12-string electric and acoustic guitars are fairly common, but multi-strung basses tend to be less so. Players from wildly differing bands and styles employ a five-string bass to great effect - the lower string can add some genuine texture and power to your music.
Korn bassist Fieldy has been known to set off car alarms with the lowest string of his Ibanez Artcore basses, whilst fusioneer John Patitucci goes one better with a six-string bass, pulling off almost impossible runs up and down the neck. Cheap Trick's bass monster Tom Petersson wields a 12-string behemoth, while at the other extreme D*A*D's Stig Pederson feels that just two strings are sufficient.
That's the background dealt with; now let's see what Gear4Music's five-string bass has to offer. The PGB-105 is tuned as most fivers are: with the lowest string down to a low B. This means that you'll need a specific gauge of string in order for the note to be both audible and playable.
Five-string sets of bass wires are widely available. As a guide, a regular set of 0.045–0.100 strings would incorporate a 0.130 for the low B. To give an idea of price, Gear4Music is currently selling a standard set of long scale D'Addario strings at £13.95 and the equivalent five-string set at £18.88.
The ergonomic body here is fashioned from agathis and offers a one-piece bolt-on maple neck that, in spite of the extra wire, is comfortably slinky and easy to get to grips with. Patitucci's signature Yamaha six-string has a fretboard like an ironing board, but the PGB-105 presents far fewer playing compromises.
By way of electrics you get two Black Knight single coils that each posseses its own volume pot - so no need for a toggle, and a master tone, too. In keeping with the review model's black finish, the hardware, which includes a set of traditional tuners and a top-mounted bridge with individual saddles, is similarly dusky in hue.
The fifth string is certainly slacker than you may be used to, but that's unavoidable unless you opt for a very heavy set of strings. We found we could counteract the sponginess by playing it closer to the bridge.
The increased amount of maple in the neck does lead to a toppy tone, which is no bad thing as it subsequently allows the ultra-low frequencies to be brightened. Slap on the low B and use the bridge pickup and you get a pretty convincing Fieldy sound, and the other four strings are similarly aggressive in tone, too.
For more mid tone, with rounded lows and crystalline highs, try both pickups together. Opt for the neck pickup and roll off some tone and – with big enough amps - you could almost level buildings. For styles that require a massively fat bass end such as reggae, jazz and dub, the PGB-105 ticks all boxes and this, combined with a perfectly acceptable level of playing comfort, makes Gear4Music's five-stringer an impressive piece of kit.
There's not a great deal for us to moan about here save for a volume pot that came loose: it took three minutes to fix with a spanner.
As five-string basses go, this is an exceptional instrument, and that's before we factor in the seriously competitive price. Although aimed at an entirely different market and made to a much higher standard, the Yamaha TRB5 fiver is currently available for £1,899. This gives an idea of just what a bargain the PGB-105 is.
Just as every guitarist should own an acoustic, bassists should seriously consider getting hold of a five-string instrument and, with this eminently affordable and tonesome example, there's no need to ask for permission from either spouse or bank. We can't recommend this bass highly enough.