Fender Music Australia | Price: $2,599
Very few contemporary bassists are as daring and inventive with instrument in hand as MonoNeon is. An outlandish operator that invokes the kookiness of George Clinton’s P-Funk empire, the Memphis-born funk freak plays a left-handed bass upside down, allowing him to work with a wholly unique tool kit of tones.
With a penchant for slapping, tapping, palm-muting, and outrageously heavy bends, his unorthodox playing style has helped land him gigs with the likes of Prince, Nas, NeYo, and beyond, as well as garnering high praise from Flea and Marcus Miller. He’s also an incredibly prolific solo artist in his own right, and his explorations into microtonal music should be key listening for any savvy student.
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A bassist of MonoNeon’s calibre is surely deserving of a signature instrument, and Fender has certainly delivered with its inaugural offering. Tailored to suit the requirements of the genre-bending iconoclast, it’s a signature instrument that truly stands out from the pack, with striking looks, versatile tones, and tasty bespoke appointments on offer.
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Featuring an alder body with a lavish roasted maple neck and fretboard, the MonoNeon Jazz Bass V is decked out in a glossy hi-vis neon yellow finish, while its pickguard and headstock is painted a similarly fluorescent orange. Such a striking colour combination might be a turn-off for some, but personally, I quite enjoyed the quirkiness of playing a bass that looks like a construction worker – horses for courses.
Other bespoke additions to the MonoNeon Jazz Bass V include gold hardware, pearloid block fret inlays, a bottom-mounted input jack, and a Fender HiMass bass bridge for enhanced sustain and intonation. The gold hardware pairs well with the instrument’s loud fluorescent finish, and the HiMass bridge makes a really prominent impact on the overall playing experience when plugged in.
Given their oversized dimensions, five-string basses can sometimes feel a little awkward to play, and it’s easy for players to be discouraged by their formidable neck profiles. The MonoNeon Jazz Bass V avoids this by opting for a modern C-shaped neck with a 10”-14” compound radius fretboard, providing it with a really natural, comfortable feel in hand.
It’s wide, but not chunkily so, allowing you to navigate all five strings with ease across the length of the fretboard. On that note, the roasted maple neck and fingerboard is a major highlight of this model, and it’s something I’d love to see Fender dabble more with in the future. It feels and looks sensational, and the extra snap and sustain it delivers is worthy of the price of admission.
A major selling point of this MonoNeon signature model is the custom electronics, with Fender tweaking the voicing of its Fireball humbucking pickups to suit Mono’s personal tastes. These two humbuckers sound fat as hell and are incredibly responsive across all frequencies, dishing up beefy lows, tight mids, and crispy treble to boot.
These pickups are complemented by an 18V active preamp with a three-band EQ, offering plenty of headroom and a plethora of tones to play with. The preamp can also be engaged by a discrete mini-toggle switch, and it’s a nice touch to be able to flick between passive and active tones when required.
The first two knobs on the bass function as a master volume and pickup selector, while the stacked third and fourth allow you to boost or cut the treble, mid, and bass frequencies. It’s great to have so much tonal versatility, however I did find it a little puzzling that there’s no coil splitting on offer, particularly when single-coil tones are such a mainstay of the funk-soul bass canon – a very minor gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
Given its groovy aesthetics, it’s difficult to resist the urge to bust out your funk chops with the MonoNeon Jazz Bass V in hand, and it’s in this field where the bass really performs best. It’s an absolute slap machine thanks to its smooth neck and bitey high-end tone, while the accentuated midrange makes it incredibly friendly for Chic-inspired disco bass lines as well.
Although it’d be rude to deprive this bass of some choppy funk playing, MonoNeon’s signature offering is also very capable for those looking to use it for other styles. By rolling off the tone and employing a heavy right-hand palm mute, you’ll be well-equipped for classic Motown and neo-soul grooves, particularly if you’re bouncing around that big top B string.
The active 18V preamp also lends itself well to aggressive fingerstyle or plectrum-based riffs thanks to the hefty volume bump it delivers, and the humbuckers can dish up some dirt when pressed with a drive pedal. There’s no reason why this bass wouldn’t suit the needs of a player dabbling in progressive, alternative, or jazz-fusion styles, particularly if tonal versatility is at the top of your list of must-haves.
While its flashy aesthetic might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s near impossible to knock the MonoNeon Jazz Bass V in any other department. It’s a sensational feeling bass that’s extremely comfortable and fun to play, and the abundance of tones on tap make it a no-brainer for any demanding session bassist playing in the studio or onstage.
It’s refreshing to see Fender team up with such a unique player to make a product that’s genuinely different from anything else on the market – signature basses seldom get this good, and MonoNeon is a more-than-worthy recipient of such a quality instrument.