This is another eBay bargain I picked up around 2010. It's a Ken Smith Burner from the early 90s, built in Ken's factory in the US (as opposed to the more recent Burner Ignition series of basses built under licence out in China or someplace), in gloss black (or 'onyx', as Ken or his marketing people call it). It came to me in the classic Smith branded teardrop hard case, and complete with Smith branded strap.
The bass is like butter - it's the smoothest playing bass I've ever tried: the lacquered neck feels fast and easy to play, the action is absolutely perfect, and the tone somehow feels classy and refined. It's difficult to explain - something about the glistening top end and the warm round lows - the tone is never harsh, always musical. You try giving other basses too much bottom end, they get muddy - this just gets warmer. Give most basses too much top end and they start to sound brash and obnoxious - this just gets more articulate. It's a pleasure to play, and I can see why Smiths are considered one of the 'go to' basses for gospel - it's a big warm expressive tone that can anchor any band.
However, as much as I love it, there are some issues I have with it personally that mean it tends to stay in the studio. It's big, and that paddle of a headstock makes it feel even more so, so cramped stages with it can be difficult, especially for a player like me who likes to move around. I'm not overly keen on the body shape - a little too 'vampiric' looking for me, somehow, but with that in mind, I do like to bring it out for Halloween gigs when we get to dress up! And the string spacing is quite narrow. I guess I'm just too used to the wider spacing on my Stingray and Statuses. And the tone is perhaps a little too polite and refined for me when I play live. Sometimes I need my bass to get harsh and a little obnoxious, in order to get the audience's attention, especially on a gig where I'm expected to do some soloing, or on a bass-led gig.
That said, this is the bass I tend to use when I'm working out my solo bass arrangements in the studio. I guess it's because it feels so musical and the tone is so crystal clear - it's the best bass I have to hear and feel the vibrations in the way certain notes on the bass work against each other.
In conclusion, I'd say this beauty makes me eager to try a 'real' Ken Smith ... when I win the lottery. For now, I just look at them and drool.