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Review and first impression: Yamaha NEW BB Series - 735A

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by IPYF, Nov 27, 2017.

  1. IPYF


    Mar 31, 2011
    I'm mostly on Reddit these days but a decent amount of us have been having conversations about the Yamaha BB series recently, so as mine has now arrived I felt it might be ok to provide a first imporession/review for Reddit. I decided that since I'd pretty much written an essay that I might as well crosspost it here, given that TB might have an interest in an earlyish review of these basses.

    Yamaha's new BB line have been generating a bunch of interest given their relatively confident feature set, reduced weight, and enticing price point. Based on the obvious quality I saw when I tried a couple of 434 models (the mid tier 4 string bass) in store I felt pretty comfortable ordering in the 5 string top tier Indonesian bass, 735A in matte transblack, sight unseen. I needed a semi-pro bass that would look and sound as good on the stage with an original metal band, as it would with a wedding combo so the Yamaha ticked both those boxes. I got a fair deal, with the bass with included soft-case coming in at around the $950AU mark. It arrived within a few weeks, and I've now had it for about a fortnight, using it in one gig and a few rehearsals so far.

    Sound: This might look like a traditional P/J bass, but the output is super hot with a tonne of high end spank, both in passive and active mode, even with the tone knob rolled mostly off. It's effectively an aggressive Stingray/Fender Dimension style instrument dressed up as a PJ and some amps that have easily clipped preamp sections are going to get beaten up by it. Even bearing in mind it's got new strings on it, having the tone rolled on to the 20% mark is almost too much high end for any genre other than driving rock or metal, even when you roll to the Precision pickup exclusively.

    The tone is very modern and it does benefits from taming with compression to ensure it's not too nasty. Getting a solid traditional tone out of the bass might be doable with string choice and EQ, but thus far I haven't managed this, and the bass just sounds like an absolute hot-rod with the pedal to the floor all of the time. For rock this is obviously an advantage, but for ballads and chill songs there's just too much impossible-to-extract hi-mid 'blang' for my tastes. The only other thing to note is that the string-thru creates a scary amount of sustain for a bolt-on. If sustain is your thing, you'll like that.

    The mid control on the Active EQ offers both a decent scoop and an appealing mid-boost. I'm happy with this, but the bass and treble knobs are both 'party trick' inclusions, even with active padding. The bass boost is silly and any increase to that circuit just introduces 30-60hz boom. The treble circuit just makes the already bright circuit brighter, in ways that I can't imagine would be helpful to anyone other than people playing very compressed slap. Overall I'm whelmed, but not overwhelmed by the active tone and if you were tossing up about whether stepping up from the 400 to the 700 series was worth it, I'm ambivalent about whether having the active option presents a compelling reason to do it (more on that in the verdict below).

    Fit, finish, ergonomics and playability: Frets are low and quick and the crown work is good, neck quality really can't be faulted on this one which is just as well. It feels fast, sturdy and akin to most 34" 5 string instruments you'd come across. The matte finish on the neck is unobtrusive and more than nice enough to play on and the inlays are cute too, though I don't really notice them.

    Hardware and nut are all very decent quality with no issues. Controls are gorgeous to use and feel professional grade. The bass is light and well balanced, and was totally no drama to carry through a few hours rehearsal and a show. Out of the box the setup was nearly spot on, including intonation, and I didn't need to touch a thing to be immediately up and running. Playability is generally excellent and I have no issues performing with the instrument at all.

    I was disappointed that whoever had done the spray work had missed 2 of the 6 neck bolt holes, which still show natural woodgrain. It's a tiny thing and utterly insignificant, but given that this is Yamaha's top of the line production model, more care could have been taken here. There was also one grain-of-sand-sized bump on the top of the instrument that while invisible, I can feel.

    Problematically, the J pickup cover is really loose and wobbles and clacks under my fingers while I'm playing. I think this is an especially slack bit of workmanship and having to have that corrected on a brand new bass is a big pest as it'll probably need to be pulled open and glued. In addition, the output jack is already dicky after a week and given that it has been used literally 6 to 10 times by someone who knows how to treat a bass well, this isn't good enough.

    Verdict: TLDR, this bass is worth the exact amount that I paid for it, and probably not a cent more ($950AU ~= $650-700US). It's a functional and slick modern intermediate bass, that will probably ultimately do its job for me for the short-medium term, but how long it will last someone at my level is unclear at this stage. Obviously as it's under warranty, I'll be able to have the minor-but-annoying issues with QC resolved, but I am pretty shocked that I received a new bass from Yamaha with these issues. This isn't like Yamaha at all.

    Another good thing, which definitely bears mentioning, is that the softcase that Yamaha throw in is preposterously high-quality for what is essentially a freebee. It's faux fur lined, padded, and light and way above the quality of any other $50 gigbag that might get chucked your way by a guitar store trying to land a sale. All the basses in the series come with a bag and I'd be shocked if they weren't all the same model.

    I'm pretty happy overall and I'm sure the store will be able to put what is wrong right, but the bottom line is that if you're considering acquiring a BB, and you're tossing up between the 400 series and the 700, I couldn't argue with confidence that the 700 series is worth stepping up to, as the features that I consider to be solid are there on both models and at the end of the day, and both basses feel like they're geared toward the intermediate player. The QC issues that I've experienced so far, and the slight carelessness with the paintwork, don't really make me feel rewarded for shelling out for the dearer bass at all.

    Hope some of you might find this useful.
  2. BobDeRosa

    BobDeRosa Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 16, 2012
    Penfield, NY
    Owner, Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camps
    Excellent review! Thanks very much for taking the time to do it. In retrospect, do you think you might have been happier with the 434?
    IPYF likes this.
  3. lowdownthump

    lowdownthump Supporting Member

    Jul 17, 2004
    Nice review . Only things missing is pics. Some of the case would be great too.
    Ghastly likes this.
  4. Ender_rpm


    Apr 18, 2004
    St. Louis MO
    Very insightful review, thanks!
  5. IPYF


    Mar 31, 2011
    I've since had the opportunity to test the 435 (in green) and honestly, if both had been in the store at the same time, I'd have almost certainly taken the 435 instead. The passive circuit is the most useful and the 435 in store didn't have the rattly J pickup. The green is also very fetching.

    I'm not pissed or disappointed with my 735 and I am actually playing more bass for fun since I got it, so all in all it really still is a success story. I could have maybe saved $100-200 but I'm not going to quibble now that the thing is done.
    BobDeRosa likes this.
  6. whamni


    Jul 16, 2017
    An excellent review and very informative, just a pity I didn't find it sooner, as I purchased a 734 a few weeks ago.

    I was plagued with minor faults that should not have passed Yamaha Quality Control.

    The two front screws on the bridge were sitting up and needed screwing down, the bridge PUP wouldn’t come up to the height I wanted, so I had to put extra foam in (the pup covers are a joke) and lastly it needed a complete setup as everything was way off.

    Minor problems that should never have happened in the first place, but I’m getting there

    Just curious to what neck relief, string action and PUP heights you ended with ?
  7. Garret Graves

    Garret Graves website- ggravesmusic.com Gold Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Arcadia, Ca
    Thanks for the great and detailed review! Whamni above mentioned putting more foam under the pick up, and that is probably what you should do too- you mentioned glue, but you might want to avoid that in favor of extra padding under the pick up to provide resistance against the screws- that will make them feel more solid.
  8. TonyP-

    TonyP- Excuse me but you have your I-IV-V in my II-V-I Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2003
    Boston Mass
    A-Designs Mike Lull GK Tsunami Cables GHS Strings RMI Basswitch Nordstrand Pickups Darkglass
    I just played a 735A and was highly impressed.

    I would not call the frets small though (I play vintage frets) but al and all I thought the bass was fantastic.
    This bass is killer for what it is and trumps any Fender. Yes I said that IMHO.
    BobDeRosa and michael_t like this.

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