Meridian basses are complety handmade in Avezzano, Italy, by luthier Davide Cardone.
These are basses that have been designed from scratch following some really artistical lines. Davide studied arts in Italy and you can tell that just by looking at the perfect proportions of his insttruments. We also love the fact that these are original designs and not just another copy of famous "boutique" basses, if you know what we mean.
As you can see there's a certain modern design to these basses but the use of quality tonewoods anchors them within the fine tradition of Italian lutherie. We love this perfect blend of form and function.
We love the fact that all Meridian basses include some information about the year that the wood for the body and/or neck was cut. This averages 35 years and of course the wood has been drying ever since so as you can expect this makes for exceptionally stable instruments. Davide is also a firm believer in thin finish. If the finish is too thick or if it is thin but too many layers are applied, he feels that the wood cannot vibrate freely, resulting in a slightly muffled tone.
The combination of light woods that have been drying for years plus just the right amount of layers of thin coat plus light hardware make for basses that feel strong, are vibrant and of course can be played for hours with no fatigue.
The icing on the cake is the neck which is slim and ultra comfortable.
This model is named MOJO II and it is the latest one in his catalog. The whole idea here is to create a medium scale bass that plays and sounds like a dream and is featherlight thanks in part to the semihollow construcction.
This is the 5 string fretless version and it's a unique instrument.
The kaya mahogany body (cut in 1982) is 45mm thick instead of 38mm, the idea here being that a thicker body will add resonance, especially being semihollow
A hard rock maple neck that was cut back in 1986 is safely bolted to the body with 6 bolts. Access up to the end of the fingerboard is surprisingly easy. Using this selection of wood that was cut decades ago ensures stability. Great job!
The fingerboard is made from phenolic resin and this is one of favorite materials for fingerboards, even more on a fretless where a hard surface like this has two advantages:
1- It will last longer and won't wear nearly half as much as wood from the direct contact of strings and
2.- The hard surface prevents the string's vibrations from being damped and this produces a longer sustain and creates the sought after growl and "mwah" factor that we all love on a fretless bass.
We love the aluminium special markers on the side and the front of the fingerboard. That's all you need for playing in tune while the fingerboard looks nice and clean.
There's an absolutely cool cedar top from 1960 that adds to the "acoustic" look and feel. Simply beautiful. We dig the tripe binding surrounding it too.
A pair of Delano SBC pickups are mounted at the right spot for an incredibly array of top quality sounds.
The bass sounds fantastic in Passive. In that mode you actually get Single-Humbucker operation for each pickup plus Passive Tone so there are plenty of sounds on tap.
If you need more power or versatility just move to Active mode. This bass comes with one of our all time favorite electronics: John East preamp from the U.K. This is an extremely musical preamp that really lets the natural character of the instrument get through while adding a lot of options. You get 3 band EQ with sweepable mids, treble boost.
There's a switch that changes from Dual Coil to Single Coil for each pickup, so depending on the type of sound you need you can just use that. There's a 3 band EQ and all 3 bands are extremely musical: Deep lows and no muddiness at all from the Bass Control, incredible note definition from the Midrange and super versatile control of the high frequencies using the Treble pot. But there's more: pulling the Treble pot engages a Treble Boost for even more definition and detail. We also love the fact that the Passive Tone works in Active mode too.
Using the bridge pickup alone will probably give you all the fretless sounds you could ever ask for. The range of sounds here is amazing and this is one of those basses where right hand touch makes a huge impact on the sound. Then there's the neck pickup that adds warmth and body to the sound and is just perfect if you need more low end when playing with drums, etc.
Regarding the hardware, the bridge is a Hipshot Style B unit with 18mm spacing. Tuners are Hipshot Ultralite, helping keep the weight of the bass controlled as well as reducing neck diving. We just love the neck and overall playability. The combination of a narrow nut (43mm) with a standard spacing bridge (18mm) is probably one of the best recipies for comfort in both hands. Some 5 string basses feel a bit intimidating but in this case the slim neck and perfect dimensions make playing the MOJO II bass a breeze. The nut, buy the way, is made from carbon fiber, excellent choice and again proof that Meridian basses are all about details.
Of course the fact that the scale of this bass is 32" makes it incredibly comfortable. Everything is at hand. We can only describe this as one of the most comfortable 5 string basses we've ever tried. The amazing thing here is that the low B here is phenomenal. It sounds full, clear and every note sounds the way it should. Actually it sounds and feels better than on many 34" basses. Incredible!
To sum up: an incredibly well designed high end handmade bass that sports really stable tonewoods, top notch hardware and electronics and is a pure work of art to look for as well as an instrument that will give you years of service and pleasure. It is also probably the most comfortable 5 string bass we've tried in the last few years. If you are looking for a serious and unique 5 string fretless bass but don't want to spend a fortune, this is your best option.
By the way, the included gigbag matches some costing 300€ and completes a simply gorgeous instrument.