Carlo Robelli 12-String Bass

The Carlo Robelli 12-string basses were made in Korea. They were available exclusively from the Sam Ash music stores from late 2003 to 2005. They are no longer listed on the Sam Ash website and presumably only a single production run of these 12's was built. These basses were sold on the Sam Ash site for $399.99 and carried an inflated ‘manufacturer’s list price" of $699.99.

When asked why the decision was made to carry a 12-string bass, Richard Ash, the CEO of Sam Ash Music said, “We previously had a Carlo Robelli 8-string bass in our line which did well so a 12-string bass seemed like a logical progression. This is the first 12-string bass we've ever carried. There's really no corporate planning meeting or anything like that when we decide to add something new like this. If we see something that we think is unique and ‘nichey’ that might offer a musician an additional voice to be creative, we try adding it to our line. If it's a quality instrument at a good price-point, we see a bassist picking it up as an additional instrument to what he or she already owns and plays."

Here is the description of this bass from the Sam Ash website:

"The Carlo Robelli USB-12B 12 String Bass - The ultimate in bone jarring bottom! The Carlo Robelli USB-12B is a bass lovers dream come true. This 12-string bass features: two soap bar bass pickups; bat inlays; brass nut; black hardware; satin finished maple neck; quilted maple top; sealed tuners; active electronics. Black Cherry finish. Case not included."

The Black Cherry finish on this bass is our favorite of all the Unsung 12’s.

The compartment for the 9-volt battery is separate from the larger main electronics cavity and has its own smaller cover.

Wide spacing between the courses, much like the Dean Rhapsody 12. Tune-o-matic style 8-saddle bridge with 12-hole tailpiece.

Batwing inlays

Black Gotoh tuners. Carlo Robelli 12-string basses are not serial numbered.


Screen shot of the Carlo Robelli 12-string bass listing on the Sam Ash website, taken after the bass was sold out.



Carlo Robelli USB-12B Review

by Philip Snyder

I recently had the chance to drop by Sam Ash and try out a Carlo Robelli 12-string bass. The first thing I noticed was how nice the body looked. The red stain is a really nice shade and the faux-quilt maple top looks very real. The pickups seem to be the same Korean-made soap bar humbuckers Hamer uses in their CH-12 model, but these are a 4.0" versus the Hamer's 3.5". The hardware was exactly the same as on the CR 8-string and very similar to (if not exactly the same as) the Dean "Rhapsody" 12-string. Personally, I am not very impressed with the design of the bridge and tailpiece, but it does seem functional.

The body construction is mahogany with a maple top. The mahogany seemed to be a pretty nice piece, which surprised me, although it wasn't a solid piece. The neck was satin-finished maple with a rosewood fretboard. It has the same batwing inlays as the Galveston and my guess is that this is exactly the same neck. It has a brass nut which I had thought might cause the bass to sound somewhat brittle on the high-end, but acoustically I didn't notice that. What I did notice was that the octaves weren't as loud as they are on my Hamer when I played it unplugged. I'm not sure why this is, but it may have something to do with the woods used, the design of the bass or the string spacing. Nice segue into...

... the string-spacing. For my tastes this is the instrument's main fault. This is only one man's opinion and some players may really like the things I'm not fond of. The string spacing consists of very tightly grouped courses. The octave strings almost touch each other when the instrument is idle. There is slightly more space between the octaves and the fundamentals, but not much. The string groups, however, are set very far apart. The result is a very wide fretboard, possibly even wider than the Dean 12. The saving grace here is that the neck is also very thin, making the 12 playable using the classical hand positioning. Some finger-style players may really appreciate this spacing.

As a whole I'm glad a 12 of this quality is available in the $400 price range. Only a few years ago a player couldn't enter the 12-string bass world for under $2,000. This bass offers players the chance to test the 12-string waters in a comfortable price range. My only concern is that they aren't representative of the 12's in the middle and high-end range in feel or sound. This may or may not prove to be an adjustment problem for the player should he or she decide to upgrade to a higher level 12-string.

The bottom line is this is a very nice bass considering the price. Sam Ash has made a multitude of decent quality instruments available in the entry level price range. For the money this is a great buy, but don't expect what the high-end manufacturers offer.


Carlo Robelli USB-12B Review

by Odell Robinson, Jr.

My Carlo 12ver arrived a few days ago.

What I'm diggin':

The Carlo plays great. I can see the appeal of the larger neck compared to the CH-12. Everything is spread out much more (choruses, and between octaves and fundamentals). In a way it's much easier to play in that you can easily pick the octaves or the fundamental if you choose. Playing arpeggios is a lot easier. Due to increased neck width I think I will explore playing the Carlo with my fingers.

The back of the neck is unfinished. The more I play my basses with unfinished necks the more I'm diggin' that feel. The Ernie ball 5, the Carlo 8-er and now the Carlo 12ver with unfinished necks. Yeah. I think they are faster and feel better.

It feels heavier than the CH-12. I'm not sure if it is fact that it IS heavier or not, but it feels heavier. I think it balances well. The thick body may have something to do with that. I would say there is less neck dive than the CH-12.

The sound is a "twangy" compared to the CH-12. Which is not exactly a bad thing at all. I don't know what strings are on it so that may be a factor. The brass nut may also have something to do with this. I think it sounds great though. The active circuit is very "hot."

I like the looks of the Carlo. There's a quilted top on it. I'm sure those who are really into wood could find some kind of cheapness to it but it looks kool to me. The color is a translucent cherry. I can live with it.

What I'm concerned about:

The headstock is a different piece of wood than the neck itself. It appears to have been laminated (glue?) to the neck. I wonder if this common? I just went and checked my Carlo Robelli 8-string bass and it has this same laminated neck thing happening (I never noticed it before.) Hmmm... I only noticed it on the 12ver because the headstock wood is much darker than the neck. it's blended well on the 8.

Even thought the neck plays better than the CH-12 because it's wider, I found myself stretching out my hand more due to the increased wideness. I would imagine that after playing the Carlo for a while that playing my CH-12 will be be like butter.

The bolt on neck: Over time I wonder if the bolt on will hold up. It's not an immediate concern.

The bridge construction is suspect. It just doesn't appear to be as well made as the Hamer bridge.

What I don't like:

The battery compartment has the cover with screws. I wish it had a flip cover or the like. At least it is separate from the compartment with the pots and wiring.

Overall I'm diggin' the Carlo Robelli 12-string bass. If I had a choice between a Carlo and the CH-12, I'd have to go with the Carlo. It's playability overall is better in my opinion, and you can't beat the price. I can see playing both instruments for different things. They both have different sounds.