|Here's how the Rail gets its name: The pickup slides along the length of the "rails" that span the gap in the body. This gives the unprecidented ability to have a pickup in every postion not merely the standard options of neck vs. bridge.|
Rail is certainly more piece of art than an instrument. Mine
isn't very playable. I have a couple other basses, so the Rail doesn't
get much attention. If I had a spare pickup lying around, I would
probably swap it out to see if that improved the sound. Mine doesn't
have a tone knob, so that's a downside as well. From what I gather,
later models featured a tone knob. I have thought about adding one,
but like I said, I have a couple basses I play more already.
The aesthetics are interesting. The red fret markers and side dots are nice touches. White markings just wouldn't work. A white version with black markings was also produced, and that looks pretty good as well.
The absence of a conventional wood body makes it less resonant, but this changes the tone and makes it more sterile-sounding. That doesn't make it the perfect bass for most people, I'm sure, but it gives you an interesting sound to work with, especially if you use effects liberally.
One nice feature is that the Rail does not require double-ball strings, unlike Steinbergers*. There is a clamp at the headstock that can be screwed down to hold them in place. Unfortunately, it is hard to clip the strings flush to the surface, so there' is always a sharp bit at the ends for you to cut a hand on if you grab it wrong (This isn't likely while playing, thankfully.) *Note: There is a string adapter for Steinberger guitars and basses that allows the use of conventional strings.
A new pickup almost certainly couldn't hurt. I'm just not impressed with the tone here. Maybe with the right combination of effects...? I don't know. I have a Peavey BAM 210 Bass Amp that gives you models of eight amps and eight cabinets to work with in any combination, but I haven't been happy with any sound for it that I've yet discovered.
(future) Modification: Tone Knob
The absence of a tone knob is a huge drawback for any bass for all the obvious reasons (unless all you do is slap/pop stuff; even then you would still do well to vary your sound if not your technique). Apparently the oversight was realized and a tone pot was added on later versions of this model. There isn't room for a basic preamp, let alone controls for a multiband EQ, so modern bassists may have little use for The Rail beyond the gimmick of its design. I hope to at least add a passive tone knob to mine when I have a chance.
Technically this is more of a repair than a mod, but when I received the bass, it was missing the thumbscrew (and knob) that is used to hold the pickup section in place along the rails. Since the volume knob was simply one of the common barrel-style metal knobs, I used one of those I had on hand to build a new one.