Gearified: Dave Ellefson’s Kelly Bird bass

**Matt Olivo is the founding guitarist of extreme metal trailblazers Repulsion, whose Horrified LP ranks as Decibel’s #1 grindcore album of all time. Because we know that every reader ever plays guitar, we brought his print column to the Deciblog. In issue #113, Matt gave his feedback on Dave Ellefson’s Kelly Bird bass, which “gave 2014 a rude awakening.”

Perhaps some of you have heard of Megadeth’s Lucifer of the low, bass player extraordinaire Dave Ellefson. His lengthy list of musical accomplishments is comparable only to his superlative instrumental abilities. We had a chance to catch this fancy-fingered cat live at the Metal Masters clinic last year. He takes his chops, tone and stage performance very seriously, and he has a great sense of humor to boot! Not even Megadeth band leader and human embarrassment Dave Mustaine—with his tenacious teabagging bravado—can eclipse these achievements. And now, thanks to Ellefson and Jackson Guitars, Gearified hits the ground running in 2014 with the X Series Dave Ellefson Signature Kelly Bird bass.


Curiously, the Ellefson Kelly Bird four-string bass doesn’t actually resemble Jackson’s Kelly series guitars. As the name implies, the Bird bass body shape must be a riff on Gibson’s Firebird guitar design, with only the lower, front horn echoing the Kelly scheme. That said, the body shape is indeed a pleasing mix of classic and new school. Ellefson’s signature paint job features a wide, black stripe racing through the middle of a bloody red burst, with black edges all sealed with a glossy, clear coat polished to perfection. The bridge, control/strap knobs and die-cast tuners are all a smoky chrome color, which adds a conservative appointment to the swanky appearance. Form and function come together with a rock-hard maple neck and fingerboard that features thick, stylish, satin-black fret marker block inlays à la Gibson’s Les Paul Custom. The capper on this elegant instrument of musical destruction is a truss rod cover that features Ellefson’s own Fallout Shelter brand logo artwork.

Under the Hood

Even though this is a bargain-priced Indonesian production model instrument, Jackson did not skimp on equipping this “bird” with some solid hardware. At center stage is a tone-tasty pairing of EMG HZ35B and EMG HZ35N pickups. The signal from these passive humbuckers is then directly routed to an active, 3-band EQ that sweeps bass, middle and treble frequencies for further sweetening. To facilitate tone from the “source” (strings, fingers), Jackson added a high mass bridge, which—along with the tone woods from the body and neck—resonates nicely and adds a weighted, solid feeling.


Jackson’s shred-minded designs have recently included slender, all=maple necks finished with satin polyester. Ellefson has smartly applied this feature to his Kelly model. This combination feels like greased lightning in our hands. Furthermore, the basswood body shape is agreeable and balanced both in our laps and strapped on. The compound radius fingerboard, with 21 frets and super-low action right out of the box, gets the party started nicely.


EMGs always bring a modern, balanced tone to whatever you tack them onto, and that signature sound is in full effect on the Kelly Bird. Furthermore, the wiring on this beast allows for a fully adjustable signal blending between bridge and neck pickups (there’s no pickup selector switch). Because of this, we were able to quickly dial in the amount of bite, mid-punch, thump and rumble before using the EQ! The all-tube Ampeg SVT-CL head with 8×10 cabinet we plugged it into responded very nicely to the extra gain available when boosting the EQ. Without any pedals, we achieved a fat, punchy aggressive tone perfect for metal or hard modern rock.


Jackson is a company that we’ve learned to trust with all our blackened hearts. Their vision, it seems, is to equip a generation of metal musicians with the finest axe their money can buy. And that instrument will meet or exceed expectations no matter where it was built or how much it costs!

Street Price


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