*NBD* ESP E-II AP-5 (Japanese)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by songwriter21, Nov 23, 2016.

  1. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Hello All,

    Even with a nice Bacchus Woodline DX5, as well as another ESP (E-II J-5), I couldn't pass up this one for sale a few weeks back. The only thing keeping me from this bass, was the 34" scale. My Bacchus, however, also has a 34" neck, and it feels great, so I gave this second ESP a shot, since there was also a return period in the deal. My J-5 (first ESP) is 35" scale, so I was even more curious as to how the new one would be, being shorter by an inch.

    Here goes:


    This was a pleasant surprise for me, like the Bacchus. The 34" scale felt great...no sign of floppiness on any of the strings, especially the top two or three strings. Call me the black sheep, but I notice flop as a much bigger concern on the G, D, and A, as opposed to the B. I really haven't played too many "bad" low-B's, due to a shorter scale, for whatever reason. I have, however, had numerous 34"'s, where the top strings felt like rubber bands. My AP-5 feels nice and tight, but not too tight, so the strings also have a nice, supple feel. I string through the body, so I get additional tightness, almost that of a top-load 35". On the ESPs, I do notice tension differences in loading the strings one way or the other, unlike other basses, again, for whatever reason. The truss set up beautifully, and is holding nice and flat. The truss wheel is brilliant...wish all makers did this as standard. The fretjobs on these basses are wonderful, along with the simple pearl dot inlays and block "ESP" 12th fret inlay. One piece of maple serves as the shaft wood, while rosewood, even though common for a fretboard, is still my favorite, due to it's good stability in all kinds of weather (I've played in both really hot/humid and cold/dry conditions, like 102 degrees and 24 degrees). The nut is cut well...nothing too high or low, so bonus points here. The headstock has a cool, contemporary design, with 5 in-line Gotoh tuners and a retainer for the G, D, and A strings. I will be changing the tuners to custom Hipshot Ultralites, simply to ease up the weight a little on my shoulder. The bass could be fine as it is now (stock), but I'm just wanting a little more weight taken off. Even right now, with the Gotohs, there is hardly any neck dive...it's a beautiful thing. The satin finish is probably the best I've ever experienced. It's quick as anything I've had, and doesn't have that feeling like your skin is rubbing off on the neck. Six bolts attach the neck to the body, and not one gap is present. This thing has really nice sustain, possibly from the neck joint, along with the graphite rods (yes, ESP confirmed this for me). :)


    It's a fairly weighty piece of white ash (not the color, the actual kind), finished in a white (See-Thru White). The color looks a little like Shell Pink in certain lights, for maybe that classic P/Jazz vibe. It has a little pearlescent shimmer to it, too. Even though this bass isn't light (and not stupidly heavy to me, either), it balances very well, so I don't mind the weight. This probably comes from the non-offset body shape, with the upper horn getting up to the 12th fret. I have Dunlop Straploks on mine, where the stock buttons are just standard ones. The bridge is a Gotoh (forget the model #), and is one of the most heavy-duty ones I've ever played on. I adjusts smoothly and easily. Another nice touch, is the easy-change battery door. It's unlike any other I've seen (other than my other ESP), and is not a pain like covers that involve a screwdriver. This is a fantastic feature when you're on the road, like the truss wheel on the neck.


    The pickups and preamp are essentially a MusicMan (Stingray or Sterling) system on steroids, courtesy of Seymour Duncan. The blend pot at the center detent, is a more muscular and refined sound of said basses, but with all of the aggression, I think. Go towards the neck, you get a P sound, and to the left, a J sound. The harmonics are present on any of these settings, of which I've always had trouble getting from a MusicMan, specifically on the 2nd-fret areas. What sets this setup apart, is the magic of the blend knob, "slap switch", AND a switch for choosing to run the pickups in series, single-coil, or parallel mode. My preference for the stage is series, so to have more beef to cut through, and then I use single-coil in the studio (parallel setting if the hum is too much). MusicMan doesn't offer any of these special features on the Stingray or Sterling, so the versatility is almost mind-boggling, and even more than a G&L L-2500 (no midrange knob on that bass). When the midrange is all the way up, the sound is massive, but not warbly or harsh. It's still subtle enough, just like the bass and treble knobs, which I don't think you need much of, because the bass is angry enough as-is. You can still tame the sound, though. I usually cut the mids to the center setting for soloing, to clear the sound up when I'm out there in front. I use the slap switch for a really decent percussive tone. What's nice about this feature (engaged by pulling up on the volume knob), is that I have an instant tone change, rather than having to turn one or more knobs up and down. There are two trim pots inside the cavity, one for bass boost, and one for midrange cut. I have it set right now to a pretty vicious attack, which adds funky aggression to songs like "Uptown Funk". It's a blast to go back and forth from this setting to fingerstyle when playing "Get Lucky"...big smiles here! I also use this switch for reggae, and it just THUMPS. My favorite is to just rip into Duran Duran's "Rio", favoring the bridge pickup more on the blend, with the midrange up a good bit.

    Lastly, the pickups are massive, and again, MusicMan-esque copies that just growl and roar all over the place. They were easy to adjust, and have the pole pieces raised up (from the factory) according to the radius of the fretboard...bonus points here, too. Once I raised the pickups' heights, they pretty much stay put, and I like them right under the strings, right before they touch each other. I kind of follow Billy Sheehan's method of having the consistency of having the pickups act like a ramp or comfy playing surface underneath the strings. I still have enough room to dig in, too, somehow (I have a weird style).

    Oh, and the hardshell case is the same beefy one as my E-II J-5 (I also have a review on that bass from months back).

    All in all, very pleased with this bass...a big-time sleeper, just like higher-end Yamahas.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
    feschyn, TonyP-, nismaniac and 2 others like this.
  2. nismaniac


    Feb 21, 2005
    OKC, OK
    Congrats, very nice. I've been curious about these.
    feschyn and songwriter21 like this.
  3. While not directly related, I have an older ESP C-305 that is by far the best sounding growly bass I've ever played. This is a neck though and I'm just amazed at the quality from a Korean made instrument. I feel ESP is one of the most under rated companies building bass guitars these days.

    Based on their track record, I'd like to give one of these a test drive.
    songwriter21 likes this.
  4. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    It's possibly the biggest surprise, next to my Bacchus. I know this is crazy, but I may be putting the Bacchus up for sale in the near future, simply because I prefer the sound and feel of big humbuckers compared to J-style singles. That, and the Bacchus is too good to sit around as a backup (was a good chunk more than my other ESP, buuuuut it is decently lighter than the J-5 (which has been a GREAT workhorse, btw).
  5. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005

    Here are additional shots of the headstock with the current Hipshot Ultralites.

    Attached Files: