What is it?
The Modern Vintage MVP4 is not unusual in its attempts to recreate some classic Leo Fender P-style magic. But there's something about this bass (opens in new tab) that makes it stand out from the crowd of imitators.
Maybe it's the rich caramel colour of the roasted maple neck – a luxurious alternative to the nicotine-yellow of other vintage-inspired instruments, and a spec choice we might expect from Ernie Ball Music Man.
Now if that torrified maple plants the seed that there's something different about the MVP4, then it is its feel and – related – its weight that sets it apart. Sure it's a solid alder build, but the MVP4 is light, just 3.9kg, with next to no neck dive quite possibly owing to the Hipshot Ultralite Clover Key tuners. The neck, too, is slimline, so there just feels like there's less wood.
Designed by master luthier Rob Rob Elrick and manufactured in South Korea, the Modern Vintage lineup looks to play to both sides of the aisle when it comes to gear classicists and modernists – evoking "classic guitar and bass designs that incorporate updates and improvements that effect usability without diluting the sound, look, and feel of the instruments that inspired them."
With vintage small nickel frets and bridge saddle screws, the four-ply tortoiseshell guard and the Olympic White finish, the single passive custom wound, hum-cancelling split pickup, the rosewood 'board with dot inlay, the vintage vibe is present and correct. Job done.
And we'll happily take the more contemporary easy-access dual-action truss rod for convenience's sake. Top to bottom, from the neat, cloth-covered wiring under the hood to the well-dressed frets, the MVP4 has a pristine build and finish.
Performance and verdict
The MVP4's natural tone is warm. Warm, rich in sustain, with plenty of lively resonance underpinning it all. Don't be put off by the single-pickup configuration. There's a lot of range in that tone pot and the setup encourages you to focus on your playing and find the nuances in tone there.
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Where you position your picking hand is everything. Played by the neck and the MVP4 widens out and blooms. Think Motor City, old soul, and that thick low end that's rich and treacly. But as you position yourself towards the bridge there is a lot more clarity, ideal for those busier passages that require precision and articulation.
That, of course, is hardly unique to the MVP4 or of early P-Basses, but it's particularly noticeable here that this modern build requires some old-school endeavour to get the most out of its tone. That said, even if you don't adjust your playing style, there is an abundance of usable tones at every position of the tone control.
Set full, there's a real bounce to the MVP4, a slap-friendly elasticity for funk and fusion, and this translates well to rock and punk tones when you use a pick, the extra crispness of the attack making it seem like a very different instrument from the one you were playing fingerstyle up by the neck a moment ago.
Neck profiles and playability are in the hands of the beholder, but we'd have to say the MVP4 suits the slim-profile neck. It's the most profound difference between it and the vintage counterparts that inspired it.
Having vintage tones but this slinky modern feel is something we could get used to, and if you are in the market for a pro-quality bass that's priced with wallet-realism in mind, you might want to give it a try.
MusicRadar verdict: Vintage looks, vintage tones, but with a contemporary feel and lightweight build, the MVP4 is a crowd-pleaser to bridge the generational divide between old and new schools.
There are no hands-on demos of the MVP4 just yet, but here is Ed Friedland walking through the J-style bass.
• Made In: South Korea
• Neck: Torrified Maple
• Body: Alder
• Neck Joint: Bolt-on, four bolt attachment
• Frets: 20
• Pickups: E1 x custom-wound hum-cancelling split pickup
• Controls: Volume, Tone
• Bridge: Vintage style bridge with steel saddles
• Hardware: Hipshot Ultralite Clover Key tuners
• Weight: 3.9 kg / 8.5 lbs
• Case/gig bag included: No
• Left-hand option available: No
• Contact: Sonata Marketing (opens in new tab)