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By Jim Gault
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
Laguna isn't a well-known name in the bass world. Not yet. But the Ocean TB70 and TB75 basses are sure to amp up Laguna's bass cred. These are really ace basses . . . beautiful and distinctive in design, constructed of choice-quality tone woods that give them both eye appeal and great sound. They are equipped with fantastic electronics. The hardware is top-end, and they have a hand feel that makes them a joy to play. They are the kind of basses that make a player's eyes light up at first sight, and then live up to their promise when first played. There are two Ocean models—a four-stringer and a five that are otherwise identical.
The primary feature of the Oceans is their neck-thru construction. A thick, figured, soft maple body sandwiches a five-piece wenge and maple neck that is continuous from headstock to tail. As a result, they are especially long-sustaining basses with smooth, rich tone—deep and clear on the low end and bright, snappy on the top. This resonance is enhanced by a brass nut and a fairly massive and hi-tech-looking bridge. Their tonal quality is on a par with two other famous neck-thru basses that are considered top tone machines and cost well over twice as much as the Ocean basses.
In addition to extending through the body, the Ocean necks are super-strong because of their multi-laminate construction. Both have a 15-3/4" radius, a modern C profile, and jumbo frets. I found the neck immediately comfortable and my fingers found the right spots without any sense of having to adjust. I think it's a neck feel that most players would take to easily.
The fingerboard is tight-grained rosewood, finished to a glossy smoothness and decorated with real abalone dot markers of good size. Crowning the neck features are a set of licensed Hipshot tuners that permit precise adjustments and hold tune with solid firmness—real quality machines.
The Ocean basses get really serious with the electronic appointments. Basically, it's all Bartolini—dual Bartolini MK1 soapbar-style pickups, which are excellent high-output pickups and also give your thumb a solid anchor spot. The positioning of the bridge pickup is especially close to the bridge, which heightens its potential for treble snap.
Teamed with the Bartolini pickups is a Bartolini three-band EQ for tonal control and a pickup blend knob that gives you yet another way to tweak your sound. Turn up the bridge pickup for more edge; turn up the middle-position pickup for a smoother sound. Another especially cool wrinkle is a mini switch that allows you to instantly select active or passive operation. This is handy in cases of sudden battery death, but it also gives you two sets of sounds: active position for a more hi-fi sound and greater tonal range, and passive for classic punch and a big, round sound.
The knobs, like all the visible hardware on the Ocean basses, have a classy platinum finish, and they also have rubber O-rings (three on each knob) that make them particularly easy to grip. All except the volume knob have center detents so you can set them by feel rather than by sight.
The Ocean basses feel heavy when you lift them from the case, but light once you have them strapped on, an especially telling sign of quality. This seeming contradiction is the result of proper balance. A bass that isn't neck or body heavy will feel lighter than it is. This is as it should be. You want the instrument to have enough wood density for good resonance and tone, but you don't want it to kill your shoulder. The Ocean basses are nicely balanced, especially the four-string TB70.
To play either of the Ocean basses is to be amazed at the range and quality of sound, and the ease with which you can dial up whatever tone you want. Whether you're after bright, edgy, and poppy; deep, smooth, and thick; pillow-fight punchy; or chest-thumping heavy, the Ocean TB basses cover all styles beautifully.
The sound, feel, look, and hardware put the Ocean basses in a league with axes costing from $1500 to $2000. If you're looking for a good solid deal on a great bass, check out the Ocean Basses by Laguna.