This imported version of the Decade model aims to move Laklands old-school solidbody bass to within the grasp of more players. Review by Gareth Morgan
Dan Lakin’s Lakland company has been producing high-quality basses for 14 years, and back in 2005 they celebrated their 10th anniversary by releasing a new model, the Decade. Now we’ve got an Indonesian-made, USA-designed version, the Skyline Decade.
If you’re familiar with Fender‘s Jaguar Bass or the vintage Bass VI, the Decade is along the same ’60s-looking lines. The first thing you’ll notice about it, though, is how unbelievably heavy it is. It dips the scales at 5kg/11lbs – a serious lump for a four-string bass and a hell of a weight to sling round your neck for the duration of a two-hour gig, even without the luxury (some may say ‘hindrance’) of low B and high C strings.
On top of that, if you thought that the 5kg payload would mean the Decade stays planted squarely in your lap, think again; like Gibson‘s Thunderbird, it’s prone to dive headstock-first to the floor in a very unfortunate manner unless you add a restraining forearm. This fact alone will either put a lot of people off investigating this bass – which would be a shame, as it’s genuinely well-made.
Indeed, get past the weight and the headstock-heaviness and there’s a lot to be admired. The mahogany body is almost 45mm deep, and this depth added to the wood’s density explains the weight. There’s only one finish available; Lakland describes it as burgundy translucent, although we would argue the case for cherry red. It’s rather appealing and certainly not spoiled by the wavy, old-school black plastic scratchplate.
The Decade‘s body comes with a forearm chamfer, a ribcage comfort dent, a bulbous top horn and a truncated lower one. All this cuts a fine-looking figure in a Fender-collides-with-a-Gibson-EB3 kind of way, and gives the Decade a keen sense of individuality.
The Skyline Decade has a rock maple neck screwed to the body via four bolts with no plate, and no effort has been made to reduce the squareness of the heel. The result is a chunky lump and slightly awkward high-register access, but the neck itself is a different story: it isn’t super-slim and fast, yet the comfortable C contour makes it a pleasure to doodle over.
Rather than add a reinforcing volute beneath the nut Lakland has chosen to extend the headstock’s flat back, which then drops down in a carve to meet the rounded neck profile. The black-faced headstock carries four Hipshot-licensed Ultra-Lite tuners with shiny chrome buttons, cool brushed chrome housings and a reassuringly smooth action.
The string tree (Lakland uses the term ‘retainer’) is chrome, while the nut is a hard plastic Delrin compound. The rosewood fingerboard is bound in white plastic and carries 20 medium-gauge frets and block markers plus black dots along the top edge. Finally, the strings terminate at Lakland‘s oval Dual Design bridge, an instantly recognisable design cue. You can string it through the body or as a toploader, as you prefer.
Our Decade is passive (there is an active version available for £200 more). It carries a pair of Lakland Chi-Sonic pickups, with black plastic grilles making them look rather like miniature vintage volume pedals, and the controls comprise a Jazz-style layout of two Volumes and one treble roll-off Tone control.
Let’s start with both pickups on together. In this position the Decade demonstrates a soupy, evocative thud with enough growl and detail at the bottom end for good definition. It’s got a full midrange plus a hint of honky high mids that gives the thinner strings a zingy edge without too much brittleness, and when you zoom up to the higher registers you’ll find enough fatness for all manner of full-sounding fills, from pop to soul. It’s passive, so don’t expect a hi-fi style full range, but when you roll any one of the Volumes fully-off to solo one of the pickups, you’ll find the way they sound to be a pretty good trade-off.
The neck pickup has the kind of acoustic detail that’ll have you checking the Decade for internal cavities. The higher registers are nice and lively, and this pickup would be perfect for playing walking bass over convoluted piano chord changes. The bridge pickup is just as good: even-toned save for a little high-mid bump, it’s both edgy and practical.
As is the way with passive basses, full treble roll-off is woolly and ill-defined. It’s best to use the Tone knob judiciously, and slight treble reductions prove useful in taking the honky edge away from the twin-pickup setting – a great result, nicely rubbery and close to being aural nectar. On the bridge pickup the same subtle roll-off darkens and softens the sound, adding the illusion of added weight to the Decade‘s punch, while the same trick on the neck pickup gives the feeling that the instrument is breathing as you play… albeit with a slightly raspy wheeze.
First, the problems: our review-model Decade is really just too heavy, and you don't get a lot in the way of tonal variation for your 1400. On the other hand, if the weight isn't an issue and you're looking for a bass with an authentic nostalgic look and easily accessible sounds but with modern build quality and materials, the Decade comfortably fits that particular bill. On the whole, it offers just about enough to justify its existence - but the truth is that with half a kilo less weight on board, it would be approaching killer status.