VM versus Affinity - I'll take Affinity!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dkelley, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. Just a (probably controversial) thread to see if anyone feels the same as I do about these instruments, not intending to be starting trouble though.

    I tried a VM fretless jazz. not bad. not great though. had a tone that was distinctly different from a real (usa fender) jazz bass. I've played plenty of fretless (a few years exclusively in the 80s and 90s). I know jaco stuff inside out. I've played jaco official basses a few times and had several amazing fretless basses myself, and this isn't one of them.

    I mean, it's not awful, I've played awful before.

    But it's not doing the jazz thing as well as I expected, and has a rather cheap feel to the bridge (not like a good vintage fender, but like cheap thin poorly made), an odd feel to the neck, and I'm not a fan of the non-original jazz knobs (but I get it's the VM series). The bridge on this bass is unimpressive - what happened to the brass saddles of the vm precision? why does this specialty fretless jazz get the short end of the stick at teh bridge? Tuners are nice though. Nut is clearly cheapo plastic. knobs are scratchy - and I've read that of other owners of the vm fretless jazz.

    NOW onto affinity - the bottom of the barrel basses.

    my affinity jazz V was a nearly free CL grab ($100 with traynor amp, cord, and 2 straps (one is leather) and gig bag.

    Several of you have read about that grab I made already and know how much I love this bass along side my US ebmm basses, ibanez BTBs, hagstrom 8, and former ownership of alembic series 1, japanese ibanez musician, and some other nice basses.

    The affinity, after a neck shim and basic setup and new strings, looks, sounds, feels, and RESPONDS like a real usa jazz bass. it gets grindy when playing hard! I LOVE THAT! it behaves really quite authentically. it's solid. the tuners are cheap and should NOT be 5 in a row (the poor b string already broke once when I was replacing it due to the strong down angle after the nut). bridge is BETTER than on the VM imho - doesn't have any cheapness in it's feel, good old usa vintage jazz bridge. pickups are noname and superior to the duncan designed vm imho.

    But the affinity is exactly right. defret one and imho it'll be miles ahead of the VM fretless jazz.


    Affinity - alder body (authentic of usa fender jazz).
    VM - agathis body!?!?! (crappy quality "wood").

    Affinity - unspecified fender jazz v pickups.
    VM - duncan designed jazz pickups. why do the affinity V pickups sound so much better? I mean, quite similar to the usa jazz I was just comparing against at my local store?

    Affinity nut - artificial bone. I'm sure that's another word for white plastic LoL, but it's a nice marketing trick at least, and in practice it's a good nut without friction problems (rather like a real bone nut).
    VM nut - plastic, marketed as such, and actually worked fine too. but why is the affinity one marketed as artifical bone? that sounds like it ought to be superior to the VM's marketed name of "plastic".

    Affinity fingerboard - rosewood. like the USA jazz I was just comparing against (although maple is nice on a fender too imho).
    VM fingerboard - that plastic fretless fake ebony stuff. ok, fair enough - it's a fretless. I think that was a smart choice actually. but that could be part of the tone thing as well maybe... but I have enough fretless experience to know that a hard fingerboard can still give a great jazz bass tone, so it can't blame the ebonal or whatever it's called for the VM's lack of true jazz bass character.

    Affinity neck - straight, needed no adjustment but I did make a small rod turn as I have my preferences in setup. was stable when I got, it stable still now after my small adjustment. perfect.
    VM neck - bowed too much - fretless should have zero bow. period, final. I didn't try to adjust it, but did further reading and found others with issues with the VM's neck stability. what gives?

    Affinity fret fit and finish - perfect, smooth, able to be felt when needed but never sharp or in the way. maybe this was just one of hte good ones? I know it was never dressed or touched after buying from the store based on previous owner's story.
    VM fret fit and finish - NA LoL.

    Affinity pots - work perfectly, no scratchies, no issues, but likely cheap quality.
    VM pots - scratchy, work but clearly cheap quality. should not be this bad right away. again I've read of lots of problems here, but also some folks having issues with affinity pots. even steven?

    Final thought:
    Affinity - used for $100 to $200
    VM - used for $200 to $300

    Anyone have thoughts or criticisms or ideas to share on this subject or am I just meandering on my own wavelength here? Maybe this is dumb to compare two cheap lines like this, but I believe they're made in two different countries. So sort of like two different bass companies with one parent controlling company....
    el_Bajo_Verde likes this.
  2. Honestly, it sounds like you got a below average VM and an above average (or possibly an exceptional) Affinity.

    I've owned numerous basses from both lines, and played plenty in stores, and I've ended up flipping every Affinity, whereas the VM Jaguar (black w/tort model) and Mustangs I quite regular practise or gig with. I've not had an issue with neck stability on either VM, and the tuners have been superior to the Affinity ones, too. I love the sound of the Duncan Designed pups, so maybe that's just a preference thing. They are a lot more aggressive and modern sounding.

    I've got nothing against Affinity models, they're good for the price, and I was considering buying a PJ to mod (although, ironically, I'm now holding out to try the new VM PJ first). I just feel like your experience of the two ranges has differed greatly to mine.
  3. NicJimBass

    NicJimBass Flossin'? I thought your name was Munson!

    Nov 22, 2004
    Lancaster, OH
    I remember playing 2 Affinity J5's at Sam Ash about a year ago. That fact alone should attest to how good I thought they were! I was very surprised, and if I had need of a J5, I'd look seriously at one.
  4. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    Sounds like the VM was a lemon, I love the Duncan Designed pickups in my VM P, much better sounding than the Affinity, haven't had any issues with the neck, electrics or hardware on mine.
  5. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    I agree that when you pull the frets and put some extensive setup into it, an Affinity is a perfectly adequate instrument.

    I've seen two, and the truss rods don't adjust the necks properly, which is an engineering issue, not a build quality issue.
  6. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks I build Grosbeak Guitars and Basses Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 19, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    Grosbeak Guitars
    I had an Affinity J5 and it was a fantastic bass. I did not like the B string on it though, so I had mine strung up with a high C. I shouldn't have sold it!
  7. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    As a note, AFAIK the alder used in Affinity instuments is not the same species as the alder used by North America-built Fenders. There are as I recall species in the same genus as alder that grow in Asia, or it may be an unrelated wood with similar appearance, a la magogany, African mahogany, and nato wood. The timber industry has been known to be loose with names.

    Doesn't mean it can't make a food guitar body though. I am sure in many cases a superior piece of whatever-wood from Indonsia or Malaysia could make a better guitar body than a butcher-block glue-up of questionable alder, mahogany, etc.

    My VM P had obvious tool marks near the headstock and a few areas of pitting on the neck as well. It sounded good but I returned it eventually. Pickup swaps are easier than neck swaps.
  8. When were these comparisons made: just out of the box/off the rack? I think comparisons should be made after a setup has been done to both.
  9. my own affinity that was used, sitting in storage for a couple years from a teenage kid who hadn't every really played it much and it was never setup. strings were rusted when I got it. neck needed a shim. foam under pickups was dried. everything needed to be done to it took me one hour of labour, only cost was the new strings.

    B string on it (it's a 5) is incredible by the way - as even and useful up the fingerboard as on my btbs, and while the b on my musicmans is great too, the b on the squire is better above the 12th fret than on either of my musicmans.

    So yea, I'm absolutely blown away with the squire. very low action without uneven fret problems etc. I must have gotten a good one for sure :)

    the vm jazz fretless was at a guy's house who has it up for sale. only one I've played, but then same goes for the affinity. so this is hardly a scientific review either way by me :)

    I suppose what I'm most surprised about in the design is that the vm's only clear superiority over the affinity (in my 2 cases) is the choice of tuners and location on the headstock - vm is superior clearly. setup sucked on both basses - both owners clearly have never had them setup. affinity neck needed shim but actual neck setup was great - truss rod clearly works fine, proof is in the pudding, but only after shimming was that apparent. VM had bow of a couple mm around 7th fret area holding 1st and 12th (my usual approximate way to test neck and truss rod). wasn't twisted, even across board, so needed much tightening at the very least.

    but the tone is what surprised me as a player - my affinity really sounds like a standard jazz bass. the vm fretless doesn't. the owner claimed to have strings on it, and they certainly weren't dead, and they were rounds. However I don't know if they were nickel or steel, they felt like hex core which I dislike these days but still shouldn't adversely alter the tone too much. I know they weren't d'addarios due to no coloured ball ends but otherwise didn't ask what the strings were.

    It could be as simple as my not liking the duncan designed pickups of course, but acoustically the alder affinity is very good also - really good - and the vm was sort of dead acoustically, although that isn't always indicative of how they sound plugged in.

    I suppose what this really shows is the same old thing - try your basses out first at the store or person's home who's selling them.... don't buy based on reputation or reviews alone.

    I have no desire to swap pickups in my affinity though - and I'm not shy to swap pickups if I'm unhappy with tone.

    I'll just be happy with my affinity I will keep my eyes open to the agathis-bodied scratchy-potted VM series. Shows that one can't dismiss something based on "agathis" or bowed neck or scratchy pots - every bass line can have a bad example!

    cheers! :-D
  10. My Affinity V that I sold not so long ago was really great stock, and I've owned a German Warwick and an American G&L. Sold it due to severe money shortage while not playing bass actively, not because of any flaws with the bass.
  11. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Every Affinty Jazz V that I've played was above average. The exception would be one that wasn't.
  12. cool.

    here's a thought - are the pickups or wood or other contents in the affinity jazz V different from (better than) those in the affinity jazz 4?

    Maybe to build the 5 strings economically they actually have to throw in good 5 string pickups versus what possibly might be 4 string cheapos?

    Or does the affinity jazz IV also sound more or less like a USA jazz bass (at least in the general ballpark)?

    Is the V just a better bass than the IV aside from having an additional B string?
  13. my personal test against MiM jazzes:

    After having read lots of "affinity is better than mim" posts since getting my affinity, which I tend to dismiss as unlikely, I took a try at the story also, my own personal shootout. the two mim jazzes (4 and 5) were great basses - my affinity was virtually identical feeling/looking/playing and had a somewhat different tone. it wasn't as bright and had more of a growl to it than the MiM jazzes. So to me, the affinity was actually closer again to my choice of USA jazz bass tones compared to the MiM. I wouldn't say the MiM was bad in any way, and probalby a pup swap would make them great. But I prefer the stock affinity V to either stock MiM jazz 4 or 5 at that store with their stock strings. I could blame strings though of course too.

    However at that store I didn't have a USA to compare against I'm afraid, so my comparisons were mim to affinity at one store, USA to affinity at another store, vm individually at someon'es house.

    hardly scientific.
  14. I meant the Affinity was above average in comparison to the Affinity line in general, not compared to all basses. I've certainly never had an experience with an Affinity that was as good as the OPs.

    They've very good basses for the money, no doubt, and I would have loved an Affinity like these when I started out. However, and it could just be bad luck, I've never had one that out-played a more expensive instrument in my possession. Just my experience.
  15. alder => authentic usa fender wood
    agathis => crappy wood

    perhaps you should look up those two woods.
  16. Batmensch


    Jul 4, 2010
    Media, PA.
    About the VM pickups not sounding up to snuff for the OP. As you said, both were setup horribly, it may be that the pickup's height on the VM also was not properly adjusted, whereas maybe the Affinity's was, that can make a huge difference in the tone. That's always the first thing I look at when someone complains about the tone of a pickup, how the height adjustment was or was not done.
  17. Batmensch


    Jul 4, 2010
    Media, PA.
    Perhaps you should look up the phrase "matter of opinion"
  18. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    Perhaps you could do a little reading yourself. The Alder in an indonesian guitar is not alder harvested in north america and shipped to indonesia, that would be too expensive. It is called alder but it is not the same wood.

    Agathis refers to an entire genus of woods, some are expensive and some are not. I am not saying one with find exquisite kauri agathis an a Squier. My point was, since there is little in the way of timber naming guidelines there is nothing stopping someone from harvesting a SE Asian wood similar to alder and calling it alder, even though it differs from the alder Fender has always used Stateside.

    The only way to tell whether a particular indonesian alder guitar is beter than a particulat indonesian agathis guitar is to play them both and decide between those two only, not based on generalizations. I have had two-piece agathis bass guitars that sounded just fine and I have had alder strats made out of leftovers that resonated like what it was, glued together scrap.
  19. arguing by agreeing. it's super effective.
  20. i was quoting the OP but nice try at the outrage.