Aria Pro II TSB-350 “Thor Sound”

This was my first real bass.

Okay. So compared to some higher-end basses, maybe “real bass” is a point of contention. But I’ve never been much of a snoot when it comes to instruments. This bass saw a lot of use, and performed well. In my book, that makes it a real bass. So there.

According to the Aria USA web site, the TSB-350 “Thor Sound” basses were made from 1981 to 1983. I believe I bought this one in 1982. But to be honest, so much time has past that I’m really not sure.

My friend, Ricky Goodman, and I went up to AppleTree Music in Shelby, NC, way back in 1981, to lay away instruments. He was going to get a guitar and I was going to get a bass, and we were going to learn to play, and start a band, and be rich, etc., etc. This Aria is the bass I chose. I couldn’t play it at the time, so the salesman had to play it for me so that I could hear how it sounded. I nodded knowingly, like I approved of what I heard, but it didn’t mean anything to me. All I knew at the time was that it was black, shiny, and purty. So I laid it away (I would only discover later that the thing had a great sound).

At the time, I was still just a kid. 15 or 16 years old. My only job was cleaning up my aunt’s restaurant for $35 a week. Getting the Aria out of layaway in three months on that was going to be tricky (its price was around $450). But my determination says a lot about my resolve to own this bass. Eventually, after I had paid off about half of the purchase price, my mother and my aunt, Loretta, felt sorry for me. They decided to pay the rest. I’ve owned it ever since.

I’d made a little progress on that first Sears bass. I really learned to play on this Aria Pro II. Rick never learned to play his guitar, so we never started that band. I soldiered on without him. I eventually went on to jam with a fella named Gary Ramsey, and we became friends and partners in crime for many years to follow. Having just started, neither of us were good enough to jam with the “real” musicians, and so we worked together on a range of bizarre and (now) embarassing tunes (bits and pieces of which I might still use some day). Together, we both eventually got to where we were kind of okay on our instruments.

After Gary, I played this bass in a number of forgettable bands, and jammed in clubs with it a lot. My first forays into multi-track recording were made with this bass. Its sound was pleasing enough, but always a bit stiff. The Norse god Thor would have liked it, though. I considered it aptly named. I liked the bass, was comfortable with it, and never much thought about it. At least not for awhile.

Through the years the Aria fell into disfavor. My cousin, Mark Short, had become a diehard B.C Rich fan, and had pretty much convinced me that my bass wasn’t a “real” bass. At the time he had a compelling case. My Aria Pro II paled in comparison to his $850 custom B.C. Rich Eagle (that was a lot of money in those days). And so I accepted the prevailing opinion without much of a struggle.

Thus began my search for the perfect bass.

I borrowed Mark’s B.C. Rich quite a bit for inspiration. But was never drawn to the brand. In the following years I owned a Washburn and a G&L, but didn’t click with either of them. While purchasing some recording equipment from Hames Music in Gaffney, South Carolina, I came across an unexpected opportunity to purchase a used Alembic Spoiler from the sales manager, Art Mauney. I’d always had a long distance love affair with Alembics, but never thought I’d own one (they’re hideously expensive). But Art sold me his for $1,000. I became the proud owner of an Alembic Spoiler.

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Completed: 
1981
Purchased: 
1982
Body Wood: 
Alder
Neck Wood: 
Maple
Fingerboard: 
Rosewood
String Nut: 
Bone
Pickups:  1 MB-III
Electronics: 
Passive
1 volume
1 tone
Model: 
TSB-350
Purchased: 
Appletree Music
Shelby, NC
Price: 
$350
Strings: 
Rotosound
Swingbass 66

“I am the God Thor,
I am the War God,
I am the Thunderer.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Rick Hankins
Rick Hankins
8 years ago

Hello there..
Interesting story about your bass. My first bass was a used Fender P-bass. Practically the same story, exactly the same time period. Now I have several basses, guitars…etc…blah blah. I always thought these Aria Pro II’s were super cool. Today someone posted the same exact bass on my local Craigslist for $275 obo. It seems like its in beautiful condition. Of course, I don’t NEED another bass but the Arias just have that cool factor or whatever you wanna call it. My question to you is: for a cool bass and a solid player, do you think its worth messing with, or is a higher end Aria Pro II all that much better…and should I just hold off for a better model? My instincts tell me it should still sound good and at $250ish (thenprice I plan to offer) no major loss if it doesn’t work out. What do you think?
Thanks,
Rick Hankins

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