Yes, the DB bug has bitten me. I started my studies 2 months ago; my teacher was gracious enough to lend me his plywood "outdoor" bass and a bow. It didn't take long to know that I wanted to pursue this fully. So, off to Shank's Strings in PA I went.
Mike and Linda have a large selection of basses. For fully carved basses in the price range I was looking at, (say under 10K), they had a number of nice new Chinese Shen, unlabled Chinese and Romanian shop basses, etc. While the new ones sounded good, I asked Mike if he had anything old in that same price range. I had walked in with no intention of buying a bass that needed a ton of TLC, but I'm glad I asked. I put a bow to this bass, and the difference was pretty substantial.
Even allowing for different strings on each of the basses (this bass had Evah Orchestrals on it, other had a range of Spirocores and other brands), the tone from this bass was really nice. This bass has seen a LOT of action, most recently for almost a decade with a hardcore Jazz player in Philly - hence the upper bout finish wear. Plenty of repairs over the years, including all new bracing and bass bar that Mike did 15-20 years ago. The neck is in really good shape, and has a beautiful fine figure to the wood. The other nice thing about this bass is that it is light - significantly lighter than every other one of the basses I looked at. I've already spent some time carrying it around, and I think I'm glad to have a few less pounds! Other specs - 41 3/8" mensure, D neck, original tuners with replaced ebony hatpegs.
The original labels are still in the bass. On the one side "B&J #4 (the #4 in pencil), made in Czechoslovakia". The other side says "Copy of Antonius Stradivarius Violin", and a symbol with letters around a cross. There is no mention of "Salvadore De Durro", the main brand they started putting on stringed instruments at some point. It's nice to have at least that much provenance, as it would likely narrow the year if someone in the know looked at it.
The bass sounds REALLY nice, both arco and pizz. Here is a quick jazz pizz sample, with a backing track from John Pattitucci's ArtistWorks lesson site - I'm using that to get a little jazz exposure, since my classical teacher hasn't even uttered the word "pizzacato" yet!