Chowny Bass is a new British brand that designs its instruments at its Bristol HQ and builds them in China. With an emphasis on value for money, Chowny’s debut model – the CHB-1 – is an affordable semi-hollow design available in a choice of 10 flat or flamed maple finishes. Flat colours are £340, with a £10 upcharge for lefties. Flametop models are priced at £360 and £370. Hardcases are available for an extra £90.
Despite its entry-level pricing, the CHB-1 comes well equipped. The ES-335-style body has a flame maple top – our review model is finished in Tobacco Burst – while the ebony fretboard features neatly installed mother of pearl inlays, locking tuners and a bone nut.
The neck profile is a slim C-shape that, combined with the instrument’s short 31-inch/787mm scale, makes for a comfortable ride. The twin humbuckers are Artec Filter’Tron-style units, accompanied by traditional pairs of volume and tone controls. The three-way toggle pickup selector is situated on the lower horn. The Höfner-style floating rosewood bridge is an old-school affair, but seems more than stable enough to cope with the rigours of live performance.
The CHB-1’s feel is very player-friendly. It certainly won’t intimidate guitarists making the jump to four strings in the way that a long-scale bass so often can, and full-time bassists will find it a breeze to execute the kind of runs and walking lines that are something of a stretch on a 34-inch scale neck. Though it comes supplied with roundwound D’Addario strings, we’d be tempted to string it with flat or tape wounds for a more authentic beat boom sound and experience. The instrument is a little neck-heavy when strapped on, but not excessively so.
Plugged in, don’t expect the immediacy, punch and authority of a P-Bass; it takes a while to find the sweet spot, although there’s a pleasing retro woodiness. Despite appearances, the tonality is closer to a Violin Bass than a Gibson EB-2, though there’s a massive, dubby low end on tap should you desire it. One of the CHB-1’s early adopters has racked up an enormous number of views on YouTube, playing slap on his Sunburst model, so don’t assume that retro looks always equate to stylistic limitations; check it out.
Further down the line, you might want to upgrade the pickups for serious gigging, but as an affordable, easy-to-handle bass for beginners, or for guitarists looking to branch out, the CHB-1 comes highly recommended.