Dingwall Prima


Dingwall Bass Guitars Prima Model

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descriptions supplied by Dingwall Guitars website

Design Goals

Sheldon Dingwall wanted to create an instrument using the most gorgeous, sought after woods, top of the line hardware and electronics.

He wanted to create the ultimate in sustain, resonance, punch, solid yet incredibly articulate tone.

He wanted to take a cost is no object approach where the end result is an instrument to be coveted. An instrument with so much depth and clarity, that no matter what your present skill level, it will take you to new heights. These are pretty lofty goals for sure, but ask anyone who owns one, a Prima is not just a great instrument, it's an experience.


After years of building basses mostly using the Novax® Fanned-Fret System™, but also some with standard parallel frets, we've come to the conclusion that the use of this technology makes basses better - period. The tension and tone from string to string is more even and low note definition is greatly improved. EQing a bass whose strings are all of a similar tonal character is so much easier than when the low strings have a darker quality and the higher strings have a brighter quality. Body woods – Dual density swamp ash core, optional exotic wood top.

Neck Construction
5-piece Laminated Quarter-Sawn Hard Rock Maple

We take neck construction very seriously due to Sheldon's extensive experience in guitar repairs coupled with our geographic location. During his many years in the repair business Sheldon constantly had to deal with humidity related problems made worse by our extreme local climate. Many of these problems could have been minimized through simple design changes and materials choices. Touring musicians are constantly amazed at how stable Dingwall instruments are. Many state that their Dingwall necks are as stable as their Graphite necked instruments.


Neck Carve
Semi Elliptical

Here is another area where Computer Aided Design has been a great help. An elliptical shape is the most natural feeling, efficient shape there is. We used CAD to create an ellipse that tapers equally down the entire length of the neck shaft. It doesn't matter what position you are playing anywhere on the neck, it is always extraordinarily comfortable.

The Z-series necks are some of the thinnest, most comfortable necks made. Due to the extra strong truss-rod and carbon fiber reinforcement, they are extremely stiff as well.
Truss Rod
Pressure Fit, Double Expanding, Single Acting

The double expanding style is an industry standard. However, the method of installation – taught to Dingwall by Glenn McDougall of Fury Guitars, involves gluing the truss rod into the neck under nearly 1000-LB of pressure. This creates a coupling of steel to wood, minimizing dead spots and increasing both sustain and harmonic content.

Adjustment - Hidden Plateless

The hidden, plate-less truss rod adjustment has always been a design feature of Dingwall instruments.

The truss rod is the most commonly adjusted component on most guitars, so access to the truss rod adjustment should be as easy as possible.

Carbon fiber reinforcement – twin tapered spars

Dingwall uses specially tapered carbon fiber spars that provide a maximum of reinforcement near the heel joint where the stress is highest, gradually tapering to a minimum of reinforcement near the nut.

There is nothing wrong with the tone of a carbon fiber neck. Dingwall just really like the tone of wood necks and feel that the tapered spars offer the best compromise between the tone of wood and the stability of carbon fiber.
Neck Finish

The finish on a neck makes a big difference in the feel of the neck. Most people prefer the smooth, natural feel of an oil-finished neck. It has also been our experience that an oil-finished neck is more humidity stable than a painted neck (providing the fingerboard is not painted as well). Even though oil provides less moisture vapor protection than a painted finish, an oil-finished neck is considered a balanced finish. In other words the fingerboard side of the neck has the same finish and therefore the same moisture protection as the back of the neck. So the whole neck gains and loses moisture at an equal rate. This is true of a neck that is painted both front and back as well such as most maple necks.
See Our Quicksilver 1500G necks, We do them the same way.

Necks that are painted on the back of the neck but whose fingerboards are oiled would be considered to have an unbalanced finish where the moisture gain and loss will be slightly more inhibited through the paint. Not much mind you, but enough to make the neck less stable through humidity changes.

Angled (compound)

If you look closely at the angle of the Dingwall headstock, you will notice that it's actually a combination of two angles. This adds considerable complication to the construction process but provides a perfectly linear string path to the tuners.

The headstock features a pau ferro face veneer as standard (maple fingerboards get a maple veneered head face) and is also available with an optional matching veneer cut from the same wood as the top. This is a great look and is a very popular option.
Materials- Wenge, Pau Ferro Or Maple

Bass guitars have relatively long necks. Any mismatch between the fingerboard and neck shaft with regard to movement due to humidity changes will be very noticeable.

What this means is that from a design standpoint, Dingwall looks only for woods that are stable first, then from that group they choose the best sounding woods, then from that group they choose the best looking.

Pau ferro and wenge are very stable when laminated to a maple neck. The two woods sound very similar, so Dingwall uses them interchangeably depending on quality available at the time.

Maple fingerboards of course are very stable and add a nice snap to the high end.

Radius- Compound, 7-1/2” To 25”

The Dingwall radius starts with at 7-1/2” at the nut. This is a very comfortable and familiar feeling radius. Then using Computer Aided Design, Dingwall adjusted the radius to match the increasing width of the fingerboard while maintaining the exact same thickness under each string. The latter point is critical to achieving a low action. A side benefit is that the flatter radius at the bridge makes right hand work easier and keeps the strings a more consistent distance from the pickups for more even response.
Gotoh GB-70

These are among the smoothest most reliable tuners made.

Hipshot Drop A Or D Tuner Option

You haven't lived until you've heard the E string dropped down to a D or the B string dropped down to an A! Adding a Hipshot is one of our most popular options. When you consider how much music is written in the key of D and A it makes a lot of sense. Once you've tried a great sounding low A, you'll be hooked!

Banjo Size - 24, Fanned

Leland Sklar turned Dingwall on to small frets. They use a size that is normally used on banjos. The small frets intonate very precisely, feel sleek and have a warmer, woodier tone.

Mandolin Size

For the player with finesse, who is looking for the ultimate in playability, Dingwall also offers Mandolin frets. Necks fretted with mando frets sound even more woody and natural. Fret noise is almost non-existent. Playability takes the term “effortless” to a new level. Players with a light to medium touch can expect 5-10 years before replacement is necessary. (The photo to the left shows a banjo fret on the top and a mando fret on the bottom.
3mm Pearl Face And Side Dots

Leland also designed the standard dot pattern of 3 mm pearl dots spaced halfway between the 1st and 2nd strings. Abalone dots are an option.

The optional bar design has evolved from the inlay design Sheldon used on the very first necks he built. Bars are available in either pearl or abalone.

Custom Inlays:
More elaborate inlays can be made available, just ask.
Phenolic is long wearing and very consistent.
Neck Mounting Bolts
Large Head Machine Screws

In published tests, “Lee Valley Tools” showed the pullout resistance of various wood screws compared to machine screws properly installed in wood. The results were hands down in favor of the machine screws and tapped threads.  (Ed Roman DCK System)

Dingwall also uses machine screws with special large heads designed to distribute the pressure in soft materials like wood. This system is a little more costly and labor intensive to use but results in an extremely strong neck joint.
Body Woods
Core wood – Dual density – walnut/alder blend

Experience with the Fanned-Fret™ system has opened up a whole new way of thinking about an instrument. Instead of blending woods of different densities and tonal responses in a sandwich array affecting the tone of each string equally. Dingwall has turned traditional thinking on its side by laminating across the width of the body. This allows them to use a higher density wood such as walnut for the bass side to accentuate the highs and give power to the lows without affecting the treble strings. They use a lower density wood (alder) for the treble side to bring out the resonance and warm up the treble strings without making the bass strings sound muddy. For such a simple idea, the results are pretty dramatic – warm, punchy treble strings with solid snappy bass strings.

The total body thickness including top and back is only 38mm (1.5”). This keeps the weight of the bass down, while increasing the plate (face area) to thickness ratio for a more responsive, resonant tone.

Due to the small headstock design, the balance is perfect.

Top and Back Woods
Top of the line exotic

Dingwall re-saws their top and back woods themselves, labeling and storing them in sequence so that the back of the instrument is a perfect match to the top.

They have a wide choice of exotic top and back woods to choose from for a number of budgets and tastes. The dual density core woods contribute so much to the tone that the top and back woods have a minimal affect. This is a good thing as it allows them complete freedom to choose the most amazing looking woods available without fear of compromising tone.


Through years of experience, Dingwall has come up with their own blend of polyester and polyurethane paints that offer great protection, great colors, and great tone. The bodies almost look like they've been dipped in glass, yet the finish is extremely thin allowing it to be acoustically transparent.
Strap Pin and Neck Bolt Reinforcement
Rock maple plugs

Strap pin screws commonly loosen over time leading to stripped wood. You can imagine the damage that could happen if a strap pin let go. Part of the problem is most tone woods used for bodies are relatively soft. Secondly the screws are mounted in end-grain, which doesn't hold screws well.  Z-series bodies receive edge grain hard maple reinforcement plugs. You will never see the improvement as it's hidden under the strap pin washer, but it's there, protecting your investment.

In softer woods like alder and low-density swamp ash theu install similar maple reinforcement plugs under the neck mounting bolts. These provide a firm seating for the neck bolts beefing up this high stress area.

Strap Locks
Dunlop - Standard

Of the many strap lock designs, these are the easiest to use. As a plus the button design they use also functions as a regular strap pin.

Bridge System
Dingwall Designed Individual Saddles With Sub Plate System

Featuring a unique pin system that anchors the string by utilizing the hole in the ball. This eliminates any stress points on the string where it wraps around the ball.

Designed to be “set & forget” simple. Once the string height and intonation are set, the saddle is locked down to the sub plate for perfect coupling. This also guarantees that the saddle never goes out of adjustment accidentally.

Aircraft aluminum is used for the saddles and sub plate as it is lightweight and has a wonderful ring (Aluminum is the material of choice for xylophone bars).

The riser screws are made from 18-8 stainless steel. These screws will virtually last forever.
Matching control Knobs

For those that crave the “wood look” they offer matching wood control knobs. The knobs are cut from the actual body blank and are unique to the instrument. They feature a brass insert with a set-screw and are finished to match the top.

Custom Bartolini Soapbars

Sheldon has worked closely with Bartolini through the years to develop a set of pickups that provide a silky smooth tone with great balance and an uncanny ability to “sit” in the mix.

Dingwall FD-1
Custom Designed And Manufactured By Dingwall Guitars And Fury Guitars

Recently, Dingwall teamed up with Fury Guitars to co-produce the FD-1 pickups. These pickups feature a vintage influenced tone with a lot of “grind” and “bark” that gives the sound an aggressive edge. The pickups have high output yet are extremely noise and feedback free. These pickups have great definition and clarity and are able to cut through the densest of mixes.
“I also have a soft spot for good-sounding passive basses, perhaps from having owned and played some great ´60s Fender Jazz and Precision basses. The passive electronics on the Afterburner are just great, hum-free with very nice sounding pickup combinations. I think the slap sound in parallel mode is one of the best I ever heard. I did not miss the blending pot.”

Mats Gronberg, Skarplinge, Swede

The Prima model comes stock with a 9 volt 2-band eq.

Active Bartolini

A popular option is the NTMB-18 volt 3-band eq. This pre-amp is incredibly transparent sounding. The bass and treble contours have a gentle natural sounding slope and the mid range is switch able between three pre-set frequencies. Both pre-amps feature a push/pull switch on the volume control to completely bypass the pre-amp for passive operation.

Aguilar 2 or 3-Band Eq

The new kid on the block is the Aguilar OBP-3 pre-amp. We really like this pre-amp and for thunderous bottom end and crystal clarity, it can't be beat.

Both systems come stock with the Dingwall 4-position rotary switch for better highs and the ability to combine the pickups in series. A blend is available as an option.
Shielding System
Star Grounding

The Z1 features a unique shielding system that features a CNC machined brass pan with an integral ground buss near the output jack. All ground wires are soldered to the buss (star grounding) eliminating potential ground loops. The cavity walls are lined with heavy aluminum foil and the cavity cover is coated with high-grade conductive paint.

Battery Compartment
Separate, Dingwall Exclusive Design

The battery compartment is unique. The batteries are held tightly in a foam-lined recess. The cover plate is held in place by two strong rare earth magnets. The battery leads are the best quality available with plated contacts for long trouble free life.

Optional Passive Mid-Contour Circuit (With The FD-1 Pickups)

The bluEQube, when switched in, softens the upper mids, giving the tone a smooth acoustic quality. This is great for when the music calls for a sweeter, less aggressive tone. The BluEQube circuit also provides a great slap tone. Some use it as a pre-set slap contour. The cool thing is, that it is 100% passive, so is available in either active or passive mode.
Neutrik Locking

The Neutrik locking jack is one of the best ever made. Rugged and beefy,