Gear Review: Vigier Arpege IV Bass
In 1978, Patrice Vigier set out to become an independent luthier of guitars and basses, and Vigier Guitars was born. Thirty-four years later, the Vigier is still going strong. We got our hands on the company’s Arpege IV bass, and took it for a test drive. The Arpege IV is a lovely sounding four string bass and will easily handle most demands a professional bassist will place on their axe.
Let’s start with what matters most… the feel and response of the instrument. The other stuff can be swapped out if needed, but you won’t need to.
I found the Aprege IV’s familiar D-shaped neck to be very comfortable, both in thickness and width. Fender players as well as custom bass players will feel at home on the Vigier. The string height was a bit high for my sensibilities, but nonetheless, easy to get busy with right out of the case. The medium light strings, a set of 90-40 gauge strings that came on a 33.8 inch scale length neck worked well – no buzzing anywhere on the fingerboard. I have been playing 35 inch scale necks for the last decade, and am used to the extra tightness in the feel of the string. The stiffness in the neck did away with that slushy feel that can sometimes come with a 34 inch neck too. I welcomed the comfort of the shorter scale length with no loss of clarity in tone.
The bass balances well both sitting and standing, and the weight was a comfortable 8.3 pounds.
The nut is a Teflon/graphite composite for durability and preventing the string from binding in the slots. This nut primarily just keeps the string spacing over the zero fret. Personally, I like the zero fret over standard nut for both feel and tone on any bass guitar. Each string has an independent bridge, which some people claim enhances clarity.
The string height adjustment can only be dealt with at the bridge saddle because there is no need to consider the curvature of the neck. What? Yep, the neck is set to rigid factory specs, and being that there is no truss rod to adjust the neck, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. Vigier maintains that changing to a heavier string will not affect the neck in a manner that would call for a neck adjustment, as is the case with most basses. Carbon graphite bars and a phenowood (phenolic resin) fingerboard assist the maple neck wood in resisting string tension. Now, let me state for the record that I’m an old school bass maker and have not dispensed with the truss rod as of yet in my basses, but I can see the benefits, tonally speaking, in letting go of the trusty truss rod. Keeping vibration energy in the string so it can do its thing longer and more clearly is a good thing. I like having the ability to make adjustments too when needed. Wood does move seasonally and will yield to stress over time. That much I know. I will assume that Vigier has taken the steps to engineer a design that eliminates this concern.
There have been – for years – debates over the effect of truss rods, glue, certain woods, metals and construction methods on a bass’s tone. I tend to consider adjustment more important than splitting hairs over minute gains or losses in tone, and I mean minute. Add the rest of the band and a PA system to the mix, and these nuances are gone. For recording, these little gains in tone do add up, so I can’t tell you to disregard them, but I have to admit that the stiffness in the neck of the Vigier bass to be exceptional and noticeable in feel and tone. Other reputable bass companies, both mass-produced and high-end custom, combine truss rods with carbon graphite bars to give the added stiffness as well as needed adjustment. Time and constant tension will tell us if this “no truss rod” method of construction will win the argument. So for the here and now, let’s chalk one up on the plus side. If you like an ever so slight curve in your neck, you can’t have it. This neck is straight and flat to the eye, and that is how it will stay, assuming that it doesn’t flex over the years.
Now for the electronics. This bass has three band EQ for both neck and bridge pickups independently. The range of tonal variety was excellent on both not to mention tonal combinations that could be had between pickups by using the blend knob. From super fat to ear splitting treble, and everything in between, it can all be dialed up when needed. So can the more radical tones. This bass has all of the most used and practical tones there for you folks who play a variety of genres.
If you are a “on the fly tone tweeker” on stage, you may find the control knob configuration to be overwhelming for a while. With some time, this might not be an issue. The light gauge strings were still able to conjure up a nice full low end that didn’t sound forced. My hunch is that this bass would be great for recording directly to the control board for fast and easy recording. I tested this bass through a SWR SM 400 using both a 210 and a 115 cabinet separately and in conjunction. Straight up, no effects or tone shaping form other devices.
The control cavity was painted with conductive paint and there was zero noise, hum or hiss from the circuit board pre-amp. All knobs were soldered right to the board, no wires. Very clean. Which brings to light the issue of minor repairs, like replacing a volume pot. You won’t be doing this job yourself, and most likely your average local guitar repair guy won’t either. These pots aren’t the typical kind we see in most guitars, so they may not be in stock. But hey, this is a high-end production bass, and if you are a professional player, you have a back up bass anyway. By the way, you will need two 9-volt batteries to stay fully functional.
I would suggest that you visit the Vigier Guitars website for more detailed specs and find a dealer near you to get your hands on one for a test drive.
The only thing that bothered me personally was aesthetics. This bass just did not look like what the price tag commanded. Yes, the craftsmanship and materials were top notch, and the fit and finish were great, but to me, I want more styling and a more unique visual impact. I don’t mean anything over the top, but for the $4,400.00 range, I would like my bass to look as nice as this bass sounded.
Vigier Arpege IV Bass Finish Options:
Vigier offers a variety of finish options on the Arpege IV. Here’s a sampling:
Vigier Arpege IV Bass Specs:
- Type: Solid body
- Number of strings: 4
- Neck Wood: Maple naturally dried for 3 years
- Neck Shape: D
- Neck Finish: Glossy
- Width of neck at nut: 40 mm/1.57?
- Width of neck at last fret: 56,4mm / 14.32?
- Depth of neck at first fret: 19,5mm / .76?
- Depth of neck at 12th fret: 23mm / .90?
- String spacing at nut: 31,5 mm / 1.24?
- String spacing at bridge: 53 mm / 2.125?
- Action as supplied at 12th fret, treble: 2.0 mm / .078?
- Action as supplied at 12th fret, bass: 2.5mm / .098?
- Type of nut: Teflon/Graphite nut + hardened zero fret technology
- Wood: Phenowood
- Radius: 300mm/11.81?
- Type of frets: Stainless Steel frets, longer lasting, Medium size
- Number of frets: 24
- Scale length: 860mm / 33.8?
- Inlay: Dots
- Body Wood: Flamed maple / alder / flamed maple naturally aged
- Body Finish: Varnish dries for 5 weeks minimum
- Machine heads brand name: Schaller
- Type of bridge: One bridge per string
- End pin: Brass casing that inserts deep into the body and locks the strap button in place + Security Lock.
- Finish: Chrome
- Pickup brand name: Vigier
- Type of pickup: Single, twin coil in line
- Switch: Balance
- Controls: Volume, Balance, Dual EQs
- Equalizer for bass pickup: Bass, Mid, Treble
- Equalizer for treble pickup: Bass, Mid, Treble
- Shielding: Conductive paint
- Weight: 3,8Kg / 8.3lbs
- Delivered with gig bag/case: Hard case
- Left handed version: Not available
- Strings: Vigier 40-95
- Warranty: 2 Years
- Made in: France
- Street Price: $4,399