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Gift Bass Day SAMICK / Valley Arts Custom Pro PJ 5-string

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Toptube, Dec 19, 2015.

  1. Toptube


    Feb 9, 2009
    Long post, about a gift bass for my girlfriend.

    I like her a ton, we live together.

    She listens to a broad range of music and is always commenting on perceived complexity and/or creativity, with the instrumentation in songs (which makes me happy). Often implying that she thinks about playing something, herself.

    I asked her one day what she would play. She said that she would play punk rock, on a bass.

    And thus started my search for a bass! This would be a challenge, because I would not be spending a ton of money. Yet, there were important points which a bass would have to meet, in order for me to buy it for her.

    1. I really did not want to spend more than $400 and was actually thinking more like $300.

    2. Even though she cited punk rock, she listens to a lot of metal, rap, R&B, classic prog rock. So I would look for a 5 string with narrow string spacing. (narrow spacing is good for small, girly hands. 5th string is there for when she might need lower notes). Also, after having a 5 string for over a year, now: I wish I would have started on a 5, instead of a 4 string.

    3. I didn't want it to be something which looked obviously low cost or like merely a stepping stone which would eventually be sold for something "better". I have pretty good gear and I want her to feel like a peer, when she holds her bass. And, I don't want to HAVE to buy another bass. We are not rich, after all.

    I looked all over the place. Of course, buying used can be a good way to maximize your dollar. But even in the $400 or less range, it can be tough to find stuff. and I was looking for a narrow 5 string. That limits my options, a lot.

    Obviously, I looked at Ibanez. They have brand new 5 stringers which look pretty good, are affordable, decent build quality, and have narrow spacing.

    But, I was unsatisfied with the obvious choice of Ibanez and some of the other budget brands don't have stuff I wanted to buy. I wondered if she might actually like something a little less obvious. I also wondered if I might be able to get something which wasn't a total budget model, with some lipstick on it (such as the Ibanez GIO 5 string with a spalted top).

    Ebay and Reverb didn't yield much, in narrow 5ers.

    I look at the Talkbass classifieds, every single day. Still no 5ers in my price range, which satisfied me.

    So I started to look at 4 stringers.

    Still wanting to cater to her smaller hands, I thought about getting a shortscale bass of some kind. Afterall, there were a couple for sale, used, on Talkbass.

    but I still really wanted to get her a 5 string....

    And then it appeared in the Talkbass classifieds! Finally, a bass which met all of my requirements and didn't seem to be junk!

    SAMICK / Valley Arts Custom Pro PJ 5

    More pics attached to the bottom of this post.

    (pictures are from a smartphone. I will use a good camera, after Christmas. *the shot of the neck plate, is borrowed from the seller's ad).

    This bass is great! A 1989 model, it is in very good condition.

    A few scratches, but they are all superficial. Nothing deep, no signs of major trauma. and the scratches are in spots where you don't really notice them much. I can see that the back of the neck has darkened a bit from age and play, nice mojo. This thing has been quite well taken care of.
    Frets look hardly used.
    no marks on the pickups.
    Bridge shows no signs of oxidizing or stripped screws.

    It came strung with black tapewounds. I did not like them at all, as they were not even close to tonally balanced, from string to string. So I put on a brand new set of Dunlop Superbrights nps. I like to get the "light" 4 string set .040 .060 .080 .100, and then order a single .130 b string.

    At first, it appears to be a no frills bass. But, it has 3 tricks under its sleeve. which I actually need to specifically take pictures of!

    1. the neck is a single piece of maple----but it has a scarf joint before the headstock! That adds strength from flexing and indeed, this neck looks and feels strong.

    2.The bridge plate is radiused with the fretboard!

    3. It has an active circuit. The knobs are vol, vol, tone. But the tone knob is push pull, for active/passive. and the passive tone still works, in active mode! So, even though you can't adjust the active treble or bass, you can use the tone knob, to cut the highs!
    It essentially acts as an active boost circuit, for more output and a spike in treble, to cut the mix, to really tear open a distortion pedal, or for slap. I don't usually slap. But with that active boost on, this bass is very easy to slap in a good sounding way.
    But the passive tone control gives it more usability, than I had first realized. You can roll off the high boost and essentially have only a low boost. Which could be good for a venue or cool with a fuzz. I like to run fuzz and overdrive, with the treble/tone all the way down, from my bass.
    I mean it took me two days, before I realized exactly how usable the active circuit really is! Very cool. and even without touching the tone control, it sounds cool. Not something which you use all of the time, but it makes sense.


    Other things which I like about this bass:

    Its not junk wood. This bass. is. solid. It's 25 years old, with no signs of warping, flexing, etc. It feels immovable. I have actually had this bass at home, for about 3 weeks. The neck has not moved at all. Even after putting completely different strings on it, it did not need any tweaks to the neck.
    You actually don't get a lot of vibrations transferred through the body, to your hands or stomach. I'm not used to that and normally would not think of that as a positive. but somehow, it feels like a positive, with this bass.

    The pickups sound good! The bridge pickup is exactly what I personally like, in a J style bridge pickup tone. focused, nice low mid character. not harsh.
    And the P split pickup sounds great, as well. I have never owned a bass with a P split pickup, but this sounds very good. Nice output, good, natural bass tone. Frequency response feels even. The P pickup is reversed and seems to be further forward than usual, which is cool for me. I prefer neck pickups to be biased toward the neck, for tone.
    And both pickups together has some attitude. Exactly what you want. This is a good rock bass. No complaints on the tone.

    The ash body is not lightweight and is actually 3 pieces, but it is presented well. The separations between pieces are not obvious and the teal color is really, really nice. The grain is easy to see underneath, too.

    I usually have issues with fret clank on ash bodied basses. But this bass does not have a problem with that!

    The neck shape feels good. For me, personally, I like the neck on my Icon 5, better. But not a lot better! This is a good neck, which I think would be easily liked by many.

    The body is compact, which I think will be nice, for my girlfriend. As you may have noticed, the bridge is right at the edge of the body and the body wings and horns are a bit slimmer than you see on some other bodies. The overall shape, though, is cool. It is a cool looking take on a P-bass shape, with some nice sculpting on the back side.


    The negatives list is short:
    1. It is not lightweight. I have not weighed it, but this thing is easily ten pounds. It may even be over ten, though I am unsure.

    2. a couple of the tuners are stiff to turn. They work fine, but you can feel their age. Easy to fix, eventually.

    3. The active circuit adds some signal noise and it usually pops loudly, when engaged. The signal noise is not excessive. It would not bother me at all, in a live situation. But I will try some new pots, some time soon. See if I can't bring the noise and pops down to a minimal amount.

    This venture has been a great success! This bass is so cool, I am really excited to gift it to my girlfriend and it makes me really happy that I can give her a quality, solid instrument. Which should inspire her.

    WP_20151214_15_21_00_Pro. WP_20151214_15_22_05_Pro. WP_20151214_15_24_09_Pro. WP_20151214_15_25_27_Pro. WP_20151214_15_25_51_Pro. WP_20151214_15_28_08_Pro.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
    Strung_Low and Immigrant like this.
  2. Nice bass! Proof that quality can be there and the name on the headstock doesn't always tell the whole story.

    The pickup placement reminds me of something that Rocco guy from Tower of Power would lend his name to.

    Toptube likes this.
  3. Nice!

    I have the "Saturn" version of the Samick P/J 5, the inlays on the fingerboard are miniature Saturns complete with rings. Samicks are great bargains, some of them are very good instruments. It's weird that some people will dismiss Samick, yet sing the praises of their Gretsch or Yamaha or Ibanez or Epiphone which may have been made by Samick. Oh well, their loss, our gain!

    I took the preamp out of mine, and replaced the pots since mine were a tad crackly. I have it set up as a V/T with a 3 way selector switch (neck/both/bridge). (I covered the hole for the other pot I took out)
    kodiakblair and Toptube like this.
  4. Toptube


    Feb 9, 2009
    I'm going to replace the push pull/tone pot. See if I can't minimize the popping when engaging and maybe even bring down the noise, a bit. Also, the taper for the tone adjustment is not very usable. It's pretty much treble on or treble off. So I will be switching to a different taper.

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