Press Reviews

Finally, there's an acoustic instrument you can travel with – and we love it.  

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Farewell rented basses. Goodbye damaged cases. Finally, there’s an acoustic instrument you can travel with – and we love it. This portable double bass comes from the workshop of David Gage, a leading and innovative US luthier with 25 years’ experience. As an acoustic instrument, the Czech-Ease has all the sound qualities one would expect. What’s different is the shorter body, making it easier to cart around the world for your symphonic or jazz gigs. The clever bit is that the ‘landmarks’ bassists use to identify positions on the neck are in the same place as on a standard-bodied bass. Nifty. Like any double-bass, the Czech-Ease can be adjusted to meet your individual preference for string height and curvature. The fingerboard is customised, it has an extra-long carbon fibre endpin and the asking price includes Gage’s acclaimed Realist pickup and a Mooradian cover. The Czech-Ease is ready to ship from the US and is already going down a storm stateside; jazz giants Michael Moore and Jay Leonhardt are both advocates. You could do a helluva lot worse than keep such illustrious company.

PAUL CUTTS
Muso


The Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass from David Gage Stringed Instruments is a prime solution for the active bass player without compromising sound or aesthetics.

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The acoustic upright bass is a big commitment as it is, both in learning to play it and traveling with it. As a suburban dweller, a large factor in my decision-making when buying a car is whether or not I can fit my bass. Some people bring their girlfriends or wives. I brought my bass. City-dweller bassists usually develop pretty strong calf muscles walking scores of city blocks to a gig. Fat chance getting your bass into a taxi. It will also cost you hundreds of dollars to travel by air with a bass, and imagine the horrified looks of your bandmates when you try to stuff it on a tour bus. From the moment I first walked into his shop in New York City as a college kid, David Gage treated me like his oldest and best customer. Taking his customers seriously and listening to the needs of the bass community regarding portability and sound have led to the development of the Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass.

The key to the Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass is in its shape. While this may seem like the obvious solution to make an acoustic bass portable, for a professional musician, serious design consideration had to be integrated to maintain the true sound of an acoustic bass. When looking at the bass, the size constraints were obviously compromised by reducing the size of the bottom portion of the bass. The squat appearance, however, still maintains a classic look complete with a nicely sculpted scroll, which is detachable purely to diminish travel size. The neck and shoulders are the parts of the bass that are usually in physical contact with the player, and are proportioned as a full-sized bass. I found this to be a major plus because it essentially eliminates any learning curve like you may experience with an electric upright bass.

The Czech-Ease is made from laminated wood, but don't consider that a drawback in any way. Some of the greatest vintage upright basses are made from the same materials. In fact, laminates can prove to be much more stable than one single piece. The fingerboard is top-quality ebony, and it comes with an adjustable bridge complete with the Realist pickup. The graphite endpin is extra long to compensate for reduced body length. The package also includes its hard-shell travel case, which brings the total weight to about 55 pounds to go.

You would expect that the sound of a bass of diminished size would be a compromise compared to the sound of the full-size doghouse. Just like any instrument, every upright bass has its own personality. The Czech-Ease bass has a very articulated but warm pizzicato sound with a comfortable sustain. Using a bow it sounded very full and vocal. It may not be the loudest bass out there, but it is louder than many full-sized basses I've played. Keep in mind too that it takes time for a brand new bass to "break in." When a brand new bass is made, from the time the last glue clamp is removed it begins to change. Wood expands and contracts relative to temperature, humidity and pressure. When an upright bass is played, the entire structure resonates. These influences change the structure of the instrument and the bass eventually begins to open up. If the Czech-Ease bass sounds this good brand new, imagine what it will sound like over time!

The Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass from David Gage Stringed Instruments is a prime solution for the active bass player without compromising sound or aesthetics. For more information, visit www.davidgage.com.


The Inside Connection


The Czech-Ease...will shine over all previous attempts to replace the full-size acoustic bass with a more convenient solution to carry around.

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Introducing the "Czech-Ease™ Acoustic Travel Bass"
by Christian Fabian

David Gage String Instrument Repair, Inc. developed a new acoustic bass designed specifically to improve the burden we bass players encounter when traveling. This instrument was conceived by a great bass player named Ira Coleman living in Woodstock, NY.

I never considered writing about an instrument before but the features of this instrument are so outstanding that it deserves wider attention and recognition. It has been available since January 2004, more information is available www.davidgage.com.

Basically the Czech-Ease Acoustic Travel Bass has all the characteristics of a full-size upright bass. The main difference is that the lower bout is kind of chopped off in a nice and very aesthetic way. Still when you see that bass for the first time it will definitely draw your attention; and as a player of the Travel bass I have to say that it turned a lot of heads since I started using one in July 2004. I have tried a few electric upright basses in my career but always thought that there is no way to come up with an alternative which comes close to the real acoustic bass.

Living in New York I had the chance to play one of the prototypes while having my bass fixed and was not overly impressed at first, this was BEFORE the bass was going into production. I came back to David's place early in 2004 and played one again and I was absolutely impressed with the sound, the way the strings felt and also how the bass responded when playing it with the bow. I asked David what happened since I do remembered playing one before and in my estimation it was not even close to the real bass. He said that they experimented and changed the design of the bass bar, which is a piece of wood glued to the inside of the front of the bass and it had remarkable results. I really could not believe how close it came to the way my real acoustic bass felt and from that moment on I was considering purchasing one myself.

The main reason why I was attracted to having this new bass is that since after September 11th it has gotten so much more complicated to travel with a full size bass. The weight and the size always complicated things when checking in and even a nice and charming smile to the airline attendant did not help avoiding extra charges, which used to work before. The Czech-Ease Acoustic Travel Bass is really half the weight and half the size of the full size bass when traveling. My full size bass with case weights about 100 pounds, while the Travel Bass weights around 50 pounds. Besides, while going most of the time alone to the airport, handling and getting around the airport or train stations is so much easier. I did several tours through Europe by train and it was so much easier to move this instrument around as compared to the full size bass.

This really out weighed the option for me to rent or play on rentals and not taking an instrument with me at all. With rentals you never know what you will get and even with knowing some tricks now how to make them work, there is no comparison to having your own bass with you where you know the set up and what to expect even in very demanding musical situations.

For the professional bass player I have to mention that the Czeck-Ease comes in a D and Eb neck and that it adapts very well to all strings, different bows, bowings and different pizzicato styles/techniques in terms of the heights of the setting of the strings.

A few well know bass player friends of mine are still very critical about the Czeck-Ease Bass but to tell you the truth, I am too. But if there is an alternative to the real acoustic bass, the Travel Bass is the answer! It will shine over all previous attempts to replace the full-size acoustic bass with a more convenient solution to carry around. I speak from experiencing it myself by being a professional bass player for the last 15 years.

Let me highlight for you a few sentences from the official press release to emphasize the convenience of this new instrument:

...In response to the difficulties that have burdened the traveling double-bassist....The Czech-Ease� is not an Electric Upright Bass, but a portable acoustic double-bass�. Unlike its full-sized relative, the Czech-Ease� will fit in a cab and can be checked onto an airplane without paying an oversized baggage fee...Where Electric Upright Basses perform like electric basses, the Czech-Ease� responds as an acoustic bass in sound and feel....if the player's eyes were blindfolded, the Czech-ease will feel and sound like a full bodied acoustic bass....Because it is an acoustic bass, The Czech-Ease� has a rich tone and character that is impossible to simulate.

Like any double-bass, it can be adjusted to meet an individual player's preference for string height and fingerboard curvature. Because it is an authentic acoustic instrument, the options for sound and feel are limitless....In fact, every detail of the instrument attests to the excellence of the Czech-Ease�, including the extra-long carbon fiber end pin that remains stable when used sitting or standing and the fitted Mooradian� cover with backpack straps and ample storage space....And finally, the Czech-Ease� will prevent traveling bassists from having to pay extra to bring their instrument to the gig, saving them money and balancing the pay level for traveling musicians.

Thank you for reading this all the way and when you have a chance please try one of these new instruments yourself. It is a privilege to be able to share this experience with you. All the best and many thanks to everyone involved.

Sincerely Yours,

Christian Fabian

Christian Fabian
Mel Bay Bass Sessions


The RV-4 had a warm, easy sound, remarkably good for the price point, while the Pro-model five-string had a big, rich tone.

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Realist Releases New 4- & 5-String Violins

The Realist Violin, from David Gage String Instruments, is the newest addition to the growing acoustic-electric violin market. A Realist Pickup, developed by Gage and electric-instrument designer Ned Steinberger, is inlaid in the top of a four- or five-string violin under the bass foot of the bridge. The output jack is mounted in a corner block in back, out of sight and out of the way (a right-angle patch cord works best). The volume-control knob, conveniently located in the rib of the treble c-bout is easy to reach and cleverly camouflaged with violin varnish. No batteries or preamp are necessary; the Realist’s passive electronics send a clean signal directly to your amp or sound board.

Strings tested the RV-4 four-string violin and the RV-5 Pro five-string. Pro and regular models use the same Realist electronics, but the pro-model instruments are made with more expensive wood and better varnish for improved sound quality. Both violins were nicely set up, easy to play, and showed careful attention to bridge and fingerboard. The RV-4 had a warm, easy sound, remarkably good for the price point, while the Pro-model five-string had a big, rich tone.

The amplified sound was natural and true to the instrument. All models ship with a case and come with quality ebony fittings, Despiau Superieur bridges, Wittner or Thomastik tailpieces, and Thomastik-Infeld Vision strings.

Erin Shrader
Strings Magazine


The David Gage Realist SoundClip for Bass

...an easily portable pickup designed to let you “take your sound with you.”

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The Realist SoundClip combines designer Ned Steinberger and bass maker David Gage’s Realist transducer with a unique system of tone-adjusting weights. The result is an easily portable pickup designed to let you “take your sound with you.” Just plug it in, screw the SoundClip onto the bass-side foot of the bridge, and turn it on.

Further Resources

  • 5-year warranty
  • On-board volume control
  • Solid brass construction
  • Fits any bass
  • $530 (MSRP), $399 (street)

realistacoustic.com

Though designed especially for touring bassists, who frequently have to perform on loaner or rental basses, the easy-on, easy-off feature is welcome for bassists who play both acoustic and amplified or who have more than one instrument and want to transfer the pickup from one bass to another.

The variable weight system contours the tone by adding mass where the pickup is sensing vibration on the bridge. Experimenting with placement extends the range of sound possibilities and every bass/amp combo will respond differently. The effect on most basses is to add fullness and attack to the amplified sound.

Erin Shrader
Strings


Realist Docking Station:
Bass Volume Control for All

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Realist Docking Station: Bass Volume Control for All

Clever, clean and compact: These are the first thoughts that came to mind when checking out the new Realist Docking Station from Ned Steinberger and David Gage.

“Volume control for all” is their mantra. The Docking Station is a solidly constructed dock and volume knob, with a ¼-inch input and ¼-inch output that works with any acoustic string bass pickup. I found it to be a quick and easy installation: You simply loosen the E and A strings, then slide the unit between the ball-end of the strings and the back of the tailpiece. The tension of the strings holds it in place. Another benefit to the Docking Station is how nicely it cleans up jack mounting issues. No awkward twist-ties, Velcro or tape required.

I took the Realist Docking Station for a spin at a small club date. The anodized volume knob was easy to spot, and within reach.

My sound was the same, but now I was in control of my level on the fly (no more turning around to adjust the amp volume). Who needs a volume pedal? Also, if you want the resistance bypassed entirely, there is the Jack- Pot, a potentiometer that allows you to go beyond the loudest setting with one click.

From a purely practical standpoint, I ask this question: What bassist hasn’t found himself forgetting to mute his amp, setting his string bass down on the stage and encountering the thundering feedback of doom? The Docking Station eliminates that issue with ease. Bassists and soundmen rejoice!

If you use a pickup, the Realist Docking Station would be a nice addition to any string bassist’s arsenal. —Jon Paul

Jon Paul
DownBeat


David Gage Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass:
...The Czech Ease bass has a rich, dark, warm voice and really sings whether I am playing pizzicato or using my bow.

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David Gage Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass

December 2006

"If you really want to cause some trouble,
if you really want to cause some pain,
then simply go down to your local airport, and try to put a bass board a plane."
Jay Leonhart "Bass Aboard a Plane"

Got a couple of hours? I'd gladly tell you my horror stories of being a traveling upright bassist. In the past 10 years I've missed flights, been rerouted, verbally humiliated by airline employees and missed gigs. And why? Because I play an instrument that travels in a case that would dwarf most NBA players.

David Gage Czech-Ease Automatic Road Bass

The simplest solution to this problem would be to begin playing the bass guitar, but bass players are a stubborn bunch and we like the sound that comes out of this large stick with strings and a resonator box. A solution that many bass designers have come up with has been to eliminate the natural resonance of the body and create an upright bass that is compact and narrow. The result is the Electric Upright Bass (EUB), an instrument that takes up significantly less space and can travel more easily than a full-sized upright bass. There are a number of EUBs on the market and some are quite good.

The problem with the EUB for acoustic bass purists is that it is not acoustic: The design relies predominantly on the pick-up for sound and does away with the natural resonance of the body. A handful of bass makers have been experimenting with a smaller, narrower body that might still allow some resonance, such as the instrument made by Eminence. David Gage's Czech-Ease Acoustic Road bass is the most recent instrument to try and resolve the problem of portability and resonance.

Gage first introduced the Czech-Ease bass in mid-2003 and he has continued to modify and refine the instrument. The radical innovation with this instrument is that, aside from a reduction in body size, it is, in every other respect, a traditional 3/4-sized acoustic bass. The ebony fingerboard is the proper length, the strings are full-length, the adjustable bridge is full-sized and there is a shortened ebony tailpiece that attaches to the deep body and allows for proper resonance. In keeping with its design as a travel instrument, the dark lacquer finish on its plywood body is far more durable than carved wood.

So what is radical and innovative about the Czech-Ease? Gage made the top scroll removable, reduced the size of the lower bout (the bottom part of the body) and added an extra long end-pin. All of these changes decrease the size of the instrument and make it easy to transport—the hardshell case is small enough to fit into the cargo hold of even the smallest commercial passenger plane (and I know this from personal experience!).

The reduced size makes the Czech-Ease look like an oversized cello, but all of the key structural elements of the body have been retained. The most important element, though, is how much it sounds and feels like a full-sized bass. In order to give the instrument its wide, full-bottomed sound, Gage made some adjustments to the bass bar and this makes a difference. The Czech Ease bass has a rich, dark, warm voice and really sings whether I am playing pizzicato or using my bow. Moreover, you don't need an amp to play it. I have used it on several occasions in all acoustic settings and always with good results.

The instrument comes with a softshell Mooradian case that has a bow pocket that was far too small for my bow case. Moreover, the bass case has no pockets for rosin or any other typical bass accessories. The Czech-Ease bass can also come equipped with Gage's Realist Pick-Up (which sounds pretty good but is still not my favorite acoustic bass pick-up). The hardshell case is durable and padded in all the right places, but the locks don't always close easily and sometimes come loose in transit.

The entire package of the bass, softshell case, pick-up and hard-shell case is a bit pricey at $5,000. But if you do enough traveling you will discover that it pays for itself in a number of ways. The price for flying with this instrument tends to be less than half of what it costs for a full-sized bass and I have even flown several times without an additional charge (including one round-trip flight to Europe). Most importantly, I have never been denied or delayed at the gate by a clerk worried that my instrument won't fit in the cargo hold—that alone makes this bass worth the investment.

David Chevan
Jazz Times