Monday, March 17, 2014

Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI Review

Hi there!

Do you remember the heyday of the Ford Ranchero and the Chevrolet El Camino? They were a combination of trucks and cars, and people still argue today about how to classify them. Well, Fender did something similar with the Bass VI – a hybrid of guitar and bass that was introduced in 1961. They were not popular at the time so they did not make many, and now they are prized by collectors. In 2013 Fender’s Squier division re-issued this instrument as the Vintage Modified Bass VI, and now they are flying off the shelves.

The Bass VI is tuned E to E, and octave below conventional guitar, though some players install heavy guitar strings and tune them as a baritone guitar. It has a similar shape to the Fender Jazzmaster with a 21-fret, 30-inch scale neck. There are three single-coil pickups wired through volume and tone knobs, and four slider switches. The switches are ON/OFF for each pickup and a bass cut switch. The hardware is rounded out by a vintage six-saddle bridge with a floating vibrato. The Squier version is fairly close to the specs of the original, unlike the current Fender Pawnshop series Bass VI.

Looking this thing over, it appears to be a really nice piece of work from the folks at Squier’s Indonesian factory. The body is carved from basswood (light and cheap, plus it has the word “bass” in it) and is sprayed with an even glossy coat of Olympic White poly. These white instruments come with a faux tortoise shell pickguard. In case you are wondering, the Bass VI also comes in 3-tone sunburst with a tort guard, or black with a 3-ply white/black/white pickguard.

The modern C-shaped maple neck is pretty good, with smart looking pearloid block inlays set into its bound rosewood fretboard. The fretboard has a 9.5-inch radius, instead of the original 7.25-inch radius, making it a little better for playing guitar chords. I guess this, the profile and the block inlays are part of the “Modified” moniker of this instrument. They chose a synthetic bone nut that is 1.650-inches wide. The frets are medium-jumbo, and they are very well finished and level straight from the factory. I do not know how they can do that at this price point. The set-up left something to be desired, but after a bit of work the action was set well and intonation was good.

It all comes together well. This is a great playing instrument, and I do not have any trouble playing it guitar-style, and chords are pretty easy to achieve. Finger-picking aggressive bass parts can be a bit difficult if you are not paying attention, but adapting to this was easier than I thought it would be. The .025 to .095 strings have fairly low tension, so that might be something I will look into changing somewhere down the road. It is a compact size, and would be a handy for players that find full-sized basses to be too big.

The sound is really unexpected. It sounds like a bass with solid low end when cranked through my bass amps, and makes fairly normal guitar sounds when put through my Twin Reverb. This really is the Ranchero of guitars! The guitar pickups are a good match with this package, and I like that they reversed the polarity of the middle pickup to provide a little more crunch. The bass cut (“Strangle”) switch makes the sound a lot more guitar like, which is a nice feature. There is no extra hum or unusual noises with the one that I got.

I like it a lot.

I have saved the best part for last, and that is the price. The Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI has a MSRP $549.99 and a street price of $349.99. You would be hard-pressed to find a better bass/guitar for the money. By the way, I do not see many of these on the used market, so it appears that there are plenty of folks that agree with me.



  1. Glad to read this, Rex, as I trust your judgement on such things. I handled a Squier vintage modified Jaguar and Jazzmaster and played them unplugged a few weeks back and came away very impressed with what that team is doing.

  2. Had my Squier Bass VI for a week - love it. No small task having one imported to South Africa ($600 w/ shipping) My thoughts:

    1. Setup was a mess - flipped the bridge around while I was at it.
    2. Neck is hideous gloss finish - will have to go
    3. Strings fitted are only 85-24 - I'm tuning up to F# all fourths - starting to approach usable tension
    4. Mine is heavy - like, back-breaking heavy
    5. Squier single-box shipping is a disaster - neck and headstock scratched up badly - the other contributing factor that will lead me to sand down the neck at some point.