Empress JB-5 joins the fold.

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Empress JB-5 joins the fold.

Postby Nedmundo » Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:48 pm

I've wanted a JB-5 since they were introduced, because I've wanted a passive five to complement my M-2500, and I've missed having a J5 after selling my 2008 Fender Jazz V a few years ago. I've considered ordering a new one, but I'm not in a band, so I haven't been willing to spend that much. I've therefore kept a watchful eye for used ones, hoping for my desired specs of empress body, 12" fretboard radius, and ideally a quartersawn neck. As you can guess, nothing like that showed up.

But the other day, on a popular bass forum, someone in my metro area offered up a Clear Orange/rosewood JB-5 in empress for a very attractive price, so I had to check it out. I didn't think I'd like it with the standard 9.5" radius, but couldn't pass up the chance to try before buying.

So I met the seller outside a local Sam Ash, and found I loved the neck despite the radius. So, with a nice discount for a local sale, I just went for it. It weighs about eight pounds, so already my other basses feel like anvils, and the tone is outstanding. I think the radius works for me because the JB-5 neck has a slim rear profile. It's extremely comfortable, and provides similar playability to my M-2500. Would I prefer a 12" radius? Probably, but this neck feels great. I'm still getting the setup dialed in and I'm not crazy about the strings, but it's already in gig-worthy shape, and I easily prefer it over my old Fender Jazz V. The tone is about the same, but the G&L has much better playability IMO, and of course it's lighter.

One oddity: It came with a genuine G&L hard case, which the seller said came with the bass when he bought it used. But the bass doesn't fit properly, and looking at my other G&L cases I think I understand why. My four-string JB's case is about a half inch longer than my M-2500's, I assume to accommodate the four-in-line headstock as opposed to the M's 3+2. It seems this JB-5 has a case for a 3+2 headstock, so the D string tuner key has to be turned parallel to the side of the case for it to fit. Strange. It doesn't matter much to me, so I've decided to be amused by it instead of annoyed by it. I don't bring hard cases to gigs, so no big deal.
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Re: Empress JB-5 joins the fold.

Postby Ken Baker » Sun Aug 25, 2019 6:21 pm

OMG!!! A POST!!!

Congratulations on the score!

Got pics? We like pics!

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Re: Empress JB-5 joins the fold.

Postby Nedmundo » Sat Dec 21, 2019 9:46 pm

Updating because my Gritty-approved clear orange beauty developed a pronounced, annoying rattle which, oddly enough, might be related to the ill-fitting case. When I noticed this rattle, I pressed on anything I thought could move and buzz, but came up empty. This included grabbing the tuner mechanisms, but I didn't grab the ends of the tuning keys. It seemed like it was coming from inside the neck, so I was afraid of a truss rod issue. I brought it to my tech today, and he was nearly stumped, but then grabbed the keys--and, lo and behold, the D string peg was slightly damaged and able to wiggle a tiny bit. I tuned the bass many times and never noticed this, but still felt silly I hadn't grabbed the tuning keys. (Oddly, it didn't vibrate when playing open D, but did when playing the open G string.) I suspect it was damaged by butting up against the end of the case, probably before I bought the bass, because I never used the case. Within an hour, I had ordered a new tuner from G&L.

The led me to experiment with how my G&Ls fit in their various cases. I was sure my JB-5 would fit comfortably in my JB's longer case, and indeed it does. I also figured my M-2500 would easily fit in the JB-5's shorter case. Check. My JB, with its longer 4-in-line headstock, almost fits in the JB-5's shorter case. The headstock buts against the end of the case, so it isn't ideal, but it could work. But, interestingly, its D-string tuner is at less risk than the JB-5's because the basses' D-string tuners aren't in the same place; the JB-5's is placed farther out on the headstock. With this, its tuning peg, when turned parallel with the headstock, reaches the end of the headstock, and thus also buts against the end of the case. That is probably what caused the damage. Weird.

I'm relieved it's such an easy, inexpensive fix. I can't wait to have it back in action. Even though I'm not gigging these days, I love having a J5 on hand and find myself reaching for it often.

By the way, my tech said this rattle was slightly challenging to trace in part because the bass is such high quality, and resonates so well. Any vibration courses through the entire instrument. He's a big fan of G&L.

Sorry about the lack of pics. I'll try to rectify at some point.
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Re: Empress JB-5 joins the fold.

Postby Nedmundo » Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:20 pm

The JB-5 is finally ready for action! (Not that it will see action any time soon, but at least it's ready. ;) ) Yesterday, I replaced the damaged tuner, oiled the fretboard, and installed a set of DR Pure Blues. Today, I tweaked the setup, and got the action pretty low with no buzz. It sounds and feels great. It is extremely resonant with good acoustic tone, which I think is characteristic of most great basses.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a good case, and it was a nice score. First, I checked out the new cases at GC and Sam Ash, but they were either too expensive, not robust enough, or didn't fit. I was about to give up, when I noticed a few used cases next to the bass room at GC. I figured they went with used basses, but discovered they were for sale separately. Incredibly, one was a short G&L case exactly like the one that came with the JB-5. Another was a sturdy plastic case that fits perfectly--for only $30. Done! The exterior was a little dusty but cleaned up nicely, and the interior seems almost new. It's great.

Sorry for the Photobucket ad in the pic, but I guess that comes with the free account.

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Re: Empress JB-5 joins the fold.

Postby Ken Baker » Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:17 pm

Pretty bass. That orange fits it well.

As to Photobucket... They've been watermarking free account pics for a while. Before that, they'd outright replace the linked pic with an ad.

You might take a look at Imgur. It's free and they only thing they do to your images is strip out EXIF metadata, which can be good for your privacy.

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