Friday, April 7, 2017

Sadowsky MV5 Metroline Bass Guitar Review


Today we are looking at my latest futile effort at integrating a 5-string bass into my collection, a recent production Sadowsky Metroline 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 starting north of $4000, and a six-month wait for custom orders. His Metroline basses are a little more accessible for us regular Joes.

Earlier in this century, Roger set up a production facility in Tokyo, which is the land of craftsmen. Originally called the Tokyo line, then the Metro, and now the Metroline series, and these are some ridiculously good instruments. The idea was to produce basses with the same electronics, but with no custom options so that production 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.

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 Metroline basses are labeled as such on the headstock (instead of NYC). That is it.

As I said earlier, today we are looking at a Sadowsky Metroline MV5 that was built about a year ago. It is in great condition, unmolested and unmodified. The MV5 has a maple fretboard and a jazz bass body profile, in this case ash covered with a glossy black poly finish (RV5 basses get rosewood fretboards and alder bodies).

The maple neck is dreamy, with its 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. By the way, the nut width is 1 7/8-inches, and the string spacing is 19mm at the bridge.

Metroline basses come with the same pre-amplifiers electronics as Sadowsky New York basses - this includes humbucking pickups in the 60s location and Vintage Tone Control. The controls include master volume, pickup blend, treble roll-off (VTC) with pre-amp bypass, bass boost, treble boost. This bass sounds incredible and the tone is on par with any high-end basses that are being built today.

The craftsmanship is befitting the price, with a perfect neck pocket, fretwork and nut. The finish is even and the inlays and binding are perfectly flush. The chrome high-mass bridge and open-back Hipshot Ultralight tuners are still shiny and clean. This thing is a real sexy 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 light for a Metro, coming in a bit over 9 pounds. I have seen these pushing 11 pounds before. Always ask the weight before you buy…

What will all of this goodness cost you? The list price of a new Sadowsky Metro MV5 is $2865 and Sadowsky discourages their dealers from discounting these. This is much less than the price of a used NYC bass, and used MV5 basses usually sell somewhere between $2000 and $2500 – and maybe a little lower if you are lucky and the seller is motivated.

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


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