Wal is now accepting orders!
The brand new Wal website is fully operational and now ready to accept new Wal bass orders. This is great news indeed! Prices begin at £3200.

After Ian Waller passed away, Pete continued to handcraft wonderful instruments for roughly the next twenty years. Then health issues set in and Pete had to decide where to take the company next. It's worth mentioning that several large companies made offers to take over the Wal name and production, but true to his vision, Pete struck a deal with noted luthier Paul Herman to continue the proud craft. Paul is the perfect choice, having apprenticed at Wal in earlier days. His signature is inside many of the wonderful instruments produced in the '90s, having performed the final setup and inspection.

Sincere best wishes to Electric Wood Limited and Paul for continued success!

(Oct 5, 2009)

Important Wal Bass Links
Looking for information on Wal basses? Here are the best sites:

The Official Wal website is fully operational!

A History of Wal basses Trevor's excellent History of Wal Basses & Electric Wood.

Wal Database Unofficial database of Wal instruments.

BABP Wal Forum is an excellent new forum for those interested in Wal instruments, moderated by the infamous hippiesandwich! Registration required.

Wal Basses Naturally Club found on Yahoo which unites the community of Wal Bass players worldwide.

Wal Website
Pete was a low-tech guy, having a telephone and fax but no computer, email address or dedicated website. This year Paul has brought Wal into the modern age with a new and functional website including an email address.

The Past
The semi-official Wal Bass website, which was owned and operated by Steve Chesney on his time and dime, closed as of August '07. This was the only reliable source of Wal information for a number of years. Sincere thanks Steve and best wishes for all of your future endeavours.

Wal Model Timeline

Here is some detail on the timeline for various Wal bass models. Someone painstakingly pieced this information together and I would love to offer an appropriate credit for the work. Note: Unfortunately Blogspot shrinks this graphic, so the text is difficult to read.

Note that the information provided here covers only the Wal "Custom" models at this time. I hope to provide information on the Pro series and other models at a later date.

The Wal Bass Preamp
There's no big mystery here, but the controls do take some time to get used to. Instead of the traditional global B/M/T tone controls, the Wal preamp has a tone control for each pickup. Each is actually a variable low pass filter. Also, by pulling up on the control you get an added a 10db boost to the harmonics at the roll-off point. Dial in the sound you want from each pickup and use the balance control to adjust the overall tone. In addition, by pulling up on the volume control you get the infamous "pick attack" which is an accentuated high frequency percussive attack. Not to oversimply however, it's important to note that very small changes make a big difference in sound and it takes some real practice to find the settings that work best for you.

The preamp itself is contained on two large internal PCBs and amazingly draws less than 1 ma of power from a single 9-volt battery source. All components are mil-spec of the highest grade and all internal connections are made using polarized molex connectors. A transformer isolated DI is also provided via the 600 ohm balanced XLR output. Internal trim pots are included to allow adjustments to the low bass level of each pickup, pick attack level and master volume. The preamp circuit is activated when the standard 1/4" TS phone plug (eg. regular guitar cable) is connected, although a dummy plug may also be used if only the DI output is desired. The 1/4" jack is recessed, therefore angled plugs will not work correctly.

Wal Bass Pickups
All Wal pickups are handmade in the Wal shop. The current "Custom" instruments include bridge and neck humbucking-style soapbar pickups. However, inside each pickup casing there are actually two individual pickups per string, each with magnet, wound bobbin and adjustable pole piece. Apparently the bobbins are wound in an opposite direction so that each pair creates the "humbucking" effect.

As there are two pickup casings, there are four individual pickups for each string (4,5 or 6) on Wal Custom bass models. Extremely precise adjustments can be made to the balance and tonal output of each string. The combination of the Wal pickups and Wal preamp provides the lowest possible noise and intermodulation distortion levels with the highest possible dynamic range and optimal signal headroom.

Please note that Wal pickups and/or the Wal bass preamp were not sold seperately. They only came with the instrument.

Fake Wal Basses & Scams
Wal basses are in high demand. Prices for used instruments were pushed to all time high in 2007-2009 due to the rumours circulating about Pete's health. Wal Custom basses (Mk.I, II, III) were fetching $4,000-$8,000 USD at that time. This high value is exactly what attracts scam artists who will stop at nothing to part you from your money.

There is only one defence in the war against fraud and ripoffs. Educate yourself. Join one of the excellent Wal bass forums listed above. Learn the difference between various models and what makes these instruments so unique. The Wal community at large is well-educated and you can learn much. Many Wal basses spotted on Ebay and Craigslist are discussed at a very detailed level. Beyond this, the standard rules apply: if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.

A Wal bass with replacement pickups and/or a different preamp is missing a good part of what makes these instruments unique. It will be an excellent instrument and will obviously say "Wal" on the headstock, but it will not sound anything like a Wal bass or ever be truly complete. Pete had very strong feelings about this scenario and did not provide replacement for an instrument that had effectively been neutered. You could not buy Wal pickups and/or the Wal preamp separately in the past. It is unknown if that will change in the future.

Good News
If you are dreaming of owning a Wal bass, these beautiful instruments can now be ordered directly from the shop! See the links above for more information.

My Wal Basses

Many of my friends from various bass forums know me by my usual nickname "oddio" and the instruments shown below are my personal Wal basses. Read on for information on these Wal instruments.

Here is my small collection of Wal basses: MkIII (beech), MkII (fretless), MkI (4-string).

MkIII fretted 5: Blondie the beech Wal

There aren't too many beech Wal basses around, and the top on this one is stunning. Pete really knows how to cut a piece of wood to expose all of the character! I was able to obtain this MkIII fretted five-string from a wonderful gentleman in Oklahoma. Thank you again, Roy. This bass was originally custom-built for Gareth Morgan in 1997.

There are a few nice options on this instrument... custom pickup placement, matching beech headstock veneer, red Sims landing lights and a clean fretboard with no markers. While it's truly a beautiful instrument, it sounds even better than it looks. The combination of beech with the bridge-biased pickups makes for a really punchy tone with just a hint of sweetness. Of course when you want the typical "brick-in-the-face" Wal agression it's there in spades. Here are the details:

Wal MkIII fretted five string
English beech facings front & back
Matching beech headstock veneer
Mahogany body core
Maple bolt-on neck with mahogany (?) stringers
Rosewood fretboard
34" scale, 24 frets
Red Sims LED side-markers
Custom pickup placement
Natural satin finish
Black hardware with chrome highlights
Weight under 8.5 pounds
Condition: showroom
Handmade in 1997

The MkIII shape is sleeker and seems better-balanced. I personally love the updated looks. The weight is roughly 8.5 lbs making this the lightest 5-string bass that I own. This is my #1 instrument.

Unlike my other Wal basses, I find that this one requires a lighter touch. I had to "unlearn" my bad habit of digging in aggresively in order to get the most out of this bass. Although it has taken me some time to master this instrument I feel that it has truly helped to make me a better player and added some real finesse to my personal style.

MkI Fretted 4: black & gold beauty

I stumbled onto a well-loved (read mildly abused) fretted MkI that was handmade by Pete Stevens in 1990. Fortunately the price wasn't as bad as anticipated. When it finally arrived, this bass had all of the right chemistry: a soft V shape that tapers down as you get further up the neck, the killer electronics package and pickups, paddle headstock and wonderful light weight and balance. The shape of both the body and headstock of the Wal MkI are somewhat suggestive of Gibson styling, but that's where the similarity ends. Here are the details:

Wal MkI fretted four string
34" scale, 21 frets
Solid mahogany body
Maple/hornbeam bolt-on neck
Rosewood fretboard
All black poly gloss finish
All hardware is gold-plated
Weight under 9 pounds
Condition: minor finish blemishes
Handmade in 1990
Accessories: an ATA flightcase

Having spent over a quarter of a century playing my original '62 Precision bass, I had a hard time finding instruments that felt right to me. Wal basses fit like they were tailor-made for my hands and playing style, which is why I write so fanatically about them. But that's only one part of the equation. It's the tone that these basses are capable of that really set them apart, and this little bass is a tone monster. It should be noted that the poly-finished instruments, most in black although some pewter and a few white ones were made, tend to be a little brighter than their wood-faced counterparts. Wood facings definitely impart a tonal character to the sound of these instruments.

This bass arrived with a nice custom ATA flight case bearing the band logo "Anthem" and presumably the album title "Lost Within the Times". Interesting bass player. While it's apparent that this instrument had been on the road for a while, the blemishes are minor and I will have Pete tend to them at some point.

MkII fretless 5: My First Wal bass

It was three years ago almost to the day that I purchased my first Wal bass, a black poly MkII fretless five-string from Jon and Harry at Bunnybass. Here's a review that I wrote shortly after receiving it:

MkII fretless five string
Solid mahogany body
Maple/hornbeam bolt-on neck
Lined ebony fretless board
34" scale
All black poly gloss finish
All hardware is gold-plated
Weight roughly 11 pounds
Condition: showroom, virtually unplayed
Handmade by Pete Stevens in 1996
Accessories: a beautiful grey fiberglass Wal "dogbone" case
an unopened set of DR strings inside the case

Below is a detail shot of the wonderful lined fretless neck.
Next is the detail of back of the instrument showing the bolt-on neck plate and electronics cavity. The attention to every detail is truly astonishing.
All Wal Custom basses feature a mic-level XLR output in addition to a recessed 1/4" TS phone jack. This allows you to plug straight into the mixing board without an external DI.
The jeweller-like precision is readily apparent on every detail of this instrument, from the signature Wal horshoe-style bridge to the fine adjustments provided for each of the pickup magnets. There are 4 adjustable poles for each string, two per pickup.
Here is a detail shot of the Wal headstock. This style is used on the five and six string 24 fret models. Note the string tree that is provided on every Wal custom bass.
* Red background photos courtesy Jon & Harry of Bunnybass.

Until this instrument arrived, I had yet to find a fretless bass that I truly "connected with" despite many attempts on my part. This instrument is absolutely the easiest possible fretless to play and fits me like a glove. Somehow it seems to magically keep my fingers in exactly the right place, likely due to having the perfect scale and string spacing for me.

This particular bass can behave and sound exactly like a fretted instrument, but when you want the fretless "mwah" and expression it's ALL right there at your fingertips. The balance is perfect and very comfortable despite the weight of just below 11 pounds.

As mentioned, all Wal basses are absolute tone monsters but it takes some time to master the controls. This is not your usual 3-band boost or cut preamp. However I am not only totally comfortable with this setup, I actually prefer it. See the preamp section above for details on the controls.