon the thought. That continued for a long time until one day, killing time on Denmark St in London, I wandered into Hank’s Guitar Shop. They specialize in acoustic instruments and sure enough, had a small but reasonable selection of ABGs there. I tried a few and found them, once again, underwhelming. Ready to leave, I idly picked up a Breedlove fretless and had a strum. An hour later I was still on it. It was a revelation. The best tone I had heard from an ABG, beautifully setup and an absolute joy to play. The knowledgeable (and extremely patient) assistant there told me that Breedlove is a well known and highly regarded manufacturer of acoustic guitars, who also happen to make good ABGs. I’d never heard of them before but I was sold. This bass was exactly what I had been looking for.
Well, almost. There was one small problem. Everything from the 12th fret up was golden. It was a soloist’s dream. But when you moved down and started digging into those bass notes, things fell apart. It was all still there, that lovely tone and playability, but just… weak. It was gutting. Over the next couple of weeks I slipped into Hank’s regularly, trying to convince myself that it was ok. I’d be using an amp on gigs anyway so I could just eq the bass up, I reasoned. It was churlish to complain about the bottom end when the top end was so damn good, I whined. You can’t have everything, I lied. I’d fallen in love with this instrument and was completely trying to talk myself into it. I was like that guy out of ‘The Crying Game’, minus the homophobic self-disgust.
Finally sense prevailed and I let it go (although to this day I sometimes wonder about what could’ve been…) But a door had been opened and I’d seen how good an ABG could potentially be. I began my search again but this time on the net, canvassing opinions and dropping questions on forums. I found a small but useful vein of ABG clips on YouTube which were incredibly helpful. These ranged from performance videos to guys noodling in their bedrooms, and were great for giving an idea of the sound. After a little research 2 clear contenders emerged. They were the Tacoma Thunderchief and the Warwick Alien. Both had great reviews and were consistently cited as the best ABGs in terms of quality and unamplified bass volume. They were very similar in body styling, build quality and price point, and having seen and heard them on Youtube, I was convinced that either of them would do what I needed.
The only problem remaining was how to get hold of one.