Fender Australia | RRP $2,449
Amassing an alumni of players including the likes of Kirk Hammett, Randy Rhoads, and Phil Collen, Jackson Guitars has been synonymous with instruments that are both well-constructed, and tailormade with the playing musician in mind since their inception. The Pro Spectra Bass V is no exception, offering both quality craftsmanship and tonal versatility in an extended range instrument for the modern bassist.
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This workhorse of a bass is one that lives up to its ‘Pro’ status, boasting a fit and finish that is both precise and elegant in nature. With an offset style and an extended upper horn, the multi-laminate body consisting of Ash, Walnut, Maple, and Mahogany is shaped to maximise playing comfort. This unique body is neatly bisected by the Maple and Walnut laminate neck, which also features graphite reinforcement to optimise tuning stability, and to cope with the resultant increase in tension from the addition of the fifth string.
With regards to style, the Spectra is about as far as you can get from the traditional electric bass guitar – a characteristic that is matched by the incredible variety of features built into this beast. The bass is not without class though, the matching body and headstock gradient finishes and the dark pearl fingerboard inlays both indicate the care that Jackson have put into the design and construction.
The ergonomic neck shape, satin finish, and string spacing on the Pro Spectra make life easy for the fretting hand, with little acclimatisation required, even for those who are previously unfamiliar with playing extended range basses. While the playing experience was comfortable overall, the occurrence of neck dive when playing while sitting down was inevitable due to the offset body shape. When played standing up, the bass had great balance, with the only qualm being the lack of a forearm contour – a bit of a non-issue thanks to the nicely rounded edges on the entire body.
The compound radius jatoba fingerboard produces clear notes throughout the entirety of the bass’ register – a generous 24 frets across five strings. Bearing an extended 35” scale length (compared to 34” for the four-string version), the low B is kept taut, preventing any instances of fret buzz when venturing into the lower end of the frequency spectrum.
With a seamless through-neck construction, the Pro Series Spectra Bass V optimises sustain and resonance, both of which are apparent, even when played acoustically. When amplified, this bass comes to life, with the magic of the Nordstrand SB5 pickups immediately obvious. In the absence of any external equalisation and compression, these pickups do a remarkable job of delivering consistent tone and volume across the entire range of the bass, without clearly favouring or omitting any particular frequencies. With all potentiometers wide open, the pickups appeared to be quite neutral in their tonal character, outputting a clear signal that captures the natural sonic qualities of the bass’ sound, and enables versatility among genres and playing styles.
Continuing with the theme of versatile use, the circuitry and components offer an arsenal of tonal options to professional bassists, both for studio sessions, and the often-uncontrolled environment of live shows. The three-way toggle switch is wired for more precise control over the mid-frequencies, with all three positions providing a wide variety of usable sounds. After passing through the individual volume potentiometers for each respective pickup, the signal reaches the master three-band EQ, allowing for intricate customisation of the tonal properties compared to the typical bass with a tone potentiometer that acts as a treble cut.
While the sound and functionality of the Pro Spectra are optimised with a working 9V battery, there is an additional switch that enables the bass to be switched from active to passive, allowing the professional bassist to continue holding down the groove, even in the case that a battery should go out mid-song. The signal, after being coloured to the player’s desired equalisation, exits the bass via a neatly countersunk output jack; one which highlights the fact that no little detail was overlooked in the design of this bass.
While the option and variety present lends itself to be applicable to many musical contexts, the tonal versatility enables a pleasant and satisfying listening experience on multiple amplifiers. When played through 4×10” and 1×15” speaker cabinets, it was found that the Pro Spectra V sounded both articulate and ballsy on both speaker configurations.
The Nordstrand SB5 pickups did a great job of taming the fifth string, ensuring that even down to the low B, the note was clearly audible without being too boomy and overpowering higher frequencies. When playing directly into an audio interface, the aforementioned neutrality of the sound made using VST amplifiers a breeze, with the bass managing to suit a variety of tonal situations. The sustain available on offer was a warm welcome when playing more tasteful and sparse basslines, yet when playing more riff-based and polyphonic material, the sound refrained from ever getting too muddy.
Thanks to its superb playability and tone, it’s not hard to envisage the Jackson Pro Series Spectra Bass V excelling in genres all the way from pop to progressive metal, and beyond. Paired with the excellent build, and expansive feature set, this instrument is one that is able to withstand the demanding use of a professional bassist, while being just as enjoyable to play for the less-experienced bassists out there.