Is Chinese E-Bay hardware usable?
So I'm trying to get my hardware together for my first build and am wondering if you guys have any experience with the cheap e-bay stuff. On the one hand I'd like to save a little here and there but I don't want to waste my time with it if it's unusable. Thanks for your input.
Earlier this year I built a fretless P-bass from mostly chinese parts. The neck was from http://www.eyguitarmusic.com/ ($99) and pretty dang nice. Body came complete from eBay for like $70. I bought the real thing (used from TB of course) when it came to tuners, I'm partial to Hipshot Ultralights and I also bought a used EMG pickup. It looks pretty good and plays well enough I won't sell it or trash it. The bridge came with it and it has real cheap MIC plating but seems to work fine.
Pretty much plays well enough to keep me playing it in the closet.
The picture is before I got the EMG.
I would not recommend cheap tuners from China/ebay. I got some that said "Gotoh style" or something along those lines and one of them slips and doesn't hold tune. Overall I can just tell the quality difference between real Gotoh tuners and those ones. Some of them are probably fine, but once you get them, if there's something wrong, it's not really worth shipping them back to China.
Some of the other parts would probably be fine, like the bridge, nut, knobs, jack plates, maybe truss rod, things like that.
I think that the less moving parts, the more sure you can be that it could work. I wouldn't buy, for example, a Chinese replica Floyd Rose tremolo :P
I've had mostly positive experiences from Chinese hardware (bridges, tuners, jacks, pots etc).
If you just want to build your own parts bass, there's lots of stuff there that can work. If your making your first bass, as in making a neck and making a body, then don't even think about cheaping out on the hardware that's going to go with all your love, labor, and sweat.
You deserve better. ;)
Stick with known brands, at least to start, unless the price is just insanely low (sometimes there are amazing deals...I picked up 15 un-stickered GFS 12kOhm Li'l Killers for $7 each last year, and a half-dozen very nice branded Wilkinson ceramic soapbars for the same amount the year before...almost the equal of a Kent Armstrong with a pair of a5 bars in it). Allan Eden is my favorite HK dealer, along with iknmusic, but I have gotten to know the proprietor at ikn. Allan Eden sells primarily Belcat, Artec (makers of GFS' pickups...check the bobbins on your GFS pickups!) and Wilkinson stuff, along with some of their own products. I bought a neck recently from a local hotrodder who got one of their circle-E necks...not bad, but no better than GFS. I've tried a TON of the Chinese hardware, bought a bunch more for a store where I do repairs and stock parts. It's hard to find a *bad* EB/MM-type bass bucker, but the no-name soapbars are no-name tone...the cheap p and j pickups are not fit for a partscaster. The Wilkinson ceramic soapbar isn't a bad pickup for $25; the Belcat "ceralnico" EB/MM has series wiring only, but a warm AND very powerful tone. The $25-30 Artec EB/MM is pretty nice for the $, and the blackout is identical to the open-pole in tone and resistance. The alnico p/j's that Allan Eden has - not sure if they're Belcat or Artec - sound IDENTICAL to the GFS vintage-p-bass, which IMO is the best under-$50 p-bass pickup out there.
For bridges, I've had spotty luck. Bezdez, a Canadian ebayer that handles primarily Korean stuff, has the best price/variety for bass bridges for me...standard p/j bridges vary little but their cast bridges (incl. unbranded Dillions, old pre-headless Steinberger designs, and even their cheap $40 piezo) have all been good for me.
Pegs are a different matter. I buy the Chinese pegs two sets at a time; they're not BADLY made, but often badly assembled...caps pop off from poorly-attached screws. Avoid the pegs with the thick Schaller-type keys which are junk; the thinner keys with the little crease in the center, had a few pop their covers but all were solid, reliable tuners.
When buying large-can pots, stick with the good stuff unless you do NOT like a free-spinning pot...the Chinese full-size pots are nearly all firm-feel, and require O-ring knobs for me to turn with my pinkie.
Necks and bodies, I would try to source domestically...it's mostly our wood anyway, and finish quality varies widely.
I've done probably 100 orders from Chinese vendors since 2011...I've had a couple lost-in-the-mail's and a couple of shorted orders, and maybe 1 of 20 pieces is defective or substandard, double or triple the rate of problems with stuff bought onshore...I consider that well worth the savings for the hassle and loss but if I was building a parts bass I'd consider reliable quality and fulfillment worth a 20-35% higher price. The only vendor with whom I've had problems with refunds and lost orders is jackmusical...I lived with it for a while since they had the best inventory/price profile in 2011; that's no longer true. My current favorite is Allan Eden, and their same-spec Artec stuff is considerably cheaper than the identical GFS-branded product, but there are several other vendors with comparable inventories who are likely as-good or better.
My usual recommendation to local kids wanting to build: source the mission-critical stuff (sometimes the neck, sometimes the body, sometimes the pickups) from a known-good source and be willing to pay extra; by all means tho go offshore for the stuff you consider less important. And generally speaking, I recommend hotrodding a quality instrument that isn't quite where you want it over building a parts guitar...it'll be a LOT easier to get a decent dollar down the road, esp. if you save the original parts, and you'll usually get more guitar for your dollar when you're done than you will from a scratch build...but of course there are always situations where you simply can't buy anything close to what you want to build.
Hope that helps.
I don't have as much experience with Chinese parts as Braindancer, but I have bought a few.
Eyguitars Jazz bass neck. Brilliant fret work, good lacquer job, well finished off.
Cast high-mass bridge. Bought this el cheapo, but it is solid and looks the part. Probably a direct clone of a Gotoh 201.
Various 'Wilkinson' brand pickups. Over the years I've used Wilkinson stuff in budget builds and mods. Wilkinson quality is all over the place; I think some Wilkinson stuff is fake, or at least sub-contracted out, because some stuff is excellent and some stuff sucks.
Artec sidewinder pickups. Clones of the old Gibson EB pickups. Purchased for various Sheehan 'wife' mods. Artec wire these up wrongly, and have the magnets stuck in wrongly as well. Bad soldering makes it worse. I killed one of these completely trying to fix it up. The one that did work had little output for the E string. Once you get sick of these you have a wierd route ~53 mm wide that you cannot fit other pickups into (barring other EB-style pickups and Dimarzio model Ones/Willpowers) because most pickups are thinner.
Wilkinson soapbars. The usual Ebay lies. Emails changed from "In stock, ship soon!!!" to "These pickups are still in Hong Kong, we will have them next week" to "These pickups have not been built yet". I cannot say anything about the quality of them, because for all I know they never existed. I guess that is why the shipping on these things sometimes comes to £1.20 but the shipping time comes to 4 weeks....
Simple stuff like control plates, bridge base plates, strap knobs, nuts and screws and such are usually good IME. Control plates and pickguards are often drilled for the smaller gauge potentioneters, the holes may need to be opened up a bit.
Bridge saddles are often cast alloy (where you might want to have a better material like steel or brass).
There are cheap non-Fender style bridges which have 'floating' adjustment with a lock screw, they are a bit awkward to adjust intonation on.
Open tuners are likely to be good, stay away from the closed gear tuners as they are less likely to stay in tune.
Set screw volume/tone knobs may not always fit that well (they are usually metric as well). Check the dimensions carefully.
I'm sorry guys I should've specified, I'm mainly talking about bridges and tuners. And yes this will be a scratch build not a parts build.
I bought a set of four Carvin tuners for around $45 a couple months ago.Haven't finished the bass yet but they seem to have pretty smooth action just by turning them.That seemed like a pretty decent price and I didn't have to worry about them being unusable Chinese junk.Probably not the "best you can buy" but a good value for decent quality
If it's a build just for yourself, why _not_ buy chinese ebay hardware? The price on tuners and bridges are so low that if you find the quality of something doesn't meet your needs, you can just throw it out (or into a spare parts bin) and buy name brand. That's been my approach and it's worked well. Just be careful to choose parts that aren't too exotic to be swappable (in terms of mounting, etc).
The only quality issues I've had so far (from bezdez parts and chinese parts) have been thin gold plating that wears off too easily and just a feeling of lower tolerances. Nothing that's affected functionality yet.
Edit: expect to wait a month for delivery.
Bridges are harder to screw up, at least the simple bridges IMO. Only thing about a bridge from China is sometimes the outer plate finish wears faster. Functionally, a cheap bridge will probably be fine.
Tuners may be a different story. There's more mechanical parts and quality requirements. I've played Squier basses that can't hold a tune for more than 30 minutes. I'd go with Hipshots or Gotoh on the tuners. They're not too expensive new, and you can easily find lightly used sets in the classifieds.
Finally, I've had good experiences with Eden also. Communication is pretty good; products are pretty good; the Artec jazz pickup I bought sounded a little lifeless though--probably not enough windings.
I'm not sure where these were made (no markings) but they were priced well (about $40), look good and work well. (good quality) They may be Gotoh's - they offers many styles of good quality tuners that I have on a few of my basses.
Buy alot of tuners and bridges off the bay-had very good luck.
Sometimes you have to tighten or loosen the screws on the tuner heads but who cares?
Actually bought the wired pickguards (both guitar and bass) and they are actually killer for the money too.
Is Chinese E-Bay hardware usable?
I have these and they are beautiful Jin Ho quality. The casting is immaculate and the gearing is dead smooth. American ebayer. Same as the poster above. The brand markings are cast on the back but tiny. I looked with a magnifier and then googled Jin Ho to confirm.
Here's the best bridge out there, imo. $27.50 (includes shipping)
Is Chinese E-Bay hardware usable?
Well they are Korean not Chinese. The Koreans have rivaled Japanese quality for decades now. Well above Chinese quality.
I have one of these bridges if you are looking for something fancier.
The only issue I had with it was rough threads in the saddles. One screw jammed and I had to take it out with pliers and replace it. I chased the threads with a tap to clean them up and it is a very nice bridge.
The vintage Fender threaded saddle bridge in the post above is the best choice if you want vintage style.
Bridges are fine, tuners are hit and miss. I bought some cheapo guitar tuners that were absolute junk and felt like there was dirt in the gears. I was very hard to tune up to in tune.
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