Pedulla Thunderbass ET5
By Greg Olwell
When Karl Coryat tested the Pedulla Thunderbass ET5 in September ’92, he praised the instrument’s superior
workmanship and sound. Since then, Michael Pedulla has continued evolving the instrument with a few notable and subtle changes that made it worth another look.
Pedulla has over 30 years of bass building experience, and it shows. The Thunderbass is an exquisitely crafted and comfortable instrument. The body and neck are finished with a satiny oil, sealed with a catalyzed
urethane. That means it has an oil-finished instrument’s organic feel, with the low-maintenance protection of urethane. The neck-through design allows for plenty of wiggle room in the higher positions. A place where
there isn’t much wiggle room, however, is the prime popping space between the neck pickup and the fingerboard.
Our test Thunderbass arrived with an excellent setup. Its low action and nearly straight neck contributed to its effortless playability, even after a few months in our offices. The neck was fairly thin, with a flattened-C
shape and a practically flat fingerboard. I found no dead spots. Unlike some 34"-scale 5-strings, the Pedulla’s
B string felt similar in tension to the other strings. The bass had an even response and sound across the fingerboard. The ebony fingerboard’s glassy smoothness contributes to the bass’s quick feel, although the
24th fret’s single dot inlay (instead of the typical double dot) made quick visual position checks difficult. The
Thunderbass’s trussrod has been redesigned, too. It’s slightly wider than most and is anchored between the 1st and 2nd frets, which Pedulla says helps allow a straighter neck than a trussrod anchored at the nut. One
nitpick: A clicking sound when I plucked over the bridge pickup made it apparent that the pickup was slightly loose in its cavity. A look inside revealed that the pickup was supported by three small pieces of surgical
tubing, with the piece supporting the treble side being a smidgen shorter than the other two. Pedulla claims the tubes help isolate the pickups from vibrations caused by the more-commonly used springs and offer more
support due to their wider contact area.
The most significant difference is in the Thunderbass’s electronics. The Thunderbass used to have a Bartolini
system with volume, blend, and treble-cut knobs, with the volume knob doubling as a bass cut. The newer electronics, which Pedulla says are 50 percent quieter, are also an exclusive active Bartolini system, offering
volume, blend, bass, and treble controls, along with a switch-controlled “Thunderguts” circuit, which thickens the sound by using inductors to boost a group of specific low-mid frequencies.
Removing the trussrod cover was like opening a fortune cookie. The square-shaped trussrod nut requires a unique (and
handsome) wrench supplied with the bass.
I was plenty impressed with the Thunderbass’s warm, clear tone and refined growl without using the switch. The sound was big, beefy, and smooth, with a medium attack that was authoritative, without being too
aggressive. My favorite setting was both pickups on with the tone controls flat, but the useful EQ helped adapt the sound to different rooms and rigs. Engaging the Thunderguts delivered a thicker sound, and its
midrange boost made the bass seem louder. The effect was as addictive as your morning cup of coffee. Played solo or with a band, the Thunderguts gives such a room-filling horsepower boost that it’s almost a
letdown to switch it off. Almost.