Monday, September 2, 2013

2006 Sadowsky Metro MV5 Electric Bass Review


Today we are looking at my latest futile effort at integrating a 5-string bass into my collection, a 2006 Sadowsky Metro MV5. This is certainly one of the best sounding and easiest playing fivers I have ever owned, and there have been quite a few that I have experimented with over the years.

In case you are not familiar with the brand, Roger Sadowsky builds the best bolt-neck basses in the business out of his Long Island shop. Of course, you pay a premium to get your hands on one of them, with prices of most of them around $4000, and a six-month wait for custom orders. His Metro line is a little more accessible for us common folks.

About a decade ago, Roger set up a production facility in Tokyo, which is the land of craftsmen. Originally called the Tokyo line, they are now called the Metro series, and these are some ridiculously good instruments. The idea was to produce basses with the same electronics, but with no custom options so they can benefit from economies of scale. They also use less expensive bodies and necks, as well as cheaper labor to bring the prices down a bit, but don’t get the idea that these are cheap instruments, in any sense of the word.

So, Sadowsky Metro basses come in four or five string models with traditional precision and jazz bass profiles, rosewood or maple fretboards, and an assortment of pickup configurations. As I said earlier, there are no custom options, and if you are looking for a left-handed or fretless bass you will have to keep on looking. Generally they weigh a pound or two more than their New York-produced instruments due to wood selection and the lack of body chambering.

The only visual distinction between Metro and New York basses is that the Metro basses do not have the NYC letters on the headstock. That is it.

As I said earlier, we are looking at a Sadowsky Metro MV5 that was built in 2006. It is in great condition, unmolested and unmodified, with the exception of a new pickguard.

The MV5 has a jazz bass body profile, in this case ash covered with a glossy black poly finish (RV5 basses get rosewood fretboards and alder bodies). It originally came with a 3-ply black pickguard, but along the way someone though that faux tortoiseshell would be the way to go. It looks nice, and no new holes were drilled in the body to mount it, so it is a double win.

The maple neck is dreamy, with It has 21 frets, simple black plastic dot markers, and a square heel. The square heel is not aesthetically pleasing to me, but that is what you get when they put that extra fret on. It has a truss rod adjustment wheel at the heel, so set-ups are easy. The entire neck is finished in nitrocellulose lacquer (like all Sadowsky basses). No neck plate is used for mounting this to the body, so there are four ferrules set into the body to hold the neck screws.

Metro basses some with the same pre-amplifiers electronics as Sadowsky New York basses. As this is an early production bass, it has single-coil instead of humbucking pickups, and it does not have Vintage Tone Control. The controls are volume, pan, treble boost and bass boost. This bass still sounds incredible and the tone is way better than any bass that Fender or any other maker is building today.

The craftsmanship is befitting the price, with a perfect neck pocket, fretwork and nut. The frets show no wear and are still level as can seven years after it was built. The finish is even and the inlays and binding are perfectly flush. The chrome high-mass bridge and open-back Hipshot tuners are still shiny and clean. This is a real beast!

It plays just as nicely as it looks, and it is set-up with a tasty low action and a fresh set of Sadowsky Blue Label Strings. This MV5 is not terribly heavy for a Metro, coming in at 9 pounds, 12 ounces. I have seen these pushing 11 pounds before. Ask the weight before you buy…

Metro basses come in the same Sadowsky ultralite semi-hard case that the New York basses used to come in (they have since changed to a deluxe hard case for their domestically produced basses).

What will all of this goodness cost you? The list price of a new Sadowsky Metro MV5 is $2625 and Sadowsky does not allow their dealers to discount these at all. This is about the price of a used NYC bass, and used MV5 basses usually sell for around $2000.

So, if you are looking for a Sadowsky, but just can’t pull the trigger for a New York model, this might be the bass for you. You will have a hard time finding a better bass, regardless of price.