Dean Edge Hammer 10-String Bass
A Review by Bob Nimmo

I recently purchased the New For 2004 offering from Dean and was not only pleasantly surprised by the level of quality for an import, but shocked. After owning nearly 40 different instruments over the years Iíve long since stopped being impressed by fancy parts, hot finishes, and boutique prices. I know exactly what I want an instrument to sound and feel like so I consider myself a tough customer whoís hard to impress. Suffice it to say that, despite one initial problem, I was impressed enough to put the Hammer to work alongside my trusty P-Basses right off the bat.

Why 10 Strings?
Why indeed? Although 12-strings have been around for a number of years and 8-strings even longer than that, the 10 is a relatively new kid on the block outside of the rare custom instruments by builders like Warrior, Zon, etc. Frankly, I find this surprising considering the fact that the 5-string has become an accepted standard among bassists over the last 15 years or so and the 10 would seem to be a natural progression from that. At least that was my thinking when I decided to give one a try. As it turned out, it was like Dean invented it for me. And, it rocks!

The Particulars
Although the factory setup was a bit high for my tastes, the new Dean was basically in tune and play condition right out of the box. That is, if you didnít plan on plugging it in. Mine came with a bad input jack, which necessitated a 9 day wait for a new one to arrive in the mail from Dean. (In all fairness, I must assume that this issue would have been handled more smoothly if Deanís facility had not been evacuated from the path of Hurricane Charley at the time.) Since I was unable to find a flush mount type jack locally, I temporarily soldered in a standard Switchcraft stereo 1/4Ē jack, taped it to the edge of the body, and went to work.  

The oil finished mahogany looks really nice and felt great under my fingers. Itís a very classy, natural look that reminds you immediately of a high buck Warwick. One minor complaint is that the finish is very thin and soft. The slightest nick leaves light specks in the finish. (Iíve had trouble contacting the factory, presumably due to their recent disaster, but intend to get some finish recommendations when I get through.) The rosewood board is smooth, looks great, and matches well visually with the body and neck. The 4-bolt neck joint is snug and rock solid. The body and neck both appear to be of 3-piece construction, but donít quote me on that. The seams are so close to invisible that Iím not entirely sure I even see them!

The fretwork is excellent especially for this price point. There are no sharp edges and I was only able to detect one small buzz at the 2nd fret A on the G strings. Well done! The nut is brass, which wouldnít be my first choice, but tone doesnít lie so I canít complain. The bridge design is a 2-piece Tune-O-Matic sort of affair with individual intonation adjustments for each string (yeah!) although I found the travel of the adjustment screws a bit short for perfect intonation. It isnít really noticeable until you get up around the 19th fret, but if youíre up there, take off the bass strings and go over to the dark side! One thing I found strange is that the string anchor is so short in height that the strings break over the bridge saddles and stretch across the back edge on the bridge base. (See photo.) I noticed no particular problems as a result, it just looks not quite right. Also, oddly, the rout for the string anchor is slightly oversized.

The black hardware looks sleek and functions well although, as is often the case with imports, the screws are cheap. Be careful or be prepared to replace them after only a few adjustments. Dean wisely chose not to cut corners with crummy tuners and installed Grovers. The stock strings felt and sounded fine, although a change of the bass strings to my favorite LaBellas immediately provided more punch. The octave string gauges are rather soft by comparison to some of the other manufacturerís basses weíre familiar with, but I have to say that I really like the feel. However, a quick perusal of JustStrings.com showed that it might be difficult to get replacements. Again, once Iím able to contact Dean, Iíll share any info I can get.

Howís that suckaí feel?
When I purchased this instrument, my goal was to beef up the sound of my band, yet still be able to play essentially the same lines I would normally play on my 5-string AND I wanted to continue to play fingerstyle if possible. Thatís a pretty tall order and the Dean delivered 100%. Although the string spacing is a bit snug, itís not much different than a 6-string bass and much more comfortable than a 12. The thing I really dig is that you can pluck the bass strings like you normally would on a regular bass or rake your fingertips slightly across the strings to get that huge octave sound. In a very short time, I was able to adopt this technique to great effect and now play this bass on well over half of my bandís material. Though I no longer play with a pick, I tried it just for the purposes of this review and wasnít disappointed. For those of you who favor the 12-string but want something just a bit cleaner and clearer to play speedier, more intricate lines, this could very well be the bass youíre looking for.

Being primarily a P-Bass guy, I really appreciated the familiar comfort of the Deanís rather conventional shape. The body is slightly larger than my Fenders, but isnít particularly heavy and balances the neck really well. Itís ever so slightly neck heavy, but not uncomfortably so. It doesnít neck dive at all, but rather hangs about level on a quality neoprene strap. (I hate slippery straps.) Iím sure the narrow ďGumbyĒ shaped headstock contributes to the even weight distribution as well. Perhaps itís the fact that I play a P-Bass Deluxe 5 most of the time, but I found the Deanís neck to be just fab. Itís not overly wide and itís flattened nicely across the back. I expected to feel some fatigue upon my return to the multi-stringed world, but after 2 hours of rehearsal with my band, I was still hauliní the mail with none of the cramps or tightness that us old cats who donít practice often get. Yeah!

Got play?
I canít think of a better way to say it, the new Dean Edge Hammer 10-string just rocks! I was hesitant about the generic import pickups and preamp that often kill what could potentially be a decent instrument. That said, my expectations were far exceeded by the versatility of the tone controls and the resulting output. And, itís dead quiet. (I strongly suspect that these are better than you average import stuff.) I was able to dial up some pretty extreme, largely unusable tones, but I can honestly say that I couldnít dial up a bad tone. Although Iím used to having an onboard mid control in addition to the standard bass and treble, I didnít miss it here. Played straight into a GK700 with the EQ set flat and Ampeg cabs, I was able to get what I needed with the neck pickup soloed and a slight bass boost. It absolutely punches a hole right through drums and guitar with none of the irritating brightness Iíve experienced with other multi-stringed instruments in the past.

As you can see from the photos, I personally have no use for bridge pickups, but for those of you who like that smooth J-bass type flattening of the tone you can only get with both pickups wide open, the Dean does it perfectly. The bridge pickup also blended nicely with the neck pickup and has the sweet high end necessary to really light up a multi amp setup. I wasnít crazy about the bridge pickup soloed, but then again I never have been by any bass ever, so my opinion here needs to be taken with a grain of salt. (Stingray? Madness!) The one single thing that just blew me away was the sound of the B-string(s). Itís extremely clear and present with a wonderfully evil grinding tone you can just feel in your bones. My drummer grins from ear to ear every time I get down there and start moving some air. That, in itself, was worth every penny.  

So?
Overall, Iíd give the Dean an 8.5 of 10. Iíve played a number of different 8 and 12-string instruments over the years costing many times more than the $600.00 I paid for this one and none of them fulfilled my needs as completely. I wouldnít hesitate to recommend it to anyone and just may get another for myself!

The Specs:
Mahogany Body with Mahogany Bolt-On Neck, Oil Finish
Rosewood Fingerboard, 34Ē Long Scale
Two Dean Humbuckers with Active (9v) Bass & Treble, Volume, Blend
All Black Hardware with Grover tuners
Neck Dimensions: 1 7/8Ē at the nut, 2ĹĒ at the 12th fret, 2 25/32Ē at the 24th fret
String Spacing: Bass Strings 9/16Ē at the bridge, String pairs 3/32Ē Ė 1/8Ē depending on string gauge

String Gauges:

G  .045 / .016
D  .065 / .020
A  .085 / .025
E  .105 / .035
B  .125 / .050

 

 

The Dean Edge Hammer 10-String Part II
By Bob Nimmo

When I originally reviewed what was then the new Dean 10-string bass in 2004, I was attempting to provide an unbiased playerís opinion of a new instrument and, to that extent, I believe I was reasonably successful. Despite a bit of ďHey, new bass!Ē over-enthusiasm, I still stand by my initial assessment. However, after spending a couple of years with it and making some modifications along the way, I thought it might be worth another look.

Authorís Disclaimer
The opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own based on personal experience, preferences, mistakes, etc., or, the ravings of a complete lunatic. You be the judge. I realize that tone is a highly subjective issue, so I ask that you use the info contained here to realize what is possible in your own quest and not as my declaration of what is or isnít correct. I am NOT a compensated endorser for any products or services. Iím not even a wanna-be. What I am is a truck driver from Illinois who beats the hell out of a bass now and then when it doesnít get in the way of my fishing.

A (Very) Brief History
When Dean first introduced the Rhapsody model in 8-strings and 12-strings, there was quite a bit of interest in our community. How will a bolt-on neck hold up? Does it have one truss rod or two? (A glaring oversight in my original review. Oops! It has two.) Dean?! They havenít made a cool bass since the 80ís! The Edge Hammer 10-string model came out shortly thereafter and, although it did not feature EMG-HZ electronics, it was basically the same pieces / parts on a more basic body style. So, how did it hold up after all this time? Letís see.

Overview
When I first put my 10-string to work, I quickly became comfortable with the playability of it and saw the potential for what it could do to give my bandís overall sound a new dimension on certain material. As I do with all new instruments, I spent several gigs, rehearsals, etc. evaluating it in stock form to determine what I could do with it to get what I wanted out of it. That, along with certain design/construction issues with the instrument itself, led to a bit of research and a trip to see my longtime bass tech for the heavy lifting.

The Neck
Keeping the neck relief adjusted properly over the first year was a bit of a challenge, but no more so than some other basses Iíve dealt with. I did some experimenting with various string gauges during this time, which didnít help Iím sure. Although my tech was somewhat unimpressed with the operation of the truss rods, he grudgingly agreed that they were adequate for the price point of the instrument and did the job. Also, any concerns about the bolt-on design are unwarranted. Itís been rock solid throughout and actually ended up being a benefit, as youíll see later.

The Bridge
The bridge has a very limited range of height adjustment and an inadequate intonation adjustment. As I stated in my initial review, the bridge plate is too narrow and the adjustment screws are too short to allow proper intonation all the way up the neck. My tech confirmed that this was a design issue that couldnít be rectified and Iíd just have to live with it. As for the bridge height adjustment, if you like your strings low and flat like me, itíll bottom out and it did. So, I had to shim the neck up to raise the bridge back up. I did this several times until I had the neck shimmed way beyond what I would consider acceptable and the bridge was topped out. If it werenít for the bolt-on neck, Iíd have been screwed much earlier and, most likely, permanently.

The Nut
It was brass, poorly cut, and the slots wore out. End of story, needed a new one.

The Electronics & Tone
I was pleased initially with the operation of the stock electronics and overall tone. It had a nice balance of highs and lows and worked out well in the context of what I was doing, but, as time went on and my band evolved, I felt that I needed a bigger sound with more punch than I was getting. We had been featuring the 10-string on a couple of tunes and I wasnít quite getting the sound I heard in my head. So, I started doing some research. Iíve always like Seymour Duncan pickups and, as luck would have it, they make an active soapbar that would require only a minor enlargement of the stock routs. I didnít need a bridge pickup, so I ordered the neck pickup only along with an 18v preamp with 2 band EQ.

Repair & Retrofitting
My bass guy evaluated the mess I brought him and came up with a game plan. He ended up cutting a new self lubricating type nut that he recommended, re-setting the neck angle and shimming it properly with nice, snug wood shims to set the bridge height adjustment in the center of itís travel to allow future adjustments, touching up the frets, and setting it up to my specs.

He also did all of the electronic installation. We did have a few minor issues to deal with here. The first was that an 18v preamp obviously requires two batteries and, due to the location of the stock single battery box, there was no way to rout in a double battery box without cutting into the bridge and rear pickup routs on the front of the body. We solved this by simply placing the second battery in the control cavity. The second was that the preamp came with a blend control which we didnít need, and I insisted it be removed as I refuse to have useless circuitry in my signal path. This necessitated a call to Seymour Duncan who worked with us to rewire the preamp for our needs.

The next thing was merely a disagreement, as he wanted to leave the stock bridge pickup in for aesthetic reasons and I wanted it removed. He was horrified at the big gaping hole, but whoís payiní who here? Lastly, I had the input jack moved to one of the empty control holes on the front, which is simply a personal preference.

Conclusion
So, how did everything work out? My drummer used to joke that I was a master at spending $400 on a $600 bass to make a $350 bass and thatís pretty much what I did here. That said, I was very pleased with the outcome. My bass feels great, plays great, and the electronics upgrade really brought out the true sound and personality of the instrument, which is all I could really ask for. Itís big and clear and rings like a bell. Every time I take it out, someone inevitably asks, ďWhat the hell is that thing?!Ē Cool.