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 Post subject: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 25th, 2015, 12:07 pm 
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At long last, my review. :D

Apologies for not getting to this sooner, as I'm long overdue for this review, but I wanted to take some time with it and gig out a bit before writing as thorough (and long winded) a review as possible. Hopefully this suffices. For simplicity, I’ve given each category a star rating on a scale of 1* to 5*.

Background: I wanted to acquire another gig worthy Jazz bass for my now (finally!) busy gigging schedule, since I have to consider my '72 J is a bit too valuable to risk bringing out regularly at this point. I had previously owned a Squire Vintage Modified J, which I liked, so I considered buying another one before reading glowing reviews and specs on the new Sire basses.

Sire is a new company founded by Ceo Kyle. He partnered with legendary bassist Marcus Miller about 2 years ago in an effort to deliver high quality yet affordable instruments to the masses. First basses hit the market in early 2015. I won't take up any more space telling his story here, but it's an interesting read so I encourage you to check it out: http://marcusmillerbysire.com/marcusmil ... about.html. The website is exceedingly well-designed and informative, with 1 caveat (I’ll explain later).

The V7 model specifically, is offered in several different wood/finish options, either 4 or 5 string. They are now also offering fretless models too for pre-order. Instruments are manufactured in Indonesia, and can only be purchased via their website to date. (http://marcusmillerbysire.com/marcusmil ... us_v7.html). They have a 30 day return policy and it’s my understanding the instruments have a lifetime warranty, though I haven’t confirmed that yet. I opted for a rosewood bound neck and tobacco sunburst finish because I wanted a different flavor from my maple neck '72 J. But more importantly, EVERY model they make is available left handed, so there’s no lack of options for us. When was the last time you saw a company, let alone a startup company, offer all their models left handed?

*****Stars for that alone.

Specs:
body: north american alder or swamp ash; top load or string through
neck: 1 piece hard maple with rosewood or maple bound fretboards with black block or pearl inlays
binding: 1 ply ivory(plastic)
radius: C shape, 7.25”
scale: 34”
frets: medium small, 20
nut: natural bone, 38mm width
neck joint: 4 bolt steel square plate
pickups: Miller Super Jazz (their own design)
bridge: Miller Big Mass (their own design similar to Badass II)
electronics: passive/active Marcus Heritage 3 preamp with mid frequency control. Powered by 18v (2 9v batteries).
tuners: premium open gear
pickguard: 3 ply tortoise

Initial impressions: My CS rep, Mickey Cho, was quite amicable and did a great job keeping me informed about shipping, tracking, etc. Placed the order on 6/26 and it shipped 7/13 (lefties were slightly back ordered). Arrived on 7/17. With great anticipation, I tore open my newly arrived V7 box and dove in. It comes shipped in a nice sturdy box with an illustration of Marcus on it and a gig bag. The gig bag, truthfully, is “serviceable” at best. Nothing special and not on the same quality level as, say, the gig bag that comes standard with a G&L Tribute L2000, for example. After unwrapping the bass I check it for weight, feel, etc. It’s around 9-9-1/2 lb range - right in line with my other Jazzes. There is no warranty card or brochure enclosed to speak of, other than a tag indicating that the bass comes pre-strung with D’Addarios. Perhaps a deliberate attempt to go green by Sire? Not sure exactly what D’Addarios they are either, but I personally don’t care for them. (Some lower grade D’Addario?). Not a problem for me, as I intended to change them out for Elixirs anyway. It also comes with a chrome pickup cover uninstalled (body’s not predrilled) and 2 allen wrenches for adjusting the truss rod and bridge saddles. Truss rod is at the heel of the neck and easily accessible via a body/pickguard route. I believe the bass comes with a lifetime warranty, but I haven’t confirmed that yet. I’ll contact Mickey about that.

The neck, body, etc. feel very familiar to me too. It’s a Jazz bass, so luckily no surprises in the feel of the neck, width, etc. So I bring the bass up to tune, which truthfully seems to take longer than usual with these tuning machines. They seem to work fine, but are a bit “fussy”. I see no difference in their ratio from a standard Fender tuner, but they’re just a bit more temperamental and require more turns to get me there. Haven’t decided if I’ll keep them or not. Anyway, bass is in tune I start noodling and it’s BUZZ CITY all over the neck. Really really bad! I fully expect to do minor adjustments on most basses when they first arrive, but this bass is virtually unplayable and THE worst I’ve ever encountered on any bass. I check the neck relief, intonation, etc. and there’s nothing going on there that strikes me as too far off. There’s a slight forward upward bow, so I cut back on that, adjust the saddles again, leave it alone for a few hours, etc. I did this 2 or 3 more times over the next few days until I got it at least acceptable, but it’s not happening, and there’s still major buzzing going on with the A and E strings around the first 4 frets. Bad nut? I dunno, but I’ve done all that I think I can do and I send it off to my tech with the instructions: “Let me know if this bass is okay or if I need to send it back to Sire within the 30 day window I have.” So I was pretty bummed at this point, but tonally at least I can hear it has potential. :(

*star…for now

A week later he calls me back and says, “Your bass is fine. You had a major forward bow going on but I adjusted it further. Action’s low, no buzzing now. BTW, how much did you pay for this bass again?!” He’s blown away by it, and this coming from a guy who slams every Asian made instrument that crosses his bench. I basically didn’t adjust it far enough, thinking I had gone pretty far already. I still won’t negate the fact that it arrived in pretty bad shape though, but coming from Indonesia, then to California, and finally arriving in 90 degree NJ weather, etc. might have contributed to the poor setup.

At any rate: *star for initial setup, ****1/2 for final setup

Playability/Neck: If you’re a J bass fan, especially a bound neck, you’re gonna LOVE this. It’s immediately comfortable and familiar. Fretwork is smooth and exceptional; Inlays are real abalone; Rosewood board is a nice deep dark chocolate, yum! Back of neck is a gloss finish, which I personally prefer. I don’t care for the headstock design though, but I knew what it looked like before buying and was willing to live with it. Reminds me of a “subtle” attempt at a Warwick Buzzard bass headstock. Meh. Marcus Millers’s name is the largest font on it too. The neck, over time, does seem to need minor adjustments here and there every few weeks or so. Maybe it’s all the heat and humidity we’ve been having here on the East coast. Nothing too difficult to correct, however.

****stars

Wood/Finish: they call the finish tobacco sunburst. It’s not, IMO, at least not what I’ve come to accept as tobacco burst. It’s closer to a standard sunburst finish, albeit a bit brighter, more orange and :sunnier”, and more of a burgundy at the edges. On the back of the bass there’s no sunburst at all, it’s a fairly solid burgundy. Nevertheless, it’s a nice attractive finish, and it’s very well done. On mine, the overall wood matching is good but not perfect. I believe the body’s constructed of 3 pieces of alder, but truthfully I can only spot 2. There’s a slight noticeable dividing line on the face of the bass just about 2” above the bridge, but you can’t really see it from a distance. I personally hate lousy book matching, but anyone who’s ever owned a Les Paul guitar is probably better equipped to accept this than me, LOL. I only bring this up because neither of my Fender J’s exhibit any noticeable wood division. Am I gonna complain about it on a $399 bass? Not really. It’s still far better than the Squire Js I’ve seen and owned. There’s a nice amount of show through alder wood grain keeping the instrument attractive and warm. Pick guard’s a really nice tortoise shell too and compliments the bass well. One thing I don’t like, however, and it’s one of the reasons why I specifically chose the sunburst/rosewood combo, is the dopey truss rod body/pickguard route. While it’s certainly a great useful design, why paint the inside of the route black? On mine, it’s far less egregious than on other finishes, but go look at some of their lighter, solid color finishes online and you’’ll see what I mean. They practically bring attention to it. (Hey, everyone, check out the gaping hole in my bass!). (Update: looking at photos on their website recently, I don't see painted truss rod wells anymore, so perhaps they were aware of this and revised it?) Body is also routed with string thru option. I may try that down the road to see if there’s any noticeable sound/playability differences or not.

****stars

Hardware: All hardware seems solidly built and rugged, especially the bridge, which is Sire’s own proprietary take on a Badass II-type design. Verdict’s still out on the tuners, however, which I already mentioned. Even after new strings and setup, I find the play in them a bit temperamental. They hold tune reasonably well, but not as well as a stock Fender tuner, and it takes me longer to get the bass tuned than a typical J. We’ll see if they drive me nuts over time or not.

****stars

Electronics: Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty! On board, you have Sire’s proprietary Marcus Heritage-3 band active/passive preamp (single knob bass, treble boost/cut knobs, single knob PUP blend, stacked master volume/treble knobs) with active/passive switch and a stacked knob middle boost/cut and mid frequency knob. The middle frequency control knob allows the player to set sound frequency anywhere between 200HM~1K HZ. Truthfully, I’m still learning how to use the mid options, and since the bass did not come with any documentation I had to hunt and peck for the preamp info online since it’s a confusing layout at first. (That's my 1 caveat: you'll be referring to the website often at first to get info). The preamp is powered by two 9v batteries easily accessible via flip open cavity lids on the back of the bass. 1/4” input jack is located on the side of the bass not front like a standard Jazz, but I think it helps keep the overall aesthetic look clean yet still traditional looking, despite being a non-traditional designed J bass. Pickups are Sire’s own design, and the tone is a classic Jazz in passive and a surprisingly transparent in active too, maintaining the classic Jazz tones with a clean, QUIET, organic tone. The boost in output, however, is pretty strong, so if you’re switching from active to passive midway in a set remember to dial back your volume since you could clip your amp. The only criticism I have is the pickup blend pot. While the taper’s better than most I’ve encountered in this kind of setup/price range, I much prefer the traditional independent volume control over each PUP you get in a standard Jazz configuration, as the blend quickly goes hard in either direction with even the most minute of adjustments and you can’t get the same variety offered in a two volume pot PUP setup. But overall, extremely versatile, and I can’t see anyone not being able to nail down virtually any tone in their head with the active preamp. (I’m even copping very convincing Stingray tones). A peak inside the control cavity reveals a very well assembled and clean setup too.

****1/2 stars

Sound: Killer! Killer! Killer! Sire clearly spent some time nailing down everything that makes a great J bass tone and then some. The active preamp tones are transparent, organic, versatile, and WAY better than Fender’s active Deluxe J, IMO. In conjunction with the rosewood neck, it’s just what the doctor ordered: classic J tones with nice warm thump and attack. Pluck it, slap it, pick it, throw whatever you like at it and it delivers BIG time. I can only imagine the maple fretboard model sounds killer too. The bass is super quiet too, even in active mode, and more so than my passive Fender Js. I only encountered 60 cycle hum once in a room notorious for having lousy grounding and with the treble boost pinned. (Purely as an experiment. You’ll never need to boost any signal beyond 25-40% anyway, IMO, as it goes pretty extreme). Live, I’m running it through my Eden Navigator preamp powered by my resurrected ’86 GK 400RB head, but I’ve also run it straight into the GK, driving either my Eden 4x10” or new Fender 1x15” Rumbler cabs, borrowing other rigs, recording DI, etc. and it sounds amazing in all instances.

*****stars

Conclusion: This is not only a great inexpensive J bass, this is a great J bass PERIOD! In fact, one of the best sounding/playing Js Ive ever encountered. The build, attention to detail, etc. just SLAYS the competition. It easily surpasses the Squier, MIMs, and many MIJ and MIA Js I’ve encountered, and when you consider it’s competing with Squires and MIMs at a price point starting at only $399 AND it comes with killer on board active electronics too, it’s a no brainer. You simply won’t find at better bass at this price point with these features anywhere. I'm seriously thinking about getting a maple one and fretless now, but I need another bass like a hole in the head. :lol: My advice: Spend time getting it set up in case you encounter the same problems I did, as most are probably easily corrected.

Verdict: BUY IT!

If I missed anything, ask away. I’ll post some more pix, sound/video bites when I get a chance.

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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 25th, 2015, 2:43 pm 
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Yea-heahh! Funkin' good review! Thank YOU! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 25th, 2015, 2:59 pm 
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Sounds great overall, but the fact that the necks seems to be unstable is bothersome. Will you follow up on this later and let us know if the neck remains settled?

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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 25th, 2015, 5:57 pm 
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pjmuck wrote:

The neck, over time, does seem to need minor adjustments here and there every few weeks or so.



As a Wisconsin guy, dealbreaker.

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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 25th, 2015, 7:05 pm 
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Matt R. wrote:
Sounds great overall, but the fact that the necks seems to be unstable is bothersome. Will you follow up on this later and let us know if the neck remains settled?


Most of the neck adjustment issues were prior to getting my tech to look at it. I just got the bass back from him 2 weeks ago and put a new set of Elixirs on last week and so far so good, but I will post any updates if the issue continues.


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 25th, 2015, 7:42 pm 
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Great review Peter, thanks! I want to hear one of these.


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 25th, 2015, 10:53 pm 
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Great review! Thanks Peter!


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 26th, 2015, 9:55 am 
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+1 on the review kudos.

you mention "The only criticism I have is the pickup blend pot. While the taper’s better than most I’ve encountered in this kind of setup/price range, I much prefer the traditional independent volume control over each PUP you get in a standard Jazz configuration, as the blend quickly goes hard in either direction with even the most minute of adjustments and you can’t get the same variety offered in a two volume pot PUP setup. "

Perhaps they are right handed pots wired ass-backwards?


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 26th, 2015, 10:53 am 
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AzWhoFan wrote:
Perhaps they are right handed pots wired ass-backwards?

I don't understand why manufacturers do this. Having pots rotate the opposite direction is not a big deal. Having righty pots wired lefty makes them effectively useless.

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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 26th, 2015, 10:04 pm 
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AzWhoFan wrote:
Perhaps they are right handed pots wired ass-backwards?


I don't think so, Marc. Wouldn't that imply that a left handed blend pot would properly turn clockwise (towards the bridge) to engage more neck PUP, and visa versa? The way it's set up now seems right to me: the more you turn the knob towards the neck PUP the more neck PUP you get, and the more you turn it towards the bridge the more bridge PUP you get. Or am I missing something?

In all instances the active preamp knobs turn counter-clockwise to boost signals (B/M/M/T), however the master volume/tone knobs (either passive/active) turn clockwise to boost. :?:


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 26th, 2015, 11:13 pm 
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Good review, Peter. Thanks for taking the time to post this.


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 27th, 2015, 8:00 am 
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pjmuck wrote:
AzWhoFan wrote:
Perhaps they are right handed pots wired ass-backwards?


I don't think so, Marc. Wouldn't that imply that a left handed blend pot would properly turn clockwise (towards the bridge) to engage more neck PUP, and visa versa? The way it's set up now seems right to me: the more you turn the knob towards the neck PUP the more neck PUP you get, and the more you turn it towards the bridge the more bridge PUP you get. Or am I missing something?

In all instances the active preamp knobs turn counter-clockwise to boost signals (B/M/M/T), however the master volume/tone knobs (either passive/active) turn clockwise to boost. :?:

OY! counter-clockwise knobs boost indicate correct pots IMO. Sounds to me like you'd have to look at the pot codes to know exactly what's going on in there :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 27th, 2015, 8:11 am 
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pjmuck wrote:
Matt R. wrote:
Sounds great overall, but the fact that the necks seems to be unstable is bothersome. Will you follow up on this later and let us know if the neck remains settled?


Most of the neck adjustment issues were prior to getting my tech to look at it. I just got the bass back from him 2 weeks ago and put a new set of Elixirs on last week and so far so good, but I will post any updates if the issue continues.



Gotcha. Thanks again for your review, I'm pretty sure I'll grab a fiver at some point. May set it up tuned EADGC.

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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: August 27th, 2015, 8:51 pm 
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Thanks for that detailed review my man, so appreciated!

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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2015, 5:45 am 
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Really informative review, thanks.

Regarding the pots, you state: "In all instances the active preamp knobs turn counter-clockwise to boost signals (B/M/M/T), however the master volume/tone knobs (either passive/active) turn clockwise to boost".

So they've reversed the pots for the pre-amplifier but not reversed the master tone and volume? Sounds odd, I'd have thought those were the easy ones ones to do properly. (edit: I see they are stacked so maybe not so simple)


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: September 3rd, 2015, 7:12 am 
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Well I stand corrected. The master vol/tone knobs DO turn counter-clockwise, however, they are obviously not a boost but a level control for each. Thus, in a fully clockwise position your volume is completely off and you tone/treble is fully down. I got confused because the active pots naturally either boost or cut your EQ frequencies depending on which direction you're heading before or past 12 0'clock. Sorry for the confusion.


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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: October 11th, 2015, 8:34 pm 
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Matt R. wrote:
pjmuck wrote:
Matt R. wrote:
Sounds great overall, but the fact that the necks seems to be unstable is bothersome. Will you follow up on this later and let us know if the neck remains settled?


Most of the neck adjustment issues were prior to getting my tech to look at it. I just got the bass back from him 2 weeks ago and put a new set of Elixirs on last week and so far so good, but I will post any updates if the issue continues.



Gotcha. Thanks again for your review, I'm pretty sure I'll grab a fiver at some point. May set it up tuned EADGC.


PJ, just curious about the neck-stability issue you mentioned... how has it been since the setup?

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 Post subject: Re: Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass
PostPosted: November 16th, 2015, 3:22 pm 
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pjmuck wrote:
Well I stand corrected. The master vol/tone knobs DO turn counter-clockwise, however, they are obviously not a boost but a level control for each. Thus, in a fully clockwise position your volume is completely off and you tone/treble is fully down. I got confused because the active pots naturally either boost or cut your EQ frequencies depending on which direction you're heading before or past 12 0'clock. Sorry for the confusion.
So, just to be sure...ALL pots turn UP by turning Counter-Clockwise? This is a real pet peeve of mine...


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