Besides being a world-class instrument builder, Ned Steinberger has always had an appreciation for beauty and instrument aesthetics, and his design philosophies manifest themselves perfectly in his RADIUS electric bass line. The NS Design WAV4 RADIUS bass guitar is a fantastic professional instrument, delivering nearly everything we love about the Czech Republic-built RADIUS CR bass (in-depth review here) in a lower-priced, import version that retains the instrument’s great build, playability, and tone.
The right bass should fit your body and accommodate your various playing situations (i.e., touring, playing weddings, sit-down studio work, etc.), and the ergonomics of NS Design basses are superb no matter your playing preference. Weighing only eight pounds, if you regularly play long gigs, the WAV4 RADIUS instrument is one that your back will definitely appreciate. But first and foremost, we know you want a bass that plays “like butta,” sounds like a gift from the tone gods, and has good looks to match. You’ll find all that and more in the WAV4 RADIUS.
The NS-WAV4 RADIUS Bass is a modern, ergonomically-designed instrument with a shape that is both beautiful and familiar. The bass arrived in a custom-fitted gig bag with adjustable backpack straps for easy transport and a large front zipper pocket with room for your cables and gig gear. The elegant, matte black finish blends well visually against the rosewood fingerboard. We were delighted that the WAV4 has the same high standard and workmanship of the more expensive NS Design RADIUS CR5 Bass we reviewed a few years ago (in-depth review here).
The body of the bass has an innovative and unique design. The curvature on the concave “Diradial” body gives the player comfort and stability. The shaping on the rear and the top of the bass provides a “part of your body” natural feeling and helps keep the angle of your hand in a more neutral position (45-60 degrees) rather than a stressful (as in, your joints and muscles) ninety-degree position. By not resting your forearm or wrist on the bass, this helps avoid muscle cramping and nerve compression (which can lead to physical distress).
The cutaway gives the player easy access to the highest frets, and the distinctive horn gives balance to the entire instrument. The lighter weight (8.0 pounds) will appeal to any player who has to play, standing, for long periods of time.
The headless neck is a one-piece maple, bolt-on slab with twenty-four frets and a 34” scale, with a volute to provide thumb reference in first position. The aluminum head plate has the mounting slots for the ball end of the strings. If you’re experienced enough (err… old enough) to have played classic Steinberger basses and recall their custom strings—or you remember cutting the ball ends off of your strings, you’ll delight to know that Ned’s latest hardware design makes use of all commercially available electric bass guitar strings—balls attached.
Other neck specs: 15” radius, 1.60” nut width, 2.19” wide at the twelfth fret.
We love how the small head plate is aesthetically pleasing: it’s an almost-headless bass but your brain isn’t fooled into thinking it’s a truly headless design. Moving the tuners to the body of the bass helps your hand not have to support the extra weight of a big headstock and heavy tuning machines. This eliminates “neck dive,” which most traditional basses suffer from (with a badly balanced bass, you have to hold the neck up with your fretting hand). The heavy-duty, aluminum, double-action, reinforcing truss rod is easily accessed from the top of the neck.
The brilliantly simple, aluminum, one-piece bridge and saddle assembly provides extensive height, intonation and angle adjustments options. You can precisely adjust the action to your playing style.
The EMG RADIUS pickup is matched perfectly with a Piezo NS, bridge-mounted, polar pickup, both sonically and aesthetically. The EMG pickup has the same recurring radiused shape as the bridge to provide uniform volume across all strings. The preamp and EQ are powered by a nine-volt battery, and controls (running from string to jack) are volume, pickup blend (with a notch in the middle position), magnetic pickup tone, and Piezo pickup tone. The electronics are simple and sonically powerful.
What’s different from the pricier RADIUS CR model? That one boasts two EMG pickups, additional tone-shaping controls (see the review), and a different country of manufacture. Components and other specs remain otherwise identical.
The bass was set up perfectly right out of the shipping box. The action was
in our comfort zone (low), and the D'Addario EXL170 Nickel Round Wound strings complimented the bass. The bass is designed and balanced beautifully. The WAV4 RADIUS instrument felt so natural in our hands that could have been custom built just for us.
We found the WAV4 RADIUS comfortable to play whether sitting or standing, and that beautiful balance we mentioned was noticed in the studio, as the bass balanced perfectly on our leg while seated without a strap on the instrument.
Tuning and re-stringing the bass was quick and easy. The WAV4 uses any standard single-ball end, full-scale bass strings. To change a string you turn the tuning knob fully counterclockwise, opening up the clamping mechanism; insert the ball end of the string into the slot on the headplate; guide the string to the opening behind the slotted tuning arm, push the string through the housing and the bass body as far as it will go; then holding the string turn the knob clockwise to close the clamping mechanism as you tune up. Finally, take a pair of wire cutters and clip off the excess string that protrudes from an opening in the back of the bass.
The electronics are easy to understand once you recognize the different voices of the Piezo and magnetic pickups. This system is designed for both pickups to work together in a complimentary way. Few bass models have a Piezo pickup system, but the WAV4 demonstrates that it can be used effectively, and it’s a feature we came to love as a result of our time spent with this bass.
We love this neck! The action very low and precise action made the bass very easy to play, and twenty-four frets is always a bonus in our book. Combining the effortless-playing neck with the instrument’s light weight and body-hugging curves, this was an instrument that brought out our finest playing, whether laying down basic grooves, funk-ing things up, or unleashing our technical prog rock chops.
We tested the WAV4 RADIUS in a studio setting through an EBS HD360 with a matching 2x12; in an outdoor festival setting through a Mesa/Boogie Carbine stack (4x10 and 2x12); and in a banquet hall/wedding setting with an Eden DC210XLT 2x10 Metro Bass Combo amp.
This bass sounded unbelievable no matter the setting. The pickup system is incredibly versatile and enabled us to dial in any tone that was desired... as long as we wanted clean/quiet tone. If you crave vintage noise or muddy tone, you’ll need to grab another instrument.
The custom EMG used in the RADIUS basses is a solid pickup that covers most tones that you might require: nice thumpy lows and crystal highs that are especially brilliant for slapping. And when you blend it with the bridge-mounted NS Polar Piezo pickup, a universe of new tones and dynamics open up to you. We were able to get a multitude of awesome sounds, including a simulated upright sound (leaning more on the Piezo acoustic output, naturally), the Motown sound, and a modern prog sound. These pickups have it covered, and it’s the blending of these two pickups that really give the bass such a fantastic voice.
We were pleased that the EMG pickup displays a hint of growl when you’re digging in—this bass can rock! The overall bass tone is rich and clear, and served us well dialing in a modern pick tone as well as playing ‘70s finger style.
There were very interesting tones to explore when using just the Piezo pickup. These sounds were dynamic, expressive and accentuated harmonic overtones more than the magnetic pickup. You might even hear a hangnail striking your strings! We expected good tone from an NS Design instrument, but frankly, were blown away by the all tones we got. And this was without a secondary neck-position pickup that you’ll find in the RADIUS CR bass.
Documentation and Product Support
NS Design documentation is some of the best we’ve ever seen for a bass! The manual provides full details and clear drawings regarding functions of the tone controls, changing strings, adjustments, and instrument maintenance. You can also watch Ned Steinberger personally demonstrate string changing in about a minute or two in a video on the company's website (or see it here).
The NS Design WAV4 bass (MSRP $1,699) sells for approximately $1,200 and includes a custom-fitted gig bag. This is a great price for a premium, pro level bass. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the WAV4 to any serious bassist… unless you crave a five-string, in which case we’d point you to the Wav5 bass.
With such great workmanship throughout, effortless playability, pioneering features, and a great sound, you would be hard pressed to find a comparable instrument at this price.
Overall Rating - Product Summary
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.9, which earns it a WIHO Award!
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award