Mike Lull has been flying under the
mainstream radar and making
superb basses and guitars for almost two
decades now. His basses are revered in the
low-end community and are the go-to for a
number of top players because of how well
he fine-tunes features to yield instruments
that feel like upscale variations of basses
made famous in Fullerton. Lull does all
the designing and building himself, and in
doing so, has made his name synonymous
with tone and reliability.
Those familiar with Lull’s work tend to
know of his P- and J-style offerings, while
his T-bird-style designs are popular in a
more specialized niche. The mad scientist
in all of us can dream of combining the
favorite characteristics of classic designs, but
with the JT5-24, Mike Lull actually takes
that plunge with a nod to Dr. Moreau.
On the surface, the JT5-24 is a simple,
elegant instrument with clean lines and a
gorgeous tobacco-burst finish, but something
is amiss—in a good way. Are those
T-bird pickups on a J-style body? Are you
even allowed to do that?
Ain’t That Tough Enough?
The notion of modding a production
model in-house is nothing new—Henry
Ford probably lowered a Model T and put
in a bigger engine way back when. Lull’s
“engine” comes in the form of a pair of
custom T-Bass pickups, and the “chassis” is
based on the J-style bodies used for some of
his other models. But two subtle differences
also make this bass special: It’s a 5-string,
and the 35" scale allows for a 24-fret, twooctave
The JT5-24, like all of Lull’s basses, is
handsomely designed. From its Hipshot
Ultralite tuners to the strap locks and its
aluminum bridge, every detail has been
given proper attention. The low-profile,
C-shaped neck is constructed of beautiful
quilted maple that’s reinforced with graphite,
and up top it sports a bone nut to boot.
As an added bonus, all Mike Lull basses feature
frets that are precision leveled using a
Plek machine, which ensures better intonation
and lower action than manual dressing.
When I flipped the JT5-24 over, I
noticed a couple other notable things, too.
The first was the single ferrule for the low
B string. The second was the battery compartment
above the control cavity. Since
this is a passive bass, I was puzzled by the
latter and had to immediately have a look.
It turns out Lull was thinking of expansion
when constructing the bass: Players who
wish to add active tone circuits will have
an easy time of it thanks to the included
compartment (the JT5-24 can be ordered
with Bartolini or Aguilar active circuits
from the outset, too). While the layout of
the control cavity was clean and soldered
perfectly, I did notice that the electrostatic
shielding was flaking in spots—not a huge
issue, but it could pose a little trouble
with cleanup later on. Lull states that the
shielding paint is actually underneath the
finish paint, so as to not have any flaking
problems. Any visible shielding paint
would have been put on afterwards—just
around the ground lug—as a safety measure
Fun, Fun, Fun, till …
After a slight setup (the bass arrived with
the action at a finger-touch level), I was
ready to hear this JT5 and get my T-bird
on. The dual T-bird-style pickups are
wound to the same specs as ’60s-era pickups,
and they’ve reportedly been reverseengineered
to faithfully reproduce the originals.
And you know what? They sounded
pretty damn good.
Tested through an Eden 115XLT cab
pushed by either a Gallien-Krueger MB800
or an Eden WTX-500 head, the T-Bass
pickups produced a punchy, thick tone
that was absolutely reminiscent of another
era—which was definitely strange, since
the meaty T-bird-like sounds were coming
from a J-shaped instrument. While I had to
spend a little time getting comfortable with
the string spacing, which was just a touch
wide for my taste, I was ready to find out
what the JT5 could do.
What I found out was that this bass was
built to rock. Hard. Starting with the neck
pickup’s volume and the tone knob at the
halfway mark, the bass sounded fantastic.
The warmth and roundness of each note hit
a soft place in my heart—the JT5-24 wonderfully
captures the essence of a bygone
time—but the addition of the low B string
yields an instrument that goes beyond the
limitations of the past. The low B was tight,
sustained for days, and added a modern
twist to the T-bird-esque sound.
When I pushed the bridge pickup
to join its twin, the tones became more
modern and pronounced—but not to the
point of losing the classic vibe. Even with
the tone knob cranked, the bass did not
get out of control. The overall tone was
more mainstream, and that flexibility is
nice—especially if this were to be your
Both fingerstyle and pick players will
feel right at home with the JT5-24. The
35" scale and string spacing—which you’ll
recall I thought would bother me initially—
ended up not being an issue at all,
and the neck was lightning fast. Although
I personally don’t play with a pick, the
low B just loves the plectrum, and I could
imagine the resulting sound all over rock
records. The only drawback I could possibly
foresee for thumpers out there is
that the massive T-Bass pickups and the
limited space between the neck pickup’s
housing and the neck might make it difficult
to get under the strings and really
dig in without banging the pickup covers.
That said, I haven’t seen a lot of bassist
slapping away on a T-Bird lately, so it’s
probably not a big issue.
Mike Lull has been improving on traditional
designs for years, and with the JT5-
24, he has taken some of those “what if ”
questions and moved the ideas into reality.
The craftsmanship is undoubtedly topnotch,
and the appointments are fantastic.
It’s like a T-bird, but without the T-bird
elements that some players dislike. The
contoured, J-style design will please players
looking for that tone in a more traditional
and ergonomic body shape.
In the end, I concluded that the JT5-
24 is most at home with the beefy tone
from the neck pickup. While I appreciated
being able to add a midrange spike with the
bridge pickup, I found myself rolling it off
more often than not. But in this case, that’s
not a bad thing at all.