Michael Kelly Pinnacle 5 review

It is the boutique-looking five-string with the mid-range price tag

  • $799
Michael Kelly Pinnacle 5
(Image: © Michael Kelly Guitars)

MusicRadar Verdict

The Pinnacle 5 is a great value five-string that’s got those modern sounds on-tap and slinky feel that makes it an accessible, fun-but-serious option for those prizing versatility and something different from the bass world’s time-honoured archetypes. Impressive.


  • +

    Huge range of tones.

  • +

    Excellent factory setup.

  • +

    Nice and playable.

  • +

    Good value.


  • -

    Can be hard to find in some markets.

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Michael Kelly Pinnacle 5: What is it?

Michael Kelly is known for many things. But above all else, think Michael Kelly, and the name conjures a true act of sleight of hand – fancy-looking instruments at not-so-fancy prices.

The US brand’s first instruments were acoustic bass guitars and mandolins, making a name for itself through the hit Dragonfly series. By 2001, electric and acoustic guitars were on the menu, and of course, bass guitars

As Michael Kelly puts it, the mission was to design instruments that eschewed the “cookie-cutter” archetypes that dominate the market – to be “the brand of choice for those that prefer something more boutique and unique”.

 Those prices, though? No one can take issue with them; instruments such as the Pinnacle 5 bass will draw plenty of envious glances and yet, at $779, its well within the reach of the intermediate player looking to move on up from the cheap bass guitar they learned the ropes on.

Michael Kelly Pinnacle 5

(Image credit: Michael Kelly Guitars)

The Pinnacle 5 is a striking instrument, with a swamp ash body and a poplar burl top that gives it a contemporary look – and indeed one that’s unique to each instrument. 

The ebony fingerboard is a little reminiscent of vintage BC Rich with its diamond inlays, and there are glow-in-the-dark side markers to further aid navigation. It has a five-piece maple and walnut neck, which joins the body via five bolts, leaving an ergonomic heel should you find your fretting hand up in the 24th fret’s neighbourhood. 

The neck’s welcoming Thin C profile will find few complaints, and it's an invitation to investigate the full fingerboard. For good measure, you can make quick adjustments to neck relief via a heel-mounted spoke wheel.

Five-string basses can be a little intimidating for the uninitiated but the Pinnacle 5’s dimensions promise to make the transition as easy as possible, with a regular 34” long scale with the nut width of 45mm filling out to an expansive 78mm at the 24th fret.

Delivering the thump, there are a pair of custom-wound Rockfield MDC5 humbuckers positioned in the bridge and middle positions, an active preamp with 3-band EQ, blend control, a volume with a push/pull for toggling between active and passive modes, and a pair of mini-toggle switches for coil-splitting each pickup.

The hardware is Michael Kelly stock, too, with black diecast tuners and an adjustable MCN5 bridge.

Michael Kelly Pinnacle 5

(Image credit: Michael Kelly Guitars)

Michael Kelly Pinnacle 5: Performance and verdict

Heavy but balanced, the Pinnacle 5 makes for a comfortable ride. That neck profile feels just right for what Michael Kelly is going for here, and it is one that will accommodate most modern styles.

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The SUB Ray5 from Sterling offers up tones aplenty, ranging from bright and bouncy funk and pop vibes to massive, gut-wrenching rock and metal tones - all while staying within a price bracket that keeps us onside. A killer 5-string bass for beginners and pros alike, the Ray5 is a real joy to play.

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In terms of power, projection and resonance, we found the expensive five-string to have a pleasing tonal palette... Whether you are looking for your first bass, a backup instrument or just a new squeeze, this bass would suit you well in most musical areas. 

Also, that lower horn cutaway could scarcely be any deeper; it exposes the whole fingerboard, so should you feel the urge to abandon your station at the root notes, the Pinnacle 5 will supply the wind between your wings. It’s a high-performance bass. No doubt.

The factory setup is bang on. The active mode does not disappoint. The all-important low B string yields a taut and authoritative tone that’s perfectly articulated by those dual-coil humbuckers. There’s no lack of muscle on the Pinnacle 5. Basslines parked in the lowest registers have power and detail, and forays up the fingerboard are met with an impressively up-front midrange. 

As you might expect, splitting the coils trims some of that beef off, bringing in a definition to proceedings that is going to make busier passages pop. In passive mode, the power we heard earlier is tamed, and you can dial in a musical sound redolent of an old-school Precision Bass, and look to your bass amp or pedalboard to colour it after the fact. 

That’s the thing with the Pinnacle 5; you’ve got plenty of onboard options of where you want to take your sound, and how you want to play bass guitar.

MusicRadar: The Pinnacle 5 is a great value five-string that’s got those modern sounds on-tap and slinky feel that makes it an accessible, fun-but-serious option for those prizing versatility and something different from the bass world’s time-honoured archetypes. Impressive.

Michael Kelly Pinnacle 5

(Image credit: Michael Kelly Guitars)

Michael Kelly Pinnacle: The web says

“If you’re the type of player who favors the plug-and-play simplicity of a P-Bass, this instrument is not for you. However, for those rhythmic voyagers who prefer an extensive suite of tone-shaping controls at their fingertips, the Pinnacle presents an attractive option. Sturdy, playable and fitted with high-quality electronics, it is a joy to play.”
Bass Player Magazine

Michael Kelly Pinnacle: Hands-on demos

Michael Kelly Guitars

Michael Kelly Pinnacle: Specifications

  • PRICE: $799
  • MADE IN: Indonesia
  • BODY: Swamp ash with poplar burl top
  • NECK: Five-piece maple and walnut, 34” scale
  • NECK JOINT: Bolt-On
  • NUT WIDTH: 38.5mm  
  • FRETS: 24 medium jumbo frets
  • PICKUPS: 2 x Rockfield MDC5
  • ELECTRONICS: Michael Kelly 3-Band preamp
  • CONTROLS: Volume with push-pull for active/passive modes, pickup balance, three band EQ, 2 x mini toggle switches for coil split 
  • HARDWARE: MK diecast tuners, MCN5 bridge
  • WEIGHT: 9.5 lbs
  • CONTACT: Michael Kelly Guitars

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