Sadowsky Metro RV5: One Year Later
Review by Justin Poroszok
Color: Sonic Blue according to the previous owner. I think it looks more Seafoam Green, though that isn't actually available in the Metro line.
Pickups: Sadowsky hum-canceling 5-string J.
Electronics: Sadowsky preamp with boost-only bass and treble, volume and blend.
Push-pull bass pot switches between active and passive
Tuners: Hipshot Ultralight
Strings: Sadowsky flatwound.
Towards the end of 2005 I decided I was spending too much time mucking about with a bunch of different basses that I called 'fringe basses.' These were instruments which had a uniqueness about them which both defined and limited their application - my fretless 6-string Hanewinckel was a good example. Great bass...but not the type of instrument that a regularly gigging bassist trying to support a variety of styles is going to reach for. And I wanted to be more of a gigging / recording musician and less of a bedroom wanker, for lack of a better word. (Apologies to bedroom wankers everywhere.)
So off went a few basses and in came the first of my Sadowsky Metro 5s. This one was similar to the one I have now with the exception that it was a sunburst finish RS5 - no pickguard. Beautiful bass, with everything you'd want in a versatile jazz-style instrument.
I traded it within two months.
Sometimes you don't really appreciate what you have until you've gone through some other options, which is what I ended up doing. The trading started with a Skjold Whaleback Pro 5 - a visually striking single-cutaway bolt-on creation with Bartolini pickups and preamp and a 35" scale.
I put it up for consignment within a month - the scale length wasn't for me and the whole thing just felt somehow...'wrong' isn't the right word...not for me. It languished on consignment for a while and then, in a last ditch effort to see if I could make it fit, I sent it back to the builder for a preamp upgrade. The Skjold / East preamp is a thing of beauty, to be sure, but the bass still didn't feel right.
I traded it for an Elrick NJS 5. The Elrick had a 35" scale and a single
Bartolini humbucker mated to an Aguilar OPB-3 preamp. This bass had the most beautiful top on it, figured mahogany I think. Good sound...kind of P-bassy but with more happening in the midrange. Nice and light too, but the 35" scale still bothered me.
I traded it for a Mike Lull P5 - the Hammer of Thor. All the P-bass you could ever want in a 5-string. Fantastic build quality, great vintage look, great P-Bass tone that sat well in almost any mix. I figured I'd found the One, and even though it had a 35" scale I figured I'd adjust.
I just traded it this past week, for a Sadowsky Metro 5. Full circle.
The Lull was great, and the signature P-Bass sound worked in a wide variety of gigging situations, but I'd also been using my Warwick Streamer LX5, graciously lent to me by Christian McBride, and found
that the 34" scale was just more comfortable...and that makes sense, as it's what I'm used to.
So when the opportunity came up to trade for another Sadowsky, I jumped on it. It arrived yesterday and I had just enough time to throw it in the car along with my head, a strap and a cable, and get to rehearsal with the Girls.
It's important to note that this Metro came with Sadowsky's flatwound strings. I've had kind of a love / hate relationship with flatwounds, but I was excited to try these. I love the fundamental that I get with flats. It's different than rounds with the tone rolled off. It has more presence, but less articulation: pillowy roundness vs. grindy cut-through. On the downside, sometimes the 'pillowy roundness' turns into just plain mud.
I'd been pretty stoked on single-pickup basses, but going back to the jazz-style Sadowsky was like coming home. The neck pickup evokes a lot of the characteristics of the P-bass and, played with a pick, works brilliantly underneath two guitars (electric and acoustic) and dual female vocals. For more cut, favoring the bridge pickup gives a sharper tone that offers more growl, but the flatwounds keep it from straying into Jaco territory, which wouldn't work in this gig. I usually favor passive settings, but the Sadowsky preamp is very transparent to my ears, and though you can get ridiculously out-of-hand with the bass boost if you max it out, the overall sound of the preamp is one of enhancement. I don't hear that obvious artifical colorization that I associate with some active preamps. Sadowsky also makes a retrofit preamp called the Vintage Tone Control (VTC) that relocates both boost controls to a single stacked pot and adds a passive tone rolloff that functions in either passive or active mode. I'm almost positive I'll add that at some point for a bit of added versatility, but I don't feel the instrument to be lacking in any way.
I'm tempted to string the bass with rounds at some point, but right now I'm just so pleased with the supportive characteristics of the tone and the deep, deep fundamental that I'm probably going to leave the bass as-is for a while. If I need super growly, the Warwick is always right next door in the double gig bag.
Bottom line: If you're looking for a bass with a singular unique voice, this isn't it. There are plenty of boutique luthiers out there who do amazing things with exotic woods and custom-tailored electronics to create a sound that will be absolutely stunning on it's own and may even work in a few different gigs with other musicians. Note, this is a sweeping generalization to make a point about a bass's singular voice and is not meant as a slight to bass builders in any way.
When I first started this crusade, I wanted a bass that inspired me to pick it up and play. That's a good start, but I've been there and the difference with this bass is that it inspires me to pick it up and play with *others*, and that's what I'm increasingly about.
Thanks Roger, I owe you one.
Sadowsky Metro RV5
- 5/5, 5 from 4 reviews
The Metro Line offers most of the same features as their NYC siblings including the same pickups, preamp and bridge. The quality of the Metro Line is
One year later...
- 5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 2, 2015
- Build Quality:
- + Incredibly versatile, records and mixes beautifully. Classic J-Bass style with modern amenities.
- - No fretless version.
the Metro covers all of the sounds I need the best
- 5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 2, 2015
- Build Quality:
- + Great sound, action, fit, and finish. The whole package.
- - none.
I've had this bass for a couple months, and I wanted to hold off until the "honeymoon" effect wore off to write my review. Problem is I'm not sure its going to wear off I'll try to avoid words like "amazing" and "out of this world" as best I can.
Summary: The metro is an impeccably built "souped up" Jazz style bass with a very clear, fat, and balanced sound. Fit and finish are flawless. Period.
Playability is as good or better than anything I've had (I've had lots of nice basses). Easy playing low action from the factory yields just the right amount of grind when you dig in, and as fat and warm as could be when you back off. Fret work is top notch, no buzzes whatsoever. This bass is very responsive to touch, and is equally good for slap and fingerstyle. Notes and harmonics both really "jump" off of this bass. The action is set a bit low for pickstyle, but it works as long as I hold back a bit on picking intensity.
Sound. This bass does not sound quite like any Fender I've played. Its definately in the J-bass ballpark, but its got its own voice, one that fills out a guitar/drum/vocal mix perfectly. It sits in all the right frequencies to support and be present at the same time without overwhelming the mix, and straying just a tiny bit from the center blend position the bass picks up natural mid boosts that change its personality in very useful ways, just like a Jazz. I've literally seen some of my bandmate's jaws hang open after hearing this thing. Its always got a vibrance and snap to the sound that really turns me on, and this is one bass that sounds as good or better in the mix as it does in your bedroom.
The B string is better than my modulus Q5. Really amazing depth of tone, stability of pitch, and consistency of tone and feel with the E string. I have not played better.
I use the EQ very sparingly, but when I do I love what it does to the sound. The bass EQ has a wide bandwith and makes the sound FAT rather than boomy, and the treble control adds presence and spank, not just finger noise and sparkle like most others I've used. This 2 band EQ is more useful than any other onboard EQ I've used.
I'm also very very fond of the passive tone of this bass, and the output is close enough to the un-EQed active tone to make it possible to switch during the gig. Often when I want a passive kind of tone I want to drop back in the mix a tiny bit anyway, so it works out perfectly. Passive mode is great for Zep tunes.
I've looked and looked for something negative to say, and I'll I've come up with is that there is the subtlest of dead spots at C# on the G string. Most people would not even notice it, and a fresh set of strings has really sent it into hiding.
I play in a very eclectic rock & funk cover band, and of everything I've tried, the Metro covers all of the sounds I need the best. There are tunes where a P-bass or Modulus would sound a little better, but there is no song where the Metro doesn't sound good, and there ARE songs where the P or Mod sound BAD. Very solid, very versitile, and most importantly, very sexy Worth every penny and then some.
Edit to note something I forgot. A+ Customer service and attention to detail ... Its the little things like the spokewheel truss rod adjuster, the really cool ultralight case, light tuners (no neck diving), quick change bridge, that it comes with polish and a shammy, and comes with fresh strings and a pro setup. These guys really seem to care!
Everything people make it out to be
- 5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 2, 2015
- Build Quality:
- + Fit & Finish, Sound, Playability, Look, Customer Service
- - Cost, maybe lack of mid control on the pre-amp?
I've been waiting to give my review of this bass for a while, because I wanted to have a definite opinion of the bass before I gave it a review. I believe, I've had this bass for about 4-5 months now and It's been a delight. Admittingly, I haven't played this every day, it's been sitting in my closet for a good amount of time because i think it's such a beautiful instrument and I want to keep it pristine. However, I'm sort of getting over that since I sold off most of my other basses.
Anyway, this bass is everything people make it out to be on Talkbass. I really wondered what was this Sadowsky Mystique that many were borderline cult fanatical about. I've never been a fan of fender 5 strings that i've played, so I was sort of weary of spending $2200 on a bass that is a botique "copy" of a Fender. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth, as it is nothing like what I've experienced with Fender 5 string basses (even american made). The Fit and Finish are Exquisite, the choice of woods are incredible, the sound is the best kind of 60's Jazz Bass you can get and more. I just can't stop thinking about all the great sounds you can get out of this bass. I agree with the other reviewer that the Vintage Tone Control is a must, as it's the only way you can "cut" treble on the bass. The piece of rosewood (i think it's rosewood) on the fretboard is incredible with beautiful grain lines that make this bass a one of a kind. I had never played a Sadowsky before, and when I got my hands on it and played it for the first time, i knew it would be perfect for all those projects that required "Fender" tones. Well this will deliver everything that a Fender 5 string will, but better. If you're thinking about getting a Sadowsky and don't want to spend $3-4k, and think that $2k is enough, then get a Metro. Like Roger Sadowsky has said, if you don't need the expensive top, then just get a Metro. They are every bit Sadowsky, and I couldn't agree more. I can't find one flaw on this bass, no dead spots, really well defined Low "B". It's not as thunderous as my Lakland, but it is more clear and musical, if that makes sense. Hope this review recieves you well.