Purchased from: Kennally Keys
Features — 9
Ah, the Fender Bass VI, is it a baritone guitar? Is it a bass? Well, it's officially a Bass, but it also does great double duty as a baritone guitar. In 2013, with the help of some urging from Offset guitar enthusiasts the world over, Squier decided to release the Bass VI in their awesome Vintage Modified series which also includes some other great values such as the VM Jazzmaster, Jaguar, and Mustang (amongst others).
The Squier VM Bass VI Has the following specs:
- Mine is a 2013, though 2 2014's were also reviewed here as well
- 21 Medium Jumbo Frets
- Basswood Bass VI Style body done in the vintage style
- Comes in Olympic White with Tortishell, Sunburst with Tortishell, and Black with W/B/W pickguards, mine is Olympic White
- Has the Jaguar/Jazzmaster "Synchonized Floating Tremolo" setup with a Squier version of the "Modified Mustang Bridge" Warmoth sells
- Passive electronics, with individual on/off for each pickup, 1 volume, 1 tone, and a "strangle switch," carried over from the Jaguar electric guitar
- 3 VM Jaguar single coil pickups measuring in the lower output range
- Kluson style split-post tuners
I bought mine straight up brand new, no case, no gig bag, no pass go, no collect $200 (but rather part with $350). I tried out three.
Sound — 9
Ok, this is going to be pretty long, because I'm reviewing this both from a guitar player perspective, and a bass player perspective, and I will elaborate more on that later. My inner bassist was seeking a bass that could cover the 3 basses I sold off and one bass I still have, and do it better, cleaner, and tighter, with a wider EQ range. My inner guitarist was seeking something more sub-atomic than a guitar with more than 6 strings, something I could do some really sick stuff with, and still look like a GUITARIST doing it. My typical music style runs the gamut of rock, and lately, I've been messing about with Spaghetti Western soundtrack sounds, Surf Sounds, Punk Sounds, but I also live a lot in the Hard Rock, Metal, New Wave, and Alternative/Grunge territories - this goes for guitar and bass.
At the store, I ran it through the Boss pedalboard display(s), one had a Marshall MG 15 watt amp, the other a Marshall tube amp of some sort, a Peavey modeling amp that I can't remember the name of, and a Hartke bass combo. At home, I run this multi-faced monster through a Behringer V-Amp Pro with a Behringer 2024p Virtualizer Pro effects device in the stereo effects loop - run line-in to my computer. I've not run it through my Bugera 333XL in my live rig yet though previous results with other amps sound extremley promising. It can be a little noisy, but only when running one Single coil at a time, as expected, they are single coil pickups, and even then, the Hum is not that bad, especially when compared to my Strat or my Jazzmaster, so apparently those Jaguar claws do the job on the pickups.
As for sounds, this thing is like the ultimate guitar/bass combo in one! I know this sounds glaring, but even through my wimpy little 1 watt Fender ToneMaster I was conjuring up bass and guitar sounds with ease.
As a bass, I was able to imitate just about every sound Benjamin Orr used in The Cars... "Drive," "Magic," "You Wear Those Eyes," "Bye Bye Love," "My Best Friend's Girl," "Moving in Stereo," "Just What I Needed" - that's the sound of a Fender Precision, Guild Pilot, Gibson EB-1, Vox Constellation/Starstream Bass, and a early MusicMan Stingray! Now THAT is variety, and I have not even gotten to other sounds yet.
In the traditional VI role, it nails the sound from Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle Again" perfectly, or that "daddy-o" song from "Pulp Fiction," it even does Lemmy Kilmister stuff rather well with some EQ tweaking and backing down the tone a little - from Cliff Richard to Cliff Burton, I'd say this thing has it covered.
Then we get into the weird Baritone guitar territory, I had a little idea of what I would do on a recent B-52's kick...while I was at the store, my primary test song to select the best playing example, was the classic "Rock Lobster"... which was originally played on a Mosrite Mark VI/Gospel electric guitar with only 4 strings (middle two missing), tuned to CGxxFG# that clever Ricky Wilson came up with to do lead and rhythm at the same time. Well... it nailed that too very closely using both the neck and bridge pickups into a guitar amp, in standard tuning (with lots of hand contorted muting I might add). I also tried out "Lava" and "Dance This Mess Around," did those too quite nicely.
On the upper registers, it can be totally like a regular guitar, on the lower registers, it's a bass. About the only thing that throws me off is using double drop C tuning on it because that .085 gauge Low E is just a little too light to make a strong C note that low down. Overall, I give it... well... a 9, it fullfills everything, and nothing in this world is really ever a perfect 10, though this is everything I was looking for in the VI in the sound department, a Bass that can double as a baritone guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Ok, now here's where my criticism will start to pop-up, but hey, it was only $350 bananas. The initial factory setup on all three needed some tweakage, but the Sunburst needed it the least (however, the color that won was Olympic White as I don't have a lot of white guitars). The worst was the black one, the action was too high, it was very hard to play, and it seemed the neck had a little too much relief in it. My wife was with me when I tried that one out and said it was not for me. None of the three had any sound issues, pickups were adjusted, the bridges were routed right, no visible finishing flaws, everything seemed pretty well on par or actually a little better for a Chinese guitar/bass, not too surprising consider Cort (Cor-Tek) is the company making these and they make some excellent value guitars.
The quality of the switches in this guitar were one thing that really stood out - my 1998 Fender Jaguar switches don't even feel even CLOSE to as good as the ones on these Squier VM instruments. I'll give it an 8, something was clearly wrong with the black one, the Sunburst played the best, but the White one is the one I got and I've got it right the same as the Sunburst. I'm still breaking it in though, once it settles in it'll be right up there with my Japanese Fenders in playability.
Reliability & Durability — 8
It's a Squier, so it'll handle live playing. The hardware is very solid, actually, I'm VERY surprised at the quality of the vibrato bar collet, a common source of frustration for people who use a guitar with the Jaguar/Jazzmaster/Bass VI style vibrato system, they got the tolerances right-on with it somehow, I wish I could get the same part for my home built Jazzmaster!
The strap buttons are a non-issue, I already swapped them out for Schaller strap-locks like all my other guitars have. That's just standard protocol for any new guitar I get - swap em out with strap-locks. Right now, I've been playing this thing for hours on end a week, recording bass tracks, baritone guitar tracks, screwing around with various classic rock songs, and writing my own stuff on it, it seems every bit as solid as one of my Japanese built guitars.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, I believe this is excellent value for the money, you are basically getting a tight-sounding Baritone guitar, 3-4 basses in one, and it's fast and easy to play. I particularly recommend this to guitarists who do songwriting and want to lay down bass tracks. I've been playing guitar 18 years, bass almost as long, I own a ton of gear you can see on my UG profile (though this is not on there yet).
I bought this primarily to replace 3 basses I had to sell during hard times, and a 4th one I don't play too often because it's just not the feel I'm 100% happy with. My favorite for a long time playability wise was a Fender Mustang Bass (CIJ, 2008) that I really liked, but it had it's problems too, in particular, it was a little on the weak-toned side for my taste, this VI sounds fatter. I also owned a B.C. Rich Ironbird Bass and a Epiphone EB-0, I always hated the EB-0, and the Ironbird was my first but I found I never played it much anymore and it was giant and hard to carry around.
If it were lost or stolen, I'd just buy another one, actually, mines NOT stolen and I'm still considering the idea of another one to yank the frets out of, and string it with flatwounds for my "fretless." I did compare it with other instruments for awhile, as should be obvious here. What I was seeking was an all-in-one solution to replace multiple instruments for the same task. It has succeeded at that, now if I just throw on a .094 gauge Low-E and that bass'll be exploring subatomic paradise and still chilling with the cowboys and lobsters.