Bowlus Bass Blog

All things bass (electric, acoustic, and upright) related.

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Location: Fremont, Ohio, United States

I am an attorney by day, but that's really just my "backup gig" in case this whole "musician thing" doesn't work out. ;^) I was been blessed with the opportunity to write freelance reviews for Guitar World's Bass Guitar Magazine, and I contributed regularly from the Spring of 2006 up until Bass Guitar Magazine's demise. This was, in itself, a dream come true, and an opportunity for which I am truly grateful. But this was a stepping stone to bigger and better things, and I am now the Editor-in-Chief of Bass Gear Magazine ( Our first issue came out in August of 2008, and we are now the leading bass review magazine, worldwide. Of course, on the topic of my true blessings, I have a wife and two kids, all of whom I greatly adore, so my time for music/bass/songwriting/performing, and yes, even the occasional practicing, is not infinite. Nevertheless, I really enjoy my time spent playing bass, writing and recording songs, and just getting to "play" with all that great gear! This blog is a result of these external interests...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Prototype Chambered MTD

In addition to a Sadowsky, one bass that I always wanted was one from the mind and hands of Michael Tobias. After perusing many photos on the MTD GAS pics thread over at, I could take no more, and I contacted Joel at The Groove Shoppe to discuss an order for an MTD 535. Joel and I spent a lot of time talking about the various woods. I was initially really turned on by the flamed redwood tops (and I still am!), but Joel pointed me to some blackened (and flamed, and burled!) redwood similar to the top on this fretless he sold:

Well, needless to say, that got my attention!

So, after much debate, we decided that we would go with an alder body, blackened redwood top (with multiple veneers between), maple neck, and ebony (or perhaps Rose of the Mountain) board. But, before we placed this order, Joel had an opportunity to play a prototype that Mike had built which was much to these specs above, but which employed a chambered body (which is 2.25" thick), and which had a blistered ebony fingerboard. According to Joel, this was one of the best sounding/playing MTDs he has encountered.

But, Mike would not sell it, and instead opted to keep it for himself. He named it "Marilyn" in honor of the chambers. ;^] However, he did decide to build two more chambered basses, one with a 2" thick body, and one with a 1.75" thick body, to the same (or very similar) specs, and Joel was able to weasel me in on the 2" thick prototype! The specs will be as above, except that Mike may use a Rose of the Mountain fingerboard instead of the blistered ebony. They should sound quite similar, so I left it up to Mike to decide which would look best.

Being a fan of fingerboard dots, I asked about this possibility, and I think that were are going to use purpleheart dots, which will match the purpleheart veneer between the body and the top. Also being a fan of the volume/volume configuration, I requested this as well. Some of you may find both of these requests blasphemous, but hey, it is my bass, right? It will be a 24F model.

Needless to say, I am really stoked about this bass, and I can't say enough about the help that I received from Joel!

Here are some photos of progress so far. First, this is the block of flamed, burled, blackened redwood for the top:

Later, Joel was able to send me a photo of some potential fingerboards (these are "blistered" ebony, and the two-tone board is Rose of the Mountain):

Here is a shot of the boards taken from the other end:

I really liked the Rose of the Mountain, but would have been happy with any of those boards. I told Mike that I trusted his judgment, and left the decision up to him. I believe that we are going with the ROM board.

Joel really got me going when he sent me some pictures of the body after it had been cut!


I can't wait for more photos! I asked Michael about the option of doing wood control knobs or pickup covers, but he indicated that he does not offer these (the knobs take a lot of time, and get to be too expensive to offer, and the pickups come from Bartolini already set into the ABS shells). But, it looks like I may be able to get Pete Skjold to build me some wood control knobs from some of the scraps, so that should be cool!

Needless to say, I am very excited about this instrument! I will update this post as the "story" develops!

Of course, shortly after I committed to buying this bass, I did manage to snag myself one of Michael's earlier, creations, a Tobias Basic 5, but that is another story! ;^]. However, here is a "sneak peek!":

[Update on the fingerbaord]

I just received word that Mike decided to go with one of the blistered ebony fingerboards. It has sounded like he was leaning towards the Rose of the Mountain, but apparently changed his mind. I totally trust his discretion, so I am sure that it will be delicious! He said that the ebony would go better with the purpleheart dots, which makes sense.

Here are some additional shots that Michael sent me documenting the progress of my bass:

Once the bass was finished, it was first sent to The Groove Shoppe (whom I bought it through) and Joel took these photos:

Here is a mini report on mine based upon last night's gig. In a nutshell, I'm even more in love that I could have imagined prior to the gig! I think that Joel nailed it on the head when he told me that this bass sounds like a "bigger version" of a "standard" MTD with these woods. This is very true, and at the gig, I noticed that the chambered 535 sounded much larger and more full sounding than either my 435 (mahogany body, quilted maple top, maple neck, ebony board) or my Skjold Custom 5. The B-string was huge, and the tone was full throughout its range. The expected MTD clarity was there, two, which really impressed me. My 435 was just a tad more bright/clear overall, but sounded thin in comparison (and with the mahogany body, I generally think of my 435 as a fairly full sounding MTD). The Skjold ended up sounding somewhat between the two MTD's, but the overall tone/feel through the chambered 535 made it sound like I had kicked in another wall of cabs, or else another bass was doubling my line. It was clear and coherent, just really, really "BIG!!!" Those chambers certainly do something other than reduce weight!

Joel also told me that this was the finest sounding MTD he had played to date, and I also must concur. It just seems to do everything well, and it combines that almost supernatural clarity of an MTD with an ebony board with a big, huge, full tone - not to mention sustain for days!

As for weight, I weighed my 535 at 8.8 lbs. For comparison, the 435 is 8.4 lbs, the Skjold is 9.2 lbs, my 25th Anniversary 24F 5-string Sadowsky is 9.0 lbs (as is my Gibson Thunderbird), my Turner EL-535 is 9.4 lbs, and my DeArmond Pilot 5 Deluxe ties the 535 at 8.8 lbs. The lightweight of my stable (not counting semi-hollow bodies or ABG's) is my old Lotus 4-string at 7.6 lbs, and my Gibson Explorer and Corvette Standard 4-string fretless tie for heaviest honors at 10.6 lbs each!

Here is a shot from the gig. It's not the greatest quality, and does no justice at all to these fine instruments:

FWIW, the WWU powering the (4 ohm) VL-208 was my "rhythm guitar" rig - UniBass into Daddy-O, into the WWU. My "bass" rig was Kern IP-777 into Stewart World 2.1, into two (4 ohm) Low B-2's.

I recently got my custom wood knobs made for my by Pete Skjold (using wood from my actual redwood top!), and I am really happy with the results!

Later, Tom.


Blogger Thor said...

Schweet MTD Tom!

11:31 AM  
Blogger Tom Bowlus said...

Thanks! :^]

11:37 AM  
Blogger Ronald Steven said...

Awesome Collections ..
I Dream of those basses n amps every day n night heuhehe
especially the MTD

Nice blog page!

Greetings from Jakarta, Indonesia :)

11:30 AM  

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