Gear Review: Sandberg Guitars Victor Brandt Signature Forty Eight Bass
Five years ago, Sandberg Guitars introduced the vintage rock-inspired Forty Eight model. This year they worked with Victor Brandt of the Norwegian symphonic black metal outfit Dimmu Borgir to create a signature version of the axe. Decked out all in black, Brandt’s spin on the bass has several special appointments that practically begged us to take it for a spin to see if it sounds as good as it looks.
For this review, we received two versions of the bass: a four-string in Sandberg’s hardcore aged reserve finish and a five-string in a matte finish. Both are 34-inch scale with a Canadian Hard Rock maple neck and ebony fingerboard. They diverge in body wood, as the four-string is built with alder and the fiver has European ash.
I’ll admit up front that I’ve been skeptical of relic’ing instruments, so when they arrived I was drawn first to the five-string. Over time, however, I found myself gravitating more and more to the hardcore aged four-string. Once you get your hands on a bass that is relic’ed as well as Sandberg offers, then it all makes sense. There is somehow a refinement in making the bass seem beat up so that playing it feels like putting on your favorite pair of shoes. It inspired me to play a little differently and find new riffs, too.
Strapping the Forty Eight on feels good. The classic design it borrows from is notorious for neck dive, but Sandberg has managed to mitigate most of it. The bass does favor that direction some, although it balances nicely both sitting and standing. I found the lower corner of the bass a nice place to rest my forearm for extra stability. The neck itself plays great – not too thick and not too thin, so you can have all the speed while also feeling like you’ve got something to hold onto. One of my only issues with the bass is that the body’s cutaway is not deep enough to grant access to the four highest frets. I think it’s fair to say this bass was not made with chord-melodies in mind, so it’s more of a minor inconvenience than anything.
Another old school feature is the reverse headstock, which is adorned by Brandt’s signature on the back. The design took a little getting used to for me and added some adjustment (and re-tuning) time. I must say I was impressed with the tuners, which is not something that happens for me often. They turned effortlessly and were exacting in their precision. German engineering strikes again!
Brandt worked with Sandberg to tweak the Forty Eight for a more versatile sound. Together they opted for the company’s Black Label split coil and T in a “P/J” configuration with special placement for versatility. They are complemented by a Black Label three-band EQ, which has a unique Bass, Low Mid, High Mid layout. The preamp can be bypassed, and a nifty feature is that the active and passive modes have no discernible difference in volume output. Where other active preamps puttering out mid-gig are a problem, this bass will keep on trucking.
As badass as this bass looks, it really can achieve some sweet sounds. I was pleasantly surprised at the versatility of it. Passive operation lets the pickups speak for themselves with deep, vintage tones from the split coil and clarity from the single coil. Together they pack a pretty serious punch. Engaging the EQ only widens the palette. The bass knob warmed things up with just a pinch and got super fat when pushed to the max. Cutting it didn’t do much for my ears, but I know it would be a good tool to have to tame boomy stages. (I should note I didn’t get to test this on a gig due to COVID restrictions.) The low mid knob added more snarl and was voice perfectly to get that lovely scooped sound. I found the high mid knob, which takes the place of a traditional treble knob, covered a more useful frequency range than the usual control. It helped dial in extra bite and snarl, perfect for making fuzz and distortion pedals pop. My favorite sound to get out of the Forty Eight was a throaty, low punch that was easy to get with the dual mids.
Here you can check out a sound sample of the basses and their settings.
The Sandberg Guitars Victor Brandt Signature Forty Eight carries a street price of $2,775 for the four-string and $2,999 for the five-string. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a fair price for a German-made piece of this caliber. All in all, it’s super fun and inspiring bass to play. It’s a murdered-out metal machine, but underneath its tough exterior is a heart of gold that will fit in more than just legendary Norwegian symphonic black metal bands.
Sandberg Guitars Victor Brandt Signature Forty Eight Specs:
|Neck:||6-bolt Canadian Hard Rock Maple|
|Inlays:||Illuminated Side Dots|
|Pickups:||Sandberg Black Label Split Coil, Sandberg Black Label T|
|Electronics:||Sandberg 3-Band Black Label, Active/Passive, Passive Tone Control|
|Finish:||Special Hardcore Aged Reserve, Matte Black|
|Other:||Reverse Headstock, Victor Brandt Signature on Back of Headstock|
Lol no. I’m not paying extra for someone else to beat an instrument up for me.