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I was already familiar with Bootlegger Guitar, having previously owned a long scale ACE headless bass, praising it for its original design, high quality, and amazing low price. When I got a message from Chuck, the owner of Bootlegger Guitar, notifying me that the ACE was being released in a short scale version, I was eager to get one in my hands.
After several months of waiting due to supply chain issues, COVID shutdowns, etc. I finally got the call I was waiting for. The new shorties were arriving, so I immediately got one ordered. Six days later, the big brown truck arrived with my new bass.
The ACE short scale differs from its big brother in a few ways besides shorter 30” scale length.
While The new models feature a tummy cut contour of the upper body that was missing on the earlier versions, the biggest changes relate to the neck. The short scale neck is bolt on vs. neck thru on the long scale models. The shorty neck finish is a smooth satin, semi gloss vs. the high gloss on the long scale. It feels great under your thumb and is very fast.
The 5 piece maple neck has a new “slim taper” with a volute block at the head that allows the player to “feel” the end of the neck with his/her thumb.
The nut width of mine is a hair under 1.5” and is one of the slimmest, slinkiest I’ve ever played. This, combined with the short scale and close fret spacing will be very comfortable for young players or anyone with small hands. If you like a tiny neck you will love it. If you prefer a chunky neck, this may be too small for your taste, but I had great fun flying all over the fretboard.
Tapered Knobby Neck
Up by the nut, in the first couple of frets, it feels like a medium V. As you go down towards the middle of the neck, it tappers of to what I would describe as a C shape and then flattens out a bit more past the 12th fret into almost a U or D shape. It changes depending on the position you’re playing in.
I’m not an expert on neck shapes, but I suppose a tapered C shape is a good general description.
The neck features a dual action truss rod that works really well at making accurate relief adjustments. The fret work was very good with no sprout or sharp edges. I was able to achieve low action with no fret buzz across the full two octave Jatoba fingerboard.
The body retains the same asymmetric shape used on previous ACE models and the Spade guitar, inspired by Johnny Winters headless ax. When sitting down in a chair, the bottom cutaway places the bass on your leg in a near perfect playing position. While standing using a strap, One of the issues I had with the long scale bass was the extremely long reach to the low notes due to the lack of an upper horn strap button. This was remedied by the addition of the optional strap extender bar which relocates the strap button to hang at the 12th fret rather that the back of the body. This was not an issue with the short scale, however. The shorter scale length makes the reach to the lower positions feel very natural and comfortable without the extender bar being necessary.
The black finished hardware is the same high quality monorail bridges found in the previous models. The tuning is smooth and accurate. The headpiece is a simple string through clamp system where the Std. Single ball strings are fed through the slot, then clamped down by hex key set screws. Once clamped down, the excess string is trimmed with wire cutters. Three Hex wrenches are supplied for head piece, truss rod, and bridge adjustments.
Pickups are passive dual hum canceling 3.5” soap bar with volume/blend/ tone controls, and they sound good! The tone is solid and hum free. The pickups appear to be a standard EMG size should you ever decide to go active, but there’s plenty of tones available as it is.The weight is a very manageable 7lbs, about a pound lighter than the long scale model.
The bass also comes with a very nice fitted hard shell case. This is a nice touch. I don’t know of any other companies that include a case at this price point.
The short scale ACE should appeal to players looking for a well built, extremely portable, good sounding travel bass as well as kids or those who simply prefer a smaller instrument. The bass is built solid and doesn’t need any modifications or upgrades.
You’ve got to hand it to Bootlegger for taking chances on creating an unusual ex. This is a great little bass that is lots of fun to play and offers a lot of quality at a very reasonable price. When you consider that it’s closest competitor, the Ibanez EHB short scale, costs almost twice as much, the bootlegger is most definitely worth checking out!