buying sight unseen?
OK, I’m a bit confused about how this is supposed to work. One of the generally accepted ‘rules’ regarding music gear is that specifications and measurements have their place, but the ultimate factor when selecting new gear is how it sounds and how it works with all of your other equipment.
But when dealing with the “boutique” manufacturers that make what is considered some of the best gear available, all of this goes out the window. There are often no showrooms or dealers that stock this gear, and some of the manufacturers make it clear that purchases are final (while a few do offer ‘trial periods’) Spending well over $1k on something you’ve only seen on a website might not be a big deal when it comes to some products, but for the equipment we will use to make music, well, it just seems wrong.
Even the seemingly good idea of trying to coordinate a network of satisfied customers who are willing to let prospective customers check out their recent purchases, is of limited value. In my case, there are only a couple of guys within a reasonable distance and neither has anything close to the type of product I’m interested in. Using Greenboy as an example, if there are a couple of existing customers within a two hours drive, but one has a 1515/66, while the other has a Crazy 8, but I’m interested in a 12” sub. Even if these guys are nice enough to invite a stranger (me) into their homes to check out their cabinets, how does that help me evaluate the 12” sub I’m interested in?
I’m a huge fan of hand made gear, designed and built by a local craftsmen, but there has to be some better way of deciding on a purchase other than counting up the positive and negative comments on some gear forum. But I’ll be damned if I know what the better method is??? Maybe some type of upscale rehearsal studio stocked with gear from dozens of boutique manufacturers. For $40 or $50, a serious potential customer could spend an hour playing through cabinets from 4 or 5 different boutique builders. While this idea would only be viable in a few major markets, it beats the existing situation.
Any better ideas?
Nope. That is the trouble with boutique or specialized builds, can't "kick the tires".
"upscale rehearsal studio stocked with gear from dozens of boutique manufacturers"
That's called the NAMM Show.
Actually, all joking aside, look for a retailer in your area or close to you. It turned out that when I was looking there is a store that only carries used boutique or high end basses.
Actually, when I went to this years NAMM show I realized many of them "feel" very similar. In terms of neck and body. I didn't play to many, however, I did pick many up and they were all very similar.
Good luck in your quest!
Drive out to someone who has it and try it out with your gear. That's all you can do. Drive out to both people with the speakers - you can hear the similarities with both pieces. Then call the boutique company and talk about your impressions with the gear. Very likely they can lead you towards the product that will be best for you.
A special warehouse with a bunch of boutique gear and a $40 fee to enter and try it out; sounds like a great idea. I would jump all over that. Will it be done one day? Maybe.
How ever doesn't the same thing apply to buying basses on the bay? You have no idea how the action is, how the truss rod is, how it feels, how it sounds.
This is why I want to see the bass before I buy it. No by deals for me.
I have bought gear based on folks here who I trust and who hear things similarly as I.
The Walkabout and 7-Pro were well described and met my expectations.
The TH500 was pretty much as described but did not work for me.
The LMII was as described although I found it to be kinda blah.
Making friends that have lots of gear is a good thing!
Edit: The above is based on amp and pedal buying.
I only buy cheap basses sight unseen unless it is from a trusted seller.
There was a shop in my neighborhood that sold boutique amps and instruments from around the world like what you are describing. Most of it was pretty high end dream stuff. Typically, names you read about but never see in person. They closed for some reason after several good years.
What are you wanting to do with the sub? Ime, a sub is a sub is a sub, simply eq it how you like, 100hz from cabA is same as 100hz from cabB.
If you want to run it full range that's different, and weird. Your friendly 151566 owner might be willing to disconnect the mids for a giggle.
I live near Bass Central, so I can check out a decent amount of different stuff when I want to, except someone always yells at you to turn down because they're always on the phone taking mail orders ;) But they don't carry everything.
Unfortunately, that's the way it is with boutique gear unless you go to a NAMM show. However, I'm going to say something that not everyone buys into, but I find quality Youtube demos and recordings on websites such as this one to be pretty valuable for at least making a short list of gear you can't try out. I can at least tell if I'm not going to like something by the demos, and very often, I find myself feeling the same way after I buy something I haven't got to try. If I like it in the demos, I almost always like it in real life.
I've made a couple purchases over the years I wish I could have done differently. I got all into SWR because thats what PNut used when I saw them live but didn't really care for the tone for my rock band. The goliath Sr 610 cab basically fell apart on my within 2 years. I ordered a custom bass based on a production model without ever trying the production model first and sold the bass within a couple months.
The majority of the gear I've kept for extended periods of time I did get to try first before buying. bought my ampeg 810 because I played a showcase where one was provided. All my basses except for the custom I mentioned I did play in the store before buying.
and then some gear I got because my band opened for a lot of bigger touring bands and I saw, listened, and talked to them about what they used. That was the deal with sans amps. with a lot of bass players in the rock world, aside from their bass, a sans amp is the core of their tone, a lot of them will even endorse different amp brands from tour to tour but no matter what "stage monitor" they use the sans amp was still what they got their tone out of.
Talkbass has been a pretty good judge of gear for me so far. sometimes I'll see something online and out of curiosity I'll look it up on talkbass to get others opinions. I don't take everyone's word on everything because with any piece of gear there's going to be some who like it and some who don't. But talkbass is a great place to find out if a certain piece of gear has reliability issues and stuff like that. there are a few members here who I agree with on their opinions of gear we've both used so I do listen to them a lot more than others.
I do feel like the gear music stores stock changes a lot of things also. lately both the nearby guitar centers, sam ash, and the local mom and pop stores are all stocking cheaper gear. every once in a while I'll see a boutique item used but thats about it. I really do wonder how much this is hurting some companies. I spent about 10,000 for 4 different Warwicks at guitar center. since guitar center stopped carrying them I haven't bought a single warwick.
I've bought a bunch of stuff by nothing but board consensus and they've always been pretty much on. Given 'em a chance, they are very good.
Years ago, I had a supervisor who was also a bass player. One day, he told me the story of how he acquired his Mesa 400. He and some of his bandmates took a road trip to another state to visit, IIRC, Chuck Levin's. He spent an afternoon trying out all kinds of amps, and it came down to the Mesa and a Trace Elliot that he liked equally. He knew it was a big investment with either amp. Funny enough, he couldn't decide and flipped a coin to make his final decision.
The moral of the story: If you're seriously considering laying down the cash for that type of gear, then it may be worth it to make the time and gas investment to visit a specialty shop, such as Bass Club Chicago, BassNW, etc., where they have a lot of high-end gear stocked to try it out.
Me personally, I buy most of my gear used, so I am usually pretty confident that I can flip it at a small or no loss if I don't dig it.
I have bought sight unseen twice have been unhappy both times. If I can't play it and hear it, I'm not interested.
The ideal situation of course, is to borrow the gear you like and try it on a gig, because, in the end, that's where it matters to you, not in some overcrowded music store on a Saturday afternoon, or in somebody's garage or basement. Having said that, it's almost impossible to do, unless you strike up a friendship with somebody in your area that has what you may want. Otherwise, it's hit and miss, even with objective reviews here on TB. I've been disappointed many times with gear after reading glowing reviews here on TB. Videos are nice, but, again, you are hearing, usually, one guy sitting down playing his favorite bass line in his bedroom. I try to look for videos in a band context with gear I'm interested in, but, in reality, there are so many subjective variables, that you just have to bite the bullet, and take a chance.
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