The Yamaha BB series is a legendary line of instruments with a killer pedigree. You only need look to former Van Halen and current Chickenfoot bass player Michael Anthony to hear how the BB has shaped rock, and continues to do so. The BB is available in various different configurations (including an Anthony signature model, the BB3000MA), but the BB424X is one of the more affordable entries to the line-up.
The BB424X features a smoothly sculpted solid alder body and a 5-ply laminate neck. I like that the headstock face isn’t painted, so you can clearly see the different woods even from the front. And that oversized Yamaha headstock has got to be part of the reason for the BB’s legendarily powerful sound – all that extra mass right where the strings join the neck leads to a lot more resonance.
The five-bolt neck joint is rounded for comfortable upper access to all 21 frets. The fretboard is rosewood, with simple but classy oval inlays (compare them to the BB3000MA’s hot chilli pepper inlays, which I assume is a nod to Anthony’s love of chilli and not a tribute to his Chickenfoot bandmate, Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith). The neck feels a little bit indistinct, and although it’s well-made, it’s perhaps the one indicator that this is a less costly bass. The slightly sharp fretboard edges are a bit of a giveaway that this is an eastern production-line bass.
The pickups are a pair of custom Yamahas that look unlike anything else out there, with a blade featuring a radius similar to the fretboard for nice even volume from string to string even if you bend a note – which is something you’ll probably want to do, since this bass feels rather soloing-friendly. The pickup rings are rounded off, and while some players might find their thumb slipping a bit when using it to anchor for fingerstyle playing, I found it pretty comfortable.
Controls are fairly simple: volume, tone, and a three-way pickup selector switch. It’s much more common for basses to have a pair of volumes – one for each pickup – and a tone control, but this more guitaristic layout gives you quicker access to the bass’s sounds.
Another particularly interesting feature is the 45 degree through-body stringing: flip the bass over and you’ll see that the strings actually pass through the body at a 45 degree angle before reaching the bridge. This is designed to reduce stress, secure the string tension and improve the transmission of the string’s vibrational energy.
The BB424X is indeed a punchy, powerful-sounding bass. Even unplugged it’s almost loud enough to at least use in a living room acoustic jam. Plugged in, the same punch and power is evident, but can also be tamed by selecting the front pickup and rolling back the tone a little. You can get some great old-school R&B tones and some amazing, woody hard rock sounds, and although it sounds great with fingers, a pick really allows all that chunky alder and maple to resonate and kick some ass.
Having played the really upper-end BB series stuff before, I can say with confidence that this one really has the right sound, vibe, feel and spirit. It’s amazing that this is a relatively inexpensive bass.