Distributed by: EGM Distribution | egm.net.au | Expect to pay: $6,999
There’s few names who’ve brought about as much change in the world of Bass as Ned Steinberger has. After designing the revered Spector NS-1 in the late ‘70s and radically challenging instrument manufacturing as the world knew it with his first run of headless guitars just years later, Steinberger has always been synonymous with innovation. The recent launch of the CR6 Radius – a premium model from the Steinberger- helmed NS Design – only seeks to prolong that legendary status, offering up a meticulously crafted and feature-packed bass that represents the pinnacle of contemporary instrument design.
Built by an expert team of luthiers at NS Designs’ headquarters in the Czech Republic, the six-string CR6 Radius is a true monster of a bass to suit the needs of the most professional of players. It’s crafted from a deft chunk of maple and features a gorgeous flamed top that oozes class, with its slick contours and featherweight making for a comfortable feel whether seated or standing. The maple Fusion neck -defined by its wide, thin profile – and ebony fretboard of the CR6 makes for a superb sounding and feeling combination, and of course, neck dive is totally eliminated by that iconic headless design, ensuring you don’t pull up sore after a heavy night of tearing up those 24 frets.
For the CR6 Radius, NS Design have enlisted the services of pickup gurus EMG to create two custom-voiced humbuckers that certainly don’t skimp on tonal versatility, even when plugged into the most punishing of setups. These two humbuckers are accompanied by a piezo system located in the bridge of the instrument to tap into an even broader array of tones, with four rotary knobs adjusting the Volume, Piezo/EMG Blend, Bass and Treble of the bass. There’s also another two three-way rocker switches above these knobs that function as a three-way pickup selector switch and piezo EQ respectively, and if that’s not enough, all of these electronics are fed into an inbuilt 18v preamp for ultra-high headroom and unparalleled tonal versatility.
One important thing to note about the NS Design CR6 Radius is the off-kilter – yet oh so functional – headless design. Void of traditional tuning pegs, the bass is tuned by a series of self-clamping precision controls located past the bridge, with the ball end of the string being fed into the six slots that occupy where a headstock should be. This NS Patented Tuning mechanism might feel a little alien at first, and granted, it does make quick drop- tuning adjustments a little longer than usual, but the level of precision and tuning stability it provides is truly astounding.
At risk of sounding like I’m gushing for the sake of it, playing the CR6 really is quite an eye-opening experience – particularly as a bassist with a penchant for vintage spec instruments. This bass is a masterstroke of modern design, and really does pack everything you’d expect from the Steinberger hive mind into one be-all end-all of an instrument. The concave back makes sure the bass sits flush against your torso, while the longer top horn and beveled cutaway of the body make for both a natural balance and easy access to the nether regions of the fretboard – two design factors that are so often sorely overlooked by other bass manufacturers.
Despite its wide neck profile – a necessity to cater for its six-stringed design – the CR6 is incredibly nimble and ergonomic, and is far more inviting than you’d initially assume. Walking bass lines are a piece of cake, intricate chordal runs prove to be a breeze, slapping is made simple by that wonderfully spacious fretboard, and with pick in hand, the CR6 is an absolute weapon for pummelling down-stroke playing.
As vibrant as that flame maple top might sound when played acoustically, the CR6 Radius is something else unto itself when plugged in. The EMG humbuckers sound full and punchy when clean and absolutely blistering when driven, particularly when you’re slamming on that low B string with all pickups engaged. On the contrary, the piezo is a nifty touch for bringing out some of that natural resonance, and when engaged with the tone of the 18v preamp rolled off, you’ll be able to tap into some warm, woody tones that’ll please any jazz purist.
Even the most funky of top-end runs on the high C string cut through without overpowering guitars or keys in the mix, The sheer sonic versatility of this instrument is quite amazing – at times, overwhelmingly so – and it’s here where the CR6 Radius proves its status as a bass for the most professional of players.
With such a sophisticated feature set and phenomenal build quality obviously warranting a sizeable price-tag, it goes without saying that this creation from NS Design definitely isn’t for everyone: it’s a bass that only the best of players will manage to conquer, and in unweathered hands, it’ll seem almost bewildering to some. Nevertheless, in all my years, I’ve never played an instrument quite as well-built and versatile than the CR6 Radius, and I can confidently say that it’s bass in a whole league of its own. Buy one of these, and you’ll never need another bass again – or, at least, another year.
Find out more about the NS Design CR6 Radius here.