The Squier Bass VI is well documented as being one of the most interesting and infuriating instruments of the 21st century. You don’t have to search far online to find posts about struggles setting the intonation, fixing the rattling bridge and avoiding the spaghetti string low E. I’ve had my Bass VI for a little over a year now and my opinion changes on it all the time, depending when you ask me. Some days it’s the best guitar I own, some days it’s a useless piece of junk that I’m a click away from putting on eBay.
Up until this week, I’d been stuck in the latter mindset for quite a while, tempted to get rid of the Bass VI and move towards something more traditional. I bought my Bass VI in a Black Friday sale and used the savings to upgrade the bridge to Staytrem’s fantastic Bass VI upgrade (with no sleeves as I still wanted to use the tremolo), so I’d never had any problems with the rattling bridge. The new bridge also seemed to solve most of the intonation problems as well. However, I was struggling to find a decent set of strings to solve the big noodle that Squier considers a low E on the Bass VI.
I ditched the stock strings straight away, and ordered some of Ernie Ball’s 6 String Bass Guitar strings. I’m not fan of Ernie Ball’s strings at all, as I find they tend to last about a fortnight of regular playing before they die and sound like a tuned washboard, but on initial investigation, these were the only Bass VI strings that had a thicker low E (0.90″ rather than the standard 0.84″). Once they came, I found they were way too short for the Squier Bass VI, which if I had read the reviews, I would have noticed. I’m not entirely sure why Ernie Ball even thought about making a set of strings for 6 string basses, if they can’t fit the most common and well known 6 string bass. Silly.
Next, I went back to D’Addario’s Fender Bass VI strings, despite the smaller low E gauge. I’d read some posts on the stupider guitar forums (implying there’s such a thing as a smart guitar forum) about swapping out the low E for a 0.90″ or 0.95″ bass string, which I decided to have a crack at. I can’t remember which I ended up with, but surprisingly, it worked! I had solved the floppy E, and no one would be any the wiser of my mix ‘n’ match string set, until they saw the massive ball end hiding behind the string bar.
This set stayed for a long time, but I was struggling to get comfortable with it. Maybe I was imagining the problems, but I couldn’t get on with the weird mix of strings, and they just seemed to highlight all the other problems with the Bass VI. The low E still sounded like rubbish, even if it could intonate properly, going from a nasty growl to a low trump depending on what pickup was on. So, I left the bass in it’s bag for a long time and began to look at how much I could get for a used Bass VI on eBay.
That was until, I came across Axion Custom Works on Instagram. I’d noticed a few people had began using Axion’s Bass VI sets and had been getting good results. I sent off for a set to see if they could solved my problems. Within two days, I had ripped off my hybrid D’Addarios and was set to go with the Axion set.
The main draw to Axion’s set is that the gauge is custom for the Bass VI, rather than the odd not-quite-a-baritone gauge that Ernie Ball and D’Addario went for. Axion’s set runs 100-80-56-44-34-24 from low to high, as opposed to Ernie’s 90-74-54-42-30-20 or D’Addario’s 84-72-56-44-34-24. Looking at the numbers, you might now start to see why I had problems leaping from a 0.90/0.95″ bass E to a 0.72″ guitar string. Balance is everything! On initial playing, I really noticed the difference in having a fatter E and A, which thankfully slotted in the nut with no problems, and the Bass VI finally started to sound like a bass. No noodles, no farts.
It’s hard to write about strings with any enthusiasm, and to me, there are only three major factors when it comes to strings; price, tone and longevity. Axion’s Bass 6 Strings cost £16.95 (D’Addario’s Fender Bass VI strings costs £19.99 and Ernie Ball’s 6 String Bass strings cost £12.99 on stringsdirect.co.uk), which to me is a bargain, seeing as not only do they actually fit the Bass VI, but also didn’t need supplementing with other strings. As for tone, I get a perfect thump and twang from Axion’s set, which I would put on par with D’Addario’s set (minus the bass E). I obviously can’t compare to Ernie Ball’s strings, as I didn’t get as far as fitting them due to their length. On that note, it’s worth noting that Axion explicitly state these strings fit both Fender and Squier Bass VIs, as well as the Burns Barracuda and the Shergold Marathon 6. It’s a little early to say about Axion in terms of longevity, but seeing as they’ve ticked all the boxes so far, I have high hopes that I’ll get some good use out of these before needing a new set.
I’ve fallen in and out of love with a fair few instruments, and most of the time it turns out to be something simple that gets in the way of my enjoyment. Sometimes it’s pickups, sometimes it’s hardware, sometimes it’s a glaringly obvious issue that no one seems to have thought about fixing. The Squier Bass VI is by no means a play-straight-away instrument, but I didn’t mind taking the time to mess about with it and upgrade the bits that needed sorting out. However, to say that some of biggest string manufacturers couldn’t drum up a decent set for this cult icon from Fender leaves me utterly baffled.
Axion’s strings saved my Bass VI from an eBay listing, and for that I am very happy. It’s daft to think that something simple like a set of strings can be make or break for an instrument, but for something as niche as the Bass VI, it most certainly does. All in all, I’m very impressed that a company I had no familiarity with until recently has managed to plug a big hole in the appeal of the Bass VI. I look forward to seeing what else Axion comes up with in the future.So, if you’re a struggling Squier lover like me, who perhaps has a Bass VI hidden from view or sat in the ‘for sale’ pile, then consider Axion’s Bass 6 Strings. They might just save a life!