If you’re on the hunt for a modern-sounding 5’er that cuts through a mix and slaps like a mofo, this is it
I feel particularly close to the bass I’m reviewing this month. Mike Lull was a man I admired greatly for his skill, good humor, and music-first attitude. I always looked forward to visiting his booth come NAMM time, as I knew it’d feel like a sane, human refuge from the chaotic glad-handing that unfortunately dominates that show. Given all this, I was genuinely sad to hear of his untimely passing in February 2020. Nevertheless, I could feel his design DNA all over this instrument, and that was heartening, as was confirming first-hand that Mike Lull Custom Guitars is as strong as ever now that Mike’s son, Spencer, is at the helm.
Full disclosure: I also feel close to this bass because I’ve known Darryl Anders for a long time — first, as a fellow Bay Area bass player (we both spent time in Zigaboo Modeliste’s band, among other things) and then as a professional colleague during my time at Bass Player magazine, working with him when he was at Aguilar Amplification and then Dunlop, where he remains to this day. Darryl is a massively funky player, a savvy gear guru, and most important, has a recognizable voice on the instrument. So this bass, a union of Lull craftsmanship and Darryl’s big ears and experience, seems blessed from the start.
Obviously, the DA5 has Jazz Bass roots. In a marketplace flooded with souped-up J-style basses, Lull is one of the OGs. Luthiers like Mike Lull are responsible for the entire product category, which involves taking the basic J-Bass framework (offset body contour, dual single-coil pickups in Fender spacing, general J-ness, etc.) and altering a variety of aspects to expand the design’s sound, durability, playability, and more. The DA5 checks all the right boxes, although there’s no denying its girth. Between its 35″-scale neck, its “heavy ash body” (their words), and its slightly beefy neck profile, the DA5 is not for the player seeking a svelte instrument to kick around the house with. Yet, when it comes to basses, weight can often (but not always) indicate good things, tone-wise. More on that later.
The construction on the DA5 I tested, like every other Lull I’ve played, was impeccable. Its fit-and-finish exhibited superb attention to detail, and I could easily perceive the experienced hands involved in the build. The neck felt expertly carved, the hardware faultlessly mounted, and the pickups and preamp perfectly installed. The gloss black finish (with matching black headstock) was particularly well done, and I loved the subtle white accent that runs along the black pickguard. Overall, it’s an exceptionally stylish instrument, which makes sense, given that Darryl is one of the nattier dressers I know.
The DA5 was a joy to play, so long as you’re comfortable with the intrinsic, um, character of the J design: Basically, they neck dive. It just comes with the territory. That said, the Lull did a better job than many, thanks in part to its massive body. Otherwise, I found the DA5 as comfortable as a big 35″-scale J-style bass can be, and I especially appreciated the neck, which shows that the know-how of a shop like Lull’s is revealed in the details.
I feel like I have a little head start on this review because of how often I’ve seen Darryl play. I know his sound well. Darryl is a frequent slapper, and his tone has always been somewhat like a platonic ideal — think Marcus with a little more thickness in the lows. That’s not to say he doesn’t play excellent fingerstyle, but he’s one of those players for whom slap is an integral part of their sound. I’ve also spent a good deal of time with the electronics in various other basses — I know the Aguilar OBP-1’s personality well, and I’ve spent many hours with all sorts of Nordstrand pickups. This is just all to say that I had a certain expectation coming into my testing.
I used the DA5 in my studio with a variety of signal chains, including a Tube Tech MEC-1A, a Kern IP-777, and an Ampeg PF-50 rig, which I miked. I also took it on a medium-size gig, where I mated a Barefaced 1×12 with a Epifani UL-901. My overall impression: It was totally Darryl’s sound! Zingy and present, with quick transient response, deep and abundant low end, crunchy and textured mids, and a sizzly snap up top. The B string was absolutely glorious, with excellent pitch definition, balance with the other strings, and a satisfying growl. The instrument’s burly build seemed to pay off, with the bass feeling particularly resonant and each note communicating with gravitas and evenness. The DA5 could cop a fairly big variety of J-style sounds, from the neck pickup’s throaty bark to the burpy punch of the bridge and the balanced fatness of the blended sound — but it’s no vintage-style instrument. There was a snap and breadth to its tone that is definitively what one imagines when they think of a “modern J sound.” As ever, the Aguilar preamp was a potent beast, with careful, nuanced EQ setting being the path to success, particularly with the bass control.
Much like Darryl’s playing itself, the DA5 is a versatile and modern bass that is ready to make records from the get. Any player seeking a nearly perfect B string in a big-sounding 35″-scale J-style bass should put the DA5 at the top of their short list.
Mike Lull Custom Guitars Darryl Anders DA5 Signature
Pros Excellent construction; modern-J versatility; killing B string
Bottom Line If you’re on the hunt for a modern-sounding 5’er that cuts through a mix and slaps like a mofo, this is it.
Body Swamp ash
Neck Maple (w/graphite reinforcement)
Fingerboard Birdseye maple
String spacing 18mm
Scale length 35″
Pickups Nordstrand NJ5 (’60s position)
Hardware Hipshot Brass A-style bridge and Ultralite tuners
Weight 9.4 lbs
Made in USA
For more visit: Mike Lull Custom Guitars
For more on Darryl Anders: Click Here