I’ve owned three plywood basses, a cheap Thomann 111E and an Eberle set up at David Gage. My bass, which had its intinal setup/bridge installed at Upton and subsequent upkeep by Bob Ross in Denver, plays so much nicer than my last two. Very even and dark with some clarlity. Mine liked Helicores but loves Spirocores. I didn’t like it with Velvets or gut. Not a lot of volume.
This bass is clearly a big step up from the Thomann, In which just about every corner was cut to keep costs low. Comparing the two shows just how much better the serious Chinese violin makers of have gotten.
The comparison to the Erbele is a little more complicated. The Erbele was very stiff, had a weird overstand, a weird neck heel, sounded like a banjo with sprios, and had a large body. It also sounded great with gut, and had a big acoustic sound the Shen can’t get. The Shen lacks some of the personality of a good ply bass, but also seems to round off the quirky elements while still being a nice sounding pizz bass. I’m very happy this is the bass I still own.
One thing to look for - some plywood Shen’s from the late 00s - early 10s had multi-piece built up heal. Avoid used models with this feature, unless already professionally repaired. I do not think this practice continues on new Shen basses.