As a music lover, I'm not usually analyzing the sound too much. I'm more into listening to you and your music. Getting into the groove. But in my profession as a luthier, I also know that with the right tools, your musical communication with your audience can get even deeper.
Juha Ruokangas - Master Guitar Maker
Steam combines the best features of classic bolt-on basses with my design language, special knowledge of tonewood and a few fresh tweaks not often seen in basses. It is a no-nonsense powerhouse, that helps you get the job done better.
My tonewood combo of spanish cedar and thermally aged arctic birch has certainly made a mark in the world of guitars - and its musicality shines through beautifully in basses, too. The Deluxe sounds huge - and the looks aren't too bad, either.
There's more to making a great 5-stringed bass than just adding one string and changing some parts and measurements. The real challenge is the low B string. To fully understand what I mean, you need to experience the Steam 5 - then you will know how powerful and balanced a low B can sound at its very best.
Musicality of an instrument begins from the material selection, and a 5-stringed bass is one of the most challenging instrument types to perfect. The super low frequencies set very special demands for both the tonewood and the design - and I have been fortunate on both fronts - the Deluxe 5 certainly delivers the goods.
I wanted to make a bass model ever since I started working with thermally aged tonewood, but I needed help cause I'm not a bass player - so I kept pushing the project aside. Eventually, my dear friend and amazing bass artist Markus Setzer persuaded me to get on with it, and offered to share his profound bass expertise with me. The stars were aligned right, and the outcome is quite extraordinary.
I love to use alder as the body wood for Steam cause it has that punchy sound a great bass needs. Alder has comfy weight and it looks great with see-thru finish. As a nice little bonus for us, this tonewood grows locally, right here on our backyard. Alder gives our basses a classic, open voiced and ringing tone that most players would define as “vintage”.
Wood is a living material. When I had built ten instruments out of spanish cedar I thought I knew it all – but now, after about a thousand instruments later, I realize I am still learning. That is why I don’t offer all kinds of exotic wood combinations for my basses. There would simply be too many variables – and I don’t want to use my clients as guinea pigs.
I was hoping to work miracles with thermally aged tonewood, and keep the problematic peak resonances causing dead spots better in control. Later on, when my first bass prototype was being tested in Germany by Markus Setzer, I recall one of his first comments was: "All the notes sustain in such way that it shouldn't be possible". I was thrilled. I knew I was onto something extraordinary.
"The magic of this instrument yields from loving craftsmanship and uncompromised attention to detail."
- de Bassist /The Netherlands)
"The Steam Classic has a very clear presence I've never experienced before!"
- Martin Kutschinski (Germany)
"A long search and a lot of wasted money has come to an end. I don't think I'll ever need other basses.
- Andi Eichinger (Germany)
"If you do all your work as you’ve done with my Steam Classic, you make a lot of people happy. Beautiful!"
- Winfried Soppa (Germany)
"I am proud to be the owner of this Steam Deluxe - what a beautiful masterpiece! What a sound and workmanship!"
- Jürgen Packheiser (Germany)
"As I play with warm tone or with the bridge pickup staccato sounds, the brilliance of the instrument is always there!
- Martin Kutschinski (Germany)
"All I can say is this – from the day I bought the Steam bass, it has been the only bass I play both in studio and live!"
- Sami Ruusukallio / Eppu Normaali (Finland)
"The workmanship, sound, playability, look - even the accessories in the case are awesome, absolutely first class!
- Matthias Fuhr (Germany)
"The workmanship is excellent and it sounds fantastic - it's clear that the Steam is made with dedication and passion."
- Stefano Kost (Switzerland)
"My Steam Deluxe makes me Happy! It is funky, lightweight, covers all styles, easy to play, balanced, superb tone..."
- Albin Palasser (Austria)
"Everything is perfect - the look and the sound. I played for the last 2 hours and my fingers just won’t stop."
- Björn Hagen (Germany)
"I can't believe how beautiful the bass is! No words... Thank you so much for this wonderful instrument!"
- Christian Waap (Germany)
"Honestly, I have no words to express how happy I am with the Steam Classic-5. For me it is a dream come true!"
- Matthias Fuhr (Germany)
"The Steam is really a creative tool that supports and pushes me to develop my playing further. Thanks for that!"
- Stefan Hesterberg (Germany)
"I enjoy the unique sensitivity of the Steambass – whatever nuances I play, all can be heard.
- Markus Setzer (Germany)
"In Finland, guitar making is a matter of great pride. And they must be crazy proud of Ruokangas Guitars."
- Guitar Connoisseur
"Everybody in my band was impressed of the different sounds of my Steam Classic
- Martin Kutschinski (Germany)
"After the first note it’s clear that Juha Ruokangas can conjure up something really special. A masterpiece!"
- Gitarre & Bass (Germany)
There is no detail, that wouldn’t in some way contribute to the whole. When everything is right - materials, shapes, parts, construction - you will sense it, even if you couldn't quite put your finger on why exactly does the instrument feel so good.
When seeking ideal hardware for a bass, one easily runs into a paradox of choice - there are so many options, and even more opinions regarding what is good and what is not. This is why I’ve taken the liberty to curate the choice of our hardware strictly and respectively for my instruments. It is because I want to offer only options that make sense.
To maximise the sound transparency and minimize unwanted movement of the bridge parts, I wanted a lightweight bridge in which each saddle would be shared by two strings - just like in vintage T-style guitars. So to find the perfect bridge for Steam, I benefited from my long experience in designing guitars.
Our purpose is to create the ideal tools for your art of making music. To achieve this goal, each of our guitars is individually handmade to the highest standard by one of us, the Ruokangas team, using the finest materials in the world. No serial production methods or automated processes are involved in the making.
My friend Markus Setzer gave me precise instructions how the frequency response should be in order to make the Steam pickups super transparent and as musical sounding as possible. Harry Häussel worked hard to make this happen - and succeeded in a fantastic way. A great example of teamwork with unique results that I couldn't have achieved alone.
One of the optional features I haven't seen in other basses is a special circuit that allows you to switch the pickups from the usual parallel wiring to a series wiring. This acts as a sort of a "passive boost" - the sound becomes louder and more compressed. It's a simple little thing - but feels almost like having two basses in one.
The little modest looking part guiding strings from the fretboard to tuners – the nut – plays an extremely important role in any bass. The material, string spacing, depth of the string slots, shape and angle of the slots – a number of variables, each one contributing to your playing experience. Moose shin bone is an ideal material for this crucial task, giving the open notes lucid clarity and keeping the tuning stable beautifully.
To me, the spirit of bass guitar begins with rhythm. I often compare bass to a steam locomotive with its hypnotizing rhythm and immense power. But bass can be a distinguished melodic instrument as well. It is an instrument of many faces, and I'm humbled that my basses have been so well received by so many gifted musicians.
I enjoy the unique sensitivity of the Steam bass – whatever nuances I play, all can be heard. The harmonics are also very rich and well defined. This bass blows me away – it’s so inspiring!
– Markus Setzer
If I want to be the best, there is no room for ego. Why? Because ego is all about wanting - and mastering a craft is not. It's about growing into my full potential, freeing my creativity and serving others. It's the same with making music - the fulfillment comes from letting go and giving, not wanting.
– Juha Ruokangas