Active, passive, traditional, modern... Yamaha aims to be a little of everything and a whole lot of playable with the TRBX605 bass. Words by Peter Hodgson.
Yamaha just doesn’t make bad gear. Their quality control is famously consistent, to the point of generating envy among most other guitar companies. The TRBX605 is, of course, part of the long line of TRB basses – a series which began in the late ‘80s as a six-string bass with a low B and high C, at a time when such instruments were rare.
The line has remained one of the bass world’s most desired and reliable, and since those glory days of the late ‘80s, the TRB has been continually refined and reimagined, not only in its original six-string configuration, but also as four‑and five-string instruments (the one we’re looking at today is a five-string bass).
The TRBX605 has a sculpted alder and maple laminated body with a mass-optimised 3D design, which not only nails the perfect balance of comfort and tone, but also weight distribution. And, as an added bonus, the carving looks super cool, almost creating the impression of an archtop instrument, but without the steeper neck angle that an archtop would require.
The same attention is paid to the neck, which is a five-piece maple and mahogany laminate with the slimmest neck profile Yamaha offers. The bolt-on neck joint is clearly manufactured within very strict tolerances, with a nice, snug fit and maximum vibration transfer, while also being carved for great upper-fret access – a design function that you might not guess from looking at the guitar front-on where the neck joint looks like it might get in the way of those higher notes.
The nut is 43 millimetres wide, and there’s a nice and straight string-pull from the nut to the tuners to improve tuning stability and reduce weird overtones.
Hardware includes a high-mass, die-cast bridge designed to efficiently transfer string vibration energy to the body, with 18-millimetre string spacing suitable for a wide variety of techniques – especially slap and finger styles. Yamaha uses high-quality gold-plated parts for increased conductivity at key signal chain contacts, and there’s a low-battery-warning LED built into the back panel, so you’ll know at a glance when it’s time to change batteries (instead of finding out when your bass cuts out in the middle of a gig).
This is all good stuff in its own right, but Yamaha has paid extra special attention to the electronics onboard the TRBX605. At the heart of this bass is a duo of YGF H5 humbucking pickups with Alnico magnets (which don’t sound as compressed as ceramic magnets) and a quad‑pole design to focus each pickup’s magnetic field.
The pickups are paired with an audiophile‑grade active/passive circuit for fine tonal control and extreme flexibility, offering level-matched output whether the bass is in passive or active mode.
Herein lies a very clever design twist that Yamaha have snuck in: in its active mode, the tone controls cover bass, middle and treble – but when you switch over to the passive mode, what was previously the treble control turns into a passive master tone knob. It’s a very useful little feature, if we may say so ourselves.
GETTING TO THIRD BASS
This is effectively two basses in one, thanks to the ability to switch between active and passive modes. It’s really fun to explore how to apply each control configuration to your sound. For instance, the passive mode is great for straightforward rock and metal tones, but you really want to fine-tune the signal in order to get the most out of distortion or fuzz units.
Alternatively, pre-set the three-band EQ for a great mid-boosted solo tone, then flip back to
a more traditional passive sound for the rest of the song. Or if you need to play slap-style in one song then switch to a pick or fingers for another, dip out the mids and boost the highs and lows of the preamp for a great hi-fi slap tone when you need it.
It’s almost like having a two-channel amplifier built right into your bass. And naturally, there’s a blend control for varying the ratio between the two pickups.
In terms of playability, this bass is exceptional. It’s very comfortable for playing over extended periods of time, not just because of the intelligently carved body, but also because of that great neck shape. This is a bass that knows you’re probably going to play it on three sets of covers, on a week of all-day sessions, or on a technical metal set that would twist your fingers into knots on a less friendly bass. It balances equally well on a strap or seated.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re after a vintage-sounding, totally old‑school bass and nothing else, this is probably not the bass for you. If you’re after a bass that can pull off a convincing approximation of that sound and be a great modern funk bass and handle distorted metal – sometimes all during the same gig – this is an instrument that can cover all your requirements while also being very playable over long periods.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Maple and alder body
• Flame maple top
• Mahogany and maple neck
• Active/passive EQ
• Battery alert LED Flat mode
• Great neck
• Very flexible sonics
• Great balance
• Not the most authentic vintage tones
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