Hands-On Review:Yamaha TRB Series Basses
TRB = Totally Radical Bass
By James Nichols
The TRB series of basses was introduced over a decade ago by Yamaha, and throughout its span has been known as the instrument-maker’s professional line. Yamaha developed the basses through tried-and-true knowledge of instrument craft and direct input from a round-table of pro bassists, not the least of which is world-class jazz player John Patitucci. Though the new 1004, 1005, and 1006 carry a more reasonable price tag than the other TRB basses, they will generate even more worldwide acclaim for the TRBs as a pro player’s bass.
Yamaha definitely didn’t cut any corners when it comes to the handcrafted feel, perfect balance, and powerful-yet-versatile sound you expect from a TRB bass. In fact, the 1004, 1005, and 1006 all have a lot in common with the flagship of the TRB line, the JP2 John Patitucci signature model, even down to the tone woods used for their construction. The only difference is that these basses are crafted in Korea instead of Japan. For this review Yamaha sent me the TRB1005 to check out, which is also available in a fretless and a left-handed version, the TRB1005F and TRB1005L, respectively.
Beauty and brains
Just like the JP2, all three new TRB models are composed primarily of alder and maple with a sculpted neck joint, custom Yamaha alnico humbucker pickups, active electronics, a 35" scale length, and a high-quality brass bridge. The alder body is topped by a maple cap with a quilted maple veneer. A thin, black-stained layer of poplar separates the alder body and maple cap. The gloss finish, sculpted cutaways, and heavily contoured body make the body comfortable and give it a modern look. The satin-finished, three-piece maple neck is attached to the body with six bolts for a very stable connection. The 24-fret rosewood fingerboard has oval mother-of-pearl inlays and a comfortable fretboard radius just a little over 19". The headstock has a matching quilted-maple veneer and the Yamaha logo is inlaid perfectly in beautifully iridescent abalone.
The neck has a medium-depth profile that I would describe as a very slightly flattened modern C shape. It felt fast and comfortable. Played acoustically, the TRB1005 had a nice growl with plenty of warm punch, a result of the bolt-on neck joint, maple-topped body, and extended scale length. From the G to the B string, each note rang true and clean, plus the low action feels very fast. Plugged into a small Eden rig the 1005 was just as incredible. It has two Yamaha alnico-magnet, stacked-design humbuckers controlled by a 9V-powered, cut/boost three-band EQ circuit, and a single volume knob with a pan pot for selecting pickups. It’s a smart setup that delivers fantastic sound with easy-to-adjust tonality.
With the EQ on both the bass and the amp set flat, the TRB sounded just as growly, punchy, and warm as it did unamplified. I thought the pickups sounded fantastic, with a natural presence and dynamic midrange that responds very well to playing nuances from the left or right hand. Even without adjusting EQ, you can get a lot of different sounds with the pan pot and your playing-hand position. Once I started using the EQ, I liked the amount of boost and cut it gave to the treble, midrange, and bass frequencies. Used with a little common sense, the EQ sounded very natural while giving up the type of tone-sculpting any bassist would appreciate.
No matter what music or style you play, it’s obvious from the minute you pick it up the Yamaha TRB1005 has everything you need. Every single player who picked up the Yamaha while I had it—from moonlighting guitarists to dedicated, lifelong bassists—agreed the TRB1005 had a great mix of quality and inherent musicality, especially considering its very affordable price tag.
If the TRB basses were girls, they’d be a lineup of smoking-hot Stanford University valedictorians. If the TRB basses were guys, they’d be a troupe of hunky Chippendale dancers who were also members of Mensa. They’re the sweet-playing, sweet-looking basses that make all the other basses jealous. They’ve got a style and look that’s all their own, completely modern, and are backed up by smart design. And most importantly, they play and sound perfect.
Features & Specs:
- Alder body with maple cap
- Quilted maple veneer
- Black-stained poplar laminate between cap and body
- Bolt-on 3-piece maple neck
- 6-bolt sculpted neck joint
- 35" scale
- 24-fret rosewood fingerboard
- Quilted maple headstock veneer
- Abalone Yamaha headstock logo
- Oval mother-of-pearl fretboard inlays
- Solid brass bridge
- 2 alnico-magnet humbuckers
- Master volume and pickup pan knobs
- Cut/boost 3-band EQ (Bass, Treble, Mids)
- 19-11/16" fretboard radius