‘Marcus Miller’s Sire J-Bass model has been widely admired since its launch for its practical playability and no-nonsense price point.
It doesn’t seek to refine the J envelope or stray away from the 60-year-old template, and it doesn’t break the bank either – which begs the question of how far it can evolve, now that it’s been established.
This short-scale variant may be the answer to that question, with a 30” scale that guarantees a rather different feel to that of its grown-up sibling. Get your thumbs ready – we’re going in...
The passive MM U5 – a four-string, despite its name – is built in Indonesia, enabling its relatively low pricetag, but that doesn’t mean it plays like a cheap bass.
On the contrary: its alder body features a flamed maple top and binding that give it a tangibly lustrous feel under the fingers. The tobacco sunburst finish, or Sire’s take on that design at least, is enhanced by the tiger stripes across the body, and the rear finish – a deep mahogany color – complements a modicum of abdomen-friendly chamfering.
The three volume, volume, tone controls, tuners, and bridge are unspectacularly functional, and do their expected job at this price point. They’re all solidly built, and in fact the bass might have benefited from less heavyweight tuners: there’s a definite neck-dive here thanks to the chunky headstock. Otherwise, everything feels and operates just as it should.
Sounds And Playability
For a passive bass, the tone control supplies a hell of a boost in either direction, to the point where you check the rear of the instrument, wondering if you missed the battery compartment. All credit to Sire for the excellent tone range, especially given that short-scale instruments aren’t generally known for this.
You can blend the two pickups, and you’ll have some fun doing this: give the low E some top end and it rewards you with a bright, present sound that begs you to give it a thump and a pluck, Marcus-style. Try this and you’ll enjoy the main benefit of this 30” scale – the lower tension that allows you to bend strings to your heart’s content.
Sure, the frets are a little closer together than usual and you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled, but you can handle that, right? One last point in the U5’s favor is that its fretboard comes with rolled edges, and not just the slight camber that we’re accustomed to: these edges are truly rolled off, with a tangible slope that adds grip.
Rolled board edges aren’t for everyone, of course, but if you enjoy the feel of a round rather than flat neck, you’ll have a field day here.
It’s easy to be impressed with this instrument. The tones are better than you’d expect, the playability scores high and the price is very reasonable.
As we say every time we run up against a short-scale instrument – a frequent occurrence lately – there seems to be a willingness in our community to try short scales these days, and why not? We literally can’t see a downside, unless you demand an extreme tone spectrum, in which case you can reach for your favorite preamp.
- PRICE: $499 / £399
- MADE IN: Indonesia
- BODY: Spruce and mahogany
- NECK: Maple, 30” scale
- FINGERBOARD: Maple, 20 frets
- PICKUP: Sire Marcus Super PJ Revolution
- CONTROLS: Volume, volume, tone
- HARDWARE: Sire tuners and bridge
- LEFT-HANDED MODELS?: Yes
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No
- CONTACT: Sire