OK. So I've wanted one of these since they were announced in the early summer. Sadly, the initial launch was only in Europe & they weren't made available in North American until August. With my Spector ReBop 5DLX needing a truss rod replacement, and a new pre-amp going in, I decided that I needed a backup 5 string and jumped at the chance to pull the trigger on a (now justified) bass!
I tried a Yamaha RBX375, but found it cumbersome to play. It had a harsh pre-amp, the pickups couldn't be lowered enough & the action wouldn't go down because the relief couldn't be pulled OUT of the neck. So, I took it back & ordered the VM Jag V in 3TSB to try out. It took exactly 1 week to come in, arriving 5 minutes after I had been in the shop asking if it had been arrived. I was on my way to my Wednesday jam & immediatly went back to pick it up. THE REVIEW THE BODY
Weighs 9 lbs
5 piece Basswood body
3 tone sunburst poly finish
Black 3-ply pickguard
The salesman, who is also my bass tech, & I unpacked it & were both shocked at how little it weighed. It was comfortable & close to my 8.5lb Spector & 8lb P-bass. It also balanced well on a strap, despite having a shorter horn than a Jazz or P-bass would. I looked over the body & noticed it's a 5 piece. It's very reasonably matched, for an inexpensive bass, with only 1 piece standing out as noticeable on the front.
When you turn it over, you can see all 5 pieces clearly.
There's a knot on the piece closest to the upper edge (when lying horizontal).
Neither of these issues bother me, as you can't see them from the front and the bass is structurally strong. The pickup routes are aligned correctly, as is the bridge. The P pick-up's pole pieces are spaced too wide to line up, but it's centered.
No gaps between the control plate & pickguard. No screws forced in sideways. THE NECK
Maple neck with Rosewood fingerboard & skunk stripe
4+1 open gear tuner arrangement
Bar string holder across EADG strings
Aside from the rosewood board (I'm a maple fan), the neck is pretty & solid. No flaws in the construction or finish. No sharp fret edges, no high frets. The tuners are solid and the nut is well cut. I may at some point decide to order a Warmoth Standard 5 neck for it, but that would only be to go back to a maple board with block inlays.
The other option would be to order a Squier VM Jazz V and swap necks, but then I'd be left with a 5 string Jazz with a non-bound neck to sell, and I doubt I'd get enough back to cover the difference between this option & buying the Warmoth. If anyone has a bound & blocked VM Jazz 5 neck & wants to trade, I'm all ears. PLAYABILITY
I tested the Jag out briefly at the store, to ensure all electronics & hardware worked, and that it was playable. The strings are tighter than I would have expected, and the B resonates well without having to adjust my playing style. It played great out of the box. That being said, whoever set it up did so for 1 whole note drop tuning. -_- As soon as I tuned it up to BEADG, the intonation was a little out. The action is also higher than I like, but that will be adjusted as I go through this review. I played it at my jam for 3 hours and was impressed with how well it kept its tuning (didn't need to retune at all) and that the high action didn't really bother me much. The neck is fast and doesn't feel fat, despite being wider than my Spector. The string spacing is comfortable, too.
I've since adjusted the bass' relief, action & intonation. It plays much better than before & the travel distance doesn't irk me when I'm noodling in the upper register. There's a slight buzzing when playing unplugged, but it's not audible when plugged in. If it bothers me too much, I'll just give each saddle a half turn & retest it. SOUND
5 string P-bass & J-bass pickups
Wired Vol-Vol-Bass Boost-Tone
The tone on this thing is nothing short of astounding for the price range. I didn't know how the bass boost was going to sound. I expected them to put a bargain basement boost circuit in that sounds like garbage. I was wrong! The boost circuit is smooth and clear. I don't dial much in, but it's not even overbearing at full volume. It will be quite useful for my cover band's range of songs. The P, when solo'd, sounds exactly as a P should sound. Thumpy and full of mids. The Jazz solo'd is throaty with a bit of growl and more highs. The passive tone control is smooth, with no harsh clanking from the strings at full. Great for any post-punk or 80s rock songs we break out. SUMMARY
This bass is an absolute STEAL for the money. Fit & finish are astounding, with minor cosmetic issues that I've also seen on American Standards. The weight is less than most Mexicans, and rivals most Americans. The tone is something you would expect from an instrument at least 3x its price. And the look is 1 of a kind! Nobody else makes a 5 string Jaguar! Not even Fender!
I give this bass a solid 8/10, with 1 point deducted for the knot in the body and 1 for the P pick-up pole piece spacing. I definitely recommend this to anyone that's on the fence about 5 string basses, or is looking for an inexpensive backup.