I bought my DB 2.5 years ago after a couple of months looking around and playing as many basses as I could. In the end, it came down to the 1st two I looked at (in my budget range of $2K or less): A new, bottom-of-the line Shen plywood, or a early '80's fully carved Romanian flatback (from reading on this site, I think it's a Roma) that was 'well used.' The luther who owned the shop kept saying that I wouldn't be disappointed with the Shen, but when asked, he said he'd personally buy the beat-up Roma, at $500 more than the Shen. Even with my rudimentary skills, the Roma spoke to me like no other bass I played in my price range, so I bought the Roma. At the time, the Roma seem harder to play than any other bass I tried out (due to a beefier neck), but as I've developed some chops, it's not that hard to play at all. After reading the discussions on this board, I now understand that a beefier neck is easier to play if you're using proper technique. So recently, I joined a jazz band where the guitarist keeps a bottom-of-the-line Shen in the practice studio; very convenient that I don't have to schlep my carved bass to every practice. The owner has set up the Shen so that it's very similar to the Roma. Everyone agrees that the carved Roma has a much deeper and more organic sound (not surprising since it's carved). It still speaks to me like no other affordable bass I've played. Also, I find the neck of the Roma a little easier to play then the Shen. I'm sure both of these would be considered 'student level' basses. The Shen has a great sound and a really good feel and like my luther originally said, I would have been very happy if I had purchased the Shen. And the Shen would have been much prettier than my road-worn Roma. But after a good side-by-side comparison, I'm very happy I bought the Roma. As MollyKay said in another XXX vs YYY thread, maybe it's well used for a reason. Sorry this is so long, but with all the recent Shen vs. XXXX threads, I thought it might be useful to someone. (The Roma looked much rougher when I bought it; it's been spruced up a little.