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Zon VB5 review and pics!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dunamis, Feb 15, 2006.


  1. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    New VB5, received from Zon on Monday (Feb. 13, ’06).:bassist:

    First, let me say by way of disclaimer:
     I have no affiliation with Zon Guitars and no financial interest concerning them
     I am not a professional bassist. I play in with a band that provides contemp Christian and praise & worship music for a medium sized church (avg. attendance 500 to 600), and we play out as well (community events, Christian music concerts, etc.).
     I started playing bass in 1975 or 76, but put it down for almost 20 years, so my talents are meager at best.
     What follows is my opinion, and I have been known to make mistakes (if you don’t believe me, ask my wife—she’ll clear that up right away!:p ).

    OK, with that out of the way, here are my impressions!

    If you’ve seen a Zon bass in person, you know they’re well constructed, and this one is no exception. The VB5 is a 34” scale, 5 stringer, with a composite neck. It’s a “set neck” design and the body/neck joint on mine is seamlessly perfect.

    The fretwork is the best of any bass I’ve owned (the list of current and previous basses being 2 Fenders, Rickenbacker, Dean, and Landing). Action is set low.

    I chose the standard swamp ash body with flat finish, all black hardware, and had Zon add a ramp made of swamp ash and finished to match.

    Playability—This is my first 5 string bass so it’ll take some adjustment. The spacing is 17mm (which I like). Slap sound is way better than my other basses, and is reasonably acceptable even though I have flats on it (Thomastik JF’s). Fret work is top notch. Low action, but zero buzz. I like the ramp, but I find the strings are a bit closer to the ramp surface than I’m comfortable with. I’ve removed it for the time being and plan to sand the bottom (the flat side) down about 1/16”. The B is acceptable for a 34” scale, and since TI’s are relatively low-tension strings, I suppose the fact that it’s a usable B string is an accomplishment. As I said, this is my first 5’er (but I’ve played quite a few in shops etc.), and so far I’m not disappointed in the least with the B string on this one.

    Appearance and Construction—Quality of workmanship is first rate. I think if I had it to do over again I’d spring for an exotic wood top. The swamp ash is OK and the flat finish will be, I think, very serviceable, but it is a little plain. The neck is on the thin side (which I like) flaring at the top so you can feel that the end is near;) . The neck finish is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. I can’t think of an adjective for the opposite of “sticky” but if there is such a word, that’s what I’d use to describe it. I’m not wild about the “Zon” logo in the body but I guess with no headstock, it had to go somewhere! It appears to be some sort of inlayed material rather than a sticker, decal, or paint applied to the surface (I may be wrong on this but that’s my impression). The hardware is really cool! The method of securing the strings at the top does not require double ball strings like some headless designs. The bridge and tuner assemblies are solid and very precise. Control cavity is well-shielded (copper) and well organized. I would have preferred a battery box that doesn’t require a screwdriver.

    Sound—Typical Zon sound I suppose. A lot more focused than my other basses, and perhaps a bit on the brighter side. This can easily be controlled however, with the 3 band Bart preamp. Usable tones are easy to achieve. I think this bass will show up well in the mix, but I don’t have rehearsal until tomorrow night, so I can’t be sure yet. The controls are treble/mids/bass, master vol, and blend. (That’s all I know on controls right now since Zon still owes me info on this. Joe Z said it’s in the mail.) Fairly quiet for single coil pups, but there is some noise when the blend is set off-center. The bass is not as loud as my active basses that have Aguilar pre’s (18volt) perhaps since the Bart pre on the VB5 runs at 9volt (not really sure on this since I’ve heard that the added voltage boosts headroom rather than gain:confused: ). Overall, the VB5 sounds, beefy—you can feel it in the chest—punchy, and defined. Not muddy at all. Good slap tone for flats, but if I were a slapper I’d change the strings. Slapping flats—that’s just wrong!:scowl: Nice mids, and clear highs. My general impression is that the sound is very “present”. The TI strings typically produce a really strong fundamental and are more defined and clear than some other flats. IMO, they sound good on the Zon.

    Service—Since there was another thread on this I’ll skip the details. The bass was promised “before Christmas” and received February 13. I’ll leave it the readers to decide if that’s good, bad, or indifferent. Suffice it to say that better communication during the process would have made the wait go down easier. Joe Zon is great guy to talk to, and I think he puts forth the effort to produce the best possible bass he can, whether it’s the inexpensive (relatively) Vinny bass or his top of the line models. Overall, I’m OK with the way things went. There are certainly worse stories out there about delays from luthiers (try a search if you’re wondering).

    So that’s it! Apologies for the length. Take a look at the pics—as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!

    Peace,

    Matt
     

    Attached Files:

  2. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    More pics...
     

    Attached Files:

  3. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    Last ones...
     

    Attached Files:

  4. BillytheBassist

    BillytheBassist

    Aug 18, 2005
    Texas
    Congrat's man.... Sweet lil Vin.
     
  5. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder: Wing Bass
    congrats! Sweet Vinny. Did you have to order the 19mm spacing specially? I thought the 5-stringers were 17mm.
     
  6. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte

    My bad! :(

    You are absolutely right sir-- the spacing is 17mm. Good catch and thank you for pointing it out.

    Matt
     
  7. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Corrupticut
    Nice! Now that you posted pics the bass officially exists :)

    How is the balance?
     
  8. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    ... and so is the balance!:p

    Seriously though, no neck dive at all.
     
  9. 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, except that means I don't get it now... :bawl: :bawl: :bawl: ;)

    AWESOME bass. I GOTTA get me a Vinny someday...
     
  10. eots

    eots

    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    I agree with the logo placement, but, where else they gunna advertise?
    I'd like to see another strap button on the bottom lower bout just to protect that spot and give it balance when resting on a stand.
    What's the small blue pot do in the control cavity? Mid range sweep adj. perhaps?
    The website lists the battery life @ 2500 hours so who cares about screws holding the cover?
    If I were to get one, I'll probably go charcoal. I'm also hopin' they decide to put some hum stoppers in there. They told me a bolt neck w/ soapers was in the works.
    I realize you haven't changed strings yet, but how does it work with the tuner/bridge? Something thats grips it tight then pulls back to tune ???
     
  11. On most Bart preamps, that's to set the overall gain.

    Cool bass--it almost makes me stop wishing Steinberger would build the XL-5W again. ;)

    Mike
     
  12. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    The bridge and tuner assemblies are seperate. It looks like the ball end of the string fits into a slot on a shaft of each tuner. The tuners are pretty much just like a big screw. Turning the tuning knob to the right tightens the string by pulling on the ball end, left loosens it.

    Simple but effective, and not much to slip or go wrong.
     
  13. I have to what in your oppinion appears plain to me looks beautiful. I've seen vinnys with exotic tops and this one, to my eye, looks spectacular. Classy, elegant and badass all at once. That's something that'll fit in in any situation, church, blues (if the band can get past it), or rock gig. Congrats and stop reading talkbass and get back to your new baby!
     
  14. TimothyGroovy

    TimothyGroovy Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 3, 2000
    Hong Kong
    Owner: Uni••Sound
    Nice Bass! Buddy. Enjoy the new bass! I'm always want to get one Zon VB4 or VB5 to serve as my travel bass. :bassist: What is the weight of the bass? and is it balance to play when you are sitting?
     
  15. Vic

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

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
  16. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    Been out of pocket for a few days-- thanks to timothy and groovecenter for the kind words, and to Vic for digging up the answer on the weight question.

    Timothy-- balance is perfect sitting and on a strap.

    One thing I've noticed now that I've logged a couple of hours on the bass: I find that I want some "grit" added to the tone. To my ear, it's a pretty dry tone all by itself. Not in a bad way mind you. I wouldn't describe it as being too sterile or anything. Just very clean and clear. I seem to like it better with a little tube drive (SansAmp or tube pre driven hard).

    In a live situation I think I might try the DI apprach that Geddy Lee uses. As I understand it, he provides the board with two seperate DI signals, one "wet" and the other "dry". The soundman can then blend the bass sound by controling the level on the two channles.

    The dry is provided by an Avalon U5 (which I have) and the wet goes through a Palmer cab simulator (which I wish I had!:D ). I'll use a SansAmp for the wet signal.:bassist:
     
  17. Vic

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

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Get a ThunderFunk... I played my Sonus 5 thru it last night and it sounded so rich I'm takin' it with me instead of the Roscoe to the blues gig tonight.

    Get a ThunderFunk, has both pre and post eq DI outs (yeah, XLR, and individual ground lifts) that can be used simultaneously.

    Broken record? ;)

    I have GOT to get a VB!!!! :D
     
  18. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Congratulations on the Vinny. Joe Zon is one of the truly nice guys in the music biz. I've known Joe for 5 or 6 years now and can say nothing but wonderful things about him. It was Joe that introduced me to the guys at Euphonic Audio (a company, that many of you know I do a some work for). Even thouh I endorse a different company's basses, Joe is still very supportive of my work. You could not have bought from a nicer, more decent, quality guy. I wish you the best of luck with it.

    I just ordered a VB5 myself. Having had too many close calls with checking my MTD 535, on planes (2 in the last month), I really felt that I needed a professional level instrument that travels wells. I cannot think of a better instrument than the Vinny.

    My VB5 will be tuned E to C and I sent him a set of TI Jazz Rounds to apply. I special ordered a 19mm spacing bridge to match my MTD's. This necessitated using a bolt on rather than set in neck. Joe assures me that the bolt-on vinny's are very cool. After reading your quote:

    I started "jonesing for a top". I called Joe and he said he "had something in mind and would surprise me" with a top (hey, what's a few extra $)

    I am really looking forward to learning to tune with my right hand :D

    Mike
     
  19. psi

    psi

    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    A positive Zon review... What a surprise ;x
     
  20. dunamis

    dunamis

    Aug 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    Mike,

    Congrats on your Vinny as well. I agree with your comments about Joe, and I'm sure the surprise top will be great:D ! Remember, you have to post pics when it comes in or it doesn't exist!

    Peace,

    Matt

    PS: I've been working through your lesson from the most recent Bassics-- St. James Infirmary-- really cool chordal arrangement!

    PPS: With your skills as a bassist, I'm sure the right hand tuning will become easy for you, in due time of course.;)