COMBINATION FRETTED/FRETLESS NECK
This bass came up for sale on eBay way back in '98 and we've not seen it since. Luckily a Yahoo! Groups member saved the auction photos though they do lack a little in quality.
This one-of-a-kind prototype combination fretted / fretless bass neck was fitted on a white XM2 bass body. The knob on the end of the neck lowers the frets for fretless playing. We're curious how well this option worked, as we can imagine the frets not coming back and being totally level. This would lead to buzzing and inconsistent play. And we don't even want to think of what a refret would involve!
When originally asked, Ned himself remembered nothing of this prototype. More recently another Newburgh staffer recalled it being a one-of-a-kind experiment, created shortly after the Gibson sale. He added that although the operation was ingenious, the neck was mostly hollow to accommodate the fret loading mechanism. This made the neck very light, but more importantly very "weak and dead sounding". It remains a novel approach to an interesting idea.
If anyone knows more about this bass or could provide new pics, please contact us through our Yahoo! Groups forum.
Full view of the prototype
Close-up view of the neck featuring the "fret knob". Turning it engages/disengages the frets.
View of the neck with the frets raised up and engaged
End view of the headpiece knob and neck with the frets lowered