Yamaha TRB 1004J
Yamaha is perhaps the most modest of giants in the bass guitar world. Its top-end models are firmly ensconced in the hands of four, five and six-string legends including Billy Sheehan, Nathan East and John Patitucci, while its more affordable instruments offer a quality-to-cost ratio that's hard to ignore.
Here, Yamaha is tackling that tricky around-a-grand price point with the TRB 1004J, built in Indonesia, and presented beautifully with its pro-oriented feature set.
"Its knock-out performance should tempt some old-school to try the delights of the up-specced world."
With a quilted maple top, matching headstock and a black coachline circumnavigating the body, there's no evidence of any cost-cutting here - as we'd expect from Yamaha.
It's almost the opposite: the boring-sounding 'caramel brown' colour description seems at odds with the sumptuousness of the slightly reddish lustre finish. It's very well constructed, with a laminated five-ply maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and six bolts securing neck to body - this is clearly built to manage the rigours of life on the road.
With a minimal headstock and extended upper body horn, even with the extended scale length it's a very nicely balanced bass indeed. The controls are inserted from the rear of the bass's body, so there's no need for a scratchplate, thus showing off the glorious maple top perfectly.
The oversized soapbar pickups, meanwhile, give finger players great anchor points for your thumb.
Having two identical Alnico-loaded pickups and a three-band active EQ means there's a huge variety of sound options available. It naturally plays right into the hands of modern-minded bassists who are looking for solid sounds that are rich in tone right across the full range, low to high.
But it's not just sweetness and light here - this is also one very throaty beast that excels in funky punch and blended hollow mixed pickup heaven. The three EQ bands are well chosen, which means you're in little danger of excessive bottom-end or glass-shattering treble; instead we have good control of the most usable part of the tonal spectrum.
Each tone control, and indeed the balance control, has a handy centre detent so you can easily feel where your tones and pickups are set. Warm silky and subtle tones give way to brash and exciting as you gradually take the controls from cut to boost.
Or for tight, compressed sounds that emphasise the funk element, try cutting the mid and pushing the bass and treble - nice in the studio rather than onstage where the mid-range plays such an important part in the overall distribution and projection of your sound.
But don't think this is light on simple bass tone - it most certainly isn't. Wind the bass control to full and select just the neck pickup and there's plenty of bottom-end on tap, but if you even add just a touch of the bridge pickup the character swings back to that classic hollow dual-pickup edge. In short there's plenty here for modern or old-school players to enjoy.
Yamaha makes superb quality twin-pickup basses with that funky element, but the top models are out of reach for most of us in terms of price. This TRB has been introduced to change that and its 35-inch scale - increased depth and clarity over the more standard 34-inches - and generous string spacing make it a delightful bass to play and hear: it's a winner all round.
The blinging looks and active electronics aren't aimed at classic Fender Jazz and P-Bass fans, yet its knock-out performance should tempt some old school players to at least try the delights of the up-specced bass world.
Good looks. Great playability. Tight, funky sounds.
The TRB 1004J looks and sounds like a quality Yamaha bass and although it's by no means cheap, its price is very tempting. Well built and roadworthy, with an extra touch of style - just the job!
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Country of Origin
Twin-cutaway, solidbody, fourstring, passive bass. Alder with quilted maple top
Burnished chrome solid brass bridge, sealed-gear tuners
Five-ply maple and mahogany, bolt-on
Two Alnico V humcancelling pickups, volume, pan pot, Q-Mix three-band EQ with bass, mid and treble