Model 34 aluminum electric bass guitar
In 1999 the ABC 0.750 bass guitar was born forth. Now, after almost two decades of observation and ideation; rumination and pondering; hemming, hawing, and no small amount of working day jobs, Obstructures has completed a major redesign of this instrument. So much of a redesign in fact that it's a whole new instrument—the Model 34. We're also proud to announce that our work has received a gold prize in the Internation Design Awards (IDA), Product design / Other products category.
Through the many iterations of our guitar design, we have strived to make design decisions based on performance objectives and criteria that describe them. those criteria have primarily been material efficiency, accessibility to the player, and (perhaps most importantly) quality and robustness of tone.
The model 34 utilizes a through-neck design, with pickups and bridge directly mounted to the neck for optimal tone. The rigidity of an aluminum through-neck provides an enormous amount of sustain, and our solid aluminum body provides maximum shielding around the pickups providing incredible noise reduction.
Unlike our previous instruments, the placement of the pickup(s) is optimized using custom software to plot the waveforms of the first twelve harmonics of the first twelve fretted notes. Pickups are placed so that their pole pieces are positioned in harmonically rich locations, avoiding as many ‘dead’ harmonic nodes as possible.
As with all of our instruments, the density and mass of the solid aluminum design means both increased frequency range, and more consistent output across frequencies: fewer dead spots due to inconsistencies in material and inherent resonances. While the guitar is heavy, the tonal benefits definitely make it worth the weight. And the all aluminum design allows for a host of other features as well.
Our guitars are the thinnest on the market, measuring between 0.625 and 0.750 inches. This new bass model is no different, with a body 0.750” thick. The ‘reversed’ tuning pegs on the headstock are a solution to a problem related to the typical slant of a guitar’s headstock. A slanted headstock on a single-piece aluminum neck requires more material, more machine time, and more waste—yet our unique design allows us to minimize all three by creating a hole for the strings to dive into, maintaining proper tension in the nut. These design maneuvers translate into less material used and less material wasted.
The axial symmetry of the design allows for the same level of playability either for both right- and left-handed musicians down to having two jacks and even the ability to relocate the strap button to the opposite horn. All one needs to do is flip the nut. But achieving this ambidexterity in the design wasn’t easy.
While every 6-string guitar we’ve produced has been ambidextrous, our initial bass prototype lacked this feature. The scale of this bass guitar is about 34 inches; on a higher pitched 6-string guitar it’s about 25”. Due to this increased scale length, the bridge mounts very close to the edge of the body. It seemed impossible to fit the electronics and controls ‘behind’ the bridge, as we do on our other instruments. This has been solved in the current design—we have made significant changes to the size and shape of the electronics compartment, making it so compact that it can be located behind the bridge—thus achieving the ambidexterity that has been a hallmark of all our instruments. Quite literally, it’s the most minimal compartment one can have on the instrument while still offering essential controls.
Double output jacks on either side of the bridge allow for normal cable placement, whether the user is left- or right-handed. It also allows for more complicated output schemes—coil-tapping and bi-amping hum-bucking pickups for instance.
It goes almost without saying that an instrument made of aluminum rather than wood or plastic is going to last for quite a long time. And that fact isn’t lost on us. Guitars can take an enormous amount of abuse on stage, on tour, sometimes on fire. A well-designed and well-made guitar is an expensive proposition, but a truly well-designed instrument should provide a lifetime (or more) of musical pleasure no matter the abuse it may endure. We’re confident that this bass guitar satisfies those requirements.
It also utilizes an integrated custom bridge design that we began working on ten years ago. We machine an array of small, arced ramps into the guitar’s body where the strings pass through to the bridge saddles. This relieves the stress and strain at the point where the strings ‘crease’—the point where they fail most often.
And now we’ve finally found the elephant in the room: an aluminum guitar is going to weight noticeably more than one made of wood. The prototype from 1999 was admittedly too heavy to ever get into the hands of a large segment of musicians. Not only was the instrument heavy (about 20 pounds), but the balance of the instrument—how heavy the neck is versus the body—demanded some fine tuning as well. This required some thought, some engineering, and a whole new approach to our neck design.
Fundamentally we’ve made three improvements: (1) developing a removable fretboard, which allows for (2) removing a large amount of material from inside the neck; and (3) on top of this we’ve trimmed up the sectional profile of the neck down its entire length.
For several years we’ve played with the notion of a removable fretboard on our instruments. Primarily because at least one of us at Obstructures is enamored with alternate tuning systems. We’re yet to realize a guitar that supports multiple tuning systems. But the concept of making the neck out of two pieces (the 1999 model’s neck, as with all of our previous guitars, was made of a single, solid aluminum billet) opened up the possibility of removing material from beneath the fretboard. This removal of material from beneath the fretboard lightens the neck by about half which is a significant improvement in both weight and balance.
The 1999 model had a neck that was lathe-turned and sliced in half. This meant that a section crosswise through the neck was circular. Like a baseball bat. In order to shave off as much extra weight as possible, the neck was remodeled around elliptical sections. This has the added benefit of making the neck ‘faster’ in the hand. A combination of both outer and inner elliptical profiles helps to ensures sufficient stiffness which is critical to increased sustain.
While we like to think of these guitars as ‘tools’, given their durability and reliability, make no mistake: they’re also designed to be highly accurate instruments for the generation of musical sounds and mayhem.