Rybski’s Sean O’Bryan Smith Deluxe Signature Bass is a truly rare custom bass. Rare in the sense that most custom basses have some element of “stock” to them, where as this bass is a signature model with features to fit a particular player’s needs and the builders unique touches that comprise his own inspiration and designs. I could immediately feel this the moment it was in my hands before ever really playing anything on it.
Lets begin with the physical attributes first, the obvious, and then the unique.
At first handling, the weight and balance are perfect. This bass would fall into the “light” category. The Swamp Ash core and quilted Poplar top, light alloy tuners and bridge keep this bass from being a shoulder and back killer. I must admit a perverse joy in seeing figured poplar as the choice of wood for the top plates. The contouring made for a snug body contact giving the feeling that the bass is “one” with the player. Resting in a comfortable playing position both sitting and standing, and never felt like it would move once you let go of it between riffs that required you to let go of the neck during a skip in a phrase. If you move, the bass goes with you and is where you’d want it to be when you come back to it. You can take your eyes off the neck and feel your way around while playing.
The body finish was of a high gloss polyester finish, and the neck portion has a nice soft satin finish to reduce drag.
The nine-piece laminated neck with highly figured Birdseye maple fingerboard had the full round D-shape profile. The glued-in neck-to-body joint was perfectly fitted with no glue line filling any gaps. The fit and finish on the fret work was clean and smooth, with plenty of height to allow for years of playing time before needing to be replaced from wear and fret leveling adjustments. Stainless steel frets, by the way, will last a long long time. All together very comfortable neck and fretboard radius and fret wire combination.
The hardware consists of Hipshot Ultralight tuners and a Hip Shot E-string detuner, Babicz Full Contact bridge and a scalloped brass nut. The detuner worked flawlessly and the E to D pitch never needed to be tweaked after many times flipping tunings. The bridge was unique in the simplicity of design and adjustments are easily made and secured.
Now we get to the good stuff… the electronics. Rybski uses P/J pickups of his own design and making paired with the EMG BQS 3band pre amp. These pickups sport an organic asymmetrical shape with wood covers that match the top plates of the bass for a unified appearance. It is the electronics and pickups of this bass leaves others wanting. It is the control and dynamic range of the pick-ups and the sweepable mid range cut/boost control that is just not found on most basses to this degree.
Mid-range frequencies can be tricky, and down right annoying if not in the correct range and harnessed. Making a huge difference in mid-tone is easy, but a wide range of usable mid control is where it’s happening… Rybski nailed it. This bass had plenty of lows, highs and punch.
On par for basses of this caliber, but the mid sweep was incredible, and moving between the front and back pickups in conjunction with the mid sweep made for seemingly endless variety of tonal sounds, again most where immediately usable, over to some that were pretty radical. When set to mostly bridge pickup and boost wide open, the amount of “cut” was truly ear splitting but yet usable in tone. Some players would love to have this kind of over the top mid bite for projection and definition. Not one bit of hum in any setting and the controls are very user friendly, and it was so easy to get back to whatever combination created a tone that I wanted to dial back in. That wonderful diverse range with an inherent intuitive layout that lets you find you way to the tone you wish to conjure up, and still get back to the tone that’s your home base sound.
I would recommend you check out Rybski’s website to get an idea of what he is about and his approach to design. His break from the pack approach and confidence in his craft is evident both in his basses and his personal history. I got the feeling that I could sense that self reliance and dedication to his craft in his work well before learning anything about the man.
How often does that happen these days?