Beloved by Duran Duran and a pre-nose job Sting, the SB-1000 was also used to ferocious effect by Metallicas Cliff Burton. Gareth Morgan samples a none-more-black tribute
Until his untimely death in a still unexplained road accident in Sweden in September 1986, Cliff Burton was the bassist in the engine room of the metal juggernaut that is Metallica. Although most often pictured wielding a Rickenbacker 4001, Burton, along with the likes of Jack Bruce and John Taylor of Duran Duran, also extensively employed an Aria SB-1000. The new SB-1000CB is Aria’s attempt to recreate that instrument, giving present-day Burton fans the opportunity to sample the vibe and pay a fitting tribute to his sorely-missed talents.
This isn’t the first bass to rekindle the SB fire since the start of the new millennium. In 2003 Aria introduced the SB-505 (reviewed in G&B Sep 03, Vol 14 No 5), which retained the familiar shape but came with added extras. The 505 was loaded with two pickups, a three-band EQ and a selector switch that handled pickup selection and configuration. With the new CB model, Aria has adhered to the classic ’80s design in build, pickup and controls.
The basic shape of the SB-1000 and the new CB model is undeniably derivative of the Jazz Bass template, but Aria has done a splendid job of morphing it into a more contemporary shape. They did this by exaggerating the oval quality of the bottom bouts r access.
As this is a through-neck instrument, the wings are glued on to a central section, and thick slabs of ash lurk beneath the soupy black overcoat. There’s no forearm chamfer along the top edge, but the rear features a ribcage contour along with an electronics housing plate, plus there’s dual quick-release compartments for the two 9V batteries required to fire up the SB’s active EQ and internal noise-killer circuit.
There’s no heel at all at the point where neck becomes body, so top-fret noodling is a cinch. The central section of the body and the neck are both made up of a five-piece maple/mahogany sandwich – a feature that Aria sometimes highlighted on older SB’s by not applying the solid finish used on the body wings. Here, the all-covering plain black finish makes this new SB look much more rocky. The black-lacquered neck is comfortable, slim and fast. Follow it to its furthest extent and you’ll reach a tapered, back-angled oblong headstock with the same subtle scroll on the end found on the ’80s models. It carries a short essay assuring us that it’s been designed and approved by the Aria Research and Development Lab, and it comes fitted with a shiny brass nut and two rows of neatly-fitted Aria tuners – in black to match the finish and the rest of the hardware. The truss rod access cover neatly tracks the shape of the headstock but its unlacquered wood look doesn’t really match the rest of the bass. The ebony fingerboard carries 24 medium nickel frets with traditional dots on its top edge and bigger imitation mother of pearl ‘eye’ markers on its face.
The black Gotoh J510-B4 bridge is of the basic top-loader variety, less intricate than the ’80s string-through original. As we’ve mentioned, the electronics are active. The single Aria MB-1E Dual Coil pickup is hitched up to a Volume and a Tone control with a six-position Pickup Attack Mode (PAM) rotary. Each position provides a pre-biased tonal starting point relating to particular frequencies: taking them in order from bridge to neck we get 186Hz, 229Hz, 340Hz, 496Hz, 723Hz and 1.4kHz, and each can be further shaped by the basic Tone control. This gives the promise of vast tonal variation, and if you find you don’t like the pre-set tone system, just flick the small chrome switch downwards to bypass.
The PAM control promises more than it delivers, but the SB-1000CB is just about good enough as a tribute bass. Although itll look cool on pop or soul gigs, the EQ isnt really set up for easily getting the right sound in anything other than a rock context. Its also a little pricey, but the build quality and styling alone do justify your outlay. If youre a serious rocker, add the SB-1000CB to your browsing list.