I've ordered a Thompson RM-200 (the hybrid model). Should be here mid January!
Steve at String Emporium is leaving for China tomorrow to actually go work at the shop.
He was very helpful over the phone. Just like another reviewer, he didn't really down talk other basses, but he did give me the 4-1-1 on why his would be just as good if not better than the others in my price range. (Shen)
He takes a lot of pride in his craft, which is something I really appreciated. I felt after talking to him that he is a musician/bassist 1st and salesman 2nd. Which is how it should be. IMO.
Anyway. When it comes in. I'll post again with how it plays. Admittedly, I'm a novice on upright…. so who am I to really have an opinion… =) Take it for what it's worth! :rollno:
At less than $5K, their "G.B. Rogeri" model undercuts, and appears (at least outwardly) comparable to the Shen "300" Rogeri model. Outline and Ff-hole pattern are nearly identical, as are the dimensions and rib depth. Essentially, this instrument is on my "short list" of instruments to try out, and I'd love to hear more about the craftsmen who build them.
Please keep us posted, as I am eager to hear about your experience.
I acquired an RM-200 earlier this year. I bought it as a second bass to a very healthy, 46 year old carved Rauner. The RM-200 was very playable and fairly open right out of the box. But that's another story. You should be very happy with it. It looks very nice too.
Trevor Davis did the last set-up on the Rauner and it had opened up considerably. I was happy but set it aside for a while and endeavored to use the RM-200 for most (it turned out all) gigs I was playing. This to break it in plus I was playing a few risky outdoor, possibly inclement weather, no-no gigs. I've stayed with the RM-200 and like it a lot. It isn't replacing the other bass necessarily, and not to the extent that I would ever sell the other one. It's just a great bass. Playing the heck out of it has caused it to open up considerably too.
Someone posted "the community is fortunate to have a number of talented luthiers and actual builders who are musicians/bassists/craftsmen first and salesman second. It's more the rule than the exception." I think that's good if taken to mean the community of musicians/bassists/craftsmen the world over. That should reflect that the musicians/bassists/craftsmen approach is better than a factory filled largely with semi-skilled or poorly skilled woodworkers using automation, pressing tops with steam machines and/or using poorly aged woods.
There seems to be a lot of interest in the other "shops" in China. If anyone is worried about these sources I would suggest just calling Steve and asking him. Before I bought my bass I already knew how much time Steve put into seeing that quality instruments got to his customers.
When you consider the overall population and number of musicians in China, it's no wonder shops other than just Shen are turning out good instruments. And there's always the possibility that a larger Chinese manufacturer can find itself oversold and need to sub out work to a smaller shop. Sometimes the smaller shops become bigger shops themselves. One of the ways counterfeit products in general got launched was that a sub would lose a manufacturing contract but still have the equipment, plans, raw materials and people on site. With little or no prospect for new business counterfeiting could be tempting for some.
I purchased a used RM200 and have owned it for three years. It is a nicely made instrument w/good ebony parts and brass tuners. I made a few modifications like a Marvin tailpiece and a wooden endpin. The bass felt tight to me w/stock tailpiece. I think the top good be slightly thinner but that may effect stability. The bass has gone through high/low humidity and hot/cold temps in New England without any issues. I'm very happy w/this bass.
Do these basses have D necks?
Not sure what a D neck is.
I'll be honest, I really bought this bass based on other positive reviews. I hadn't read anything negative, and for the price, I couldn't justify going anywhere else. So I had every intent on purchasing before I called Steve.
Once I called him, he went on and on about how he makes them and compared them to Shens. Basically, it boiled down to Shen saving money on their end by not using the best Spruce. Or a different type of bridge. (If I sound clueless, I really am. I'm trying to remember enough to regurgitate.)
He mentioned that the adjusters on the Thompson were the same as on his personal bass (i don't remember brand). The Thompson bridge is solid maple. The tuners are supposedly the best you can find in China. I'm pretty sure the spruce is carved. Not positive. Hope this gives a little more insight.
From the String Emporium website
RM 200 Hybrid Upright Bass Checklist:
solid, hand carved, aged Spruce top
beautiful, well made, maple and spruce, specially imported European veneers
our own heavy duty (upgraded) individual Chinese tuners
solid, 10mm, cork lined endpin (new and improved!)
real ebony purfling
high quality ebony fingerboard
High quality maple bridge, Delrin® bridge adjusters included!
full professional set up
our unparalleled, 2-year all inclusive new upright bass warranty
AFAIK, String Emporium instruments have consistently gotten good reviews. I have only played the Wan Bernadel model and it is an excellent bass and value. The top luthier in Chicago who I go to, as do many in the Chicago Symphony bass section, told me about the Wan Bernadel years ago and showed me one that was owned by a bassist in the Indianapolis Symphony. He thought it was very well made and was impressed.
These instruments are made for the String Emporium. They have them built and market them in a similar fashion to the old Juzek brand sold by Metropolitan Music, or so it seems to me. (Juzek was a brand that was sourced through Wilfer and others) I think it would be accurate to say that the SE is putting out a quality product. I get a vibe of skepticism from some here, but I don't think it is warranted. Steve Koscica is a former bassist of the Phoenix Symphony. He puts his reputation on the line with these basses and it seems that most of his customers are happy (I haven't seen a bad review).
"D" necks, in my experience, tend to be the more common of the two. I actually did communicate with Steve about his basses a few months back. He is definitely not a fan of "Eb" necks, so the basses he has built for his shop all come with "D" necks. Since my Kay has a "D" neck, I have no problem with this.
Regarding Eric's statement about skepticism, I think that sort of comes with the territory of running a business that is centered on the mail-order side. If you read some of the early TalkBass posts about Carvin electric bass guitars, you'll see some of the same skepticism. But, if you check out the bass guitar forum now, you will notice that Carvin has built such a strong reputation for their name that hardly anyone thinks anything of ordering a bass guitar-- sight unseen-- from Carvin nowadays.
New Forum Member: "I'm thinking about ordering an SB-5000 from Carvin..."
Hundreds of Veteran Forum Members: "Do it!"
One or two Veteran Forum Members: "I wasn't crazy about the pickups, but the construction was top-notch. So, yeah, do it."
Granted, upright basses don't sell in the same volume as EBG's, so it might take a lot longer for Steve and his company to reach the same level of brand equity, but, as long as he keeps making happy customers, it may get there with time.
Eric's comment about "skepticism" regarding these basses might go back to another member that just couldn't seem to accept all the good news that others were posting. He was wondering "why all the great reviews?" and speculating that these people might be shills. I think he finally came around but it sure took a long time.
I was hoping this thread would have gone along without another word being said about this. That was not to be. I remember the skepticism that was shared by a number of members (not just one). My recollection is that it wasn't ever about the quality of the basses, per se. Rather, it was about the validity of some of the reviews themselves. I don't recall anyone expressing wonderment or saying that those who posted might be shills. Rather, what was pointed out was the astonishing similarity of the reviews by people who had virtually no experience and who made some strong comparative statements. There's nothing wrong with asking or encouraging satisfied customers to post in their own words about their experiences and then letting the chips fall. In fact, it's smart.
Thankfully, we haven't seen any such controversial reviews for quite a long time. So, it seems that someone else came around. :)
By all accounts the Thompsons seem to be a fine value. That was somewhat apparent soon after their introduction. It's nice to see that their quality has been allowed to be established via the usual channels and types of reports. Most valuable are reviews by players, such as Roger, who have been around the block a few times.
drurb - You seem to be talking out of both sides of your "keyboard". On the one hand you express hope that this thread was gone and in the following sentences you bring it up again, using terms like "astonishing similarity of the reviews". Did you really need to do that?
You were one of the original Thompson naysayers as I recall. Until your most recent post we thought that YOU were the one that finally came around. Shaking you out of your obvious Upton/Shen bias has taken its toll. And I mean no disrespect to Upton. In fact, I want one of their new Made in America bass models.
No Roger, not talking from both sides of the keyboard at all. Yes, I expressed hope that no one would have continued to dredge up the past. I was hoping that it would end with Eric's comment and the follow-up posts. Then, you decided to kick the hornet's nest hard by posting with your innuendo. "Did you really need to do that?" At that point, I answered because you kicked open the door. It's unfortunate that you chose to take off course what was a nice, generally positive thread. Yes, once you did that, I described what was my view of those early reviews. It was not "skepticism" about the instruments that was the source of the earlier posts. It was about the reviews themselves. I was not the only one who noticed the "astonishing similarity." I've been completely consistent. Nothing from which to "come around." I never trashed the basses at all, just the review hype. That hype has been gone for quite some time. So, as I said, it seems the source of them "came around."
I sure don't have any bias about Shen. It's an informed opinion and one that seems to be shared by many here. The same holds for Upton. I really like their products and I'm not afraid of saying so... sort of like you and Thompson. ;) By the way, you have to go back a very long way to find a post from me that expresses anything approaching a strong statement about any Upton bass. That's not because I don't like them. Indeed, I do. Rather, it's because I've made an effort to avoid the perception of a bias. Despite that effort, there are those such as yourself who keep fueling it, even in the absence of any statements from me.
Back to bassics
Getting back on track... can anybody offer a side by side between the RM200 and Shen 150 or 180?
I laid hands on both basses last year in one of my trips in England. The basses are identical, giving me he impression that both are based accurately on the same design pattern. Both are good, decent instruments and represent a good value for money purchase.
I was also in Shanghai last September and i visited Samuel Shen's shop in Jingli Rd. I had the chance to try six different instruments, in various grades of quality. All of them were very well constructed and all were offered in fair prices. Visiting some other factories in China, some bigger and some smaller, i found in one of them the same construction patterns and a couple of luthiers explained to me that they worked with Sam Shen in the past. So it seems to me that it is highly possible that Steve's basses and Shen basses are almost identical and difinitely they all represent good and well constructed instruments.
As for the intitial reviews about Thompson basses i do agree with Drurb that they were almost identical and they were written by members who appeared to the forum only to express their favourable opinion about Steve's basses. It caused some scepticism, a fact that was shared by many of us in this forum. Steve intervened and set things straight, so no hard feelings towards anyone. IMHO it's no use to discuss it again.
Can I ask a simple question, as the Shen distributor?
Why buy an instrument whose sole claim is that they are "just like us?" How can they be, if they haven't paid their dues of a couple decades of making them? Essentially everything I've done since I joined CSC, and everything Sam and Paul have accomplished is stolen by this company. I'm sorry, but there is everything wrong with a direct knock-off.
What would you think, for instance, if someone started knocking out copies of Arnold's ergonomic bass, or Gary Upton's Concord? What if you called this copying maker, and his pitch was "Our Concord is just as good, and hey here's some disparaging remark about Gary's wood quality"?
I am still finding it hard to believe that this situation exists.
I would buy one!
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