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Yamaha has produced a number of important instruments during its rich history, yet none are quite as endearing as the Yamaha BB electric bass. Played in school bands and on professional stages around the world, it has certainly left its mark in bass history. Having gone through various changes since the late ’80s, the most recent incarnation of the BB Series—the 1025X 5-string (the 4-string BB1024X is also available)— combines the best of the BB’s predecessors with some unique design enhancements.
The Next Generation
Surveying the BB1025X’s landscape, it’s clear that Yamaha wanted to appeal to players preferring a vintage look. The familiar body style of our review bass was dressed in a funky carmel-brown finish and adorned with a black pickguard that smoothly transitions downward to the control cavity’s metal cover. Yamaha opted for a satin finish on the 5-piece nato and maple neck (which also features a rosewood fretboard and a nickel-silver nut), and Yamaha’s recognizable headstock is home to clover tuners in a four-over-one configuration. Add the attractive oval-shaped pearl inlays, and you have a bass with timeless style.
Besides pleasing vintage aesthetics, a closer look also reveals the 1025X to be well built. Not content with simply gluing the body woods together, Yamaha connects the BB’s 3-piece alder body with maple splines. Yamaha believes this improves the transfer of body vibrations by doing its best to act like a 1-piece body. Transmitting the vibrations of the strings is enhanced further by the placement the BB’s bridge entirely on the body’s center piece, thereby minimizing the possible hindrance that glue lines can place on the body.
Speaking of the bridge, the BB’s redesigned brass-and-steel bridge also has some distinctive improvements: The saddles are cut in a way that creates both a better contact point and more string vibration. And while most string-through bridges direct the string at close to a 90-degree angle, Yamaha angles the strings at 45 degrees to minimize string tension and further transmit vibrations throughout the bass.
Yamaha also gave the BB’s passive electronics a facelift, using a combination of magnets to highlight the best tonal qualities of each blade pickup. The P-style pickup uses alnico 5 magnets that contribute to the 1025X’s deep, growling characteristics, while the J-style pickup is loaded with ceramic magnets to enhance its punchy snarl.
Big Bad BB
Out of its gigbag—which was of surprisingly good quality—our test bass had some weight to it at a touch over 10 pounds. While that’s nothing new to me as a frequent user of ’70s Fender basses, it could be enough to strain a shoulder for the uninitiated. The 1025X’s finish was clean, all hardware was installed solidly, and it had a comfortable setup. With everything going right for the BB’s construction, it was a little disappointing to find a pair of unfinished spots on the neck behind the 8th and 13th frets. Though noticeable when navigating the fretboard, the rough spots were not enough to be bothersome.
Another niggle is that, when playing the BB sitting down, its headstock tilted considerably toward the floor, and it only stayed balanced in playing position when I set my right forearm on the body or supported the neck with my the fretting hand. Conversely, the BB1025X sat in playing position nicely when using a strap, staying in place with a slight upward angle regardless of body movement. While it may not be quite ergonomic enough in that regard for, say, high-angle-playing fans of Patitucci or Gary Willis, its balance should satisfy most players.
Whether you use a fingerstyle, thumb, or picking technique, the 1025X is one seriously versatile bass. Using an Analysis Plus Yellow Oval cable to plug into a Phil Jones D-600 head driving a pair of Glockenklang Space Deluxe 1x12 cabs, I found that the Yamaha delivered the sorts of warm tones you’d expect from the alder/ rosewood combination, but veering a bit toward the dark side. The P-style pickup boasted growly mids and a solid low-end foundation. The soloed J-style pickup produced a bit of the typical single-coil hum but, on the plus side, it responded with classic tones—a low-mid bump and a stout bark. Combining the two pickups resulted in a warmer, less aggressive sound with a nicely present top end.
The neck’s shallow C profile gradually flattens out past the 12th fret, making it easy to shift on, and the Jazz-bass-style spacing allowed for easy navigation of the fretboard. Nearly all of the notes were easily accessible, with only the top three notes of the 5th string requiring a slight adjustment in fretting hand technique. And speaking of the 5th string, the 1025X’s had impressive note definition for its class. Clear, chromatic movement could be heard in the lower register, and the subsequent notes on the string did not have that dull, thuddy tone that often plagues 5-string basses.
Walkin’ with My BB
Historically, BB basses have been known to suit nearly any genre, and the tradition continues here. With a jazz quartet, I got stylistically satisfying tones by rolling off the tone knob, engaging both pickups, and applying savvy thumb muting. The bass also sounded excellent playing a modern-country show, where ballads were supported by the P-style pickup, and up-tempo tunes were treated to punchier tones from the J-style unit. I also had fun dropping 5th-string bombs during a classic-rock gig. The 1025X sounded absolutely beastly through an Ampeg SVT, delivering everything from overdriven, grinding pick tones to deep, Phil Lesh-like warmth. In all of these settings, the upper notes from the 1st string tended to disappear a little in the mix, but a little compression put some punch back into them.
While the BB1025X maintains some classic traits of the BB Series, its creators did not rest on their laurels. It has practical features, nice looks, and solid playability, and its versatility makes it an ideal choice for players who prefer to use one bass for an entire show, or bassists who have to change styles quickly. All in all, the BB1025X is a nice addition to the BB family and another fine Yamaha offering worth checking out.