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Review: MF Blowout Yamaha BB405

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Vic, Apr 26, 2005.


  1. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    EDIT: >> SOUNDS AND PICS NOW POSTED BELOW!

    Model: Yamaha BB405 Wine Red (burst) - Discontinued older model blowout.
    Specs: 34" scale, 5 string, dual single-coil J, passive, VVT controls, alder body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, 24 frets.
    List: $699
    Est. Street (-30%): $490 (tho others are blowing them out at $350 or so now)
    MF Blowout: $230 shipped :)

    Just took delivery. Standard OEM double box packing. Usual shipper dents and such, but no damage to the bass.

    (phase one) Initial inspection:

    Hardware: Noname, but very good looking and solid. Good solid bridge, smooth tuners, nut seems to be pretty good quality plastic. The wood also seems to be good quality, at least judging by the even-looking grain, lack of significant inclusions, irregularities, etc..

    Finish: Good. held up to the light you can see some of the grain lines in the surface, so I assume this to mean the finish is fairly thin, and will dent/scratch easily.

    Fit: Construction seems very good (incredible, considering the price), but the setup looks like it was done by a three year old. Way way too much relief in the neck. As a result, the action is high enough I didn't want to spend any time really playing it (yet). Because of this, I'll need to do a setup on it tonight and a phase two part to this review to complete it.

    Unplugged Tone: This is the best part so far... hitting a few strings yielded a very surprisingly strong, resonant, and well-defined tone. Good depth, some emphasis in the lower mids, and a nice shimmer to the highs. This is VERY encouraging, as it's almost always a great go/no-go test for tone.

    So far, so good... more later...
     
  2. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Specs (update): 18mm string spacing at the bridge, dual "long" J pickups

    (phase two) Setup/Play:

    Closer look: The fret work is actually pretty decent, though the fingerboard wood was already somewhat dried out and the fret ends were starting to be easily felt gliding up and down the neck.

    The body looks to be a 70/30 split on the wood, with the smaller chunk being on top almost like an upper wing. The good news is, the neck, bridge, and all the elex are all in one solid chunk of alder. I'm pretty sure this contributes to the natural tone of the bass, which is pretty good.

    Also, interestingly, the J pickups are exactly the same dimensions as the "long" (bridge) standard Fender J pickups in both locations, so there are some great J replacements out there that would work... for example, the EMG LJ5 (since the EMG J's are not pole based, they work on 4's and 5's). I have a standard EMG J set lying around... I'm tempted to get another LJ5 and try it. On a similar note, I really hate VVT configs, so I see a blend pot in this bass's future... just like all the J basses I've had within the last 10 years.

    The elex cavity looks ok, tho no shielding paint or copper at all. Lotsa' good grounding, but I'll prolly gut the thing and throw some shielding in there since I have some lying around. Also looks like I could fit a battery in there, so the EMG's are an option. Otherwise, there are always other options, as well, since they were good enough to use a widely supported route dimension.

    The nut is fine, the bridge has plenty of adjustment and works smoothly.

    Adjustments: Well, the darn thing didn't come with a truss rod key, and none of my other basses take a 5mm, so I didn't have a 5mm shorty, but luckily, a standard JUST fit. MAJOR adjustment here... with wait times between twists... took hours, but got it pretty close. The neck is not uniform, as it's got just a bit more relief on the B than it does on the G, but that actually works out ok, so no biggie. So far, I can't find any significant hi/lo spots, so the action is pretty good now.

    Also, the fretboard needed a big drink of conditioner/protectant, so I buffed the whole thing down with 0000 steel wool (which cleaned the frets off nicely as well), put down some conditioner and let it sit for a while. Darkend up nicely... should stop the shrinkage as well. Threw on a new set of DR Lo-Rider Stainless Steels, set the intonation and string height. Done.

    Action/Tone: The action is really pretty good, but my initial impression is it feels kinda narrow somehow even though it's 18mm at the bridge, which should be quite comfy. Just a different profile, I guess. Overall tho, even for twice the money, I'd be pretty impressed with the value. Plays pretty darn nice now. The neck profile reminds me of my Lakland. Plenty of meat, but not too fat. Substance, but not bulk. I actually prefer a slimmer profile, but this works just fine.

    On the tone, I'm not super impressed with the pickups, but they're ok for now. Strange, the bass sounds a little better to me unplugged. That's a first for me. :) The good news is, per the above, a set of EMG's or whatever could be in this Bass's future, and I bet it'd come alive in a big way with some great pickups.

    The B string lacks some definition, but this is a bass with either a shorter scale (34") and/or not as stiff of construction as most of my other stuff, so I'm pretty spoiled on that one. Very useable, tho. Not disappointed, just not all that impressed.

    The bottom line: I get pretty nitpicky above, but that should send a very positive message... considering my personal prefs for basses (see my gear page) this bass does pretty darn well, so it was a great deal. I got it for a "knock around" beater bass, but it may see more air time than I originally anticipated. Definitely not as nice as the original higher end Japanese BB's, but definitely not a 1-2K bass, either. :)

    I'll post pics tomorrow night in case anyone's interested to see them.
     
  3. oldrocker

    oldrocker

    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Vic:

    Thanks for the extensive review. Please post some Pics. What did you use to condition the fretboard?
     
  4. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    I use a couple, and there's lotsa' good ones out there, but here's one you can find anywhere...

    [​IMG]

    I use oil every time I change strings on the open grain fingerboards, and I've never ever had dryout problems, cracking, fret pops, etc. I personally also believe it helps tone (albeit very slightly) by helping to preserve the wood and keep it in good consistent condition.
     
  5. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Ok, please forgive the playing, especially the slap, but I thought it might be good to post some recordings of this bass and try to represent some of the different sounds of the bass.

    Directly into the computer line in, goldwave old-school wave editor/recorder. Nuthin' fancy, and nothin' else involved. Just played each clip, save, play, save... etc. :)

    Anyway...

    Bridge1
    This one is with the bridge full on, neck off, tone full on, finger style near the bridge.

    Bridge2
    This one is bridge full on, neck off, tone backed off, and my own funky fingerstyle where I try to lean a little towards an upright like tone (as much as can be expected). Works real nice in small jazz combos... better than you might think. I've had good comments. :)

    Slap
    This one is both pickups full on, tone full on, and a completely lame attempt at slapping, but I think you can hear the tone ok. It's a little thin on the low end, but a big part of that is my technique. The other part is, normally I'd dial some bass in when slapping (even on my active basses), but I wanted these recordings to be "pure".

    Neckblues
    This one is neck pickup only (full on) and tone full on. Tried to get a mix of the blues/rock type sounds out of it. This is actually sorta' like three samples in one. Yes, I know it speeds up on the last part, which was intentional. I felt a boogie type riff needed to move just a little faster. :)
     
  6. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Here's a few quick shots. Pretty basic pics, but I think you can see the finish better than in the MF pics. Please pardon the dust on the bass. Prolly shoulda' polished it first:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Thanks!

    The BTB has a great preamp, whereas this is totally passive, the BTB is heavier, the BTB has dual trussrods and a better quality neck (IMHO), and this one is really designed to sound like a J, whereas the BTB is designed to sound more like a boutique. The BTB will be a lot more versatile, but for a low end J clone, the BB is really pretty good. I will say one thing tho, I think I like the BB's pickups a little better.

    I know, I feel kinda' stupid buying it, but I figure I'll enjoy it for a while and then move it on down the road. For basically $200, I had to try it.
     
  8. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Canuck Amateur

    + 1 on tone, the weak point of that guitar is the pickups. No character, and lacking punch. At least the one I tried in a local shop sounded sterile and characterless.

    Mechanically, they seem pretty well built. At $200 you can afford to experiment.
     
  9. tekhna

    tekhna

    Nov 7, 2004
    I thought that sounded pretty darn good, butfor that price you can just drop some Ultrajazzes in there. Or make it active, I have an extra EMG preamp lying around that I might throw in mine when it comes.
     
  10. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Yeah, just keep in mind you can't buy a J "set", cause you need two "long" ones, and they have to be either blades (like EMG's) or 5 string specific pole-style, of course.

    Personally, I actually do like the tone of this thing, and it's actually pretty light (I should weigh and post). The only thing I really miss is the same as on my Geddy J, which is, I like to add a touch of bass when soloing the bridge pickup, and you can't do that w/out a preamp.

    So, all that said, I think maybe the first thing I'd try is to use the existing pickups with an aftermarket bart/emg/demeter/aggie preamp and see what that does. There is enough space in the route for at least one battery, but I doubt two.

    Hmmmm... I think I feel a research project comin' on... :)
     
  11. bigbeefdog

    bigbeefdog Who let the dogs in?

    Jul 7, 2003
    Mandeville, LA
    Research project on the BB404 is completed. Dimarzio Model J's fit perfectly, and kick butt.... :hyper:
     
  12. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Vics, i had a BB404 that i thought was a great bass and my experience with the BB405 was positive. I'm glad you enjoy playing yours, and your clips sound fine. That BB405 would make a great main bass for the financially challenged and a great backup bass for someone who did want to tie up up alot of money in such an instrument.
     
  13. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Yummy! I have those in my Geddy J! Got clips?
     
  14. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    +1 ... well said.
     
  15. bigbeefdog

    bigbeefdog Who let the dogs in?

    Jul 7, 2003
    Mandeville, LA
    Will work on that.... busy weekend ahead, tho.....

    As I said in another thread recently, the BB404 ($199) with Model J's ($90) is the BEST one can do for under $300 buying new, IMHO..... :cool:
     
  16. jbathehut

    jbathehut

    Apr 20, 2005
    Vics I wanted to ask you how I could go about changing the tone adjustment pot to a blend pot. I'm a newb, but the tone adjustment doesn't seem very useful. I'm looking at the bb404/405 circuit diagram, and it looks like I can't get into much trouble. I found this diagram at bartolini.net http://www.bartolini.net/instructions/pickups/passive/blend/blndinst_alpha.pdf

    It looks simple enough, but where could I purchase a blend potentiometer? Nice sound clips by the way.
     
  17. ironfist

    ironfist

    Feb 5, 2000
  18. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Thanks, except I actually do use the tone knob, so what I do is convert the neck volume to a blend, and then use the bridge volume as a master, and leave the tone alone. Yes, it's easy to do if you can handle a soldering iron at all.

    On the pots, Stewart Mac has them:

    http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Electro...s:_Control_pots_and_knobs/4/Control_Pots.html
     
  19. Funky Tune

    Funky Tune

    Apr 28, 2005
    Puerto Rico
    excuseme but this bass is a list price for $699 and you sell for only $230 ? can you ship for Puerto Rico? :hyper:
     
  20. tekhna

    tekhna

    Nov 7, 2004

    No, I don't believe Musicians friend ships outside of the united states.