Thursday, January 12, 2012

ESP PPJ-160 Bass Review


Today we are looking at a stunning bass, a one of a kind ESP PPJ-160 bass that was made for Loudness bassist Masayoshi Yamashita in 1986. The PPJ-160 is Yamashita’s signature model bass, which is configured unlike any other bass, thanks to its bizarre electronics package.

The pickups are two precision bass pickups in the sweet spot and a single jazz bass pickup at the neck. Maybe you see how they came up with the PPJ model name now (the 160 denotes the price in Yen – 160,000). The precision pickups are canted so that the one at the neck is for the D and G strings, and the one closer to the neck covers the E and A strings.

The controls are 3 volume pots (one for each pickup) and a master tone control. This is a passive electronics set-up, by the way.

The body is more traditional, with a contoured precision bass profile. It has a high-mass ESP-marked Gotoh bridge that has been dipped in chrome. The output jack is located in the lower bout which is not my favorite spot, but there is not a lot of room left on the front amongst all of those knobs.

The neck feels like it came from a precision bass, with a comfy C shape and a 1 5/8-inch nut. The truss rod adjusts at the heel, and it works well. It has Gotoh vintage-style chrome tuners with adjustable tension, which is a nice touch.

The whole thing weighs in at 8 pounds, 15 ounces according to my scale which is fairly light, especially when you consider all of those pickups.

This bass was built by the Japanese ESP Custom Shop for Yamashita, and there are a few things that make this different than the garden variety PPJ-160. First is that it has a Telecaster headstock instead of the Fender bass shape found on the production models. The second thing is the plum metallic finish, which is sprayed on the body and the neck, all the way up to the edges of the fretboard. Every one of these basses I have seen before has been black or white. It really is quite striking and is a true one-of-a-kind instrument.

The overall craftsmanship excellent, and the neck is top-notch. It has a metric ton of output and can produce a huge variety of tones, but my favorite setting is both P pickups dimed and just enough J volume to add some edge. I do not use a pick, but this bass would be perfect for aggressively picked metal.

The condition is almost mint, with just a little tarnishing of the tuners. It looks like it has never been played before.

I am not sure what I will ever use this bass for, but it was a tremendous value and even came with a matching Anvil flight case. How could I go wrong?



  1. Oh cool, I have a black one thats slightly different, albeit not alot.

    Mine also has the Tele headstock, but a different bridge.

    Do you know what kind of pikukp the jazz one is? Mine recently died, and I think its a DiMarzio

  2. Hi. They are like DiMarzios, but my understanding is that ESP wound them just for these basses. You might want to just yours re-wound. Thanks!

  3. Hey,

    Coming back on my earlier question:

    After having a replacement pickup in it i'm getting it rewound, but I don't have the original specs.

    Is this bass still in your posession, and if so, would you be inclined to take a readout and see the resistance on the pickups?

    Thanks in advance.

  4. Hi there. That bass has moved along to a new owner, so I can't check it for you. That being said, I usually see Jazz Bass style pickups between 7.5k and 8.5k ohms. I would go toward the hotter side of the spectrum (7.5) or even a tad more to match the output of those two P pikcups. If you do find someone to check a pickup for you that is still in the bass, keep in mind that the resistance will be lower than a pickup that is not hooked up to anything. Good luck! Rex