Regular Guitar & Bass readers will be familiar with the visual feasts that are Trev Wilkinson’s Italia Guitars. Though the Maranello Z bass has been part of the Italia range for a number of years, it was only added to the catalogue of UK distributor John Hornby Skewes relatively recently, in late 2014.
The model came into being when Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire – often seen touting a single-cutaway sparkly red Maranello – needed something with a different vibe for acoustic gigs.
Still in familiar single-cutaway form, the Korean-made Maranello Z differs from its sister model in construction and pickups. What you get is a semi-hollow body, sporting a cream-finished maple top with black plastic binding. A pair of cool f-holes indicate that the mahogany core has chambers in the upper-rear and lower-front bouts.
It’s often the case that acoustic tonal benefits from chambered construction are offset by fitting standard magnetic pickups, but not here. Italia has chosen a much more interesting option by equipping the Z with a piezo-loaded rosewood bridge (with chrome tailpiece), the transducers being tiny chrome saddles that guide the strings towards the neck.
The volume, bass and treble controls are housed on an elliptical black plastic plate on the lower bout, and there’s a quick-release battery compartment on the back, which means the Z is active, Jim, but not as we know it…
The bolt-on maple neck has a shallow C profile, making the Z really comfortable to play. It’s neatened by black binding, bears 22 medium frets and split pearloid mini block position markers. It culminates in a similarly black-bound, distorted oblong headstock bearing four Italia die-cast tuners and a funky retro maker’s badge.
When you fire up the Z with the tone controls set flat, whilst not the widest, the lows snarl and the E string has an aggressive element. There’s a real acoustic vibe here that contributes to a solid midrange, offering snappy punch with plenty of intent. For the highs, we’re talking subtle fizz, so not quite as explosive as we’d like, and the G string is a tad wiry, but the response is even with ample cut.
If it proves too lively, you can roll off the treble and boost the bass to dismiss excessive rasp, resulting in a decent thud, softened note edges and increased versatility. Boosting the treble alone gets you a spikey sound that can be overly metallic, but max the bass dial and it’s big and grinding with bags of presence, making the Z loads of fun to play.
Italia Maranello Z
• Price £729 (including gigbag)
• Description Semi-hollowbody bass, made in Korea
• Build Chambered mahogany body with maple top, bolt-on maple neck with 22 medium jumbo nickel frets on a rosewood fingerboard; Italia die-cast tuners, rosewood piezo bridge; chrome hardware
• Electrics Active with piezo transducers in the bridge saddles, quick-release nine-volt battery compartment on the back
• Controls Volume, bass and treble
• Left-handers No
• Finishes Black, Cream
• Scale Length 864mm/34”
• Neck Width 42mm at nut, 56mm at 12th fret
• Neck Depth 21mm at first fret, 24mm at 12th fret
• String Spacing 12mm at nut, 16.5mm at bridge
• Weight 3.56kg (7.85lbs)
• Contact John Hornby Skewes Ltd 01132 865381