Gear Review - First Act model ME105 Bass Guitar

Gear Review - First Act model ME105 Bass Guitar

Don’t laugh just yet….this little bass is far, far better than the price would suggest! The one I have was advertised (used) on Austin Craigslist for $30, but I ended up swapping a couple of old effect pedals for it straight-up. It had stickers and the residue of stickers all over it, badly needed a truss-rod adjustment and overall setup, and generally looked and played like crap…until I cleaned off the stickers, boiled out the strings (which weren’t really old to begin with), and did a decent setup on it.

General Description/Features:

- Double-cutaway solid Basswood body
- White pearloid pickguard
- Maple neck/Rosewood fingerboard, 32” scale
- ‘P-Bass’ style pickup
- Cast, sealed ‘Gotoh-style’ tuners
- Single tone/volume controls

The finish appears to be a translucent blue with sparkles, over a black base.

It appears solid black in low light conditions, but when the lighting is bright enough, the blue sparkles appear. The finish is very, very thick, and of a polyester type; very hard and brittle (I found out when I chipped it with the slip of a screwdriver). The neck appears to be of pretty good quality Maple, with nice figuring in it. It’s a wide-profile neck, like a ‘P-Bass’ neck, but at a medium (32”) scale. The bridge is a generic stamped and chromed steel type, but adequate nonetheless. The tuners are of the ‘modern’ style, and seem quite smooth and accurate. The pickup is a cheapie ‘P-Bass’ split type with ceramic magnets glued onto the back of the plain steel polepieces, rather than the polepieces being rod magnets themselves.

Action, Fit, & Finish:

I can’t really comment on the action itself, as I didn’t buy it new, and I don’t have any idea how it was when it was new. But the fit of all the parts is great. There’s no discernible slop in the neck pocket at all. I’ve actually had the neck off, and its fit in the pocket is quite snug. The bridge’s placement is perfect as regards string alignment with the neck, etc. I was a little dismayed at the pickup routings, though, as the pickup halves almost have to be forced into their cavity (too tight). I think the thick finish has a lot to do with that, though. And the pickup halves end up being not quite parallel with the top/face of the body once they’re screwed in…as if the screw holes are not quite centered in the cavity. The control knobs were of cheap, chrome-finished plastic, and the chrome finish was peeling up on them. Those were immediately swapped for some much nicer knobs I had lying around in my ‘hell box’.

Tone & Playability:

Again, I can’t comment on these criteria as if the bass were new. However, once I got it cleaned up, back together, and tweaked out, it is very playable. Especially since I have smallish hands, the 32” scale makes life a little easier for me. The neck width, though, is much like a ‘P-Bass’; kinda wide even at the nut. As for tone, I was surprised to hear how much of a classic ‘P-Bass’ tone it has, and none of the ‘short-scale thud’. The strings on it are not of the heaviest gauge, but of enough diameter & tension that it doesn’t feel ‘flappy’ as some shortscales tend to. But then again, this is what’s considered a ‘medium-scale’ bass, at 32” bridge-to-nut. The tone is full, with a great low-end, that magnificent P-Bass ‘quack’ in the midrange, and a high-end that’s not super-bright, yet plenty bright enough for slapping/popping. It gives a very classic ‘funk’ slap/pop tone, such as you might hear on early funk-genre stuff from the 80’s. It sounds equally as good played fingerstyle or with a pick (with a pick, it gives me that Pink Floyd ‘Money’ tone…spot-on). Sustain seems to be quite good, too, even though the body is of lightweight Basswood. The body being so light gives it just the slightest tendency to ‘neck-dive’ on a strap, but that tendency is very minor, and adequately manageable with the right strap.

Overall Impressions:

I don’t think this is one of the ‘Wal-Mart’ First Act instruments, because I don’t believe I remember seeing this particular model in any big-box store…but I could be mistaken. I figure it’s what might be considered their ‘standard’ line. At any rate, I was quite surprised at the overall quality level. I really hate that thick, hard, brittle finish on it, though. It scratches easily, and chips even more easily. I plan to eventually take a heat-gun to the body and get all that polyester off there, and if the wood looks good enough, give it a plain polyurethane finish, perhaps with a stained color on the wood. All in all, for what I traded for this thing, I think I got a pretty good little bass out of the deal. And the kid I got it from feels like he got a good deal, too…that’s the beauty of these Craigslist swap deals. But I’d have to wonder if he’d have made that trade if the bass were in its present, cleaned-up, well set-up condition when he still had it…because it plays and sounds pretty darn good now that I’ve got it tweaked-out.

Conclusion:

I might not ever take this bass on stage, for fear of the inevitable derision I’d get about playing a First Act bass from any musicians that might be in the audience. But if I were to refinish the body nicely, and somehow remove the ‘First Act’ logo from the headstock…in other words, make it look ‘less cheap’…., I wouldn’t be ashamed to play it right out in front of real people.