Marcus Miller knows a thing or two about Jazz basses. So when Sire Guitars set out to create a J-style line, they consulted with the respected player to assist in the design and development. The goal was to create a well-crafted instrument with a heavy dose of inspiration from the classic J-style formula, yet with some modern enhancements. It also had to be financially feasible for just about any player. Could Sire achieve all this to stand out amidst a crowded field of J-style basses? Short answer: Yes.
All Miller, No Filler
Like Miller’s cherished ’77 Fender Jazz, the Sire V7 oozes timeless style. The body of our V7 test bass was carved from swamp ash, dressed in a beautiful tobacco-sunburst finish, and topped with an ivory pearl pickguard that adds decorative flair. (Alder construction and other finishes are available.) The one-piece hard-maple neck supports a maple fretboard that’s adorned with pearloid-block inlays and a natural-bone nut. While 3-bolt necks were commonly used on mid-to-late ’70s Fender J basses, Sire opted for a standard 4-bolt joint.
The Sire V7’s electronics package mixes tradition and today’s technology. The Marcus Super Jazz pickups are made with fiber bobbins, alnico 5 magnets, and heavy formvar wire to replicate classic J-style tone. Miller’s input inspired the Marcus Heritage-3 18V preamp that has a sweepable-mid EQ stack in a 3-band package, and a main-tone control that also works in active mode.
The V7’s hardware is quite nice for an instrument in this price range. Sire and Miller came up with an excellent high-mass bridge that combines simplicity, stability, and string-through capability. The open-gear tuners felt solid and instilled confidence that they could handle string tension over time.
When I first pulled the V7 out of the case, it felt a touch body heavy. This turned out to be advantageous in terms of balance since the V7 held its position extremely well in both seated and strapped orientations. In fact, the extra mass made it easier to maintain a comfortable playing posture, which allowed my left hand to move freely across the neck and effortlessly access all parts of the fretboard. The C-shape neck and 7.25" inch radius should please J aficionados, and the neck’s glossy finish never felt sticky.
Of all that Miller’s signature bass has to offer, the most impressive aspect was the electronics. The preamp is voiced to near perfection with the J-style pickups, and I really dig the inclusion of the tone control that functions in both passive andactive mode. The added dimensions it offers can change the character of the instrument or work as a quick problem solver for bright or boomy rooms. The bass control contains huge lows and it didn’t take much at all to bring some big bottom to the tone. And the treble dial serves up modern sizzle for adding edge to fingerstyle playing or brightness to pops while trying to cop a favorite Miller riff.
The standout component of the preamp for me is the stacked-mid section. Since I believe the mids are such an essential part of bass tone, the midrange flexibility that the Heritage-3 offers is a thoughtful feature. If I had to make any gripes at all about the preamp, they’d be small ones: The bottom controls of the stacked knobs were a little difficult to access and the wires to the battery clips were rather short.
Getting familiar with the V7 took no time at all, so I felt confident taking it out to an 11-piece horn-band show and a performance with a blues quintet. For both gigs, I plugged the V7 into the same rig I used at home: an Epifani UL501 head (set flat) driving two Bergantino HD112s.
Miller’s signature bass impressed at both shows. The EQ accommodated every sonic request I made, from a punchy low-mid boost that kept my bandmates and the dance floor happy, to a big boost in the tone and treble dials to cut through a boomy room. Apart from the typical dead-note areas found on most electric basses, the V7 projected well-defined notes with an evenness and clarity I just don’t expect from an instrument at this price point. Regardless of volume or instrumentation, I played dynamic and confident bass lines all night long.
Tonal versatility is another big benefit of the V7. It was easy to get a barky, Jaco-esque tone by soloing the bridge pickup, dialing the tone control almost all the way down, and slightly boosting the bass, mid, and treble. The setting was excellent for those rare bass solo moments or jamming Jaco classics like “Come On, Come Over.”
The neck pickup delivered thick, punchy notes. Backing off the tone a bit and boosting the mids created a nice, old-school sound that never left me wanting for a P. This was ideal for Duck Dunn moments with the blues band when we jammed over “Born Under a Bad Sign” and “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” You can expect some typical 60-cycle hum when soloing either pickup, but the Marcus Super Jazz pickups weren’t as noisy as many others on the market.
Balancing both pickups sounded full and articulate, and was excellent for fingerstyle and slapping. The V7 responded quickly to slides and bends, great for tunes like Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star.” Simply boosting the bass and treble knobs got me to an aggressive slap tone. No, the V7 didn’t transform me into Marcus Miller, but I was able to capture a great sound that pleased my ears and my bandmates’ ears equally.
Sire’s V7 has already created quite a buzz in the bass arena, and my experience with the bass confirmed and exceeded expectations with its excellent construction, versatile J-style tones, and clean aesthetics. The price point only intensifies the qualities that make the V7 one of the best basses on the market under $500. In fact, it might be one of the best production J-style basses out there regardless of price. If Sire’s consistency is in line with the quality of our test instrument, there is a true-standout player in the crowded J-style market.
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