Can This Globe-Trotting Semi-Hollow Impress?


Stephen Chown’s approach to instrument design is one of respecting traditional models rather than opting for change ‘for change’s sake’. Currently manufactured in China, but designed in the UK, the Chowny CHB-1 has a maple body, with a flame maple top, a maple neck and an ebony fingerboard. This kind of semi-solid construction is intended to combine the sustain inherent with a solid-bodied bass with the acoustic properties and visual aspects of a hollow body. The set neck feels nice and secure with a comfortable profile and a short scale length, and the fingerboard is home to 22 frets and some fittingly retro inlays. The decorative f-holes either side of the bridge are nice touches, and the figuring of the maple is really nice too. You can also choose from a range of gloss and high-colour burst finishes. The two humbucking pickups are wired to individual volume and tone controls and a three-way selector switch. The expanse of shiny chrome adds to the overall retro look, while the covers also provide a nice square edge to rest your thumb when playing fingerstyle. The control knobs also look instantly cool. The simple but sturdy bridge unit is Chowny’s standard two-piece bridge. This is a really likable bass that’s hard to find fault with. The quality of the materials, combined with the sheer playability, make it a winner even before you plug in. We really enjoyed getting to grips with this one.


If you’re more used to a full 34-inch scale length, the short scale might take a little getting used to; nonetheless its light weight and retro styling make for a very comfortable bass that’s a breeze to play. Sonically, it lives up to its retro image and delivers a range of old-school bass sounds. With two pickups to choose from, and the facility to easily flick between them using the selector switch, there really is something for everyone. Soloing the neck pickup produces a full, but slightly muffled tone reminiscent of the bassline to Freda Payne’s classic hit, ‘Band Of Gold’. With the selector switch in its middle position you are greeted with a blend of both pickups, which introduces some more defined mid frequencies. With the bridge pickup selected, the CHB-1 is tailor-made for some good old rock and roll basslines. It’s natural warmth also takes well to walking basslines, but it’s when played with a plectrum that this bass really shines. The CHB-1 earns top marks when it comes to both visual and tonal character. The overall standard of fit and finish makes for a perfectly playable bass with an impressive tonal palette that’s ideal for a range of styles. For many of us, the likelihood of being able to purchase a truly vintage bass is small, what with the inevitable cost involved and their limited availability. But with the Chowny CHB-1, a whole host of players now have access to a bass that bears all the hallmarks of a truly retro instrument.
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Spec Points

Built in: China
Scale length: 779mm (30.7 inches)
Frets: 22
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Ebony
Body: Maple, semi-hollow
Pickups: 2 x Artec vintage-style humbuckers
Controls: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, pickup selector switch
Machine heads: Chowny
Bridge: Chowny, chrome
Weight: 3.5 kg (7.14 lb)