Today we are looking at ESP’s answer to Fender’s tremendously successful Japan-built Jazz Bass Special that Duff McKagan popularized in the late 1980s/early 1990s – the M-IV. This P-bass derivative has many of the features of that iconic bass, including the pearl white finish, a black headstock, black hardware, and passive P-J pickups. As far as I can tell, they were built in Japan by ESP and were never intended for export; very few made it to the states. I have never seen one in this color combination or without the pointy ESP heavy metal headstock.
As with any Japanese guitar copy, always there are a few things that are not quite like the original. Most obviously, the back of the neck is finished in clear instead of black, and the body is more aggressively carved. Less obviously, there is no TBX tone control, and the nut is a tad wider than the Fender, coming in at around 1-11/16 inches. It is still quite fast and manageable, though.
The materials are good, with an alder body, maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard with 21 frets hammered into it. The hardware is very nice, with a high-mass bridge and large base open-gear tuners, and all of it is finished in black that has not oxidized yet, unlike every Japanese Fender I have ever seen. The controls are simple: volume, tone, and a 3-way switch.
It is a really well made bass, with great fretwork and excellent fit and finish on the neck pocket. The truss rod has not maxed out and it is easy to dial in a low action with no buzzing or other untoward side effects. It has been well cared for with no damage, repairs or modifications. The pearl white paint has faded into a very light yellow, but not nearly so much as the Fender Jazz Bass Specials from the same era.
All of this adds up to a great playing and sounding bass that is very versatile. Some guys are down on the P-J pickup set-up, but it is still one of my all-time favorites. The electronics are quiet and high output and this bass can sound very smooth or aggressive. The body cutaways provide a little better access to the higher frets, but who uses those things, anyway? Oh yeah, and as an added bonus, this thing weighs just a touch over 8 pounds – not bad!
Nothing stays around here very long, but it is sweet for now and I love the look of it. Drop me a line if you are interested, maybe we can make a deal!