To accompany the reviews I have written for you for the V7 Vintage and V5-24 models recently, I asked Anderton’s in the UK (who are Sire’s UK distributor, as well as a huge music gear outlet) if they’d send me a pair of their newer P-style basses from the range, too. I opted for both a maple and a rosewood fretboard option, both passive P5 series models: Sire’s modern take on a classic.

Naturally, we want to know how they stack up and whether or not, like the V series, these basses can hold their own in an already crowded marketplace. My video to accompany this feature will give you a close-up look at this grand pair and the compelling argument they dish up out of the box!

As with the V series basses that I was kindly sent directly from Andertons.co.uk, I found both of these P series basses to have also been packaged up with an excellent set-up.

Enter the Sire P5 series. 

We are treated to a classic design that has beaten a well-trodden path for decades – nay, I think, sauntered with confidence in being possibly the most-recorded bass design in history.

It’s a classic, a staple, and arguably can do any style; and for most “versions” out there, hasn’t really changed that much since the late ‘50s.

Well, Sire, I feel are tackling “yet another P” with decorum and thought. The existing P8 and P10 models offer souped-up refinements in the range, including a J-style pickup, active electronics and eye-catching tops, but demand still grew for a great-sounding, smooth-playing passive workhorse with all that fat richness we hope for in a no-nonsense bass.

On all the current P5 models, we are treated to the effective pairing of North American alder for the bodies and maple for the neck. In both the P5 and P5R models, the rich, dark neck wood colour comes care of a “roasting” process – a heat treatment for woods that is said to emulate the natural ageing process, thus benefiting stability and affecting tone. I’ve not heard a roasted necked bass I didn’t like the sound of. Both of these instruments have a pleasing, open, resonant tone, acoustically. This is hard to quantify, but, for the P-bass tone I like the most (as it is no one-trick pony, despite having only one pickup), this immediately promises good things. 

Both necks have a satin finish around the back that feels smooth under the thumb, and around the front, P5R gets a rosewood fretboard, P5 a glassy gloss finish on the roasted maple. P5, interestingly, gets black face dots for a slightly more stealthy look to the fingerboard, versus the contrast on the P5R dots. You may find the black hard to see in dim light. White fret markers adorn the top edge of each model. 

The Sire headstock – which I have to admit looks much better, in my opinion, with the premium tuning gear of the P10 models installed – sports a smart Marcus Miller logo and the model number. Even at these early stages, I poured over the P5R model that by chance had a wonderful flame grain across the edge of the headstock that continued down the neck. On the subject of tuning gear, though, like the V series, the tuners are solid, and even feature tension adjustment via the Allen key socket at the bottom of the tuner. A nice touch that you don’t even see on some more expensive basses. These vintage-style, open-gear keys, like the rest of the hardware, are finished in Chrome.

Sire Marcus Miller P5 and P5R Precision Basses
Sire Marcus Miller P5 and P5R Precision Basses

Digging Into the Details

In my video, again, I seek to point out those nice touches. The string tree applies a break angle for three, not just two, strings. However, I am not a fan of having to feed the strings through holes; in preference I would rather have quick-release or side-entry types. Yet, the very inclusion of a more positive break angle for the A string is another thumbs up. Yes, okay, I love a tilted headstock to do away with string anchoring altogether, but there are many an argument for these straight headstocks, including cost saving, so, I’ll leave it there for now as we head for the natural bone nut with a profile width of 42mm.

A minor niggle for these P series basses – and believe me when I say minor – the nut height on both of these basses was cut a little high. They were cut evenly and without inducing any buzzes or rattles, mind, but a tad high in comparison to that of the first frets and onward. Moving up past the open string position, I am further encouraged. I’ve said this before: if a bass comes out of the box with little neck relief and a low string action, this is a good sign that it’s not hiding a multitude of quality control sins. Hiding uneven fret installation with excessive neck relief and a high action is easy to spot and a cheeky attempt to hide substandard build quality!

Of course, if you start with a buzz-free low action, you can come up from that, if you wish. P5 and P5R allow for this. Part of the low action is thanks to what looks like a particularly tidy fret job on the 9.5″ radius fingerboards for my review models, here. A close look at both necks and I see little cause for alarm. The edges are nicely shaped, and although not invisible edging, certainly nothing damning for me to raise for commentary. On that note, Sire’s version 2 models all feature their Edgeless™ fretboard treatment that rounds off the corners for a comfortable in-hand “played-in” playing experience.

The P5’s C-shape neck carve is nowhere as hefty and fat as my ‘70s USA P-bass, but maybe slightly more rounded than that of the current Fender Player series that I have also recently reviewed for an upcoming BGM column. The Sire carve is unusually “moreish” and I kept going back to the basses looking for a chink in the armour, but, again, at the UK price of these models, very promising.

Sire Marcus Miller P5 and P5R Precision Basses
Sire Marcus Miller P5 and P5R Precision Basses

Moving on to the body, the acoustic sound of the bass didn’t sound choked with 100 layers of poly finish, like some, and even with what some may argue is “basic” hardware (in the shape of the steel, spiral-saddle, folded metal bridge), there’s no denying that those strings emitted a rich tone through the pickups. On the subject of strings, D’Addario strings are fitted as standard, tidily. Through my studio amplifier, the roundwound tone with a plectrum sounded bright, but with plenty of depth present. Something you’re not going to hear through laptop or mobile speakers! The girth of a nice set of floor standers or studio monitors is rather inviting, I have to say, and needs to be experienced.

Whilst we are talking tone, the Sire Marcus Vintage-Fat Precision Revolution pickups are humbucking and placed in the sweet spot for the classic P-bass tone. People may notice that these pickups have a lower output than that of other examples on the market, and this could be frustrating if you are switching instruments on stage without a suitable quick-access gain control adjustment. Levels aside (my own ‘70s P has low-output pickups, as it happens) when you do set the input gain up to optimum levels, I’d say that the two basses here deliver a wonderful P-bass sound.

As expected, controls included are volume and a tone control (which, put simply, is a filter that progressively rolls off the top-end frequencies of the sound as it is turned anti-clockwise; great for those softer sounds, or something all the more convincingly “Jamerson,” if you will). You can tempt the low end out of these basses; it is there. I’m lucky to have some nice cabinets in my studio at the moment and, paired with the Bergantino HD series, as well as the new Barefaced BT3, there were smiles-a-plenty. Watch my video for some tonal highlights. For reference, it should be noted that I chose not to use any speaker simulations to not add undue colour to the mix. 

Rounding Up

Sire Marcus Miller P5 and P5R Precision Basses

Appointments like the real bone nut and rolled fretboard edges are nice surprises on the basses in this range. Consistent with Sire’s reputation, the P5 bass ships with a quality setup ready for stage and studio. For bassists who crave the look, sound and vibe of an old-school P-bass with modern refinements, the P5 and P5R are hard to beat at local prices.

Value for the Money

The thing is, we all know that costs have gone up dramatically. Especially here in the UK, some businesses have certainly had to endure the severe weathering that financial uneasiness has brought, even to the point of closing doors. I am under no illusions that creating instruments for the worldwide market, whilst staying competitive, is proving, at times, difficult. So, you’ll understand when I use “for the price” as a disclaimer wisely, and in the case of Sire, in a positive light. Luckily, I am in a position where I have reviewed and played countless instruments over the years, and have a keen eye on “what you get for your money.” And no, whilst nothing is perfect, there are some real gems to enjoy on the market today, and in my experience, these four Sire basses, are certainly ones to place on your shortlist. 

 

SPECIFICATIONS – P5

Manufacturer:Sire
Website:https://sire-usa.com/
Model:Marcus Miller P5
Made In:Indonesia
Warranty:See local distributor
Boby:Alder
Top:n/a
Neck:Roasted hard maple, bolt-on
Neck Profile:C shaped
Fingerboard:Rosewood, Edgeless™
Bridge/color:Marcus Miller Vintage-S / chrome
Nut (Guide):1.65 ” (42mm) bone
Tuners/color:Open-gear / chrome
Knobs/color:Metal / chrome
Pickguard:3-ply
Control cavity coverSee pickguard
Pickups:Marcus Vintage-Fat Precision Revolution
Preamp:n/a
Controls:Volume, tone
Body Finish:Gloss
Neck Finish:Satin
Scale Length:34”
Number of Frets/Positions:20
Frets:2.4mm stainless steel
Inlays:Black Dot
Strings:D’Addario®
Gauge:.45-.105
Fingerboard Radius:9.5”
Accessories:Tools
Options:n/a
Price:$534, £399

SPECIFICATIONS – P5R

Manufacturer:Sire
Website:https://sire-usa.com/
Model:Marcus Miller P5R
Made In:Indonesia
Warranty:See local distributor
Boby:Alder
Top:n/a
Neck:Roasted hard maple, bolt-on
Neck Profile:C shaped
Fingerboard:Rosewood, Edgeless™
Bridge/color:Marcus Miller Vintage-S / chrome
Nut (Guide):1 1/2” (38mm) bone
Tuners/color:Open-gear / chrome
Knobs/color:Metal / chrome
Pickguard:3-ply
Control cavity coverSee pickguard
Pickups:Marcus Vintage-Fat Precision Revolution
Preamp:n/a
Controls:Volume, tone
Body Finish:Gloss
Neck Finish:Satin
Scale Length:34”
Number of Frets/Positions:20
Frets:2.4mm stainless steel
Inlays:IV Dot
Strings:D’Addario®
Gauge:.45-.105
Fingerboard Radius:9.5”
Accessories:Tools
Options:n/a
Price:$534, £399
author avatar
Dan Veall
Dan Veall has an insatiable appetite for all things bass guitar, be it vintage or cutting edge technology. Dan is a seasoned stage and studio player and a private teacher of bass & guitar from his home studio based in the UK. Over his career in music to date, Dan has produced over 400 HD bass gear video reviews and has recorded with some of the very best in the world of rock and prog’.