Every now and then a manufacturer appears who breaks the mold of convention, someone who refuses to play by the rules of price Vs quality that have been so rigorously set by brands such as Fender, Gibson and Ibanez.
We've seen this sort of thing in the effects market when EHX released the Soul Food, a Klon Clone drive that sounded so close it the £2000 pedal it was imitating that the £50 price tag seemed almost a joke. We've seen it in amplification when Laney released the Ironheart Studio; an all valve recording and live use head, with USB input for direct recording and built in cab simulation to go directly into a PA live.
This year the subject is far less likely, and far harder a product to drop the price on; introducing the Sire Marcus Miller V7 Jazz Bass. That's right, Miller has finally parted ways with Fender after nearly a decade of them making his signature Jazz Bass in both Japan and Mexico, whilst Fender continue on their road to only give signature model basses to punk players no-one's ever heard of.
The V7 is an active Jazz Bass in many ways very similar to Miller's original Fender, only with some really premium features, upgrades and updates...sounds reasonable right, this instrument should obviously be a progression from his old model, if for no other reason, just so Sire get noticed over the brilliant and extremely well built Fender counterpart. The only problem here is that the Fender Miller signature was £800 retail, and the Sire Miller V7 starts at £290 (oh, they do a premium model too....at £330).
So what makes the V7 stand up to the Fender? Well you have to start from the ground up to be honest. They haven't cheaped out on body wood for a start; most Squiers at this price point use Agathys or Basswood, but Sire go straight in with a choice between Swamp Ash or Alder, even going for a natural finish; something you can only do if you're confident in your wood quality.
The instrument's electronics are similarly premium. Even Music Man drop down to a 2 band EQ on their budget model, but not Sire. The V7 comes equipped with a full 3 band EQ AND a separate Mid sweep control. Then, as if that wasn't already enough, they've thrown on an active/passive switch; a feature that Fender don't introduce until you get to their £1500 premium Deluxe models. The edition of an active/passive is in itself a demonstration of confidence in their product, as the pick-ups need to be versatile enough to sound good in either context.
Additional little touches almost go unheralded in the wake of such great playing feature. Of course you'd expect the physical appearance to be the let down considering the quality parts and price tag, but no. The Sire V7 comes with pearl block inlays in either a rosewood or maple neck, pearloid or tortoise shell scratch plate, a huge high mass bridge, through body strung, body accessible truss rod, and it even comes with an optional neck pick-up cover just like the Fender original. Honestly, what a bass!!!
Check out Sire's interview with Marcus Miller below: