Review: New York Bass Works Reference Series RS4-P Bass

We take a look at the latest P-Bass creation from New York Bass Works with their Reference Series RS4-P

Review: New York Bass Works Reference Series RS4-P Bass

We take a look at the latest P-Bass creation from New York Bass Works with their Reference Series RS4-P

It’s no secret that the most revered bass tones on the most revered records come from early Fender Precision Basses. Because of this, manufacturers over the past several decades have made many attempts to bottle that lightning, often adding specific details to meet contemporary popular demands. I’ve personally had the luxury of being surrounded by the classic originals, and over the years I’ve found that it’s difficult to find the perfect instrument. I’d often think to myself, “This would be perfect for me, if. . .” which makes sense, as the electric bass in the 1950s and ’60s was still in its infancy. The beauty of having so many luthiers attempt to reinvent the wheel is that you are able to see their passion and skill come to life, improving some aspects of the great template Clarence Leo Fender laid out for them. In many cases, it’s like when Apple comes out with a product that you didn’t think you needed, until you have it in your life.   

Enter New York Bass Works (NYBW), the brainchild of David Segal, gigging bassist, engineer, and lover of vintage basses. I had the pleasure of talking to David about the evolution of his career as a bassist and builder, and I was impressed by his knowledge of what makes these cherished Fenders so sought after, as well as his insight on a granular level. As a gigging bassist, he was also able to zero-in on what limitations they bring. His experience and passion are immediately evident in the RS4-P, NYBW’s modern take on the Precision Bass.

My first impression of the bass was comforting. The elegance in design is as much in form as it is function. The shape is familiar yet unique, and rife with details that let you know this machine is not a slap-dash, uninspired P-Bass copy. The slightly elongated horn for balance, pristine finish, easy-access truss rod, and deeper treble-side cutaway (for painless upper-register access) were encouraging.

Playing a bass acoustically first is the fastest way to get to know its prowess. You can get a sense of the build quality, resonance, and versatility without plugging it in. The first note I played after unboxing the RS4-P immediately reverberated to my bones and sparked joy. Every note was clear, balanced, and full of life — bringing to mind a bass that has been played religiously for decades. The compound fingerboard radius made for smooth playing and effortless creativity. The balance was perfect, as it floated on my lap.

I plugged the bass into a Bergantino Forté D head and NXV 1×12 cabinet, with the EQ flat. To add a bit of color and harmonic content, I turned the amp’s drive contol up slightly, mimicking the flip-tops we’ve all come to love over the years. Holy shit — what a combination!

The combination of NYBW’s “59” pickup (engineered over years of trial-and-error to nail the sweet sounds of a ’59 P-Bass that slipped through David’s fingers), the Emerson 250k pots, and NOS caps all work together to make an ideal tone that sits beautifully within any mix. Everything I threw at it — palm-muted thump, fast picking, slap, whole-notes — came out beautifully balanced and with great fundamental depth. Even the tone knob allowed for the bass to have as much tonal versatility from a passive bass as some of my favorite active basses. Maybe the magic was in the amp’s drive knob? After disengaging the drive altogether and leaving the EQ flat, I was delighted to find there was no need to adjust the settings. Okay, maybe the magic is in the amp/cab? While Jim Bergantino is a wizard, the bass still shined through a pair of generic earbuds.

One area where David and I agree to disagree is regarding the use of effects. Some people find them to be intrusive, while others find them to be a source of added creativity, and I fall in the latter category. Naturally, I had to hear what this bass sounded like with one of my favorite distortions, the Fuzzrocious Demon. Even with flatwound strings, the combination was immediately as pulverizing as any exercise in Sunn amplifier worship I’ve experienced.

Regardless of your take on using effects, this bass shines in every circumstance and performs for any type of player in any type of genre. There is a place for premium instruments, and the NYBW RS4-P definitely gives others in this category a run for their money.

New York Bass Works Reference Series RS4-P

Street $3,570

Pros Top-tier construction, high-end components

Cons None

Bottom Line Replicates the ideal vintage P sound and adds modern, high-performance tones.


Neck Maple w/graphite reinforcement

Scale length 34″

Frets 22 (small)

Truss rod Vintage one-way

Fingerboard Indian rosewood

Fingerboard radius 9.5″–12″ compound

Body Two-piece red alder w/poly finish

Pickups NYBW “59”/“61” type

Hardware Hipshot bridge/tuners, Dunlop strap buttons

Made in USA

For more visit: New York Bass Works

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