Becoming a bass player includes getting a good instrument and learning how to play it. For most of us who play the bass, the pursuit of what we think is a good instrument can be a life-long chase. We have to balance what we know makes a good instrument with our budgets. This tug-of-war often pits quality against price. The trend over the past decade and a half has been a sharp rise in bass guitar prices.
During Winter Namm 2015, Chicago bassist Jauqo III-X showed me a new five string J-style bass made by Sire Guitars. This bass was built in conjunction with bass legend Marcus Miller. Essentially, Marcus Miller specified what he wanted the Marcus Miller by Sire V7 (jazz bass) model to have. The end result was a great looking bass.
The first thing that struck me was the high quality gig bag that comes with the Marcus Miller by Sire V7. It has plenty of protection, a neck pillow with a Velcro neck restraint. Also, the gig bag has two pockets. The larger pocket is large enough to carry music, an iPad or laptop and some instrument cables. The smaller pocket is large enough to carry a tuner, instrument cable, a cell phone, keys, etc.
The bass that was delivered to me was a natural finish five string jazz bass with an American Swamp Ash body, a one-piece Maple 20 fret neck with a Maple fingerboard. The neck is bound and blocked beautifully! Also, the frets were dressed impressively well. The five-string Sire V7 jazz bass has two graphite rods that add strength and stability to the neck.
The one-piece body comes with an option to string the bass through the body, or through the high mass bridge. The hardware looks good and the tuners work flawlessly without binding. The pickguard is a beautiful pearloid pickguard on the Ash body basses, and tortoise shell pickguard on the Alter body basses. The neck joins the body cleanly with no odd gaps at the neck pocket. Holding the neck and body together are four bolts.
The pickups are single coil pickups made with a fiber bobbin, Alnico 5 magnets, and heavy Formvar magnet wire. They are positioned in the ‘60’s position. Like everything else on this bass, the pickups are made by Sire Guitars.
Initially, I thought I would be overwhelmed by the preamp. Although I usually prefer three-band preamps, this 18-volt preamp is by far the most versatile preamp I have used on a bass. It comes with the following knob layout: stacked volume/tone, blend, treble, stacked mid/mid sweep, and bass. It is also very quiet. A small two-way toggle switch is located below the bass EQ knob on the control plate.
When strapped up or balanced on the knee, the bass balances very well without any neck dive. The weight is moderate at less than 9.5 pounds for a five string. The neck profile feels very familiar to my hands, without feeling chunky, unwieldy and wide.
The bass has some felt bumpers at the strap buttons. The finish on the three Sire basses I’ve seen and played thus far has been flawless on all three basses. In addition, the Sire V7 is shipped with a compliment of Allen wrenches that are required to adjust the truss rod and bridge saddles.
The Playing Experience:
The Marcus Miller by Sire V7 five string bass was strung with D’Addario strings. I immediately switched them for a set of DR Strings Fat Beams – my strings of choice. The bass needed a minor set up, but was very playable straight out of the box.
Acoustically, the bass sounded very alive. To me, that indicated that it would sound good amplified, if the electronics were of a high quality.
In passive mode, the bass had a punchy and focused sound with plenty of bottom end. The volume did not drastically drop off when switched from active mode. In my experience, most active/passive basses generally do not have a good passive sound. This bass sounded great in passive mode. The tone knob also offered a wide palate of tones. When slapped or thumped in passive mode, the bass had a lot of percussive response.
In active mode, the bass is very quiet. I initially kept all three bands of the EQ flat and used only the volume, tone and blend knobs to really hear what the bass sounds like. The tone knob works in both active and passive modes.
The knobs are all very sensitive. A minor adjustment results in a very audible tone or volume change. The potentiometers all feel smooth and the passive/active switch is noiseless when used.
I found the mid-sweep knob very useful. The mid range sounded very musical in its entire range. The mid-sweep knob allows the player to choose the quality of mid range he or she wants to use.
Tone is very subjective. I’ll qualify my opinion by stating that I own a 1975 passive American Fender Precision bass. In addition to it, I also own a variety of active basses loaded with EMG pickups, Bartolini Pickups, etc. Noll, Bartolini, Graph Tech, and EMG make the preamps in my basses. Some of the basses I own are reasonably priced and others are obscenely expensive. They all sound really good to me. They are the basis of my opinion of how the Sire Guitars V7 bass sounds.
The Marcus Miller by Sire V7 has a focused, full and round sound with an endless supply of bottom end available. The strings all sound very well balanced. The “G” strings sounds “bassy” in a musical way and the “B” string is clear and articulate. If you like your bass to growl, this bass will make you happy.
When thumped or slapped, the Sire V7 sounds better than any bass I own. This is not a statement I make lightly. This bass does a fantastic job of achieving the modern jazz bass sound as well as the vintage passive jazz bass sound. When thumped, the bass is capable of providing a great and full sounding bottom end. The notes ring clear. The highs are also clean, musical and percussive.
Sire builds their basses in a factory owned by Sire in Indonesia. Their quality control is nothing short of impressive. I have actively looked for flaws in build quality, components, playability and sound and so far, I’ve found none.
In the week I have had my Sire V7, I have not picked up any of my other basses. If, God forbid, I had to have one bass, I would be happy to have this as my only bass. It is capable of being an all-around workhorse. The range of tones that can be coaxed out of the EQ would allow this bass to be at home in the club, studio, or church.
Let’s talk price… This bass is amazingly affordable! Based on the quality, options and workmanship, I would expect that this bass would cost about three times more than the $599.00 price for the five string Ash body/Maple fingerboard model. The four-string version costs $100.00 less. The Alder body/Rosewood fingerboard five string costs $499.00, and the four-string version costs $100.00 less. An even more reasonable model that plays and sounds really good is the Marcus Miller by Sire M3 four string bass model at $299.00.
Had I been introduced to Sire basses based on price alone, I may have been very skeptical about how good they might be. Fortunately, I got a chance to see and play the bass before I was told how much it costs.
My take on this bass is, this is a very, very good jazz bass. Although the price is amazingly affordable, this is not an entry-level instrument. I would proudly play this instrument on any stage in the world without reservation. It sounds and looks that good!
Marcus Miller and Sire have managed to put together a pricing model that will allow virtually anyone to be able to get a high quality, good playing and excellent sounding bass without breaking the bank.
Currently, the players that are playing the Marcus Miller by Sire V7 basses include Jackie Clark, Jonathan Moody, Kevin “KT” Tyler, Marcus Miller, Chicago bassists Will Howard, Jauqo III-X, and me – Vuyani Wakaba. A large number of basses has been sold to many other bass players and are currently in the process of being delivered.
Body Material – Swamp Ash/North American Alder
Body Shape – New Marcus Miller Jazz Type
Neck Material – 1 Piece Hard Maple
Neck Shape – C-Shape
Scale – 34”
Fingerboard – Hard Maple (Swamp Ash)/Rosewood (Alder)
Fingerboard Radius – 7’25”
Frets – Medium Small, 20 Frets
String Nut – 4 String: Natural Bone @ 38mm width/5 String: Natural Bone @ 46mm width
Binding – 1 Ply Ivory
Inlay – White Pearloid Block
Neck Joint – 4 Bolt Steel Square Plate
Pickups – Marcus Miller Super Jazz Single Coil
Electronics – Marcus Heritage -3 With Middle Frequency Control
- Volume/Tone (Stacked Pot)
- Pickup Blend
- Mid/Mid Frequency (Stacked Pot)
- Bass, Mini Toggle (Active/Passive)
- Marcus Big Mass – 1
- String Spacing @ Bridge – 5 String: 18mm; 4 String: 20mm
Hardware Finish – Chrome
Pickguard – Ivory Pearloid (Swamp Ash)/Tortoise (Alder)
Vuyani Wakaba is a South African bassist that is based in Chicago. He works as a freelance bassist and leads his own band, Vuyani Wakaba & Friends. Vuyani can be reached on his website, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.