Kiss my ash! (5-String shootout)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lefty007, Jan 15, 2005.

  1. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    OK, finally got a picture of my 5-strings and I thought I might share my thoughts with y'all.

    The all have ash bodies, maple necks and some type of dark wood for the fretboards. Also, they all have active 3-band EQs.


    Yamaha TRB 5 (circa 1998):
    Ash body, 3-piece maple neck, rosewood fretboard / 35" scale

    -Quality: Very good for a production bass. This was made in Japan (as opposed to the new ones being made in Singapore). The frets are simply as perfect as they could be with no fret buzz even with super light strings and super low action. The rosewood in the fretboard is truly beautiful. This has been my main bass for the last 3 years (playing 3 gigs a week - it has been through everything)) and nothing has malfunction. Just a little discoloration at the bridge, very minor.

    -Ergonomics: Fairly light (little over 9 pounds). These basses have great balance due to the long upper horn. Neck is kinda chunky but very comfortable. Very flat radius. It molds well to the body providing hours of comfort

    -Sound: Well, it sounds great when you don't compare it to anything else. It has a Fender-ish color to it with both pickups on, but there is always a distinct upper-mids freq. that is not instantly appealing. The preamp is noisy and has a VERY low output. All in all a usable sound, very compressed, but kinda harsh and thin. Now, I discovered all this AFTER I got the MTD and the Smith. Before I thought the Yamaha was great sounding.

    MTD 535 (1999):
    Ash body, 1-piece maple neck, wenge fretboard / 35" scale

    -Quality: As high as one can wish. The attention to details is visible throughout. The finish is quite unique, kinda oil and satin. Very durable. No need to elaborate here, y'all know MTDs are amongst the best built.

    -Ergonomics: The neck profile is great, wider than the Yamaha but very comfortable (also another MTD known characteristic). The body is smaller than most full-size basses, forcing your wrist into a sharper angle (at least at the height I set my strap to, which is medium-high). This makes for me a less-than-ideal wrist angle. The upper horn is shorter (stopping before the 12th fret) making the first position of first frets a little farther away. It is very comfortable, but not as comfortable as the Yamaha or the Smith. The action also can be setup incredibly low.

    -Sound: Well, again, the famous sound MTDs are known for. The low end in this thing (even EQ'd flat) is simply monstrous. It has what seems to be an extended range in either direction, from super lows to super highs. Has a more scooped-mids sound naturally. The preamp is super hot, lots of headroom. This bass sounds to me very well voiced for rock. It supports very well. The slap sound is beautiful and the 19mm spacing at the bridge coupled with the super low action makes slapping and thumbing this thing a breeze. Definitely a slapper's bass.

    Ken Smith BSR-M (2002):
    Ash body, 3-piece maple neck, pau ferro fretboard / 34" scale

    -Quality: Superb. Yes, Smiths are made as good as you expect them to be. I dig the custom-made bridge, keys and pickups; a nice touch. The finish seems very durable. Frets are perfect. Overall, on par with the MTD. They both have that high quality you expect from a custom made bass.

    -Ergonomics: This is where the Smith shines the most for me. It fits me perfectly, from the profile of the neck (not too thin, not too wide) to the shape of the body. Even though the body does not have any ergonomic cuts (tummy cut or arm cut like a Fender or any other bass out there) the body is a little bit thinner than usual (at least going by basses I have owned), so it is very comfortable. It weights around 9 lbs also, lighter than both the Yamaha and the MTD. The string spacing at the bridges is also the most comfortable I have encountered in a 5-string (18 mm) against 17 in the Yamaha and 19 in the MTD. I play finger-style and palm-muting most of the time, not slapping.

    -Sound: I love the mids in this bass. They are really sweet and well voiced. The low end does not go as low as the MTD, but that does help in sitting well in a mix as well as playing live. The MTD will almost blow both my cab and the club's/theather's/venue's subs. The Smith's bass fills just right.
    There is also a very organic or vintage character to the Smith that I can not get with the others. The B-string is the most focused of them all, even though it is 34" scale. Incredible. No weird overtones or floppiness. The MTD's low-B sounds huge, but musically I like the focus of the 34" scale better. I think the distinctive (mid-rich) tone of the Smith comes from the pickups' placement.

    So there you have it. I just wanted to pretend that I am Jonathan Herrera for one day (Bass Player Magazine technical writer) and post my thoughts about these ASH babies.


    -The Yamaha is a good all-around working bass, but if you are serious about your tone, I suggest you try different things out there. The playability though, is out there with the best. A truly comfortable 5-string.

    -The MTD has an out-of-this-world mighty sound. Great for funk, slapping, rock and metal. I find it a bit agressive for jazz, but hey, how many jazz/fusion guys play MTDs? Many...
    Not entirely my cup of tea, but I'm keeping it around for recordings. It has that sound that producers instantly want.

    -The Smith has my vote for now. I just love the design of the neck and body, the sweet mids and the focused 34" scale low-B. For some reason, I can play better on this bass than on any other. This is very interesting because I never was inclined to Smiths before I tried this one, and what a surprise.

    That's all folks!
  2. Nice, thanks for the review.
  3. I-Love-Ratm


    Feb 24, 2003
    Hey man whats wrong with your basses?They're backwards!;)
  4. Doug Parent

    Doug Parent Supporting Member

    May 31, 2004
    San Diego, Ca.
    Dealer Nordstrand Pickups.
    Its been 5 years since I sold my smith, and now I realize that I seriously regret it. For fingerstyle and lite funk, it is awesome, and great construction. (My MTD Grendel is the best funk bass so far I've tried)
    I came to the same conclusions about my 535, although the ash body makes for tight low end. Its a great bass, but the radius of the fret board isn't flat enough for me. (Have a Metro on order, it might be the ticket)
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Nicely done. Thanks for the review and picture. Sweet collection!
  6. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    You helped cure my G.A.S. I was thinking about a TRB. And everytime I've tested one I've felt the same way. No bad, but I couldn't tell you what wasn't right. I have a Smith and no matter what, I still go back to the bass as my first choice.

    Since Smiths are in some way "old school", since he's been there the longest making great basses, lots of folks forget how great these instruments really sound.

    IMHO Smiths have some of the best sounding preamps in pickups money can buy. Every Smith I have ever played anywhere has been an exceptional instrument.
  7. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    They are just right for me :p

    Nice collection!
    I hope to own some similarly nice collection one day!
  8. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    Thanks for the reply. I really had fun comparing these trio.

    I forgot to mention, that both the Yamaha and the MTD are stringed with medium-light gauge Hi-Beam DRs; the Smith has medium gauge Smith strings.

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