Jon Maghini of Mbasses grabbed my attention several years ago when I met him at NAMM. I had a brief chance to noodle around on a couple of his basses, and by the time I left his booth, I was already a fan. His basses deftly combine smooth intuitive designs, killer wood choices, awesome playability, and wonderful tone. The MEJ is one of his newer models, aiming to combine the quality and features of his popular M3 line with a slightly more traditional body shape. The MEJ6 arrived extremely well packed (I’m always surprised how often this is not the case), and included a set of tools, a custom bass invoice with all the specs, a “care and maintenance of your new Mbass” sheet (which is a great FAQ-type list), and an electronics layout and description for the onboard Aguilar OBP3 preamp. Its worth mentioning that Jon was extremely helpful and organized in getting me a test bass, I imagine that a custom order process with Mbasses would be easy and straight forward, a welcome departure from my personal experiences in the past working with gifted but flighty custom builders.
The MEJ6 sports an unusual cherry wood body with a big leaf maple burl top, separated by a classy and understated purpleheart laminate. The 35″ scale 3 piece quarter sawn maple neck sits beneath the beautiful and ample kingwood fingerboard. Subtle but sexy abalone face dots add nicely to the upscale vibe. 19mm spacing may be a bit of a stretch for some, but it was perfect for me, being used to my Fbass 6 with the same spacing. Even though the neck was a little fatter front to back than my F, I did not find it hard to play at all. The neck felt supple and quick. A compact headstock features Gotoh tuners and is capped with more of that stunning maple burl. The MEJ6 had exemplary fretwork; frets were perfectly polished and crowned, none of the frets had sharp edges. Not surprisingly then, this bass was capable of killer low action without buzz. Jon chose Seymour Duncan dual coil pickups covered in matching kingwood, and an Aguilar OBP-3 circuit. In my testing, the bass was easily capable of a wide range of great usable tones. This bass came with an acrylic urethane finish. It looked and felt very nice, sort of a combination between a satin and high gloss finish. The finish had a great organic feel, and was much less plasticky then some of the polyester finishes we’re seeing nowadays. Recessed straplocks were a nice addition.
I was able to bring the MEJ6 to a couple of gig settings, a Latin jazz trio, and a blues/R&B quartet. In both settings the Mbass ruled with fat low mids, bottomless low end, and natural treble response. The warm cherry body and the fat sounding Aggie preamp no doubt had a hand in the MEJ’s overall warmth and thickness. I had no trouble getting enough warmth and clarity from the bass; it oozed with fat buttery low mids but retained plenty of definition up top. Soloing above the 12th fret on the G and C strings was a joy, the MEJ sounded full and warm where a lot of 6’s lose their body and sound clanky or thin. In general with things set flat, the bass sounded natural and clear with nice lower midrange warmth and complexity, and a nice transparent snap in the treble range. I was able to coax some P bass tones out of the neck pickup with a slight bass boost, and the bridge pickup sounded articulate and burpy, but maybe not enough for the jazz bass purists that want maximum grunt from their bridge pickup. Equipped with DR sunbeams, the bass felt pliable and lively, offered solid fundamentals, and helped showcase the rich detail naturally present in the midrange.
I am hard pressed to find anything wrong with the MEJ. I will say that I’m not a huge fan of the knobs Jon chose for this bass. The rubber knobs take a little away from the high end vibe. Also the neck shape was a little fatter than I’m used to, with more bulk on the shoulders. Luckily, both of these gripes are A: subjective, and B: particular to the way this bass was spec’d out as a custom build. You could easily order this bass with a custom neck profile and different knobs. In the end there is nothing inherent about the bass that I didn’t like.
Overall, I was very impressed with the MEJ, its killer form factor and sweet tones won me over and as I told Jon; even though it’s a completely different animal, this is the first 6 that I’ve liked nearly as much as my beloved F bass BN6. It’s obvious that Jon has put a lot of time and energy into designing his basses inside and out. This axe has the looks, the sounds and the playability to put it on par with many of the well known exotic bass kingpins. By the way, this MEJ as tested prices out at about $4500, but it also is pretty tricked out and includes about $940 in optional up charges. If you are in the market for a high end boutique custom, I whole heartedly recommend checking out an Mbass.
For more info, go to www.Mbasses.com