If you have read my past blog posts, you probably know that I have purchased & sold more basses than I would like to admit. Each bass I buy looks promising in some way, but I get dissatisfied by some other aspect; so I replace it with another one.
With every new replacement, I got closer to perfection. This time, I have a Lakland 55-02 Deluxe; which is promising in terms of fulfilling my criteria. I would like to share them with you.
First of all, Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is an affordable bass. Even if it’s broken or stolen, it can be replaced with a broken heart but without a broken bank account. I can also leave it to the roadie or at the stage unattended without worrying too much. If you ever owned a boutique bass, you know the struggle: The stress of caring for your instrument can overcome the joy of playing it. As an active musician on the go, I ended up playing my backup instrument more than my main. However, an affordable high quality stunt bass is like the best of both worlds: You love your instrument and don’t worry too much about it.
For the record, here is a guide on deciding if a commodity is too expensive for you: Is That Too Expensive?
Don’t let the price tag fool you. Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is not your typical low profile overseas instrument. Although the woodwork is done in Indonesia; the final assembly, plek work and QA is made in the USA. Once again, you get the best of both worlds: A high quality instrument with an agreeable price.
And I can really feel the quality. The plek work is good enough to support a very low action setup without buzz, and the 35″ scale provides a very clear B string which I happen to use a lot.
The high quality feeling depends on a good setup though. In case you are wondering how I setup my Lakland, check my post How I Setup My Basses
Tonewise, this bass is a chameleon. It can mimic the P, PJ, J, Jaco and StingRay sounds very nicely in the studio (not so much in a live situation – read further). Lakland fairly admits that the bass was designed to mimic those classic models in the first place. The overall design of the bass and the advanced coil split capabilities of the humbucker offers a tonal versatility second to none.
In case you are wondering how I tone my Lakland, check my post How I EQ my Basses
To increase the versatility even more, Lakland lets you select your mid frequency via a dipswitch on the board of the guitar. In case you are wondering about the frequencies, here is a comparison chart of Lakland with some alternative preamps (source).
– LH3: Bass 12dB @ 125 Hz, Mid 18dB @ 225-1100 Hz, Treble 12dB @ 1.250 Hz
– OBP-3: Bass 18dB @ 40 Hz, Mid 16dB @ 400/800 Hz, Treble 16dB @ 6.500 Hz
– NTMB: Bass 14dB @ 30 Hz, Mid 10dB @ 250/500/800 Hz, Treble 16dB @ 1.000 Hz
Beyond the versatility of this bass guitar, one thing that really pleases me is the silence. Due to the pickup design, there is no hum involved. The neck pickup has two coils with opposing polarities within, and the bridge humbucker has four coils with opposing polarities within. As a result of that design; you don’t get any hum whichever pickup combination you choose. Considering that even some very expensive high end basses have humming single coil pickups, that’s a major benefit for me.
To be fair, I would also like to share some of my observed delicacies.
35″ is a good choice for a nice tight B string; however, it also means that the rest of the strings are tight as well. This can be tiring for unaccustomed fingers. I started using a pick on fast paced rock songs; which is luckily something that I’m used to.
Talking about strings; stringing a 35″ bass through the body means that I have limited options of XL strings. However, stringing through the bridge is also possible – I simply prefer otherwise. Not because of any tone difference though – I merely like the idea of the strings pressing the bridge to the body more than strings pulling the bridge off the body.
I should also add that I’m not really satisfied with how this bass sounded in a live situation. In my home studio, this bass did mimic other famous basses acceptably well. However; the nuances that define the versatility of this bass got digested and stepped over by loud drums and guitars in a rock band situation. My expectation was to switch from P-Bass to J-Bass to StingRay from song to song, but frankly, I ended up sounding similar in every setting.
A real P-Bass has more emphasis on the punch, a real J-Bass has more emphasis on the growl, and a real StingRay has more emphasis on the snarl. Although the Lakland can lean towards either direction, it didn’t sound exactly like those basses at all in a live situation. Maybe that’s just me; how a bass sounds is a really complex formula including the room, PA, amp, etc. But for the first time in my life, I experienced such a gap between my home studio and a live situation. Don’t take my word for it; read opinions of other people and play the bass for yourself before making a final decision on that matter.
I also felt like this bass sounded a little thin, possibly due to the ash + maple wood combination. I seem to be an alder + rosewood type of guy.
Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is so good that it makes me wonder about the 100% USA made 55-14 or 55-94. After a certain price point, you get diminished returns for your instrument. I expect the physical and tonal differences between a 55-02 & 55-94 to be much less than the price difference. That’s also the case with batch produced vs custom shop instruments of other brands. With a custom shop instrument; the wood and workmanship consistency and quality is definitely there. However, a lucky purchase of a production instrument of the same model can get close enough to make you wonder why the other one is so expensive. In my conjectural opinion, the comparison between 55-02 and 55-94 would be similar because they share the same specs, the exact same electronics and production after-touches such as plek implementation.
A quote from the forums says “A Skyline is all you need, a USA is all you want.” Another quote says “85% of the bass at 50% of the cost”. I think that those summarise the deal.
Lakland 55-02 was my secondary bass for a while, but currently I use a Jazz Bass instead – due to my disappointment in the live setting. In case you are wondering, my main is a Fodera.
In case you are looking for an affordable high-quality instrument with unbeatable versatility, I still recommend listing the Lakland 55-02 Deluxe among your alternatives.
If you live in Turkey, I can recommend getting one from Limon Muzik. I ordered my Lakland in the afternoon over WhatsApp, and I had it in my hand on the next morning. Great staff too.