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Unbiased review: Sire U5 short scale (30" scale) P/J bass

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Unbiased review:
Sire U5 short scale (30" scale) P/J bass

First Impressions:

Straight out of the box I notice some flaws that shouldn´t have gotten past quality control, but I´ll get into more detail regarding that later.*

The neck looks wonderful and the rolled fret board and fret edges, combined with the satin finish on the back of the neck make it really comfortable to play.

The body on this one is finished in a nice tobacco sunburst with a white binding which just radiates class.
The bass is nice and light with a total weight of just 3,78 kg.

With the bass hanging low on the strap I could notice just a small amount of neck dive, but when strapped higher on the body it appears to be nicely balanced.

The neck:

As mentioned above the C-shaped, hard maple neck feels really smooth, the rolled fret board edges make this neck a joy to play and the fretwork is nothing but excellent.

The nut is made out of synthetic bone and 38 mm wide,
which combined with the shorter scale makes it very easy to play for people with smaller hands.

The fretboard has a 9,5" radius, which will make Fender players feel right at home when playing this bass.
The black dots on both the fret board and the top edge of the fret board make it really easy to navigate around the neck without getting lost.

The shorter scale length certainly makes a difference,
making it a lot easier to do those wider stretches and fast runs, thus reducing hand fatigue.

The body:

The body is made out of North American alder with a very beautiful flamed maple veneer top that pops up nicely through the see through tobacco burst finish.
The back of the body has a see through dark red finish which shows the nice grain of the alder underneath.
It is a slim carved body shape that feels very comfortable while playing both standing and sitting down.

Factory set-up:

Straight out of the box, the playability was excellent, it was set-up with a medium low action, and I was able to set the action even lower with just a few tweaks of the bridge saddles and the truss rod, making it play even better without any disturbing fretbuzz noises.

The split coil Precision pickups needed some tweaking as the pickups were set higher under the E and the G string than under the A and D string,resulting in a lack of volume in the mids.
The same problem occurred with the bridge pickup which was a bit too close to the strings on the treble side
and a bit too low on the bass side, but after some light tweaking with a screw driver I was able to balance the string to string volume pretty easily, which made the pickups sound a lot fuller in no time.

Neck pocket, tuners, pots and knobs:

Here we get to some of the flaws i mentioned in the beginning of this review.
On this particular test-model there was a noticeable gap in the neck pocket (as seen in the pictures),
also there were some scratches in the black paint on the aluminium knobs.
Everything worked fine though, the tuners feel solid and do their job, the pots turn smoothly and seem to be of a decent quality and the black aluminium knobs that are used for the passive tone controls (volume/volume/tone) are definitely a nice touch.

The bridge:

The bridge is a sturdy vintage type bridge with threaded saddles, with grooves underneath that keep the saddles from moving sideways.
It´s bolted firmly into the body and it allows for both top-loading and string through body stringing.
Although there´s a lot of discussion concerning the up- and downsides of both these options the fact that you can choose between top-loading and string through body stringing definitely makes it easier to find a suitable set of strings for your personal style of playing.

Again I was slightly disappointed in the quality control of the Indonesian factory where these are made as one of the bridge saddle was completely covered in rust.

Amplified sound:

After raising the pickup height to my preferences I was able to get a nice Precision bass tone out of the split coil pickup really easily, the jazz pickup sounded nice as well and although it might sound a little thin compared to more expensive jazz pickups it certainly had a nice tone and it combines very well with the Precision pickup.

Some of the people that are used to having the very versatile pre-amp that comes standard on most Sire basses might have the feeling that they are missing out on something on this bass with only having the volume-neck pickup, volume-bridge pickup and overall tone controls,
but to me, being a fan of passive basses, these easy controls really made me feel like coming home as you can have a variety of tones at your disposal without having to worry about running out of battery in the middle of a gig and/or accidentally touching a knob of the active pre-amp and thereby possibly overpowering the gain stage of your amp.

All in all both these pickups sound really good considering the price point of this instrument, especially compared to the pickups that are in some of the similarly priced alternatives like the higher end Squier basses and although I will probably replace the pickups by a set of more expensive after market pickups at some point I can easily understand that 99% of the people that buy this bass will see no reason to change them
at all and are totally happy with the sound of the bass as it is straight from the factory.

Acoustic sound:

Even when playing unamplified you can definitely hear you´re holding a quality instrument,
the bass has plenty of natural volume and the hard maple neck gives it a snappy attack with plenty of brightness and resonance which makes it easy to hear all the details of your playing when doing some late night acoustic practice.

Pros:

- Superb playability

- Rolled fretboard edges, rounded fret edges, excellent
fretwork

- Compact and lightweight

- Despite it being a passive instrument it is still very versatile
and it has wide range of tones on tap

- The stock pickups sound pretty good, especially considering
the price point of this instrument

- The flamed maple top, body binding and aluminium knobs
definitely give the instrument a classy look
and make it look a lot more expensive than it actually is

Cons:

- * QUALITY CONTROL!
As mentioned above a couple of times there were a couple
of issues on this particular bass that should have not got
past the quality control.
As shown in the pictures there is a noticeable gap on the
top side of the neck pocket, one of the bridge saddles is
covered in rust, one of the aluminium knobs has some
scratches in the paint
and also in the truss rod cavity I could see some scratches.
I must mention that this could just be "a bad one" though as
none of the other Sire U5 owners that I´ve spoken to
so far encountered any of these issues.

- The tone control could do with a wider sweep, so
experimenting with other capacitors might be one of the
mods I would suggest for this bass.

- The U5 does not come with a gig bag or case, so it might
take some time to find a fitting case or gig bag for this bass.

- Not really a bad thing, but compared to my Fender Mustang
and Medium scale Squier Jaguar the U5 is about 0.3 kg
heavier, at 3,78 kg it is still a very manageable weight, but I
thought I should mention it anyway.

Conclusion:

Even though there clearly were some issues with this bass,
I´m really impressed with the playability and overall quality and sound of the instrument.

As I´ve talked about this with other U5 owners that I know and none of them mentioned having any issues like the ones I found on this particular bass.
I choose to believe that I just got unlucky by receiving a "dud" and therefore I mailed Sire concerning the issues I found on this bass, and they agreed to send me a replacement immediately. So, thumbs up for their customer service!

Since the (those few issues I talked about left aside) overall sound, quality and playability of the new Sire U5 left such a good impression on me
I´m definitely considering keeping the new replacement if it turns out to be a "good one" this time.

In the long run I do plan to replace the pickups with Dimarzio´s and while I´m at it redo some of the wiring and replace the bridge saddles with
Graph tech replacements, but that has more to do with personal preference than necessity as the bass is probably good enough as it is for most people.

At this point I´m really looking forward to getting the replacement as I´ve already tried most of the newer short and medium scale basses on the market today
and if this new one has none of the issues this "bad one" had, it could easily be in my shortscale top two next to the Schecter Banshee bass (which has a slightly better
bridge, lightweight tuners, carbon rods in the neck, but is also almost double the price and comes with only one pickup) and it could definitely become "my go to bass" for quite some time.

Some extra info about the Sire factories:

The CEO is Kyle Kim, and the company is an offshoot of his company Dame guitars.
Dame is big in Korea but could not break the international market, so they started the Sire company in co-operation with Marcus Miller with the goal of putting high quality, yet affordable instruments in the hands of youngsters and musicians on a budget.

While Kyle Kim´s other brand Dame guitars (Sire/Dame, see the link?) is produced in both the Korean and Indonesian factory Sire has expanded it´s factory to China in 2015, having the entire Sire range being produced at both the Indonesian and Chinese factories.***

***Quote from Sire:

"Hello Bass Players!
We would like to let you know that our factory has expanded to China.
Before, we had only a part of our factory in China that makes other parts of our products.
But with a strong demand for our products worldwide, Sire Guitars expanded its full product line-up in China as well.
So right now, basses are coming from our Indonesian and China factories.

The reason why we expanded our factory to China is that all the component, parts,
accessories and the new technology for building better quality instruments is based in China these days.
Those who are familiar with musical instrument production will understand this.

China has a great potential and possibilities in producing high quality instruments.
Such as high quality CNC, 3D printer, preamp parts,
coils and all the good components which is necessary in building guitars.

So in order to pursue our revolutionary vision,
Sire Guitars decided to expand in China, and we will continue to produce quality instruments at an insane low price.

We've heard some of our customers who are worrying that our China made instruments quality will not the same with the Indonesians.
We at Sire Guitars assure our customers that this doesn't affect the craftsmanship and quality Sire Guitars is known for.
Our factory is not an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and we only produce Sire Guitars both in our factories within Indonesia and China
with the same high quality standards.

For everybody's information, other major brands of guitars and basses are manufactured in a number of OEM factories.
This huge OEM factories deal with more 10 brands under 1 factory alone.
There are higher risks for quality to be low within that process,
but we at Sire Guitars choose not to accept any OEM orders as this can greatly affect our high standards for quality control.
(By the way, we had been offered to make guitars and basses for some of the top-notch brand that everybody is aware of, but we refused to do this.)"

Ps: I will add an update to this review as soon as the replacement U5 has arrived.

Greets & Grooves!
Bassdude's Bassment

 

 

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UPDATE: Replacement Sire U5 (and it´s much better this time!)

Hi, 
as mentioned at the end of my OP I contacted Sire concerning the issues on the U5 
and they agreed to send me a replacement right away.
This replacement already arrived yesterday morning and I´ve spend most of the day playing it 
and going over it in detail.

This new U5 is definitely much better than the first one I got, 
which kind of confirms my suspicion that I got a bad apple the first time around.
This new U5 doesn´t have any of the aesthetic flaws of the first one, no rusty bridge saddles, 
no scratches on the knobs or truss rod cavity and it came with an almost perfect set-up straight from the factory.

One thing I noticed is that there´s still a small gap on both sides between the neck and the neck pocket, 
but it´s a lot less obvious than it was with the first U5 I received. 
This doesn´t seem to affect the sound though, as this particular bass has sustain for days.

A few other things that I didn´t mention in my review is that I opened the electronics cavity and
was very happy to see that everything was nicely shielded with conductive paint and that Sire didn´t go cheap
on the poti´s and wiring. 
They´re using Alpha pots, which are good quality and the wiring and soldering 
seems to be up to a quality standard that is rarely seen in an instrument at this price point.
The standard string spacing at the bridge is 20 mm, but as they use threaded saddles this can be adjusted 
slightly to your personal preference.

The total length of the bass from the top of the headstock to the bottom strap pin is 108,5 cm 
and I managed to find a suitable guitar bag for it at Thomann which should fit the bass without issue.
(link to fitting gigbag: https://www.thomann.de/be/thomann_gigbag_deluxe_egitarre.htm)

The weight of the new one is exactly the same as the first one I got, weighing in at 3,78 kg, 
so these basses seem to be very consistent weight wise.

All in all I´m very pleased with this replacement U5 (which is obviously a lot better than the first one)
and as the neck and fretwork seems to be even better than on the first one, this is definitely going to be 
a keeper.

NOTE:
For everyone buying this bass in Europe I would strongly recommend buying this bass from Thomann
as they now have an in house quality control for Sire basses, thereby greatly reducing the risk that you would end up
getting "one of the bad ones". The fact that I got the first one with all the issues via another European
distributor kind of shows the value and importance of this extra quality control i.m.o.


For the modders:

There don´t seem to be any drop in replacement bridges and tuners for the 2nd generation of Sire basses,
Hipshot made a drop in replacement tuner set for the 1st generation Sire basses (the HB-14), 
but as these used a different size tuner, the HB-14´s don´t fit the 2nd gen Sire basses.

The stock tuners and bridge work fine though, so replacing them is not really a necessity, 
but as I am a bit of a nitpicker when it comes to tuning stability and love to personalize my instruments a bit,
I´m planning to install a set of black Hipshot ultralites to reduce the weight a little bit more,
increase tuning stability and make the bass feel even more balanced on a strap.
I also plan to replace the bridge with a black Hipshot Kickass as these allow the adjustment of the string spacing at the bridge,
so you can line up the strings with the pickup pole pieces (set for 20 mm spacing) perfectly.
(most other after market bridges are set for 19 mm string spacing at the bridge, which would cause a slight misalignment
of the strings over the pole pieces)

Please note that both these upgrades require filling up and re-drilling some screw holes,
so if you don´t feel comfortable doing that I would definitely suggest asking your local luthier 
or guitar tech to do the work for you.

I was also planning to experiment with some different value tone capacitors as the bass sounded a bit bright
to me, even with the tone rolled off completely, but installing a set of Labella short scale flatwound
strings seemed to balance things out nicely, making it unnecessary to do this mod.


Greets & grooves!

DSC00507.thumb.JPG.3976caeb3102224d88dafea6dbe8bfc7.JPGDSC00511.thumb.JPG.b50e4aa4ede61013c4e35dae3b33f9bd.JPGDSC00515.thumb.JPG.378500c225ffa73ea10bde4132da30ea.JPGDSC00517.thumb.JPG.9cd0cbb5d31d1ed513479325fadc6fec.JPG120042802_1248228798874675_3071587987164819335_n.jpg.5786fe3cd27a8c4005eb0479aff3847c.jpg

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Another small tip for the people who buy this bass and are a bit disappointed with the low end and low mids coming from these pickups;
Yesterday I took a decent look at the bass to set it up to my liking and get it ready for today's rehearsal and found the pickups to put out quite a lot of high end, but lacking some lows and low mids.
I then (as I usually do with basses from a lower price range) put some extra foam under the pickups so that I could bring up the pickupsa little closer to the strings.
 
The P pickup is now set to 3.2 mm from the E and A strings (everything measured up with the string pressed on the last fret of course) and at 2.4 mm under the D and G strings.
The jazz pickup is now set at 2.8 mm under the E string and 2 mm under the G string,
 
With this adjustment, the pickups have clearly more output with more lows and low mids and the balance in volume between the P and J pickup now seems to be a lot better as well.
So I would definitely recommend everyone to experiment with this before you might consider replacing the pickups,
as the difference in sound quality can be significant after this easy and small adjustment.  
 
Greets & Grooves,
Bassdude's Bassment
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10 hours ago, Guilaume1982 said:

image.png.6a2007d1c91622e9a111a2d17d115009.png

Hi Guillaume,

to most people the Sire U5 will be good as it is without any work by a professional.

If you are a nitpicker like me you might want to upgrade the tuners and pickups at some point, but that's a very personal thing and mostly a matter of taste (I even mod >2000Euro basses that already have quality hardware with other quality hardware, just because I prefer a certain brand of tuners and/or pickups.. I just like to work on instruments in general, so a lot of the mods I do are not so much out of neccesity, but rather to give my personal flair to the instrument...).

The gigbag I use for my U5 and other short scales is this one (a perfect fit!):

https://www.thomann.de/be/thomann_gigbag_deluxe_egitarre.htm

 

As to the Labella strings I prefer to use the La Bella 760FL-S Deep Talkin Bass shortscale flatwound set on my short scale basses as they have just the right amount of tension to compensate for the sloppiness that often comes with the shorter scale, yet they play effortlesly and have a great sound to them. Again, this is very subjective, but if you like playing on flatwound strings you can't go wrong with Labella i.m.o.

https://www.thomann.de/be/la_bella_760fl_s_deep_talkin_bass.htm

 

Hope you enjoy your new bass! ;)

Kind regards,

Don

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I just use standard straps on my 30” basses... not affected by the neck length.

Fender have a short scale gig bag... fits my Mustang and Squier SS. A standard hard case may be too long for the neck but might fit ok... maybe you’d have to modify inside with some foam, if it moves about in the case. Try it and see.

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On 29/12/2020 at 12:56, Bassdude BE said:

Hi Guillaume,

to most people the Sire U5 will be good as it is without any work by a professional.

If you are a nitpicker like me you might want to upgrade the tuners and pickups at some point, but that's a very personal thing and mostly a matter of taste (I even mod >2000Euro basses that already have quality hardware with other quality hardware, just because I prefer a certain brand of tuners and/or pickups.. I just like to work on instruments in general, so a lot of the mods I do are not so much out of neccesity, but rather to give my personal flair to the instrument...).

The gigbag I use for my U5 and other short scales is this one (a perfect fit!):

https://www.thomann.de/be/thomann_gigbag_deluxe_egitarre.htm

 

As to the Labella strings I prefer to use the La Bella 760FL-S Deep Talkin Bass shortscale flatwound set on my short scale basses as they have just the right amount of tension to compensate for the sloppiness that often comes with the shorter scale, yet they play effortlesly and have a great sound to them. Again, this is very subjective, but if you like playing on flatwound strings you can't go wrong with Labella i.m.o.

https://www.thomann.de/be/la_bella_760fl_s_deep_talkin_bass.htm

 

Hope you enjoy your new bass! ;)

Kind regards,

Don

Don,

are these la bellas long enough to be strung through the body. I have them on my Hofner and like them a lot

thanks

Mart

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1 hour ago, police squad said:

Don,

are these la bellas long enough to be strung through the body. I have them on my Hofner and like them a lot

thanks

Mart

No these are for stringing through the bridge only, for stringing through the body I would recommended the Labella F-MUS set, these are made for stringing through the body and have about the  same tension and feel like the normal LTF shortscale set. ;) 

https://www.labella.com/products/760f-mus-stainless-steel-flat-wound-30-scale/

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