Yamaha has been crafting musical instruments for over 125 years, and some of that equipment has proven legendary over time. When we think about Yamaha, we think about the Yamaha equipment we’ve used over our lifetime: the DX7 synthesizer, NS-10M studio reference speakers, 03D digital mixer, and we’ve certainly fallen in love with their drums time and time again. In the BBNE2 bass guitar, Yamaha has once again given us a superb instrument that is sure to stand the test of time.
Over the last thirty years Yamaha has been working with Nathan East to refine their high-quality BB Series basses. Besides being an endorser of their products, East helped modify and improve the instrument further to make it their premier bass guitar.
Nathan East has played with everyone from Daft Punk to Phil Collins, and East has performed on thousands of recordings across Rock, Jazz, and R&B. We guarantee that you’ve heard his signature bass before. The BBNE2 bass plays and sounds fantastic. This is a boutique-level bass to be sure, but delivered at a price that won’t set you back nearly as much as other premium instruments. We’ll be purchasing this instrument for sure.
When we opened the case of the Yamaha BBNE2 bass, we were immediately struck by the beauty of the perfect piece of ebony serving as the fingerboard, with its stunning inlays of Mother of Pearl. The design of the inlay and the particular sequence of lines made us wonder if it were not a deliberate mathematical sequence (Fibonacci?). We also noticed that the shadows of the strings also become part of the design. Besides being aesthetically gorgeous, this subtle detail with the inlaid fingerboard is very appealing. The use of Mother of Pearl and brass on the tuning pegs received mixed reviews from some of our staff; some thought it very beautiful, though others would have preferred black or chrome.
The body of the bass is contoured both front and back to give the player an instrument that is compact and well-fitting on your body whether you’re sitting or standing. The double-cutaway body makes it comfortable to play up to the higher frets.
The placement of the input jack is hidden on the back of the bass behind the brass strap locks. This is cool because you can completely hide the cable running to your wireless transmitter and appear on stage to be completely unplugged! It really gives this Yamaha bass a clean appearance.
The BBNE2 contains some dynamic electronics: there are two Jazz-style, hum-cancelling, Alnico V pickups, wired into an active electronics preamp. Our favorite feature related to the electronics of this bass is the Nathan East “Magic Box” circuitry which enables the player to cut or boost a selected midrange frequency with the simple flip of a switch.
In addition to the Magic Box switch and frequency knob, you’ll find controls for volume, pickup blend, bass, middle, and treble. The tone controls can boost or cut frequencies and have a center detent.
Yamaha's BPZ-7 bridge design features individual bridge pieces which help deliver a “purer” tone because of reduced vibrations and interference from other strings. This design is intended to provide uniform string volume, note clarity, and less string cross-talk. The sharp looking, brass, bridge pieces are easily (and precisely) adjustable to the action that fits your playing style. Also in brass: the hardware, including strap locks, tuners, and knobs.
The playability of this bass is great! The Yamaha factory setup was excellent, and we did not need to make any adjustments. The BBNE2 felt so natural in our hands that it could have been custom built just for us! It was wonderfully comfortable, non-fatiguing, and a fast instrument to play. The action was in our comfort zone (low); the bass is designed and balanced beautifully whether seated in the studio or standing on stage.
The light body was a treat for long sessions, making the instrument less exhausting on our neck, back and shoulder. The review instrument came to us during a cold Northeast winter and the neck held up remarkably well to the fluctuations in temperature and humidity in various gig and studio locations.
With controls for volume, pickup blend, tone controls, and the Magic Box, the operation required some brief learning, but became quite familiar in little time. The pickup blend knob was closest to our finger plucking hand, though, where most basses typically have their volume control. This was initially disorienting, but it actually encouraged us to explore and creatively adjust our tone on the fly.
While playing, we couldn’t really see the Magic Box switch as it’s hidden out of the way to avoid accidental strikes.
We swapped out the supplied D’Addario Round Wound strings for DR True Blue strings and found that re-stringing this bass was quick and easy.
We tested the BBNE2 bass in a variety of settings from recording studio to night clubs to banquet halls. In the recording studio, we played through an EBS HD360 with a matching 2x12; on a large stage we used a Mesa/Boogie Carbine stack (4x10 and 2x12); and in a banquet hall/wedding setting we played with a Markbass Little Mark 800 and a Standard 102HF 2x10 cabinet. At home, we used multiple compact bass rigs. We also used a variety of effect pedals in our signal chain to color the tone and test the bass to see if it could get mean and dirty (Note: It can sound very mean and very dirty).
This bass just sounds amazing! The way that Yamaha voiced the pickups and electronics is perfect. The BBNE2 is always quiet, warm, and beautiful sounding.
The BBNE2 has great note separation courtesy of the BPZ-7 Bridge, and the neck-through build and ebony fretboard gives the bass great sustain. We were most impressed with the sound of the Alnico bass pickup and active pre-amp designed by Yamaha and Nate East. The stacked humbucker pickup design keeps the bass quiet and seem to intensify the full spectrum of harmonic overtones. Indeed, the harmonics ring beautifully true on this bass. The pickups deliver punch with thundering lows and articulate highs, but they can also be dialed in to give you classic Jazz bass characteristics.
With an extensive tonal frequency range, this pickup set will open up dimensions and give your sound some ear-catching clarity and attitude. If we only could bring one bass to a recording session, this would be the bass, assuming you didn’t require a dirty, clicky, Rick-style tone.
Nathan East’s secret weapon of tone is the Magic Box circuit, a parametric mid-cut frequency control with an On/Off switch. This feature added a fantastic tone shift at the flick of a switch. We could dial in an alternate, desirable tone and then turn the circuit on or off depending on which sound served the song best. We had plenty of tone to play from while keeping the bass, middle and treble controls set perfectly flat. On this bass, we left all tone shaping to our bass rigs, and merely used the on-instrument tone controls to compensate for differences in one room vs. the next.
Overall, the pickup balancer knob gave us plenty of tone options, but the bass tone was always very focused. At one recording session, the producer loved how quickly we could dial in a bass sound he wanted. When you get compliments in the studio and at the live shows for your tone, you know you’ve got a great thing going. And that of course leads to even more work.
Although there is no official product video, East plays his signature bass on everything. His single, “Daft Funk,” provides for a great product demo.
Documentation and Product Support
The included documentation concerning care, setup, maintenance, etc. covers all Yamaha basses. It is useful maintenance information, but we wouldn’t mind some additional information regarding the electronics of this bass.
Yamaha BBNE2 Nathan East Signature Bass (MSRP $4,200) sells for approximately $2,499.99. Make no mistake—this is a very fair price for such a premium instrument. The great workmanship throughout, effortless playability, and an incredible bass tone, add up to a winner. If you’re shopping for a premium bass that covers a lot of sonic territory and plays like a dream, you need to check this one out.
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