Waterstone TP-Series Reviews

Waterstone TP-12/34 Elite Review
by Hans Grimm

As Tom Petersson has had a big influence on my bass-playing ever since 1978, I have lusted after a 12-string bass for more than 25 years. In 2005 I could finally afford one, the Hense 12-string, made in Korea (see my Review). A good instrument, but what I really wanted was a bass like Tom used, and then especially his signature instrument!

Having read all the reviews on this site and elsewhere, my craving was multiplied a hundredfold. So when I came into some money this summer I did not hesitate, and on 18th August, 2006 placed an order with Bob Singer of Waterstone: One quilted cherry sunburst TP-12 in 34" scale, please!

Bob Singer immediately replied, giving me the bad news: the TP-12's were out of stock and on order with the Korean factory, and expected to arrive in 2-3 weeks. Bummer... Little did I know that I was in for a long wait: The bass would finally arrive on my doorstep on October 20th. We have all heard of the slow boat from China, but a how about a slow boat from Korea? During those two months I must have driven Bob Singer a little crazy as I regularly mailed him asking about ETA's and such, but he was always friendly, understanding and helpful. Thanks Bob!

As I have an aversion to gig bags because of the vulnerability, I also ordered a hard case with it. But shortly before dispatch Bob told me that the cases they received from a new supplier did not fit, so he would have to supply the standard gig bag.

First impressions
When the bass finally arrived on 20th October, I almost kissed the UPS man. Unpacking the bass was a real joy, and when it lay there in all it's splendor, it took my breath away. When I regained my breath, two things struck me:

    1) There was no pickguard; and
    2) There was no signature sticker within the f-hole.

I emailed Bob about this. He told me that Tom Petersson had pulled the pickguards on all the TP-12's except for the black ones, and that Tom was on the road at the time of shipment and was therefore unable to sign the sticker for my TP-12. In order to avoid keeping me waiting longer still, it was shipped without the sticker, which would be sent to me later. When I heard that, I suggested that Tom could maybe personalize my sticker, which he did.

The finish of this bass is perfect. Beautiful quilted top, and the binding job is beyond reproach.

Setup
OK, back to my first impressions. When I started playing the bass, I was in for a bit of a shock. In previous Waterstone reviews people raved about the perfect setup of their bass. But no perfect setup here: The intonation was completely off, but I could adjust that.

What really pissed me off was the string height at the nut. This almost gave me vertigo! I am quite used to playing a 12-string so my finger strength is up to it, but to fret the strings on the 1st fret required a set of pliers. There was also a lot of fret buzz on the 2nd and 3rd fret but loosening the truss rod a bit solved that.

I regard filing the nut as leaning out of a window - too much and you fall. Therefore I do not particularly like doing that. I emailed Bob Singer about this and he told me, "Over the past few years we have run the gamut on setups. It has been our experience that setup assessment is extremely subjective and unpredictable. For this reason we shy away from aggressive nut work. Some players prefer to grind the nut down to nothing while others never mention it. There should be no problem in tailoring it to your wishes." Well OK, but this was a bit much. I really could not play it this way. I took it to a local luthier and he set the bass up perfectly.

It set me back about 50 dollars, but hey?

Sound
This is a semi-acoustic bass. Because of that, it is a lot louder unamplified than a solid body. I will not go so far as to say that you can use it in an unplugged session, but when you practice at home without an amp (as I do), the difference is very much apparent. I get a lot of complaints now from my wife and kids when I fool around on it in front of the TV.

When I first hooked it up to my Ashdown / Hughes & Kettner rig, the sound struck me as being a lot rounder and warmer than that of my Hense 12-string. So some adjustments were in order, in fact, it needed less adjustment.

This baby really sounds BIG! Not only is it big (I am a big guy, and I can almost hide behind it), but is has a sound to match. It comes at you from all directions.

Recently I got a second-hand TC Electronics Triple-C Compressor, so now the TP-12 does not only sounds big, but also THICK.

Conclusion

I really think Waterstone could have done a lot better setting up this bass for me. Maybe all the rave reviews have gone to their heads and they have gone a little soft in that regard. Come on guys, don't let that happen, it will ruin your reputation! The luthier who did my bass did not accept Bob's explanation, and told me that in his experience the more expensive the instrument, the worse the setup. He has done high-end Gibson's that were virtually unplayable.

Having said that, I still wholeheartedly recommend this bass, but when you order it, it may be a good idea to require that they set it up right, regardless of their current policy.


Waterstone TP-1 Review
by Philip Snyder

I recently received a Waterstone TP-1 Tom Petersson signature series 12-string bass and I have to say that I'm very impressed. It's a semi-hollow bass with a set neck and 20 frets. It has a professional binding job from stem to stern. The model I have is the limited edition single pickup model so the whole thing looks very "purist" and retro.  It has all passive electronics and the bass just chimes. I've played a lot of 12-string basses over the years and I've never heard one that sounded like this one does... it's simply beautiful. The neck is somewhat wide, but thin and very comfortable considering its size. The finish is black with a cream pickguard so it's also a very classy looking bass. The hardware is chrome and it came with a padded Waterstone gig bag.

The sound of the bass is very pure... It is almost organ-like but with a chime-y element.  It's very warm and audible which I attribute to the semi-hollow body. Being that I have the single pick-up version there isn't a wide variety of different sounds you can get out of it... but that's what the amp is for!  It's natural tone is an excellent starting place.  I thought that the bass might be muddy considering the pickup placement but it's not that way at all. It's quite bright but with a rich warmth.

Waterstone prides themselves on proper set-up prior to delivery and that really makes all the difference in the customer's initial experience with the instrument. The action was nice and low with no fret problems. It was nearly in tune upon arrival! The intonation was correct as well. It came ready to play and I found not one single flaw. The fit and finish are perfect.

I've been playing guitar for 26 years and have been a fan and player of 12-string basses for many of those years. I know what I like and I know quality when I see it. These Waterstones are a wonderful value for the money. Waterstone has brought the quality of their imported instruments up to that of many US manufacturers standards. Outside of the quality of this bass, it is also very unique in that it is designed as a much more traditional instrument than most other 12's. It is reminiscent of old Hofners and Gretschs and has a very cool appearance.


Waterstone TP-1 Review
by Mark Rowe

I spent a considerable amount of time going over every square inch of this bass. The fit and finish are excellent and the binding is very good. The hardware of good quality. I like the brass nut and the frets are smooth and low. The strings sound good and stay in tune.

My first impression of this bass was, "Wow, this thing is a MONSTER!" Overall it's about four inches longer and three inches wider than a Hamer B12L. The Waterstone weighs in at about 11 pounds. There is some neck dive but it's much better balanced than my Hamer in that regard.

The neck is certainly wider than I'm used to and it took some time to get comfortable with it at first. But after playing this bass for a while the neck width seems fine. I used to think the string spacing on the Hamer was about right but it sure seems narrow now.

Upon opening the control cavity I was a bit concerned. Two wires which had been soldered together were wrapped in a piece of masking tape, which immediately fell off. Not a big deal, I never go anywhere without a roll of electrical tape. Typical of many imported instruments, the pots seem to be of average quality, certainly adequate for the task. There is no shielding in the control cavity, again, not a big deal.

What I find impressive about the Waterstone 12 is the sound - this bass SOUNDS like Cheap Trick! I've played a lot of Tom Petersson's riffs on other 12-string basses, the sound is big but just not the same. Tom has captured the essence of his exceptional tone. In my opinion there is a secret here- If you want to sound like Tom Petersson and you have a two-pickup bass, only use the neck pickup! It's certainly true that most bassists prefer a two-pickup bass, that's why only a small number of the single pickup models were built. But in the vast majority of live concert photos I have seen of Tom playing his Waterstone 12's (except those photos that were undoubtedly staged for publicity purposes), the pickup selector switch is shoved forward so only the neck pickup is being used. Tom has even gone so far as to have the bridge pickup removed on some of his Waterstones. Proof positive of where "The Sound" resides!

I really like the vintage look of this bass and even though the action is a bit higher than I prefer, it really plays well. I'll be using it on stage.