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 had a Lakland 55-02 Deluxe; which was promising in terms of fulfilling my criteria. I would like to share my opinions.
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.
Do you need an expensive guitar, anyway?
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 to a certain degree. 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.
The humbucker isn’t on the StingRay sweet spot. Instead, it covers the 60’s and 70’s Jazz Bass bridge pickup positions. Therefore; the authenticity of it’s 60/70 JB is better than the authenticity of it’s StingRay sound.
The neck single coil has a split coil design, but is still a single coil pickup. Therefore; it leans towards the Jazz Bass neck sound rather than an old mean P-Bass.
Combining those factors, you are getting a 60’s + 70’s Jazz Bass in a single instrument, which can also get into the P & MM ballpark.
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
For the record; there is a famous video of a Lakland demonstration where its tone is compared to the respective classic bass guitars. Lakland has also published sound samples recorded with a 55-02. I have also recorded a video to compare the Lakland with classic bass guitars.
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.
Lakland does mimic other famous basses acceptably well – just by blending pickups & some minor EQ adjustment. However, I can’t say that I got a 100% authentic P-Bass, J-Bass or StingRay sound.
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 55-02 can lean towards either direction, it didn’t sound exactly like those basses. But, it surely covers a lot of sonic ground – many people would say that the sounds are close enough.
To be fair; I could make the Lakland sound like only a P-Bass, J-Bass or StingRay for an entire live show if I EQ’d accordingly. Because in a live situation, many nuances get stepped over by loud drums / guitars anyway. But don’t expect to jump from bass imitation to bass imitation during a single show easily, because you need to mess with the EQ as well – a risky behavior if you don’t have your personal sound engineer.
In the studio, I’d rather have the original bass I’m aiming for.
I also felt like this bass sounded a little thin, possibly due to the ash + maple wood combination. Fixable by EQ, of course; I’m talking about the natural response of the bass.
USA vs Skyline
Lakland 55-02 Deluxe 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 workhorse bass for a while, but I gave it away due to my subjective dissatisfaction in terms of sound authenticity.
However; many people play and enjoy 55-02 basses, so my subjective opinion may be false for you. 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. Having a HS with splittable humbucker is a very flexible setup.
- If your priority is a modern P-Bass sound and you want some J-ish & MM-ish tones next to it, I would recommend a comparison with G&L M-2500
- If your priority is the StingRay sound and want some P-ish & J-ish tones next to it, I would recommend a comparison with StingRay 5 HS
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.