So as with many others, I've been very excited with the recent reemergence of the Bass VI. I've been interested in them for a couple years now, but I'd never actually seen one in person. For me, they have great appeal not necessarily for gigging and what not, but more as a compositional device. As I travel cross-country to go to college, I have limited access to my instruments, so I figured this would be a great middle ground. I can practice guitar stuff and write for guitar without having my actually guitar on hand. Plus they're just really darned cool. So I've been saving cash away for a while now, and recently sold off my Bassman 300, so after much reading and debating, I settled on the current MIJ reissue. I know it's a bit pricey, but I've had experience with Japanese Fenders, they're great quality, and, more importantly, it has the specs I like in an instrument, namely 7.25" radius, small "mandolin" frets, the proper width bridge, locking trem, vintage neck profile. The newer Squiers look amazing (who doesn't love blocks and binding?) but they have modern specs, which I'm generally not so fond of. But let me shut up now, have some pics:
So to the question of what it's like. One word: Awesome. Really, it's such a unique instrument, I'm not quite sure how to best describe it. The bottom E and A are rather floppy, it comes with the .84 set, but I have a custom set of Labella rounds on the way, hopefully get some better tension. It's not that the bottom E is unusable, but if you dig in and play aggressively (as I do), it can be a bit messy. Right now I'm mostly playing with a pick, but you absolutely can play with your fingers, it just takes some getting used to. Personally, I think it shines with pick playing.
The vibrato is tons of fun. I love hitting the low E and letting it ring out while using the vibrato to dive down and then bring it back up. It doesn't lock in place, and takes some technique adaptation, but it's really cool to have. I may get a Stay Trem add on to keep it in place, as well as possibly a shorter arm (like one on the David Gilmour Strat). I find myself playing by the bridge a lot, so to use the bar I'm usually wrapping my pinky around it, and a shorter bar would prove less awkward. The bridge also seems pretty solid. The Music Zoo set it up when they shipped it out, and I'll wait to set it up again until I get new strings, but it buzzes a bit on the E string (might just be due to the string). I think the action is at an alright level (I play with decently high action due to heavy attack), but a friend who played it thought it was too high, and I'm not exactly sure how one would go about dropping the action, as this bridge design doesn't have height adjustment screws. I guess you drop the whole bridge closer to the body? Anyways, the buzz at the bridge, and even string buzz, isn't a terrible issue, you can't really notice it when playing plugged in.
Speaking of playing plugged in, it sounds great. My main amp is having some issues right now, but what little I did get to play through it sounded awesome. Totally different than the Precision bass. Need to figure out how to best EQ it. Certainly not lacking in low end (except maybe the string itself), but the timbre is very unique. I find my favorite settings are either all on, or neck and middle, but it's really impressive how different each one sounds. The neck is very tub-y, and the bridge very honky, and the middle has nice punch. Putting all three on gives it a really tight, solid punch, and the neck+mid give you about the same with a bit more low end retention.
A lot of my play time with it thus far has been plugged into Garageband, using the Fender Deluxe Reverb emulator. It's garagband, so it isn't super accurate, but it does sound very cool. With a good dose of reverb, it's a blast to play. Secret Agent Man, Miserlou, all that good surf stuff. Being able to switch from the bass line to taking the lead is also great. But being able to do the solo in Don't Worry About Me by Marty Robbins might be worth the price of admission alone. And then there's the whole world of Tic-Tac, palm muting. The sky's kind of the limit with this thing. I can't wait to further explore all its possibilities. It also seriously has me considering picking up one of those recent 65 Deluxe Reverb heads to pair with it.
I guess it's not really NDB, as I've had it for about 5 days now, but I figured I'd give it time before posting about it so I could give a better assessment.
TL;DR: Fender Bass VI, amazing versatile instrument, sounds great, plays great.