Monday, September 26, 2011

Excellent New Aria Blog

Well, things have been pretty slow on my blog for quite some time due to my grad school studies. I probably won't be able to do many updates for the next several months...

However, there's a new Aria bass blog to take up the slack! The blog is loaded with technical info on Aria bass pickups and electronics! He has plans to make some replacement parts for the SB series so check out his blog for more info...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Aria Pro SB-Elite II Electronics Modification

Trevor, who earlier documented the neck repair of his SB-Elite, now has a great site which documents how he modified the electronics with a varitone filter based on the SB-1000. The catch was that he did it in passive mode. For a step by step look at the process, please check out his site. He includes a schematic as well as sound clips of the results. Trevor says it is pretty safe mod because there's no routing required and therefore you won't permanently alter your bass if you ever want to return to original specs. The bass is a post-Matsumoku Elite which was similar to the originals but with a more simplified control layout. FYI you can see the difference between the two Elite models on Trevor's site. Here is a sneak peak of the mod.

Thanks again to Trevor for documenting this so others may try it or simply see how it was done. 
If you want to show off your Aria projects send me the link/pics! I have a feeling there will be some more projects to come, so stay tuned. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Aria Pro II Integra IB-STD Signed By Jason Newsted of Metallica

Back on September 3, 1998 I went to see Metallica play an outdoor show at Portland (Oregon) Meadows. It was quite an experience, to say the least! At the time I was a member of the Metallica Club and volunteered to pass out Met Club info on the day of the show in exchange for a backstage pass/meet 'n' greet. The show itself almost takes a backseat to the experience of getting my Aria Pro II IB-STD autographed by former bassist Jason Newsted.

In the weeks leading up to the show, I decided I wanted to get something really worthwhile signed by the band, and more specifically by bassist Jason Newsted. A CD booklet is fine, but I wanted something a little more memorable which is why I decided on a bass. I didn't want just a pick guard signed either, I wanted the actual body or headstock signed. The problem was I only had a neck through Aria SB bass at the time and figured it would be too hard to smuggle in and carry that thing around for an entire day, not to mention security probably would have barred me from entering the show with it. So I somehow found an Aria Pro II IB-STD for sale. I can't even remember where I got it from, but it was definitely online. I just wanted something that was cheap, unique (not a crappy P-bass copy), and, obviously, a bolt-on neck so I could stuff the body in my backpack (that would sound really bad taken out of context, wouldn't it?). The IB-STD fit the bill perfectly. It was about $200 so I wouldn't be out too much if it was confiscated or stolen, and, being an Aria fan, I knew it was similar to the models used by Billy Gould of Faith No More.

The day of the show I had a bit of a scare on two fronts. Besides wanting to get my bass signed, I also decided to record the show with my trusty Sharp 702 MiniDisc recorder. As anyone who ever 'bootlegged' a show knows, you kind of have to be creative on how you smuggle the recording equipment in. My method of choice in those days was to "crotch it". That is, stick the MD recorder, battery pack and mics down the front of my pants since guards never frisked that part of your body. So, not only was I paranoid that they wouldn't let me in with a backpack, but also that they would find my recording gear! As I was about to enter Portland Meadows, I was told "no backpacks" as well as the usual "no recording devices allowed" warnings everywhere. Luckily, my Metallica Club pass allowed me to bypass the usual security checks and I was allowed to take in my backpack without so much as a light frisk. Disaster averted! If anyone is curious, I was able to successfully record the show. The recording came out fairly well for being an outdoor venue where the mics often pick up wind. Not to mention the usual perils of facing a crowd of lubed up Metallica fans. Thankfully, I am retired from the concert recording game!

So after several hours of lugging around the bass body in my backpack while passing out Met Club fliers/stickers, watching the show, and waiting for the band to come out after the show for the meet 'n' greet, I was finally able to get my bass signed. In that era of Metallica, it was no slam-dunk that all of the members would come out for meet 'n' greets. However, by all accounts, Jason Newsted consistently made himself available for these meetings while other band members would sometimes take the night off. On this particular night, Jason was the only one who came out for our particular meet 'n' greet. I believe the other members were busy doing other fan meetings at the same time. I was very lucky that it was Jason that came to ours and not Lars. I like Lars, but a bass signed by him just wouldn't be quite as cool, would it?

Jason was very cool and took the time to make a rather elaborate signature all the while being peppered with questions from other club members. He used a silver Sharpie that I brought along and he signed it "Metallica 98 Jason" followed by a few little dashes. He said "I'll sign it down here so you can see it while you play." I am glad he did sign it there because if he signed it up top, the signature would definitely rub off while playing. I have no plans to actually play the bass aside from a doodle here or there, though. I would rather have it displayed but am a little worried about the signature fading or flaking off. So for now, it stays in its case most of the time. I haven't seen too many other basses signed by Jason, other than the pick guards on crappy P-bass copies that I mentioned earlier, so I'm pretty proud of this piece of Metallica memorabilia.

I think the "IB" series, which is from around 1988-90, was the follow up to the original 1986-87 SB-Integra series. Later, "IB" became "IGB" which is still used for labeling Integra models to this day. The IB-STD is a pretty cool and unique bass even without the signature. First, it has 26 frets and a phenolic fingerboard. Second, most Integra basses were P/J styles, but this one just has single coil Jazz style pickups and passive electronics. Notice the slanted neck pickup. Third, the logo on the headstock is a split "I" which probably also doubles for "II" as in Aria Pro II. Notice the "Integra Designed by Aria Pro II" logo on the body. I always though that body logo just screamed "1980s!". I'm glad they didn't do that for very long. Overall, the IB-STD feels very well made but the finish flaked off on the back of the bass (see link below). It plays well with a fast neck and sounds really nice. I am not sure if it was made in Korea or Japan, but it still had some of the vestiges of earlier Japanese made basses such as the SB style bridge and "Aria Pro II" Japanese made tuners. If you can find of these cheap, check it out!

A few more photos of the IB-STD can be seen here

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Aria Pro II Integras: IGB-85B & IGB-DLX 5

Jake from Australia sends in pics of his two Aria Pro II Integra basses. They're both early '90s models with the offset headstock design and both have black finish (my personal favorite). The 4 string is the IGB-85B ("B" meant they were equipped with Bartolini pickups), and the 5er is an IGB-DLX 5 or IGB-805 depending on the market they were being sold in.

The IGB-DLX 5 came with single coil pickups that are, at times, known to pick up radio stations! I have one of these basses myself and can confirm that unfortunate fact! Beside that little annoyance, they are great sounding instruments. Some DLX-5s came with a brass nut and all came stock with Gotoh tuners, a Gotoh bridge (with an Aria Pro II badge), and ebony fingerboards (pretty rare for Aria Pro basses outside of the SB-1000). Jake says his 5er plays wonderfully but is considering some after market pickups and going with passive electronics.

Jake modified his IGB-85B with new W4CBC Bartolinis since the originals were long gone. He also configured the passive electronics as follows: Volume, Volume, Tone, with the volume pots being push/pull. When the knobs are depressed the pickups are in dual coil humbucker mode. In this mode he says the bass is dead silent with high output and a full bass tone. When you pull the knobs you can go into a single coil mode, giving a classic Jazz bass tone with slightly less bass and a little more hum. The IGB-85B has become Jake's main bass with his only complaint that it is a little bit too light! Thanks to Jake for the info and pics of his basses!

Close-up of the SB style bridge.
Electronics featuring push/pull pots

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Famous Arias: Part 1 - Cliff Burton SB-1000

This is the first in what I hope to be a regular series of posts on "famous" Arias basses. I will post about basses that were owned by famous players and that have come up for sale or are on display in places like the Hard Rock Cafe.

First up, is what I believe to be Cliff Burton's Aria Pro II SB-1000. I have tried to contact the current owner for more details but haven't had much luck yet. If you're reading this, talk to me!

This bass first came up for sale on eBay a couple of years ago. A lot of people were skeptical because of the high price and also the fact that people only recognized Cliff's Black 'n' Gold which had oval inlays and gold hardware. However, I believe this is the bass Cliff used in 1985 at legendary shows such as the Donington Festival, The Metal Hammer Festival (video) and the Day on the Green (video). He may even have recorded Master of Puppets with this bass. It is definitely not a re-issue as the finish, hardware and parts are all consistent with 1985. The finish is more of a very dark green when viewed in direct sunlight which is consistent with the black finishes Aria used in that period. Black Aria Re-Issue basses are more of a true black finish. Finally, the serial number also places this bass from 1985.

Unfortunately with a black bass there is no visible wood grain or any other hints to compare to pictures of Cliff playing the bass, so it's hard to ever be 100% sure. But given that the owner said he got it from Aria's former head of distribution, the rarity of black SB-1000 basses, and the fact that it's from 1985, I think it's authentic. It's likely Aria sent Cliff two (possibly three if you count the SB-Integra that Cliff apparently gave to Billy Gould) models to choose from: the SB-1000 and the Black 'n' Gold. In a 1986 interview with Harold Oimen, Cliff said he preferred the Black 'n' Gold. So Cliff probably just had the SB-1000 sent back to Aria, opting for the Black 'n' Gold model.

As you can see from the photos below, there is quite a lot of wear on the bass, including the bypass switch being broken off. Since Cliff really only played the SB-1000 for a short time, the wear probably occurred after Cliff's time with it.
Apparently the current owner still gigs with this bass, which some people might not like. Personally I don't have a problem with it, and I think the only thing better would be for Robert Trujillo to buy this bass and play it in Metallica. Now that would be cool.
Cliff w/ SB-1000 and Lars in the studio for Master of Puppets

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Aria Pro II Ventures Bob Bogle Bass

Here is another Ventures / Bob Bogle bass, this one from about 1990. This bass is actually quite similar to the SB-JR750 model but with Seymour Duncan pickups and AP custom and The Ventures logo on the headstock.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Aria Pro II SB-R60 w/ DR Black Beauty Strings

I finally got around to stringing up my SB-R60 with some DR Black Beauty strings. As you can see I was going for a 'stealth' look here. With the black hardware, black finish and now Black Beauty strings, it really gives it a sleek look. These strings sound great with the Alembic pickup. More pics here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 6

Here is an interesting Aria bass called the Zodiac. It's not quite my style, but it would sure be a conversation piece! It is a custom shop model as you can see by the "AP" logo as well as on the fretboard inlay. You can also notice the unusual output jack location, it's on the back of the body. Other interesting features include the chrome pickguard and single control knob located next to the bridge.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 5

I found photos of a rare Aria Pro bass that I believe is part of the RSB-Fire lineup. The RSB-Fire was basically a signature model for a Japanese artist and I never saw any mention of it in markets outside of Japan. This particular RSB is a 5 stringer, with a green finish, a 6 bolt, multi-laminate neck, black hardware, and what looks like an ebony fretboard.

Here is the RSB-Fire 4 string model, in 'black mist' finish.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Aria DMB-380 / The Ventures

Dale Titus demos another Aria bass, this time a DMB-380. Dale demonstrates the various tones and features of this model.
You can also see a DMB-380 being played by Greg Hanna of the Dickies on the Warped Tour in 2010.

The Ventures clearly inspired this design as you can see in this great live video from Japan. It's the Ventures 45th Anniversary show. Bob Bogle is playing his signature Aria. Bob and The Ventures had several signature instruments made by Aria over the years. The 50th Anniversary Ventures bass was limited to 10 instruments.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aria Pro II SB-CB Demonstration

Here is a nice demonstration of the Aria SB-CB by Dale Titus of Dana B. Goods (US distributors for Aria). For those who don't know, the SB-CB is the Cliff Burton inspired model offered by Aria. It differs from the SB-1000CB models in that it was made in Korea so it's less expensive. Also available is the SB-RI which comes in natural finish. The RI and CB are identical except for the finishes. Remember, the SB-1000RI/CB label means it was made in Japan and costs more. The SB-RI/CB label means made in Korea and is available at a lower cost. Be careful that you don't pay over the retail price on the Korean models! I have seen some sellers selling SB-RIs with SB-1000RI prices. Enjoy the demo:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Aria Anniversary SB Bass

I posted about an Aria 50th anniversary bass last year, but I finally found pictures of another anniversary bass. This might also be a 5oth anniversary, but it is an SB-1000RI with some graphic designs. Notice the logo is "The Aria Pro II" like the original SB-1000s, but the headstock shape is like the later incarnations. I wonder if this is a real bass or just a Photoshop mockup for the Japanese Aria site? If it's real, I guess the bass probably resides with Mr. Shiro Arai, the founder of Aria Guitars.

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 4

Here is a rare headless SB with MIDI capabilities that I found online. As you can see, it is an "AP Custom Shop" bass. I have no idea when this bass was made, but probably in the early to mid '90s since that seemed to be the heyday of Aria's Custom Shop. If anyone out there has one, let me know.