Xotic has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a San Fernando Valley garage back in 1996. Originally a small company focused on producing just a few custom bass guitars and preamps, the company has expanded to include a host of instruments and effects. Due to a friend owning a few custom Xotics, I’ve spent some time onstage with a couple of Xotic basses—a custom 6-string J-style and a 4-string P-style. I was impressed by their feel, tone, and playability. Since I’m a huge fan of the FSO (Fender Shaped Object) market, I’m always thrilled to see how luthiers augment and improve upon Leo’s design. I had yet to get my hands on an Xotic 5-string, however, so I was excited to try out the newest model, the XJPro-1 ProVintage 5. I was impressed by every aspect of this bass. Over the previous month, I have played this bass probably every day for no other reason than I just couldn’t keep my hands off it. Yeah, it’s that nice.
The first thing I noticed when shouldering the bass was how balanced and light it felt. Although clearly a Fender-inspired instrument, it comes in two pounds lighter than my own Fender Roscoe Beck V. That’s over a 20 percent weight decrease, which is no small matter to my back. The bass sports a maple neck and fingerboard, and if you know anything about that combo, you know it lends itself to a clear and punchy response. Pair that with a traditional Jazz Bass-type ash body and Xotic’s single coil vintage pickups, and you get a bass that easily carves its own sonic path on the bandstand.
The D-shaped neck offers a wider overall feel across its width, but it’s thinner front-to-back than a traditional C-shape, and that serves the bass well. The frets on our test bass were consistent up and down the neck, as the XJPro-1s come already Plek’d (an automated, precision fret-leveling process that costs around $300 to have done locally). I also appreciated the lack of finish on the back of the neck, preferring the natural feel of wood to that of gloss on my fretting hand.
I played the bass acoustically at first and immediately noticed the heightened resonance within the neck and body, especially in the low end. Plugging the bass into a 2x12 combo confirmed this as I began playing notes on the B string. The low C rang out clear and full, not woofy, and the sustain was pronounced. I held that note there for a bit, letting it resonate and sustain beautifully through the amp. Interested to explore more low-end tones, I rolled in more bass via the active preamp, delighted at how the instrument stayed punchy even as it dug down low. Curious to see how the XJPro-1 would sit with other instruments, I took it to a rehearsal one night, and the guitar player couldn’t stop commenting on how good the bass sounded, especially in the lower register. He wasn’t the only admirer: That same week, one of Nashville’s studio aces popped by my house and, upon seeing the bass in the corner, asked if he could try it out. He dug it so much that he took it to a studio session Gretchen Wilson was producing that week and cut two tracks with it.
Since the bass felt and sounded as good as the Xotic custom basses I had previously played, I assumed it was one of the company’s California-made custom basses, which typically cost $3,500–$4,500—and was surprised to learn that the street price for this model is $1,390. That’s because these instruments are assembled in Indonesia, but they are Plek’d, inspected, and set up at the California shop. The lower price puts the XPJ in the same range as several quality midrange 5-string axes, but with features normally seen only in custom-ordered instruments.
While clearly a Leo-inspired bass, the Xotic XJPro-1’s updated neck profile, 10" fingerboard radius, precision fretwork, hand-wound pickups, and other custom-style accruements take a tried-and-true formula to a higher level. The result is a wonderfully light, resonant, punchy, vintage-style instrument that won’t break your back. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer 5-string bass in this price range.
Pros Hand-wound pickups, Plek’d fingerboard, gorgeous finish, lightweight
Bottom Line A stylish, powerfully resonant, vintage-style bass with custom stylings.
Scale length 34"
Fingerboard radius 10"
Width of nut 1.85"
String spacing at bridge 18mm
Weight 9.2 lbs
Pickups Hand-wound (in L.A.) Raw Vintage JB-5N (neck), JB-5B (bridge)
Tone controls Volume, tone, blend, 3-band EQ w/active/passive control
Power 18 volts
Made in Indonesia (inspected and set up in USA)