The Fame brand is relatively new in the UK and its ‘straight from the factory to the retailer’ model results in low prices throughout its extensive catalog, particularly the made in China guitars, basses, amps and PA gear which offer cash-strapped musicians a chance to get on stage for a comparatively small outlay. Not everything the brand retails is sourced in the Far East though; Fame also offers a range of guitars and basses built in the Mayones factory in Gdansk in Poland, where instruments are hand crafted by a small team of experienced builders who specialize in non-automated building methods in their relatively small factory. There is no computer controlled machinery at all; the woodworking, spraying and finishing are all done by hand. These methods result in a certain level of individualisation in the finishes and pickup choice and any instrument can be customized to order.
Fame’s Baphomet basses – a Baphomet is goat-headed figure found in occultism – consists of a full range of four, five and six strings also available in fretless and left-handed versions. The body shape will be familiar; the exaggerated offset ‘slim’ body with well-rounded edges is reminiscent of a famous German bass used by the late Jack Bruce, and currently by Adam Clayton from U2 and arch funkster Bootsy Collins. However once we get past this inevitable comparison, we can see that these are serious instruments, assembled for professional players and offering all the attributes of any contemporary bass in the same price bracket.
Fame constructs the Bahomet basses with a variety of timbers depending on model and finish. The natural oiled models use bubinga or ovangkol, there’s American maple for the coloured finishes and five or seven-piece mahogany/sycamore or mahogany/maple necks with 24-fret with rosewood or ebony fingerboards. Pickups are selected from MEC – or EMG on some limited edition models – with Mayones customized active electronics and all hardware is sourced from Partsland apart from the Schaller strap locks and fret material, which comes from German metals supplier Ferd. Wagner.
Our review bass is the Baphomet 6 NT, an imposing 6-string which adds a low B string and a top C to the regular set-up to give the bass a remarkable four plus octave range. It features a 2-piece ovangkol body and a bolt-on 5-piece mahogany/sycamore neck combination and a rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays. This particular model also has dual active MEC pickups with 2-band EQ with black WSC Partsland bridge and tuners.
This is a fairly weighty instrument, no doubt due to the extra timber on the neck, but is nicely balanced on either knee or strap. The oiled finish really shows the grain of the ovangkol, giving the bass a real ’ natural’ look in the true sense of the word. Care has been taken to get the contours of the body just right and visually, the rich colour is very easy on the eye and contrasts well with the rosewood fingerboard and the black hardware. Close inspection reveals that all the fret ends have been well-finished and the neck joining and routing for the pickups has been neatly executed. There’s a really pro feel to this bass; it’s set up with a workable low action and there was no hint of any strain on the neck from the extra tension from the added strings. The neck profile is fairly flat at the back, shaped to allowing the player as much reach as possible. Nonetheless, playing the Baphomet 6 NT proved a real stretch and would take some getting used to for anyone who has only ever played a 4-string bass.
Plugged in – take care that your speakers can accommodate the extended frequency range – the bass has power and tone in abundance, providing a good, solid thump at the very bottom and impressive clarity at the top end which will suit the more adventurous soloists and fusion guys very well. Controls consist of a volume knob for each pickup and the treble and bass on a dual concentric pot with a centre detent and despite the on-board pre-amp (battery compartment on the back) the bass is noticeably quiet.
With its excellent playability, solid feel and striking looks, the Fame Baphonet 6 NT should appeal to jazzers, fusioneers and rockers alike and would be a useful extra instrument to any session player who may just be called upon for that particularly tricky part that a regular bass can’t cover. If six strings proves too much of a stretch – literally – there’s always the four and five stringers in the Baphomet range to look at.