Yamaha BBP35 5-string Electric Bass
By Chris Loeffler |
Yamaha BBP35 5-String Electric Bass
When you need to get slap-happy!
by Chris Loeffler
The YAMAHA BB series basses have been a benchmark for what a bass should be, and what bass players want. The BBs (BB stands for Broad Bass) offer the unsubtle punch players expect in a Fender with a more refined voice and expanded features. Yamaha’s newest take on its venerable workhorse adds clever twists to its established platform, with stealthy enhancements that make the Pro Series a contender for most value in its price category.
What You Need to Know
The BBP35 is a simple beast—a passive 5-string bass with a P/J pickup configuration, wired volume/volume/tone. But this year’s model brings subtle changes to the design that add to the instrument’s functionality and sound. One noticeable shift was Yamaha’s decision to use standard pickup sizes instead of the proprietary shapes of older BBs. While swapping out the stock pickups isn’t something most people do out of the box, it’s nice that they’ve made it more turn-key for those who feel compelled to customize. The Alnico V7 P/J pickups are placed in Fender-accurate positions to provide the tones you’d expect from a P Bass or the bridge pickup of a ’60s J Bass.
The three-piece body is formed by a cross section of maple sandwiched by two pieces of alder. The laminate construction adds overall stiffness as well as bite to the midrange, which helps the BB to stand out in the mix, especially when fed into an amp with a touch of gain. The neck is slimmer than previous versions, but the five-piece maple/mahogany construction keeps the neck rigid, and the six-bolt mitered neck joint makes for a solid connection. The Vintage Plus bridge permits conventional top-loaded stringing or diagonal through-the-body stringing, which makes for a more relaxed break angle over the bridge, aiding vibration transfer to the body. The bridge plate is steel for brightness and clarity, and the saddles are brass for warmth and sustain. The unique two-sided saddles offer a rounded side that purportedly gives a softer attack, while the angled side is claimed to provide a tighter sound. On the review bass, the B-string saddle was flipped to the angled side.
The open-gear-style tuners look perfectly vintage, but they’re lightweight to help balance the weight of the neck against the horn. Yamaha’s exclusive IRA (Initial Response Acceleration) treatment is applied to the instruments to mimic the break-in period by vibrating the instrument at specific frequencies to relieve internal stresses in the wood. While it’s hard to prove those claims without an A/B between the production model and a non-IRA-treated bass, my experience the BB certainly didn’t have the stiffness in response I’ve experienced with many instruments of all price points direct from the manufacturer..
The P pickup has the throaty bark and meaty grind of a classic P Bass with slightly more midrange peak than the classic it is inspired by. The bridge pickup represents the rounded snap of its vintage J forebearer, giving the BBP35 a more articulated voice for technical finger work and a more balanced B string. Like many 34” scale 5-string basses, BBP35 has a tendency to let the B get away from the rest of the strings in the neck pickup—but rolling in the bridge pickup solves this immediately, providing a versatile tone with great definition throughout the entire range.
The BBP35 feels and plays slightly smaller in scale than other basses of its ilk, which may be a turn-off to players used to massive neck lengths.
The BBP35’s volume/volume/tone controls are simple but quite effective for dialing in a blend of the two pickups. The instrument is highly responsive to the subtle shading possible with the two volume controls—users who typically solo one pickup, or run both up full, will find a surprising amount of versatility in tone with volume and tone adjustments, a veritable Swiss army knife of greatest hits. The new neck shape is comfortable, especially for players used to shorter scales, and the fingerboard’s relative flatness opens the instrument up to more expressive percussive neck work. The BBP35’s makeup and assembly are top-notch, the tones are classic and useful, and it is a joy to play. - HC -
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.