A review of the Wilkins Guitars VRB5 JJ Custom Bass
It is very unusual for a band new bass to have the familiarity, feel, playability and sound of an old and familiar bass. There is usually an expected amount of time to get used to a new instrument. Pat Wilkins of Wilkins Guitars and Wilkins Guitar Finishes has managed to build a custom jazz bass that feels comfortable like an old friend.
There are a few elite luthiers that are building some great basses in the United States. Pat Wilins fits firmly in this elite group of bass builders. In addition, Pat’s finish work can be seen on other elite brands such as Sadowsky, Warrior, Lakland, etc. Each of his instruments, whether they are custom built or the American made Road Tested model production basses, shares the familiarity and great playability. Wilkins basses are also built with an incredible attention to detail.
During Winter Namm 2014, Wilkins Guitars brought a jazz bass to the show that was built of very old reclaimed wood. The workmanship of this bass was beyond reproach. The pickups were meticulously wound to match vintage jazz pickups, using the same wire found in vintage pickups. The result was a bass that was built better than the vast majority of vintage jazz basses, with a sound that was authentically vintage jazz bass, and flawless aesthetics.
The bass that this article is based on is a custom Wilkins Guitars VRB5JJ jazz bass. From the moment the bass was un-boxed, it felt and played great. Some of the most intricate and technically challenging jazz melodies could be confidently and easily played immediately. There was no need to get used to the bass, or its neck profile.
The pickups have a beautiful and smooth midrange, allowing for a gorgeous bridge pickup burpy tone. Blending both pickups also revealed a gutsy and articulate tone with a warm and fat bottom end. The high end has a warmth to it, and is not glassy or brittle sounding. Overall, the pickups are perfectly matched to the body of this bass, and they faithfully reproduce the best of a jazz bass sound.
Although it can be argued as to which is more important, sound or playability, aesthetics also play a major role in choosing a new bass. The wood choices and flawless finish make the Wilkins Guitars VRB5JJ a head turner. This bass easily hits the trifecta of great tone, great playability and great looks.
On a personal note, each of the eight or so Wilkins basses I’ve played so far have been nothing short of impressive. I have every intention to add a Wilkins bass to my arsenal of basses.
Wilkins Guitar basses are played by Peter Cetera, Jimmy Haslip, Jauqo III-X, Brian Siono and many other notable bassists.
Specifications of the Wilkins Road Tested VRB5JJ Bass:
- Builder: Pat Wilkins
- Series: Road Tested Bass
- Model: VRB5JJ Exotic
- Body: Alder Body With Koa Top
- Neck: Quarter Sawn Maple
- Fingerboard: Indian Rosewood
- Finish: Gloss Natural Finish
- Nut Width: 1.75″
- Fingerboard Radius: 12″
- Pickups: Ulyate J5 SC Pickups
- Preamp: Audere With NRS
- Hardware: HIpshot Ultralite Tuners
- Bridge: Hipshot A Bridge
- Weight: 8.4 pounds
Photo Credit: Chris Edwards