My main bass for the last year and change has been the awesome and affordable Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass V (5-string). Though I have a number of other instruments that are a bit more pricey and possess features like active electronics, snazzy hardware and so forth I really wanted a bass that I could play for rock and pop gigs that was comfy, looked nice and wasn’t too intimidating to the average musician or fan. Oh- and I wanted it to sound good, too.
I went to several local music stores (in St. Louis, Mo) and tried out a number of basses of the 4- and 5-string variety but I was really looking for a 5-string as I tend to use that low B pretty often in pop music. I was also trying to find something affordable as this was to be the first bass with less than 6 strings that I had played in quite a few years. After trying out a number of different basses from a variety of manufacturers I kept coming back the the Squier VM-V. At $329 + tax it was quite affordable but it also felt really nice (My other basses require a strap and a shoulder to play as they are a bit neck-heavy and not ergonomically designed for just picking up and putting on your lap and playing).
I have now played many gigs with the Squier VM-V and it’s worked really well for rock, funk, disco, country, metal, jazz, hip hop and pretty much anything that I’ve thrown at it. The VM-V is also the first bass that I’ve owned with *passive* electronics in many years. The Seymour Duncan- designed pickups have proven to be more than adequate in providing the low-end and bite that I’m looking for in a bass. I have played the VM-V through the same rig as an American Fender Jazz Bass on many occasions and the Squier more than holds its own with that more expensive, active bass.
My VM-V has mid-’70’s styling that includes a natural maple body finish covered with clear lacquer, a “C-shaped” one-piece maple neck (with adjustable truss rod) with large faux block inlays (they are painted onto the fretboard as opposed to actual inlays) as well as fretboard binding. The frets were finished well and the neck is smooth and fast. For just over $300 some of the features are more cosmetic than functional but overall the quality of this instrument has withstood many hours of practice, rehearsal and gigging in a variety of environments without displaying any significant tuning or set up problems.
One frustrating issue with this bass (and probably the only one all things considered) is the input jack. It has a tendency to come loose at the most inopportune times and one has to be careful not to twist the internal wires around and accidentally disconnect them- thus requiring a quick soldering job. I simply don’t understand why someone hasn’t figured out a better- yet inexpensive- design for the ubiquitous 1/4 inch input jack. I have had to take the control plate off several times to torque the nuts on the jack itself and also re-attach the wires. Also- the ground wire is not attached to the input jack at the factory and grounding is accomplished through the attachment of the jack to the metal plate holding the bass’ controls. If the jack nut gets loose it not only makes the main wire twist around precariously but also makes the ground contact less than ideal which no doubt effects the overall sound of the bass not to mention causing possible drop-outs.
Some may find the maple body to be a bit heavy but I find it to well within my tolerance for playing a full 4-hour night and I really like the snappy yet warm sound of the maple body and neck. The VM-V feels solid and there is very little unhealthy neck movement in the bolt-on neck joint. The vintage-style open tuners stay in tune reliably and the bridge is a of a heavier and more substantial design than the usual “vintage” style bridge making the strings’ connection to the body sure and firm. The metal control knobs are attractive on the metal faceplate and have been reliable in their operation. No scratchy or unreliable potentiometers so far.
I always use round wound strings on my basses and I’ve been using an Ernie Ball Regular Slinky 5-string set lately gauged 45-65-80-100-130 and they sound great on this bass. Snappy for funky “slapping” styles yet growl for finger style funk and rock. The top two controls on the bass are volumes for the two Seymour Duncan single-coil pickups and they can be blended in whatever proportion you may desire. Backing off the neck pickup lets the bridge pickup get that growling, focused “Jaco” kind of sound while rolling off the bridge a bit gives a nice retro warm and woody 70’s sound that I like using for ballads, reggae, etc. An even mix of both (which is what I use most often) is a great warm yet snappy sound that works great for most any style.
When I’ve compared this instrument to others that I own I’ve noticed that what it lacks in very low and high frequency response compared to a bass with active electronics it more than makes up for with midrange bite and character while still possessing more than enough lows and highs for most any application. The bass tracks that I’ve recorded with this bass seem to require less EQing to get to fit in the mix and it’s midrange presence makes it stand out without being overwhelming.
There are a few minor details that I am ironing out with this bass including the fact that the “G” string slot in the nut seemed to be cut just a bit too deep and I need to have the action addressed by a professional that can do a little work on the upper frets but overall I think that for just over $300 this is a great, playable and great-sounding instrument right out of the box. I have gotten MANY compliments about the sound of this bass from both fans and fellow musicians and I still really dig it. In the future I intend to add a few aftermarket items such as a more robust bridge, a new nut and most likely some switchable active electronics to the VM-V in the future but they are in no way necessary to make this a great playing and sounding bass.
As I’m writing this review and looking at my bass to point out details it beckons me to play it- which is a good thing!!! I give the Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass V two thumbs up!