Cliff Engel's Institute Of Bass

Zon Guitars - June 2005

Originally established as a repair and custom guitar shop in a retail music store called the Buffalo Guitar Outlet, Zon Guitars was founded by Joe Zon in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, in 1981. As a repair technician, Zon had earned a reputation for years of high-quality repairs and building customized instruments. In order to address all the problematic issues encountered with instruments while a repairman, Zon designed his first production-model instruments in 1982, the Standard and Signature model basses. After years of continued growth, Zon relocated his shop to Redwood City, California, in 1987, which continues to facilitate as Zon's base of operations today.

Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of Zon Guitars, and since the inception of the first prototype, Zon's bass line has expanded greatly with the introduction of a variety of models including the Legacy, Sonus, and Mosaic series basses, amongst others. It was Zon's collaboration with bass virtuoso Michael Manring that led to the development of the Hyperbass, a ground-breaking instrument that was specifically designed for the utilization of altered tunings. Zon's partnership with Manring also led to the release of a distinctive headless bass line called the VB series. Teaming up with Metallica's Robert Trujillo in 2004, Zon unveiled the Sonus RT5 signature model bass followed by the Mosaic BB5 for Vital Information bassist Baron Browne in 2005.

Zon Guitars has remained at the forefront of bass design for more than two decades, and today, Zon basses are recognized as instruments of superior quality, innovation, and performance. By blending meticulous handcraftsmanship with high-tech components such as composite necks, phenowood fingerboards, quadraphonic electronics, infrared optical pickups, and piezo bridges, Zon Guitars has combined state-of-the-art technology with traditional concepts and set the standard for taking bass further into the future.

In the following interview, Joe Zon discusses the advantages of using composite materials in the construction of basses, the differences between bolt-on and set-in necks, finishes, researching the selection of components, designing basses with Michael Manring, Robert Trujillo, and Baron Browne, as well as the introduction of all-wood basses into the Zon product line.

How did you get started building basses?

Zon Guitars I've always been mechanically inclined and very good with my hands. When I was 11 years old, I was doing bike repairs at a local shop under the table because I was too young to work. I was building bicycles out of parts, working on shock absorbers, and fixing bikes for other kids in the neighborhood.

I was originally a keyboard player studying piano and organ. We had two pianists for our band, but we didn't have a bass player. The other keyboardist played much better than me so rather than have two keyboard players and no bass player in the band, I picked up the bass. I've always loved the sound of bass and being a bass player.

I had been playing bass for a few years before I decided to build my first bass. I was playing an imitation Hofner Beatle bass that my parents bought for me. It was constantly falling apart so I was doing all sorts of things trying to keep it together. I just got tired of that bass falling apart, and that is what started me on the path of wanting to build my own instrument in my late teenage years. Plus, I couldn't find everything I wanted in a single instrument that was available at that time in a production model bass so one day I woke up and decided I'm going to build an instrument.

At the time, there were no books available on how to build a bass. There were many books written on how to build acoustic guitars but nothing for bass, and there were no luthiery schools to attend like there are today. Then, there was a sequence of events that really got me started. One of my dad's friends worked in a wood shop so he was able to provide me with some wood. I drew a design of the body shape I liked, had it cut out, and then I sanded everything by hand including the body and neck. That is how I built my first few instruments. By today's standards at our shop, these were really crude instruments, but I didn't have the equipment available back then to really build basses efficiently. To install the pickups and controls, I was using a chisel to hollow out the body. It was some time before I discovered the benefits of a router. I built my first three instruments over the course of a couple years before I finally came up with a design that allowed the bass to do all the things I wanted including feeling the way I wanted it to feel and sounding the way I wanted it to sound. I was a big fan of John Entwistle. His reversed body Thunderbird really caught my attention so I modeled the body shape after it. I also liked the feel of the neck and the headstock design, too. I put all these components together, and my bass became a three-pickup model with separate outputs for each pickup.

I was playing around town in different clubs, and after gigs everyone would hang out and chat about gear. One evening after a show, I was talking to another bass player from a different band, and he didn't believe that I played an instrument that I had built for myself. The next night they were playing so I dropped my bass off for him to check out, and he ended up using that bass for most of the show. He really liked it and asked me if I would consider taking a look at his Fender P-bass because he was experiencing some fret-related problems with it. He had taken it to everyone in the city, and nobody could fix it. I fixed the problem for him, and he was completely blown away by it. He thought I had a natural talent for doing repairs and said I could make money doing this kind of work. With me being a starving musician at that time, this sounded very attractive. Later, I came to find out that he spread the word around town that I had fixed his bass, and I started receiving phone calls from other musicians inquiring about fixing their instruments. One thing led to another, and before I realized it, I had a repair shop set up in my parent's basement and things really got out of hand. We were receiving so many phone calls that my parents just stopped answering the phone, and I moved the repair shop to a local music store where they allowed me to rent some space.

As I was doing more and more repair work, I learned the things that you should do along with a lot of the things that you shouldn't do when building an instrument. I was fixing everything from stripped-out screws to broken necks. When I was doing repairs, I liked to challenge people to find the repair that I had completed on the instrument. I felt that if they couldn't locate what I had fixed on the instrument, then I had accomplished my goal. All of these experiences I had as a repairman really motivated me to build an instrument that addressed all these problems. I had several years of experience in doing repairs and building custom instruments such as Flying V guitars for those musicians that wanted something different from what was available at that time, but I wanted to build a production-model bass.

In college, I did some work with graphite composites, and this material really made a great deal of sense to me. Modulus had already issued a bass with a composite neck so due to the patent they held on their neck, I had to subcontract Modulus to make some necks for me. The necks were my design. I carved the master template for them, and a mold was made from the template I designed. Modulus then supplied me with the shells. I started with a unique body style that I thought was attractive and also got connected with Bill Bartolini. Bill was very open to winding pickups that were specifically designed for us which would complement what we were doing because the stock pickups that were available weren't working that well with the components that we were using.

At the same time that I was working in the repair shop, I was also employed by Polyfusion who made modular synthesizers. I was working at Polyfusion during the day and then doing repairs during the evenings and on weekends. Working for Polyfusion was an unbelievably rewarding experience because I learned so much about electronics. That is where I was first introduced to active electronics and got involved with designing a series of them while working there. Polyfusion was so consumed with the synthesizer market at the time that they really didn't know much about the guitar world, but I did. I consulted with them on the possibilities of placing active electronics in guitars, and soon after, Polyfusion was supplying active electronics systems to Hamer, Kramer, and a number of other manufacturers. This took place way before Bartolini or anyone else was offering active electronics in the late 70's. When I left Polyfusion to start my own company, the active electronics came with me, and Polyfusion had no problem with this as long as I used their active electronics in my basses. Today, we have been working together for over 20 years, and it has been a really terrific relationship.

I debuted my first production-model basses, the Standard and Signature model instruments, at the NAMM show in Chicago in 1982. It was at this show that I really became inspired because I was receiving all sorts of great complements on these basses. I had a deep respect for what Alembic was doing. I thought they were extremely innovative in their designs. With all of the stock Fender basses that were available, Alembic represented the future to me. I was greatly encouraged by the people from Alembic through their genuine complements at that show, and for a young builder, that meant everything. They really sparked a fire inside me. My first basses were esoteric in their design so I needed to come up with something that was a little less radical-looking, and that is when I came up with the Legacy design. It had more of a traditional appearance to it as compared to the earlier models. That was a real turning point because people were more accepting of its shape. One of our first endorsees for that instrument was John Wetton who was the bass player for Asia. Rick James was actually our first endorsee. He used several of the Signature and Standard model basses, and Tim Butler from the Psychedelic Furs was also one of our first endorsing artists.

What do you believe to be the most significant variables in determining the tonal characteristics of an electric bass?

Everything. From the many years of research that I've conducted, I have found that there are some variables which stand out and tend to be more dominant than others just due to their nature, but everything affects the performance and sound of a bass to some degree. It's like a chain because the bass is only going to be as strong as its weakest link. If you compromise in any particular area, whether it be in the body wood, electronics, hardware, finish, or whatever, you really compromise the quality and overall performance of the instrument.

There are manufacturers that have a specific body design and then allow you as the consumer to choose from a number of body woods, neck woods, pickups, and so forth, but we don't do that. Some builders think it's a great idea to build your own bass, and many people love the idea of having their own custom-built instrument. The main problem is that many of these builders, unfortunately, just don't know what they are doing. People see all these beautiful woods in pictures on the internet, and these same people think that they can combine this wood with that wood and these pickups with those electronics, and then they'll have this incredible instrument. The end product might look absolutely gorgeous but sound just unbelievably horrible. You just can't take a bunch of random parts and stick them together on an instrument and expect an incredibly-sounding bass.

Zon Guitars If you look at the classic violin builders, they didn't just take random pieces of wood, put them together, and hope for the best. They were extremely selective in the materials they used. Electric instruments really aren't all that different from acoustic instruments. They both resonate. They all speak acoustically first and electronically second. If you have a bass that doesn't sound good acoustically, it is not going to sound any better electronically. You have to be selective in your choice of materials. The quality of the materials shouldn't even be a question anymore because high-quality materials are a standard. The problem lies in the combination of these high-quality materials. If you want a good-sounding instrument, you can't mismatch materials. You want the materials used within the construction of an instrument to complement each other, and that is what our system is all about. Unfortunately, most people buy a book by its cover, but if the bass doesn't sound great, it's all show and no go.

Ideally, no one single component should dominate the others. The instrument should be a sum of its parts. The pickups should be voiced to complement the body wood, neck materials, and so forth. If you just put parts together randomly, you might come up with something great. That has happened in the past. On the rare occasion that you put something unusual together and it actually ends up working, then you refine it.

Just from years of experience in researching the combination of different parts, I can tell you what the end result of a certain combination will yield. In the late 80's when keyboards were very prevalent in the music and the bass just wasn't cutting through the mix, many players were approaching me for a bass that could be more easily heard in this type of band setting. I knew what bubinga and ash sounded like, and I knew from previous experience that by moving the neck pickup closer to the bridge, the bass could achieve more punch. Because I had the acoustic side of this bass figured out, the missing link in this equation was the pickup. By coincidence, Bill Bartolini had just started working with multi-coil pickups, and he sent me a set. I plugged them into this new bass, and they worked perfectly. The resulting research in this project produced the Sonus Special, and players really took to this new bass. This is an example of how no single element was more important than the others because the choice of body woods in combination with the pickups and their placement in the instrument all complemented each other. It's a sum of all the parts. The most significant part of the instrument is the instrument itself.

What are your thoughts on master-grade bookmatched wood body tops? Are they primarily chosen for cosmetic reasons or do you feel they have a substantial impact on the overall character of the instrument?

Wood tops do make a difference in the overall sound of an instrument, but in some cases the difference in the sound isn't always as obvious as night and day. A number of years ago, Michael (Manring) and I were going back and forth on this subject because he was trying to pick out a wood top for a bass. It just so happened that I was in a position where I had finished building a number of instruments that were all the same model, but they all had different tops. They were ordered that way. Before I shipped that order, I took them over to Michael's studio and laid them out across the floor. We then proceeded to play each of these basses acoustically, and you could hear a subtle difference between the woods.

Zon Guitars It really all depends on the hardness of the wood. If you go from one extreme to the next, then the difference is much more pronounced. For example, if you go from very soft spalted maple to very hard bubinga, you will absolutely hear a big difference in sound. Now if you were to compare the sound of spalted maple to redwood, you aren't going to hear that much of a difference because they are both soft woods. The difference is going to be so subtle that it isn't even worth talking about. If you were going to choose between spalted maple and redwood, it would probably be a decision based more upon cosmetic reasons as opposed to tonal characteristics. If you are comparing spalted maple to koa, you are going to hear a little more midrange content in the koa, or in comparing spalted maple to zebrawood, you are going to hear a bit more top end along with a more aggressive sound out of the zebrawood. In other words, when comparing wood tops to one another, the differences are going to become most apparent in comparing woods at the extreme ends of the hardness scale and not necessarily that noticeable with woods that are very close to one another in hardness.

It does take quite a significant difference in the increment of hardness of the woods being compared to notice a difference, but the bottom line is that there is a difference. If someone says there isn't a difference in the sound of a bass with a bubinga wood top and a spalted maple wood top, then they really need to go get their ears checked. Unfortunately, most players who just don't know any better often buy a bass due to how incredible it looks, but I've seen a lot of beautiful basses that just sounded awful.

I always try to consult with players on the sound they are after, and then I try to suggest a particular wood that would best fit their needs. It might not be the exact look they initially had in mind, but the sound is going to be there, and that is what is truly important. Players should always keep in mind that just because a wood top looks really cool doesn't always mean the bass is going to sound great or produce the sound that they are trying to achieve. I've seen so many basses that from an aesthetic point of view just looked horrible but at the same time sounded completely amazing. It's definitely true that you can't always judge a book by its cover.

How does Zon's flat urethane and high gloss finishes compare to each other?

There are some very considerable differences between our flat urethane and high-gloss body finishes. First, from an economic standpoint, high-gloss finishes take much more labor in order to complete which translates into a more expensive instrument. The flat urethane finish requires much less work because we don't have a lot of sanding and polishing to complete. Second, there is going to be a difference in the feel and appearance of the bass. Basses with our flat urethane finish have a more organic-type of vide to them. It also looks like an oil finish but it's not. The flat urethane finish is much more durable than an oil finish. It requires absolutely no maintenance. You don't have to polish it, and if you sweat profusely, you aren't going to stick to the bass nor will the bass show any fingerprints. The flat urethane finishes are really nice and are becoming very popular. It's basically the same material we use on the backs of our necks but a little harder in density.

Some of the basses within the Zon line employ bolt-on necks while others feature a set-in, glued-on neck design. Is there a tonal difference?

Tonally, bolt-on necks are going to produce more punch. Period. Instruments with a set-in neck are going to produce a more open sound. In other words, our bolt-on series basses have more punch while the basses with set-in, glued necks sound more open. That's the primary difference. The sound is really a result of the physics in how the neck is attached to the body. We don't offer neck-through basses using a composite neck because they sound too sterile. The bridge is connected to the center of the body, and if that center piece is completely composed of carbon fiber, you are going to lose the interaction between a set-in or bolt-on neck with the body wood. If you glue or bolt the neck onto the body, you have more control over the sound of the bass because you are combining the benefits offered by a composite neck with a wood body. With a set-in or bolt-on neck used in conjunction with a body wood and wood top, we can fine tune the voice of that instrument and allow it to have its own personality.

Composite necks are recognized as a staple component of Zon basses. What materials are used in the construction of a composite neck?

We've innovated a proprietary "recipe" for our composite necks. The composite necks are comprised of an assortment of materials including carbon fiber and wood, among other things. Consistently even tone has always been very important to us so obtaining the proper mixture of materials in the neck has been crucial in achieving a sound that is more like that of enhanced wood rather than having a neck that sounds like a piece of plastic. While the neck does play a significant role, so do the rest of the components used in each bass.

For whatever reason, many people still think Modulus builds our necks, but they don't. Back in the early days, we had to subcontract our necks from Modulus because they held an exclusive patent and weren't licensing anything to anybody. They wanted to control everything so they made our composite necks for about 5 years. Today, our necks don't even remotely resemble a Modulus neck. They look different. They feel different, and our necks sound different than a Modulus neck as well as any other manufacturer's composite neck currently being produced. When players pick up one of our instruments, they realize that our necks sound warmer and have more personality than other basses with composite necks made by other manufacturers.

Can you discuss the advantages of composite necks used in the construction of Zon basses?

The concept behind our composite neck was to take the benefits of composites including stability and rigidity which would then translate into more sustain along with more evenness in volume and tone across the entire range of the fingerboard. We could eliminate the dead spots that can occur on wood necks. Our goal in building basses with composite necks has always been to make the bass sound like a wood instrument with super stability and evenness in tone. We are trying to build enhanced versions of typical all-wood instruments rather than build something that is just a high-tech, state-of-the-art aerospace instrument.

Zon Guitars Our composite necks are extremely stable, much more stable than a traditional neck wood such as maple. You'll never have to worry about making truss rod adjustments because the neck isn't going to move. Since composite necks have a flatter frequency response, they have less affect on coloring the tone of the body wood. The instrument will speak with greater clarity and maintain better definition. Composite necks have proven to be particularly beneficial when playing in dropped or lowered tunings where the notes tend to become muddy-sounding or lost in the mix.

What is phenowood, and how are its physical and sonic characteristics different from a traditional fingerboard wood such as maple?

Phenowood has existed for a very long time, since the 1950's. It is simply veneers of wood, usually birch, that are dyed black and impregnated with a phenolic resin. These veneers are compressed under tremendously intense heat and pressure which fuses them into a solidified sheet of material. The physical and tonal qualities of phenowood are actually really similar to that of ebony. The primary difference in comparing a wood such as maple or ebony to phenowood is that phenowood is by far more stable and much more resistant to any changes in moisture or humidity.

Since composite necks don't require truss rods in order to facilitate the correction of neck relief caused by factors such as the temperature or humidity, do you have a pre-set amount of neck relief built into the necks or are Zon necks perfectly straight?

We do place a very small, pre-set amount of neck relief into our necks. I've always subscribed to the John Entwistle school of action that says you should be able to play on the other side of the frets. I've never thought anyone should have to play with a boat anchor around their neck to sound good. At one point years ago, it was commonly accepted that the heavier the bass was, the better it would play. Well, you shouldn't have to fight an instrument in order to play it, and the same thing is true with regard to the action. There is a very minimal amount of relief in our necks, just enough to get you by. We tend to set up our basses before shipping them to customers with string action as low as we can go without receiving too much string buzz when any single note is fretted on the fingerboard.

Why did you decide to produce basses with all-wood necks?

Every year at the NAMM show, people kept approaching me saying how beautiful our instruments were and how great they sounded, but they just felt like they had to feel wood. At first, I was very resistant to the concept of an all-wood neck because I felt like it would undermine what we had been doing all of these years. Wood necks respond differently than composite necks because composite necks have a faster attack.

The deciding factor in moving forward on producing a bass with an all-wood neck came after working with Robert Trujillo of Metallica. Robert was experimenting with a lot of our basses that had composite necks, but he said that for the old stuff, he really needed something with a wood neck. We got together and started working on specifications for the neck profile, and Robert was very clear on what he wanted. I can't even remember how many trips I made to Metallica's rehearsal studio, but I put a couple thousand miles on my truck over the course of a year. The end results of our research became the RT5, the Robert Trujillo model. We also came out with the Tribute bass (now known as the Mosaic) which was designed to attract players who wanted wood instruments with our quality and sound. My next motivation for building all-wood basses came in working with Baron Browne, the bass player with Vital Information. He had a bunch of our composite basses, but he didn't feel like any of them sounded like his old Jazz bass. After some research, we came up with a bass that he ended up using on tour with Vital Information throughout Europe and Asia while his old Jazz bass stayed at home.

An all-wood neck was a medium that players expressly desired so in order to offer more to our customers, it was time to evolve. If players are seeking out our instruments because of their quality and want a wood neck, then they should have that option. It's really all about building great basses and trying to present bassists with another palette of tone to use.

What was the basic design concept behind the VB line of Zon basses?

Who else could have influenced the design of that bass but Michael (Manring)! Back in the early 90's, Michael was playing another manufacturer's headless bass, and he kept bringing it by the shop because it was so problematic and was always falling apart. I finally decided it was time to replace this bass so I built him something that was somewhat similar in concept. It's kind of a goofy-looking thing, and it was right around the time the movie My Cousin Vinny came out. Michael likes to name all of his basses so his prototype headless Zon bass became affectionately known as "Vinny," and the seed was planted to one day release a headless line of Zon basses which we now call the VB series. Michael's first headless prototype was built in 1993. He recently retired the original Vinny and replaced it with a new VB4 featuring a buckeye burl top which he now refers to as Earl.

As the years passed, more and more people saw Michael playing his headless bass in live shows, and they started requesting a production-line version. I was extremely reluctant to make a production-line model out of this bass. I didn't do it to jump on the headless bandwagon, and I only made the first VB as a favor to Michael. I really wanted to let the whole headless thing run its course because when Steinbergers became popular, everyone had one. Eventually, I felt like enough time had passed, and I decided to add the VB series of basses to the Zon lineup. I decided to introduce it as a factory direct instrument because frankly, I didn't think there was enough interest in them to cause our dealers to be upset in not selling the basses through their shops. Today, we've sold quite a few of these basses. The VB basses are somewhat deceiving at first glance because people usually think the bass looks kind of wimpy, but after they hear this bass, they are completely blown away.

The Sonus RT5 was inspired and designed in collaboration with Metallica's Robert Trujillo. How did that partnership come about, and how does the RT model compare to the other Sonus series basses?

When Robert left Ozzy and signed with Metallica, he started looking for a new bass. A very good friend of mine, Craig McFarland, introduced me to Robert. We got together, drank a few beers, chatted about basses, and the rest is history. The RT5 exists because Robert had a very heavy hand in designing it. He's a super cool guy, and I can't say enough good things about him.

With the exception of the hardware and the overall shape of the body, the RT5 is very different than the standard Sonus series. Robert liked the Sonus body style so we started with that first. The RT5 is the only instrument we offer with a solid maple body. The RT5 has a completely different neck profile than a standard Sonus bass, and it's the only Zon bass with EMG pickups. When you hear the combination of the EMG pickups with the Bartolini electronics at 110 decibels blaring through an Ampeg rig, you hear things that you don't normally hear when playing a bass in a studio. Bass just sounds different at that volume level. Robert was very particular, and he knew exactly what he was after. The RT5 has a lot of punch. The maple body is a little harder and denser than our standard ash body which we use on most of our basses, but it's not as bright as you might initially expect because it is a soft maple. It also has a quilted maple top on it, which itself is a pretty soft wood, so this also contributes to the overall sound of the bass. The bass definitely has a serious amount of edge and definition due to the maple. It has to because Robert needs to cut through Metallica's guitars. This bass is really starting to take off because the more of them that get into circulation, the more they become in demand. They aren't hanging on walls in shops for very long. As soon as people play the RT5, they walk out the door with one.

In January, 2005, Zon introduced the Mosaic BB5. Can you tell us about this new model and how it differs from the standard Mosaic bass?

This bass was designed in collaboration with Baron Browne of Vital Information. Baron is a Gallien-Krueger endorsee, and at a NAMM show, he had the opportunity to play a Mosaic in the G-K booth. He really took to it, and after playing it, came over to the Zon booth to introduce himself. That's where the relationship started. He's a phenomenal bassist. He's really the driving force behind Vital Information. He isn't a typical kind of player that might slap his way through a tune. He can, but instead, his playing is just so tasteful and funky. Listening to him play is so stimulating.

Sonically, the BB5 definitely sounds like a classic Jazz bass. There is no mistake about that because it has that classic 70's Jazz bass-type of tone. The standard Mosaic has a rosewood fingerboard whereas the BB5 has a maple fingerboard due to Baron's preference of maple over rosewood. He tried the rosewood, but he liked the sound of maple better. The BB5 contains passive electronics while the electronics used in the standard Mosaic are active. The pickups in the BB5 are single coils, and the Mosaic has dual-coil pickups. The body on the BB5 is also slightly heavier than the standard Mosaic. Those are the most noticeable differences.

Zon Guitars

What are some of the options that customers can select from to "customize" their Zon bass?

With the way I've designed the entire product line, each model has its own unique voice. For example, the Sonus 5/2 sounds different than the Sonus 5. The Sonus 5 sounds different than the Sonus 519. The Sonus Custom sounds different than all of these basses and so forth. They all have their own particular tonal characteristics. The reason behind this lineup is so that we can deliver players a complete package. Generally, players will contact us looking for a specific type of sound and ask us which bass will get them closest to the sound that they are hearing. We can then direct them to that model which will help achieve their goals. Having worked in retail for a number of years, players will often think they know what they want, but they don't know how to achieve it. They just have to physically pick up a bass and play it in order to know if that is the right sound they are seeking or not.

Today, we've designed enough different models that any player from any musical background can find an instrument within our product line that will meet their needs. From a vintage-sounding Jazz bass to something that is more exclusively theirs, we can cater to the sounds of practically anyone's needs. If you are looking for the classic Jaco sound, we can do that. If you are seeking the Marcus Miller tone, we can help you achieve that. At the same time, part of our philosophy is to create basses so that you have your own personal sonic thumbprint. Our basses aren't designed with only a single voice in mind.

The basses are so versatile that rarely do people request unusual modifications. Sometimes a player might request something such as an extended fingerboard to execute different playing styles, and that isn't a problem. We are not in the "custom" bass business in the sense that we wouldn't take someone's vintage bass pickup and place it in a Legacy Elite.

We do offer a wide selection of standard options such as master and gallery-grade wood tops, fretless fingerboards, transparent and solid colors, headstock laminates, different colors of hardware, a piezo bridge, Hipshot Xtender keys, and fingerboard inlays. In terms of master-grade wood tops, most of our requests are for quilted and spalted maple, redwood, and myrtlewood.

Besides electric basses, Zon also produces several accessories such as strings. How did you get involved in string manufacturing?

Searching for the right strings for our basses years ago was really problematic. We were trying strings from a number of manufacturers, and then I came across a small company consisting of a couple guys that were making a really terrific string. They were willing to make strings for us, and over the years, we've evolved into a real relationship. Through trial and error, we've modified the formula, and now we have a string that is uniquely ours. Unlike many other bass builders who sub-contract one of the big string companies to make strings for them which really end up being someone else's strings just in different colored packaging, our strings are made to our specifications.

Sonus RT5 Deluxe

Zon Guitars - RT5 Deluxe
First introduced as the Jazz bass for the 1990's, the Sonus bass has evolved into one of Zon's most popular models. Designed with traditional styling, the Sonus achieves a perfect balance of classic characteristics.

When Robert Trujillo wanted a new 5-string bass with a distinctive look and sound, he collaborated with Zon Guitars. The result is the Sonus RT5 Deluxe with a tone designed to integrate with guitar-heavy metal and rock while cutting through with a distinctive, powerful voice.

The Sonus RT5 Deluxe features a two-piece, solid figured maple body mated to a custom-tapered, bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard, making it the perfect vehicle for Trujillo's trademark style. Electronics consist of two custom EMG single-coil pickups and a custom Bartolini preamp that work in harmony to produce gut-shaking bottom end, meaty midrange, and a top end that cuts through the thickest wall of guitars. Active tone controls offer bass, midrange, and treble boost/cut of +/-15dB. The midrange is centered at 400 Hz, providing variable tonal weight and depth. Volume and pickup-blend controls allow further sonic shaping.

An alternate version of the Sonus RT5 Deluxe is the Sonus RT5. This bass shares most of the Deluxe's features, incorporating a 2-band EQ system (treble and bass boost/cut) with a two-piece maple body and bookmatched figured maple top.

The Sonus RT5 and Sonus RT5 Deluxe basses are available from all Zon Guitars dealers worldwide. Both models are handcrafted in Zon Guitars' California shop.

Sonus RT5 Deluxe Specifications

Material: Two-piece solid Quilt maple
Finish: Polyester gloss
Color: Natural, transparent black, red or blue

Type: Maple, bolt-on design
Scale length: 34"
Finish: Flat urethane
Fingerboard: Rosewood with side dot markers
Radius: 12"
Nut: Graphite
Frets/size: 24/medium
Width at nut: 1.813"
Width at fingerboard: 2.813"

Type: ZB3 active system by Bartolini
Functions: Master volume, pickup blend, mid, bass, and treble controls. Boost/cut +/-15dB. Mid center frequency 400hz.
Power requirements: Single 9-volt battery
Life expectancy: 2500 hours of continuous use

Make: EMG
Type: Active single coil

Bridge: Zon Machined brass
String spacing: .687"/17mm (string-to-string center)
Tuners: Gotoh GB-7
Finish: Chrome

Fretless lined or blank (no dots on board face), sunburst colors, solid colors, left-handed, black hardware, Hipshot Xtender key

Gig bag included

Cliff Engel's Institute Of Bass

©1997-2023 Cliff Engel ¤ Terms Of Service ¤ Privacy Policy ¤ Sitemap