You can have cheap instruments and you can have desirable instruments. But can you have the two in one package? Dan Veall checks out the latest version of Yamaha's entry-level RBX bass.
Back in issue seven of Guitar Interactive, we looked at a premium Yamaha BBNE5 Nathan East signature model bass which was absolutely stunning! - one of my review favourites to date actually. This time, we venture to the opposite end of Yamaha's price range to look at an entry level instrument aimed at a budget conscious market.
The RBX170EW is an upgraded version of the well established RBX170 and features a top wood facing and translucent lacquer finish. I have to say that I love a nice 'visual' top on an instrument and was quite surprised to see such a rich finish on an entry level bass. The facing wood is, unusually, Mango. It looks wonderful through the 'Root Beer' coloured lacquer of this review sample and you can see the interesting grain clearly. Incidentally, the body also comes in two other flavours (excuse the pun) - there's a natural clear finish and also an equally superb looking 'Tobacco Brown Sunburst' - the latter being my personal favourite.
The body wood itself can be any of a selection of solid woods, as I describe in the video review. Yamaha says it sources woods responsibly and has chosen to use different types depending on availability. The body shape is based on the RBX range of bass guitars, featuring a decent sized cutaway to get massive hands like mine up the top of the neck 'north of the border' as they say. I like the lower horn shape on these basses too, as it really sits on your leg comfortably without slipping all over the place. Nice balance and very light too. Completing the body is some basic but perfectly practical hardware - a vintage style bridge, two pickups; a split-P type and the other a 'Jazz' single coil. The passive pickups are wired direct to a passive harness featuring a volume control for each pickup and a master tone control.
Moving away from the body, the bolt-on all maple neck features a rosewood fingerboard with a 10" radius. Four enclosed tuning keys adorn the straight headstock which is nice and compact. I like this as it helps to keep the instrument light and reduces the chance of neck dive.
Tonally, the bass had a good usable voice, but as you can expect, the premium instrument we reviewed after the Yamaha showed up the gulf of difference between them at over ten times the price. However, I might be battled down for saying this, but I honestly don't think the Yamaha was ten times worse than said top of the range instrument. It's still a great little bass. There are plenty of instruments that I have played at twice the price that I put back after less than a minute. One such didn't even get as far as a G.I. review!! You'll only get to see 'worthy' basses reviewed in Guitar Interactive that's for sure and that makes the RBX170EW such.
For a bass that won't break that bank, but at the same time won't break - I think Yamaha's reputation is still very much intact. At this price point, there's few to match in the UK. For that Yamaha, you are commended.