Totally Underpriced, Which is Cool
I bought this because I simply wanted a standard, run-of-the-mill 4-string bass to knock around on, and Yamaha has a great reputation for building inexpensive instruments of outstanding quality (this is my first Yamaha bass). Turn-ons for me were the P/J-style pickup combo, the scale length, and the price. Nothing fancy. I did not expect to end up with anything nearly this nice. So, while I'm high on the excitement of getting a new toy and from the sleep depravation of a night spent playing, I thought I'd take a second to share my observations about the RBX170 with the class.
The body is slightly smaller than a P or J Bass, but is extremely well balanced and fits comfortably in my lap, and I'm 6'4", so it's not obnoxiously small either. More importantly, it's remarkably light, so it's easy on your back when you stand. I also like the way it resonates against my chest, which is one of the benchmarks I look for right along with the way a bass sounds unplugged. Even without the benefit of an amp, you can tell this bass sustains like champ.
The neck has an almost sanded-feeling satin finish that's baby-butt smooth. I'd been expecting to give it the old steel wool treatment and was delighted to find it wholly unnecessary for my taste. It's a bit chunky (which I like), but not encumbering, kind of like a meaty Fender C. This keeps the narrow 1.5" nut from inducing claustrophobia, but might turn off a player with smaller hands trying to play up the neck, but I doubt it. I have sasquatch hands, so it feels like heaven to me. The frets seem nice and even too, and they're dressed nicely so you won't have to worry about sawing off your hand.
When it comes to the pickups, I'd pretty much assumed I'd want to replace them, though other reviews spoke highly of them. So far, the reviews have been spot on, because I've felt no inclination to swap these pickups out. Both are nicely dynamic bread-and-butter single-coils, and each has its own distinct character that stands on its own or blends with the other smoothly. Each pickup has its own volume knob (as it should be), and a master tone control covers a range from lightly tamed highs to a fully rounded, treble-less R&B sound. If you like passive pickups, you'll have nothing to complain about.
So far, the hardware appears to be rock solid. I like the fact that the 4-saddle bridge is fully adjustable, though I've found no reason to touch it. The tuning machines are sealed, and they have low-profile heads instead of those annoying paddles that make your bass go out of tune when you breathe on it. I'm still a bit heavy handed when it comes to popping, and despite hours of continuous playing I didn't notice any slippage, so they seem to do the trick nicely.
All told, these are not the qualities you'd expect to find in a bass that's less than a respectable car payment or a night or two out on the town. A few bucks more for the RBX170EW model is totally worth the aesthetic upgrade too, by the way. At any rate, I'm very glad I picked one up.