Citron BO4 Passive 4-String

August 2000
Scott Malandrone
BO4Download File

There’s a whole lotta bass buildin’ going on in upstate New York. Luthier Harvey Citron is one of a handful of custom builders who call the Woodstock area home. Must be something in the water (or wood).

We reviewed Citron’s AE5 semi-acoustic bass back in February ‘99. This time, we’ll listen to Citron’s “affordable” model: the BO4 Passive. This bolt-on ships with an ash or mahogany body, three-piece maple neck, pau-ferro fingerboard, oil finish, and chrome hardware. Our test sample sported a figured-maple top, maple fingerboard, and gloss finish. Yes, these options up the price a bit.

The BO4 features an ash back with a bookmatched quilt-maple top that’s first stained burgundy to bring out the grain, then covered with a sealer coat, and later sanded down in preparation for the transparent burgundy top coat, The result is a black-cherry color that’s three-dimensional. There was some finish settling into the grain on our test bass, however, leaving a rippled look in spots. (Harvey Citron responds, “Highly figured wood has a tendency to move over time. Fortunately, the polyester finish is flexible enough not to check or crack as the wood moves. The ripple effect is merely the finish settling into this moving piece of wood. I assure you the finish was dead flat at the bass’s completion.”)

We love the BO4’s design. The body not only looks nice, but its design is functional, too: The longer upper horn helps with balance, and the lower horn holds the bass in your lap. (Well done, Citron, for designing an elegant headstock shape that isn’t a Fender ripoff.) The tilted-back headstock is functional, too—as it allows for perfectly straight string pull past the nut.

We’re very picky when it comes to fretwork in this price range. We like to see all frets seated perfectly and the ends and tops polished to perfection. The fret kerfs (slots) should be filled in to prevent moisture from lifting a fret loose. The slots should also be uniform in depth. The two-octave Citron’s fretwork is very good in all of these areas, although the fret ends each have slightly different shapes and display file marks.

Electronics-wise, the Citron includes two custom-made Citron dual-coil humbuckers (Bartolini humbuckers are also available), each connected to a volume control and a master tone. There’s plenty of room inside the well-shielded cavity for the optional active electronics.

In the tone zone, the BO4 is way fat for a passive bass. No doubt that’s due to the custom-wound Citron humbuckers, which have a lot of output. This is a tradeoff, though: High-output pickups tend to have less highs because of the extra coil windings. However, this is how a passive axe should sound: The BO4 has a has a dark bark that sounds like there’s something extra under the hood (or in the cavity). The bass is really fun to play, too — the low setup begs for Stanley riffs and gritty fingerstyle. The BO4 would be even more deadly with a preamp, although the passive version sounds pretty darn good as is.

Reprinted with permission from Bass Player Magazine