With the exception of cream-of-the-crop signature artist models, Yamaha basses have tended to be fairly low profile in the general market, but undeservedly so. When compared to other offerings at similar prices, Yamaha instruments stand out in terms of construction, playability, and tone—and with the TRBX505, Yamaha has done it again. The bass seems to raise the stakes in the sub-$600 5-string category, but is it too good to be true?
Yamaha recently brought out the TRBX line as a hybrid between its TRB and RBX series basses, and the end result is a bargain bass that performs like a pro. The Indonesian-built TRBX505 follows the form of many boutique-style instruments with its ergonomic design, 24-fret fingerboard, and multi-laminate neck. The two narrow-width alnico V humbuckers give off a high-end vibe, and are positioned for a more aggressive take on the J-Bass tone. The 3-band EQ gives you the tools to make the 505 work for a wide range of styles, and the passive bypass switch gives you access to the raw tone of the pickups when needed. At the bridge, 18mm string spacing is a happy medium for most players, with enough room for slappers, but not too spread-out for chordal players or jazz soloists. The 1.75” nut creates a slim feel in the lower part of the fingerboard, and the neck’s softly rounded D-profile helps give the 505 a fast yet solid feeling. The dark satin finish allows a little grain to show through, but the subtle appearance is more durable-looking than eye-catching.
I’ll admit that when an inexpensive Asian import bass comes in, my expectations aren’t high. The world is full of competent, good-forthe- money instruments that fill the needs of less demanding players, and getting excited about yet another entrant is tough to fake, but unlike many imports, Yamaha uses its own factory for instrument building. I was happily surprised by the 505—in fact, I liked it enough to ditch the stiff factory strings and put on some Dunlop Super Brights to give it a full shot. It’s a fact of life that instruments in this price range come with rudimentary setups, and not always the best choice of strings. For a jaded reviewer, it can be tempting to leave it as is and simply plow through the job, but there was something about the 505 that told me a little attention would be worth it. While I did not go so far as to file the uneven nut slots, all it took were some new strings, a trussrod tweak, and realigning the bridge saddles to bring out more of the instrument’s potential.
The body design is modern with a firm foothold in traditional style, and it sits comfortably on a strap whether held high in jazz-fusion territory, or down low in stoner-doom turf. The neck profile has enough meat in the lower register to fill the hand, but flattens out nicely as you move up to the wider portion of the fingerboard. The five-piece construction and four counter-sunk bolts provide reassuring stiffness, greatly contributing to the excellent B string.
The TRBX plays like a bass that costs considerably more, but the tone also exceeds its humble origin. In passive mode, the humbuckers have an earthy character, and the treble control does double duty as a passive tone control. However, while most of the filtration is heard in the first half of the treble pot rotation, rolling the control fully open gives the passive tone more air. The neck pickup is positioned like the bass coil of a P-Bass pickup, and the 505 gives you that most useful of textures. The blended tone is well balanced— full, but with definition, and the bridge humbucker has predictable bite.
Turning on the preamp with the EQ flat, the bass develops a modern voice without a significant volume increase: the highs open up nicely, the mids are nicely tuned for stout articulation, and the lows bring the beef without getting muddy. Boosting the highs past 7, you can hear audible hiss—this is not a highend preamp, but it does provide good function within the range of its three bands. It was easy to summon up any kind of tone I wanted; sparkling slap, fat fingerstyle, aggressive pickstyle, and a distinct soloing voice were all within arm’s reach. The B string is well balanced and speaks with authority, yet the instrument has a clarity that would make it a good candidate for EADGC “high-five” tuning, à la Matt Garrison. Perusing YouTube for demos of this instrument, I came upon one fellow who did just that, and the chordal texture in the upper register sounded rich and intriguing. The TRBX505 certainly stands out in its modest category, but it could be an unexpected bargain for someone looking for boutiqueinspired capabilities.
Pros Comfortable to play; versatile tone
Cons At this price? None
Bottom Line A bargain bass with serious capabilities.
Neck Five-piece maple/mahogany
Scale length 34"
Neck width at nut 1.75"
String spacing 18mm
Pickups 2 HHB5 alnico V humbuckers
Hardware Die-cast black nickel
Made in Indonesia