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NBD: Probass Retrovibe Vantage V4BB

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by CatSplat, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. After a number of screwups (and a hefty import charge) by UPS, my shiny new Retrovibe Vantage made its way to me from the UK today. David from Probass was very easy to deal with and shipped the bass out very quickly after payment. A fellow TBer (and Calgarian) had asked for a quick review upon receipt so I'll have a whack at covering it.

    I had first seen the Vantage posted here on TB in a thread about fake Ricks and was immediately drawn to the Rick-in-italics body shape and MM-style humbuckers.

    First, the overall - the blueburst finish looks amazing and really draws attention. Body and neck binding is very well done and looks great on this body style.






    Setup out of the box was very good, the stock D'Addario strings are quite acceptable and much better than the no-name strings that sometimes come on new basses.

    The bass sounds really, really good - much better than I expected. I purchased it knowing that the pickups were probably generic and low-dollar and maybe in need of immediate replacement. I even considered ordering an active preamp for it, but after having played it I'm not seeing a need for either yet - the sound is excellent to my ears and quite versatile for a passive bass. The previous generation of Vantage had a single-coil pickup in the neck position that some complained was a bit thin-sounding, but I have no such complaints about the humbucker used in this version. The neck is thicker than my main pair of basses (Ibanez and ESP) but still feels comfortable to play. The gloss finish on the neck has the "sticky" feel common to that finish, but I can get used to it. Action can be set pretty low without running into problems, which is nice to see.

    Now that I've waxed poetic about it, I'd also like to do some nit-picking. Keep in mind this bass costs 299 British pounds - in terms of value, that's roughly on par with a $300 bass in North America. With the currency conversion, shipping, and import fees/taxes, this bass ended up costing me quite a lot more than that, but you should probably keep that level of value foremost in your mind as I talk about the fit and finish - this is an entry-level instrument, not the $2000 Rickenbacker it apes. The photos are closeups that will tend to amplify any issues and make them look worse than they are when viewed with the naked eye.

    Firstly, the nut was a bit shoddy. There was bits of stray material and black scratches across it, likely from a stray file. It also looked to be slightly crooked, there was certainly a gap on the left hand side but I'm not sure if that meant a crooked nut or an off-kilter slot.


    The triangle inlays look very nice, there's a circular filled-in spot at the bottom right corner of each if you look close but for all I know that's normal for this type of inlay. The inlays are perfectly level with the fretboard. The finish on the fretboard is very good, the fretwork seems solid, and the neck binding is a nice touch.


    There was a bit of a finish mishap where the headstock met the fretboard.


    The tuning machines, while pretty cheap-feeling, are functional and stay put. They are all the same chrome colour, the top one just picked up a reflection. Serial is Sharpied on (maybe in the UK that's "Biro-ed on") but I've blurred it out due to an overabundance of caution.


    Neck joint looks excellent, everything fits nice and tight and you can see that really well-done binding.


    There was some white stuff on the neck that I initially feared was paint, but it peels right away which leads me to think it's thin bits of the pickguard leftover from the cutting process. The whole pickguard could stand to have its edges sanded a bit but overall it looks good.


    The most immediately-obvious issue was that the rout for the bridge pickup was a bit sloppy and/or the pickup just wasn't centered very well in the rout. I'm not sure if the holes for the mounting screws can be filled and redrilled to center it a bit better.


    The pickups, while surprisingly good-sounding for no-names, have some ugly bits on them. Some of the pole pieces have deep scratches and discolouration, but I'm sure that really doesn't affect the sound at all, so no big deal.


    The MusicMan-style bridge looks nice and is securely fastened. While 100% functional, mine had some minor damage - a nick and a couple of scratches.


    The finish appears to be very well done, apart from a couple of very small (really only noticeable if you're looking for then) black spots under the finish on the horn.


    Everything looks nice and straight to me, although the bridge pickup height is a bit off-kilter, maybe on purpose. It certainly sounds pretty balanced so I'll leave it alone for now.


    So my initial impressions are that for a beginner in the UK, this would make for a very solid entry-level bass. It competes with instruments like the Ibanez SR300 and Squier VMs at its price level, and for the dollar it's great-looking and sounds unique. Shipped to North America, it's a more tenuous value proposition, but damned if I'm not in love with the body shape that David came up with.
  2. Hey CatSplat

    First off congratulations on getting the Vantage,sure is looking fine in the blue finish. There's been quite a bit of interest in the Retrovibes this last month both here
    and in the UK. Owning the Evo and Zygote models myself I know what your saying about those pups. They certainly do the job proud. Scratch plate on both of mnes
    was cut flat as well, the Zygote one is about 1/4" thick and has a grain effect.

    This was a brave move on your part seeing as whats available in the States,shipping and taxes adding what they do. Good thing is these are good basses,not just some
    slavish copies, but you know this anyway. With the limited runs, mines were 1 of 8 and 1 of 12 respectively, you're now one of a select club.

    Welcome to the world of Retrovibes.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  3. Yeah, if it was just some Rick copy I wouldn't have been interested, but it's got a style all its own that I couldn't turn down. Thanks for the welcome!
    blindrabbit likes this.
  4. Thanks for posting the review CatSplat! Very thorough, and very interesting. I'm with you in that it is the style of these basses that is the most compelling part of them. In the end I very sadly and very reluctantly had to put my purchase on hold due to some unexpected changes and opportunities with the custom build I'm having done right now, but seeing those pictures makes me ache with regret. I see on the website that he has only 2 bluebursts left, and that was what I was going to get too. I doubt one will be left when I'm ready again to buy. :(

    Anyway, comparing your review to some of the others on basschat, it does seem like the Retrovibes have improved since their earlier runs and iterations, but I do note that the miscut bridge pickup route seems to have been an issue all along. That is good news about the quality of the electronics and hardware, as those can be weak points. As for the QC issues with the nut and pickguard, etc, maybe its just David trying to impart a true Rickenbacker vibe to these instruments! :p It is also good to know about the courier/duty/shipping costs...I was afraid of just how bad those would be. If these were selling here for around $300-400, I honestly believe he'd have to produce far more than the limited runs he is doing.

    All in all it looks like a great purchase. Congrats, and enjoy the bass!
  5. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Cool Bass! The elbow relief should be a big improvement on the Rick as far as comfort in playing. That always bugged me a bit, but I forgave it for the amazing sound. I think it actually adds to the cosmentic appeal as well. A lot of the Chinese knockoffs have done that too. How is that handled with the binding, does it "dip" with the elbow relief, or is it a continuous line with the top of the body rising higher than the binding, hard to tell from the photos. Hopefully they won't get shut down. It's clearly inspired by the Rick, but different enough that Hall may have a hard time lawyering up on this one. If they start selling these in US stores I might just buy one.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  6. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Congrats. Awesome pictorial. You are one handy dude with a camera!
    Z -Bar and blindrabbit like this.
  7. Caveat - the Retrovibe is obviously NOT a Rickenbacker, and while its styling is Ric inspired, I certainly wouldn't consider it a "copy", and I don't think most other people would either.

    That said, I've always loved the Ric look and Ric tone, so I bought one a few months ago (a 4003W, no less) and owned it for a few weeks before I returned it. One of the biggest reasons for returning it was the ergonomics, or rather the complete and total lack thereof. There was no comfort to be had in playing it for me. Sure, I could have forged through and put up with that to get the look and sound benefits...and oh did I ever try to make myself comfortable with that bass...but in the end it was just too uncomfortable.

    Here with the Vantage, we've got a bass that has a good dose of Ric style, along with some other stylistic influences that may actually make me like it *more* than the Ric, along with ergonomic details and features that should make it friendly to play.

    Gah. I need to win even just a small lottery so I can pick one of these up before they are all gone!!!

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014
  8. Totally argee blindrabbit.

    Who looks at the headstock and MM pups and thinks " Wow another Ric copy ", Only those that want endless threads about Ric copies.
    Gilmourisgod you won't see these selling in US stores, Dave at ProBass designs and orders about a dozen made then sells them from his
    website with occasional sales on ebay.

    I was at Probass.com earlier and it's down to 1 blue vantage i'm afraid blindrabbit. Importing things is crazy, here we have shipping then customs
    clearance £10,import duty at 5% then finally VAT at 20% on cost + shipping. So with shipping at $73 CAN I see how it would mount up overseas

    Fingers crossed you get the lottery up very soon.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  9. Looks nice! Great review too.
  10. If I understand your question about the binding correctly, the binding follows the upper perimeter edge of the body the whole way around, including the elbow relief. Probass's page for the guitar shows that angle a bit better than my photos. As far as the Hall connection goes, the early Vantage basses were indeed basically Rick clones but as I understand it Mr. Hall requested that Probass alter the body and headstock, which led to the current design that is presumably Hall-approved (or at least tolerated).

    Thanks, guys! Glad you liked it.
  11. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I'm surprised they are building so few of them considering how often I see them pop up in banners on this and other sites. Based on the positive reaction so far, they seem to have tapped into an unfilled market. If i was in there shoes id partner with a bigger manufacturer and sell these things like hotcakes. I wonder if the limited production is part of some agreement with Hall? There's nothing about the design that couldn't be easily mass produced like an MIM or MIK Fender.
  12. they look awesome. It's a shame I hate MM pickups.
  13. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    The body is definitely different enough from a Rick to not violate their trademarks, and the neck/headstock is obviously Fender inspired. I like the Jazz-like shape to the rear of the body. This is what I mean when I say someone should try something original inspired by Rick without actually copying it. I think MapleGlo's Leafenbacker headstock on this bass would be a good combo.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  14. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Yeah , this is going to be the definitive re-boot on a famous design for a while I think, the handful in circulation are already being re- sold on ebay. I showed the pics to my son (he wants a Ric too) and he started spinning schemes to have his English cousins bring one over when they come to visit in August. Alas, not to be as they nearly sold out now. I agree on the headstock, its a little odd with body shape, but maybe that's just our brains trying to resolve it back the original. Maplglo's headstock is really elegant.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  15. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    A neck through with the Leafenbacker headstock and this body would be very cool. Notice how the cutaways are a bit." faster" from top to bottom. The upper bout reaches all the way to the 12th fret for good balance. Give this bass 24, or at least 21 frets, then bring in the lower cutaway a bit further for better fret access. Ya, the Retrovibe bass would be a good start for something really cool.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  16. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    I'd like to hear some sound samples of this! I would imagine it doesn't sound like a Ric, with it's humbuckers and pickup placement.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  17. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Any way you can post a soundclip?
  18. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I really like the offset design of the body.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  19. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    The gears are turning, and the gas is mounting. I love the whole concept of this bass. I may have to build one in the same vein as this, with my modified headstock. I think I'd make some body adjustments too, along with different pups. I have to say though, they did a great job capturing the RIC vibe. This bass looks great!
    blindrabbit likes this.
  20. I've got to say folks the interest you're showing in Dave's Vantage is heartening.

    I knew he was doing good things when I got my Retrovibes then he saw on a FB page I was looking for a particular bass and emailed about one he'd saw for sale.
    That simple action cemented the feeling he was a good guy.Be nice to see him gain some success from what he does, designing great basses alongside being a gigging

    Don't be shy try a Retrovibe.
    blindrabbit likes this.

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