If you have read my blog for any period of time, you surely know by now that I love Japanese guitars and basses. Until now, the ne plus ultra of Japanese instruments for me has been Sadowsky Metro series basses. That was until I picked up a 2014 ESP Amaze AS jazz bass. All I have to say is “wow!”
ESP has been cranking out high-end guitars and basses for over 30 years, and they set a very high standard for craftsmanship and playability. Their line-up has been muddied by the introduction of the LTD series of instruments that are built in third world countries (but are still surprisingly good), but they still maintain production facilities that produce amazing instruments in Japan.
This Amaze AS is one of these, and the “Original Series” bass is not intended for export to the United States market, mostly due to its astoundingly high price. This is pretty much the top-of-the-line for ESP.
This four-string bass has a beautifully-figured Swamp Ash body that is sprayed with some sort of amazing thick and tough poly finish. The bolt-on neck is hard maple and it has 21 frets and simple black plastic dot inlays. The neck has a flat U shape, a 1 ½-nch bone nut, and a compound radius fretboard: 9 ½ inches to 15 ¾ inches. Weird, I know. It is a conventional 34-inch scale, though.
The heavy chrome hardware is very good, and not surprisingly it is supplied by the venerable Japanese manufacturer, Gotoh. The tuners are open-gear adjustable-tension 1:20 ratio GB11W, and the high-mass 404BO4 bridge has a Zinc base with brass saddles underneath all of that chrome. There is nothing to complain about here! Well, maybe I can complain about that weirdly shaped neck pickup cover, but it will come off easily enough…
The last piece of the puzzle is the electronics package, which is all bespoke ESP stuff. There are pair of ESP Custom Lab pickups (CL-PJ-1N and CL-PJ-1B) wired though master volume (with push-pull active bypass), a pickup selector knob, and a three-band ESP Cinnamon EQ (also a Custom Lab piece).
This bass came to me with no modification and in perfect condition, and its build quality is the best I have ever seen. It is comparable to a NYC Sadowsky or Fodera, and you could not do better. The finish, frets, and wiring are second to none. It plays beautifully (if you like a Jazz Bass profile neck) and it can achieve any sound you are looking for, from vintage 1960s jazz to high-fi hardcore active bass, and everything in between. If you are looking for the best Jazz Bass out there, you need to look no further.
Of course, this comes at a price, and the list price on these is 345,000yen (before tax), which means you are going to plunk down well north of $3000 to get into one of these, and Japanese guitar shops are pretty firm on sticking to list price on instruments. Fortunately, they do not hold their value well on the used market very well, so you can get one of these for less than a Sadowsky Metro if you can find a seller that is willing to ship overseas. I know you will not get a chance to try before you buy, but trust me on this one – these basses are worth every penny.