Tennessee 12-String Basses
The Tennessee brand 12-string bass first appeared in June of 2006. This bass was made in Korea and was available only in the sparkle green finish. Its features included a double bound semi-hollow body with F-hole, two pickups, passive electronics, a set neck, rosewood nut and an 8-saddle bridge with metal tailpiece. The bass is 3½" thick and weighs almost 15 pounds.
A new version of the Tennessee 12-string bass made in China appeared in November of 2006. The Chinese bass has a single bound thinner body, synthetic nut and bolt-on neck. It incorporates a rosewood bridge and is strung through the body just like the Starfire 12-string basses. Undoubtedly it was made in the same factory as the Starfire 12's. The pick guard is also slightly different.
In June of 2007 the Korean version of this bass reappeared on eBay. While most features are identical to the 12's sold in 2006, the nut on these "second series" basses was now synthetic. It is possible that due to the negative customer feedback about the rosewood nut, the remaining supply of basses was retrofitted with synthetic nuts by the seller.
Tennessee 12-String Bass - Made In Korea
Korean Tennessee 12-string basses have been seen with a ‘Made in China’ sticker on the back of the headstock. This is because at this time many Korean manufacturers were losing significant amounts of business to guitar builders in China due to the extremely low wages being paid by Chinese firms. To remain competitively priced, some Korean companies opted to set up additional manufacturing plants in China, while others either moved to China outright or went out of business. Today it is not unusual for retailers to receive a shipment of instruments all of the same brand but built in a variety of different plants in different countries.
Korean Tennessee 12-String Bass specs:
Double bound body with bound neck and headstock
Arch top, 3½" thick Semi Hollow Body with F-hole
34" long scale, Overall length is 48½”
Rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets and dot inlays, set neck
Rosewood nut on first series basses, Second series basses have Synthetic nuts
Single truss rod, Gotoh style tuners
Passive electronics, two pickups, selector switch
Two volume controls, two tone controls
Sparkle Green finish only
Tune-O-Matic style 8-Saddle Bridge, Metal Tailpiece, Chrome hardware
Weight 14½ pounds
Tennessee 12-String Bass - Made In China
It appears that the only similarity between the Chinese and Korean versions of the Tennessee 12-string bass is the name - even the font used on the headstock is different. The Chinese basses are identical to the Starfire 12-string basses, even down to the exceedingly poor quality. The Chinese Tennessee 12-string bass is the second production 12 to be strung through the body, appearing only days after the Starfire 12-string basses hit the market.
Although the seller's eBay description stated this bass had a "fully adjustable" bridge, this adjustment is limited to a height adjustment. The bridge is rosewood with slots cut for the strings rather than having metal string saddles. This type of bridge is usually only found on the cheapest acoustic guitars and offers no possibility of properly tuning the harmonics.
Chinese Tennessee 12-String Bass Specs:
Single bound Semi-Hollow Body with F-hole
34" long scale, Maple Bolt-On Neck
Rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets and dot inlays
Synthetic nut; Single truss rod
Passive electronics, two pickups, selector switch
Two volume controls, two tone controls
Raised white pick guard
Hi-Gloss Gumby Green finish, Black Headstock
Rosewood Bridge, Chrome hardware
Editor's Note: The following comments are from five different buyers of the Chinese Tennessee 12-string bass on eBay:
"I'm disappointed with the quality of this Bass and how it was represented."
"Total crap. The bass can't be played, poor quality finish, not worth $150. Cheap."
"Was not playable."
"It took me all night to get it set-up and playable."
Review of the Korean Tennessee 12-String Bass
A Comparison with a Waterstone TP-2
by Robert Baird
For the past few months, Tropical Moon Music has been auctioning the new Tennessee 12-string bass on eBay. I recently bid and won one of their eBay auctions for a used bass and I snagged it for just under $300 plus shipping. The auction listing did state that it had a broken string and the neck needed adjustment... and they were not lying! It was very well packed for safe ground shipping and arrived in perfect condition.
After I unpacked it, my first thoughts were: #1 - Pretty cool green sparkle finish and, #2 - The thing is a MONSTER!!! With a 3 1/8" thick body and 34" scale, it weighs a ton. My guess is about 14 pounds, it's just huge.
Anyway, I was also very lucky recently to have purchased my second Waterstone Tom Petersson 12-string Bass. My new Waterstone is a 34" scale in the limited edition yellow color. I have to admit my bias, I really like the quality, playability and sound of the Waterstone. To put the new Tennessee 12-string bass in perspective, I've photographed it side by side with my Waterstone 12-string bass.
First of all, the Tennessee's 3½" thick arch top body is obviously much thicker than a Waterstone's flat top, 2" thick body. The lower "horns" are styled differently, and the Tennessee's headstock length measures 8 3/4" long from the nut versus the Waterstone's longer headstock length of 10 3/8" from the nut.
The Tennessee's nut measures 2 1/8" and unfortunately it is simply a piece of rosewood that has been slotted for the 12 strings. Honestly, I think it's pretty bad and I plan to have my local luthier replace it soon. The top of the Tennessee's rosewood fretboard widens out to 3" in width, and the neck has 20 medium, low quality metal frets. Overall, it does have an approximately 34" scale. The overall body length is 19½" and the width of the widest / lower bout measures 16".
The neck and headstock have single ply cream color binding. The neck has a single truss rod and it is covered by a minimal looking black plastic cover. The body of the Tennessee 12 features single ply, cream colored binding top and bottom. The open f-hole also has single ply cream binding as trim. "God only knows" what kind of wood was used for the body??? Looking inside the f-hole, the woods appears dark, streaked, unfinished (burrs, etc.) and almost used in appearance. I usually never open the control cavities, and upon doing this with the Tennessee 12, I think the body is actually some sort of laminated plywood type material!
The paint finish on the guitar front, back, sides, and neck is actually very nice. There are no obvious paint flaws, runs, etc. The pickups are passive and measure 4½" in width versus the Waterstone pickups which measure 4" wide. I can't honestly tell about the pickups on the Tennessee 12. They seem to be a typical flat recessed soap-bar style, fully potted to form a solid bar. I think that they were probably designed #1 for looks and #2 to pickup vibrating strings, but not much after that in terms of bass and treble response curves. There is a standard 3-way toggle switch and each pickup has a tone and volume control.
The bridge on the Tennessee 12 uses 8 adjustable saddles similar to the Waterstone's and is also height adjustable like a tune-a-matic style bridge. The tailpiece on the Tennessee is similar to the style of the Waterstone's but has different positioning for the four tailpiece mounting screws. Also, the tuners look exactly the same as my Waterstone's but do not carry any brand markings.
User Report: When my used Tennessee 12 arrived from the seller, it was completely unplayable! The bridge height screws had been raised almost to the maximum bridge height so much that it was almost tilting on the bridge posts. The strings that came with the bass were very low quality. They were round-wound but obviously no attention was paid to their sound qualities. The neck on the Tennessee also had been "adjusted" to say the least - the truss rod had been cranked to the maximum!! So much so, you could see the middle of the neck arching upwards. Yipes!!!
The first thing I did was to remove all of the original strings. Next, I relieved the tension on the single truss rod completely. Then I lowered the sky-high bridge down to what I think of as a normal height adjustment that would prevent fret buzzing but allow a semi-low action on the neck. I let the unstrung neck sit for a day with the truss rod set at no neck tension, then installed a set of Waterstone strings. The new Waterstone E and A fundamental strings were much more stout than the original bass strings and, as a consequence, the slotting of the cheap rosewood nut had to be adjusted or the strings would "ride high" in the nut slots.
I tuned all the new strings up to pitch, adjusted the bridge height just a little and then started re-adjusting the truss rod. I must have been lucky because the neck seemed to be straight and I was able to play without any fretting out or buzzing up the scale for each string.
Finally, the big question... How did this new "Monster" sound? I plugged it in and began to play simple riffs just to hear the bass and treble response of the Tennessee's stock neck and bridge pickups. The volume and tone pots worked as they should have without any scratching, etc. and the 3-way toggle worked as it should have.
To my ear, the pickups on the Tennessee are adequate, not great, not awful, but adequate. There was in no way the articulation of Hamer's or Waterstone's pickups, the Tennessee's pickups seemed a bit mid-range all across the scale. My ears didn't hear the distinct treble courses cutting through with great definition, but they were there.
Final thoughts... Let me repeat, this thing is a Monster!! Not in the cool sonic way, but in the actual physical sense. It's big, it's heavy, it has a chunky neck, and it sounds okay... not great, but okay. I'm planning on using it for gigs and tweaking its sound with an equalizer and treble boost pedal. Since I didn't pay that much for it, I'd feel safe using it live. I just worry about what's going to happen to my shoulders and back after three hours of playing!