Yamaha and Billy Sheehan have collaborated on the Attitude Bass for over 30 years, and this line of basses has been coveted both by players and enthusiasts alike for its innovative looks and features. The bass is engineered, handcrafted and built by the master luthiers at the Yamaha workshop in Hamamatsu, Japan.
The latest revision, the Attitude Limited 3 bass, surpassed our expectations about how extraordinary or versatile it would be. The Attitude 3 Bass has all the familiar characteristics of Billy’s previous models including the partially scalloped neck and stereo output, but with continued refinement in the details. If ever a bass were deemed “shredworthy,” this one definitely has the right, um, attitude.
The Yamaha Attitude Limited 3 four-string bass we reviewed is a modern bass with plenty of classic features to balance it out. The attractive Classic Black, glossy finish on our reviewed guitar (it also comes in a striking Sonic Blue) is complimented by a traditional chrome tuning machine and a Yamaha custom-built bridge. The output plate is black chrome with two outputs. This premium, custom-built instrument is part of the Yamaha signature line of basses, and the overall quality of construction and details meets the high standards we expect from Yamaha.
The maple neck is 34" scale, width at the nut is 44.5mm, width at the 12th fret is 57.6mm, thickness of the neck at the 1st fret is 20mm, thickness of the neck at the 12th fret is 24mm, and the fretboard radius is 10" (250 mm). This neck is a traditional C-shape, a very familiar feel topped with jumbo frets from the 1st fret to the 16th fret, and the last four frets, 17th-21st are medium fret wire. What also makes the last four frets fun is the 17th to 21st frets are scalloped on the G and D strings. The string spacing of 19mm is accommodating for players who want to dig in or slap.
Black fret markers add to the aesthetic originality of the bass. The nut material is a black polyacetal, and the dual-action trust rod is light and sturdy. The satin polyurethane finish on the neck brings out the natural beauty of the hand-selected piece of maple; this wood is gorgeous!
To make sure the neck and body resonate musically, the luthiers/engineers and Billy decided to use mitered bolting, with two bolts that are placed at an angle that pulls the end of the neck into the body, making it stronger and hopefully resonate more like a one-piece instrument. Three additional screws create a ridiculously solid bond. The structure of the body makes the Attitude Bass much more resonant than traditional two or three-piece body instruments. Three pieces of wood are hand-picked, positioned so the grains are aligned, and then a luthier cuts them and adds two spleen joints to make a rock-solid body that transfers vibrations in a more uniform manner across all of the wood.
The hardware on the bass is a counter-sunk brass bridge that gives the player a lower action and (potentially) no buzzing. The tuning machines are a set of Gotoh GB2 with a hipshot D-T Tuner. The strap button even has a cloth washer to protect it. Details!
The electronics are wonderful. There is a Yamaha-designed, DiMarzio Woofer pickup, and the middle pickup is a DiMarzio and Billy Sheehan collaboration called Willpower. The Woofer is a powerful, low-end voiced pickup and the Willpower middle pickup is a P-style pickup with punch and lots of midrange. The bass features stereo output jacks, a separate output for the front and middle pickups, and alternately classic mono operation.
The electronic controls are as follows: the first knob is a front volume for the Woofer, the middle knob is a front tone (neck pickup Hi-Cut switch), and the third knob is a rear volume (stereo/mono switch). A Hi-Cut switch in the front pickup tone control boosts the bass output from the front pickup. The whole bass is aesthetically brought together with a white-pearl three-ply pickguard.
The Attitude Bass 3 comes with a traditional hard case and a torque adjustment Allen Wrench for the GOTOH Tuners. Collectors will appreciate that the bass also comes includes an autographed certification of authenticity.
The playability of the Attitude Limited 3 bass is great! The Yamaha factory setup was excellent and we did not need to make any further adjustments. The Bass comes from the factory with a set of D’Addario EXL170 strings; the string gauges are 45-100 (Surprisingly, the bass doesn’t ship with Billy Sheehan’s signature RotoSound BS66 strings).
The action, pickup height, and intonation were great. The Bass had a very classic and familiar feel in our hands, supremely comfortable and non-fatiguing. And because the action was near perfect, this was a fast playing instrument. The Bass weighs 9 lbs., 10 oz., but since it is nicely balanced, it wasn’t fatiguing to wear for hours-long rehearsals.
But what about those scalloped frets? Are they hard to deal with? Do they mess up your playing? In, short, no! The uppermost frets (17-21) on the G string are partially scalloped, and we found that when you are playing traditional bass lines the scallop beneath your fingers was barely noticeable. What was great fun, though, was that we could easily bend from the 21st fret (E) to a (G), which would be the 24th fret. The playability is effortless on the scalloped frets and definitely enhances some of the things you can do when you incorporate some lead melodic lines into your playing.
Once we were familiar with the controls, it became second nature to dial in our tone. The first control is the Volume for the Woofer pickup; the second knob is the Woofer Tone with a front pickup high-cut switch, and the third knob is the rear Volume for the WillPower pickup. The third knob is also the Stereo/Mono switch and when it is pulled out, the bass operates in Mono. When we were playing in mono we plugged the instrument cable into the top jack of the bass, engaged the mono switch, and then we had access to both pickups and EQ. All the electronics are passive so there are no batteries involved.
Changing strings and making any neck adjustments were all accessible and typical. There is a little plate at the top of the neck you must remove to access the truss rod. The HipShot tuners give you a drop-D tuning at the flip of a switch, and a fine tuning knob on the tuning peg lets you get things dialed in pitch perfect. And, with an extended fine tuning range, you can actually drop down to C instead of D if desired.
We tested the Yamaha Attitude Bass in a studio setting through an EBS HD360 with a matching 2x12 (mono), through a Mark Bass 2800 with a Mark Bass 4x10, a pair of QSC K.2 powered speakers (stereo), and more (basically, we loved it so much we used it with all of our bass rigs). For a bass with “attitude,” it was very clean sounding and exhibited no pick-up hum in any settings. The WillPower Middle T-style Pickup, running in mono with the Woofer Volume all the way down, through a 2x10 cabinet with little EQ adjustment on the AMP, was perhaps the best rock bass sound we have heard out of countless basses we have reviewed. It had so much punch and tons of output, and we could hear all the frequencies of the Bass. The pickup is voiced with a strong mid-range presence. The high notes had a nice round sound to them; the low notes hit us in the chest and moved air.
We found keeping the pickups volume all the way up was best when getting our attitude sound together. When only engaging the neck pickup (Woofer) this unique pickup changes the voice to emphasize the low end characteristics of the bass, but pushes some mids and it almost has a vintage throwback sound. When engaging the EQ for the Woofer pickup you can definitely find some modern clarity. This is a very powerful and dynamic pickup! You can tell that the engineers and Billy worked hard to voice this pickup precisely due to its placement on the body. Out of all the basses we’ve reviewed, this pickup combination—for a passive electronics bass—absolutely has the most power and covers the widest range of frequencies. Bottom line: old-school mojo without the noise.
Direct through powered PA speakers really highlighted the mid-range presence and how dynamic the pickups are when running in stereo. It was a clean sound that gave us a very descriptive image of the voice of the bass. Surprisingly, both pickups had a mid-range presence. But going straight through two powered speakers isn’t the greatest bass sound. We ran the WillPower middle pickup into a SansAmp to give it some high end dirt and we ran the Woofer pickup clean. Take our word for it: the sound was full, again highlighting all the frequencies. There was such a clarity to the tone, it was like opening up different dimensions into our bass sound. We enjoyed putting different effects on different pickups. It was very easy to get creative with this bass.
In the studio, recording tracks on the Attitude bass proved equally as versatile. You could record two different bass tracks from a single performance, and then the producer could choose between the two or blend them to taste.
Documentation and Product Support
The included documentation concerning care, setup, maintenance, etc. covers all Yamaha basses. It provides useful maintenance information, but we wouldn’t mind some additional information regarding the pickups and electronics that are unique to this bass. There is plenty of information on Yamaha’s website about this bass, though, as well as videos of Billy Sheehan talking about his basses and pickups.
The Yamaha Attitude Limited 3 Billy Sheehan Signature Bass (MSRP $5,571.00) sells for approximately $3,000. Make no mistake—although costly, this is a fair price for a premium, collectable instrument that you’ll want to play the hell out of. The great workmanship, effortless playability, and incredible bass tone add up to a winner. If you’re shopping for a premium rock bass that covers a lot of sonic ground and plays like a dream, you need to check this one out.