Wal Pro bass specifications
Launched in early 1979, the Pro Series headstocks are characterised by the striking neck laminates which continue through the headstock. The first ever Pros, between March and May 1979 had plain faced headstocks; from then on the distinctive Wal stripes became standard. Early Pro headstocks featured 10 laminations of maple, mukalungu (an Amazonian hardwood) and English hornbeam. In later Pro basses the (purely decorative) outer mukalungu laminates were dispensed with to create an 8 way lamination. The bodies were solid ash, giving a weighty feel and a well grounded tone.
Different Pro bass headstocks
Body shapes and pickup placement
|Pro I body shape and pick-up placement|
Pro I - one passive pickup, series/parallel switching
Pro II - two passive pickups, series/parallel switching
Pro IE - one active pickup, pick attack switch, low-mid boost switch
Pro IIE - two active pickups, pick attack switch, low-mid boost switch for neck pickup, upper-mid boost/bass cut switch
Controls: Master volume control (Pro II and Pro IIE), individual volume and tone controls for each pickup. Chrome hardware with optional XLR output, pickup selector switch (Pro II and Pro IIE).
The circuitry for Pro basses was, like all Wal active circuitry, completely bespoke designed specifically for (and only available on) Wal basses. The printed circuit boards for the Pro series basses were a work of art in their own right...
panel below and the board
Unusually, the control knobs of Pro basses were not fixed to the scratchplate as is usual on most basses. The knobs features a plastic shaft with a split spigot which located into the volume or tone potentiometer. Over time the plastic on these plastic spigots could become brittle and prone to failure. Perhaps the only small design flaw in these otherwise wonderful basses. On my own Pro IIE bass I have had the pots changed by Paul Herman at Wal Basses for high quality fixed shaft pots. These are much more reliable and have not affected the tone of the bass.
pictured above are from my Pro 2E
Most charmingly the Pro series bass controls are all numbered up to 11 (although only 1-10 show clearly on the control surface). Ironically the Pro basses predate the film "This Is Spinal Tap" which has immortalised the idea of knobs "going to 11!".
High resolution copies of the Pro Bass brochure and a transcript can be found here.
Article about Pro Basses in the UK's "Guitar Magazine" from the early 2000s
Wal Pro-1 Bass
Review category: Basses
A great opportunity to get your hands on a genuine Wall for a fraction of the price you may have expected
Founded in the mid-'70s with a commitment to high-quality design and construction, Electric Wood (the company that made Wal basses) was responsible for some of the best machines ever to grace the woofers of your hi-fi.
The Pro range of basses, from the entry-level Pro-I, to the top-of-the-line Pro-IIE, encapsulated all the ideas and innovations that Wal was known for.
You may not be able to buy a new one, but all the Wal Pro series are excellent second-hand buys. Of the four instruments in the range, the Pro-I offers the least in the way of refinements, though you still get a handmade pro-quality bass guitar. The others in the range are the Pro-II (two pickups), The Pro-IE (active), and the Pro-IIE (two pickups, active circuitry).
In action, the Pro-I is a beast of distinction, easy and comfortable to play, with a lovely thick, woody tone. It gives a very chunky 70s sound, but with some adjustment to the pickup, a wider range of sounds can be achieved.
Still, with no facilities for easy change of tone, it's probably a bit limiting for the modern bass player, who may have to switch from zingy funk tones to bowel-quaking dub in the course of a set.
The body of the instrument is a glued three-section piece of ash, with an angled upper bout, a cutaway at the rear between the upper bout and horn, and a lower horn cutaway that offers access to the higher frets.
The neat, functional body styling results in a distinctive well-balanced shape that doesn't suffer from too much tipping, even with the large Wal headstock. Inside, the Pro-I really shows its pedigree; the wiring and circuitry is mounted on a circuit board instead of being just a loose tangle of wires.
This feature is becoming more common in high-end basses, but in 1982, when this bass was manufactured, such clarity of design was very rare indeed.
The neck is a 34-inch six-piece laminate bolt-on type with a centre-piece of hornbeam and outer pieces of rock maple, separated by two pieces of muckalungu.
The fretboard is Indian rosewood with 21 nickel-steel frets, and the neck as a whole is quite thick, with good feel and playability. The fretboard width at the nut is 42mm, with a string spacing of 13mm.
This widens to 19mm at the bridge - meaning that the strings are fairly close together all the way down the neck, compared with modern basses.
There are three carbon-fibre strips reinforcing the neck too - one under the fretboard and two at the back, adding extra stability. These, coupled with the brass inserts at the heel- joint, provide the rigidity necessary for good sustain and tone.
The single pickup is an eight-coil humbucking type, mounted on floating springs and fully height-adjustable.
The pole-pieces, too, are adjustable by Allen key for further tone refinement, and there's a small phase reversal switch just at the lower edge of the pickup to switch between in- phase and out-of-phase sound.
Price And Availability
The price to pay for a Pro-I in good condition, with original Wal case (brown moulded fibreglass with embossed Wal logo) is about the same as the price when new - around £375.
The more expensive models follow the same pattern, meaning that you can be sure of your purchase remaining an investment.
Expect to pay from £400 to £599 for those models, depending on type and condition.
Just 3,000 Wal Pro series basses were made in total, so finding a good example may be a bit of a search. Still, chances are, it'll be worth it.
ORIGINAL PRICE: £375
Review by Jimmy Bain of Rainbow and Wild Horses published in the UK's Beat International magazine in July 1980
ALL PRO'S - NO CONS
What we have here is the second in a range of four basses made and distributed by Electric Wood in High Wycombe (Tel: 0494442925/6}. ln all honesty it's one of the most powerful basses I've ever tried out. I normally turn the bass up full and set my Marshal! on about 6. With this bass full on, 2 on the Marshall is easily loud enough.
Getting down to details, the head on the bass is very square in design, very sturdy, and fitted with Schaller machine heads which are the best heads for basses you can buy. They're accurate and keep their tuning well. The strings run through metal pieces on the head which keeps them down low for a smooth action.
The neck is a lovely piece of work. The centre section is hornbeam and the outer section is maple. The neck is inlaid with red stripes which are made of sympathetic wood from the Amazon called mukalunga. It's chosen because it's totally non-porous and remarkably straight. On top of all this lies an Indian rosewood fretboard which is shipped from Bombay to Germany. In Germany the wood's cut (Germany have the best cutting equipment) and it's then shipped to England.
So with so much effort put into its construction, how does it feel? Actually, it's very good. It has the accuracy of a Rickenbacker and the feel of a Fender. The way the action was set up when I got it was perfect. It Iets you play fast and it's very decisive. The action remains true even in
the higher registers. It's medium in width so it's OK if you've got short fingers, and the rosewood fretboard makes it very easy to the touch. The body is crafted from ash, which is a very dense wood giving the bass a good sound even without amplification. Overall it's quite heavy, though not too heavy, and is perfectly balanced.
The pick-ups are their own design, and they both have eight individual coils in them, giving a fat spectrum of sound and dual string response. Each pick-up has a plastic sliding switch under it. When the switch is pushed towards the neck, the two poles (each containing four coils) are wired in parallel. This effectively produces an extended top end. When the switches are pushed away from the neck the poles are series wired, which loses some top and boosts the bass end.
The controls are all secured on the pIastic scratch plate that hides the eIectronics. There are individual volume and tone controls for both pick-ups, a master volume control and a three-way pick-up selector switch. The set up gives you a lot of variables to play with. All controls are very responsive, and well positioned, though perhaps the three-way selector switch could be moved a little closer to the rest of the controls. The master volume control effectively overdrives the sound to give you that little bit more sustain without having to go to the amp.
Although there are a lot of controls they all serve a purpose and are not just added for the sake of it. Strings fitted to the bass are the twenty quid a set Rotosound RS77's, which have an adjustable ball on the end. The wire then runs through the coil of the string is the bit that actually touches the bridge which again gives the bass more sustain. So right down to the jack input (which isalso extremely sturdy) you have a real pro's guitar. At £529 (a custom case is available for an extra £75) the Pro 2 is not cheap, but you are getting a lot for your money. There are cheaper ones, the Pro 1 is £439, but I think everything they've put on this guitar was well worth the effort, and I look forward to playing it some more.