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$3000 for a custom Korean-made ERB...?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Infiniti, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    Hi everyone,

    I recently discovered Ramsay Musical Instruments, a UK-based company that makes crazy basses in conjunction with a South Korean manufacturer. Essentially, Mark Ramsay (the owner) designs the basses (with the customer, of course) and sends off the spec sheet and dimensions to the factory to get it made. He then sets it up at his place in the UK and sends it off to the customer.

    It seems pretty darn good, and the prices are certainly very competitive, but my specs are as follows:

    10-string bass (tuned F# to Eb)
    Custom body shape (similar to Jean Baudin's 'Joust' but solidbody and without the tailpiece)
    Fanned frets (36" to 32")
    Chambered lightweight swamp ash body (stock)
    Macassar Ebony fretboard (stock)
    Ebonol (synthetic ebony, stock)
    Maple and ebonol 5 piece neck (stock)
    Korean hardware (stock)
    Korean wood-covered pickups (stock)
    Korean preamp (stock)

    All of this, including shipping and import tax and a gig bag to the UK is round about $3000.

    Whilst the ERB market is certainly specialist, it strikes me as a lot of money for a Korean-made bass with generic brand hardware and pickups.

    What do you guys think? Is this a lot of money for the bass I'm getting? Do you have experiences with RMI? Are there any luthiers who'd be willing to build a ten-string for $3000?

    Ramsay Musical Instruments -- here's a link to RMI's website.
    GMC and JGbassman like this.
  2. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    Make sure he's reputable.
    Not one guy starting out in a small shop and a large backlog and some serious personal problems.
  3. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    He's absolutely reputable, I have no concerns over his possibility to deliver the instrument, RMI is an established and legit company.

    What I'm more worried about is the quality of a Korean-made instrument and the value of it when it has generic hardware and pickups.
    gebass6 likes this.
  4. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    I already know of Prometeus, but I don't think I know of any other builders could make one for $3000. Any ideas, fellas?
  5. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    There is no reason a Korean-built instrument can't be a $3000 instrument, it is simply that the majority of them that we import aren't. They have luthiers building wonderful acoustic guitars in China that are worth mega money. These luthiers just aren't anywhere near the Cortek or Epiphone factories, and their instruments aren't sold via AliExpress.

    On the other hand, if your $3000 bass is made from bland basewood, finished in 1/2'' of ultra glossy poly lacquer and comes with Artec pickups, 'Alpha' potentiometers and a wiring harness that only pays scant attention to proper lead dress then you might be onto something.

    I just can't get behind the notion that as soon as an instrument is built anywhere but the US there has to be a drop-off in quality and therefore the instrument has to be priced accordingly.

    Shipping and import tax to the UK will be an absolute kicker on an instrument of this value.
    Doctor J, wmmj, gebass6 and 2 others like this.
  6. Where on the planet it's made doesn't tell you anything about quality. It's quality of build comes down to the control of the company putting their name on it. If he lets a crap instrument go out to a customer that's says more about him the then folks in Korea.

    If you really worried about "generic" hardware and pickups, tell him what you want installed. If he's as "custom" as he claims it won't be an issue.
  7. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    the builder being Korean has nothing to do with it.
    ERBs are specialty instruments with very poor resale rates. A custom instrument will be even worse.
    Essentially, your 3k instrument will be worth 1k the second you put your fingers on it and unless you get lucky, it won't sell without months of add bumping.

    This is a very bad approach IMHO. A custom instrument should be meant as a lifelong project, with no intention of selling it. If you plan to sell, going custom is a mistake especially with niche instruments.
    Bassology, bholder, BIGEJ2 and 9 others like this.
  8. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    Oh, no, I wasn't referring to resale value, I know that would plummet on an instrument like this (unless it was something crazy high-end like a Ritter or a Jerzy Drozd). I was referring to whether $3000 was worth it for me when the instruments comes with generic brand hardware.
    bholder likes this.
  9. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    I'm almost certain it's being made in the World Musical Instruments factory, who make the PRS SE line, Chapman Guitars, and a number of Schecter series. So it's definitely an industrial factory-scale operation on these guitars.
  10. Raw N Low

    Raw N Low If I can't hear it, hopefully I'll feel it Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2009
    Denver, Colorado
    Whether it's worth it or not is up to you. I'm guessing your gut feeling is telling you "no". I would continue to shop local luthiers and compare build to cost ratios.

    I've never been a fan of Luither outsourcing. I could be overlooking something but, it only a matter of time before remote builders decide to take over the market for themselves. $3k is a lot of dough for a "designer" to split up. Especially when he or she is collecting the lions share of the profit on a joint build.
  11. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    I mean, the mine thing is gauging the price of other luthiers' 10-strings, which is why I was hoping some people might be able to suggest other luthiers at a similar price point (if there even are any).
  12. Kukulkan61

    Kukulkan61 Suspended Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Northern Arizona
    I think any bass priced over 3000 is to much, it's just wood and metal parts...
    Kikegg, Whil57 and DWBass like this.
  13. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    But that's such a silly thing to say, chap...

    The cost of some very rare woods, the cost of developing CNC files or the templates for different body shapes and neck shapes, the cost of the custom hardware, the inlay material, and the labour cost, it can often be worth far more than $3000.
    Spectrum, Kukulkan61 and lfmn16 like this.
  14. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Suspended Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv

    People that say that are usually the ones who have never played a good custom bass, they just somehow intuitively 'know' that it isn't worth the money.

    To your original question, only you know if it's worth it to you. Do you want this bass? Can you buy it for less elsewhere? Are you willing to accept that it probably has close to no resale value? It's like everything else; if you want it bad enough, you'll pay the money.
  15. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    $3000 is a bit steep then. You want a magnitude more attention paid to an instrument at that price compared to $500 of PRS SE. The PRS SE stuff is perfectly good, but it isn't $3000 artisan-level good.
    Infiniti likes this.
  16. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Discussions of the value of multi thousand dollar instruments are old hat here. They're worth what the buyer is willing to pay right? But in this situation I have to wonder where that three grand is going. The Korean aspect of the product is all for keeping parts and production costs super low right? Then it goes back to the UK for a set up? For three grand? I don't know. Seems strange to me.
    Levin and Infiniti like this.
  17. Infiniti


    Jan 4, 2015
    I mean, I understand that such a niche instrument (and the fact that Mark is designing a brand new body shape for me to send to the guys in Korea) is going to be expensive, but yeah, I do have to wonder where the $3k is going.

    What really worries me is that RMI also sell stuff on eBay (like, their official eBay store, not a 2nd-hand seller) and...well, the last ten-string that was on there for sale went for £850, which, after shipping and import taxes to the US, came out to about $1400 (maybe a little bit more). That wasn't fanned fret, nor did it have a custom body shape, but it's just under half the cost of my spec'd out one. I'm curious as to where all my money is going if Mark (the owner) is happy to sell his instruments for so much less.
  18. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    It could be a bonus! Only a fraction of that $3000 is going towards paying Korean wages, so a bigger share of it goes towards materials and time spent setting up and scrutinizing the thing. Build a $3000 instrument in a US factory and a bigger chunk of that change is going towards paying workers, heating, lighting, adherence to environmental regulations... is the whole 'only buy US' thing recognition, in part, that stuff built in the US can't compete with stuff made in the far-East in terms of labour costs, environmental regulation etc?
    Infiniti likes this.
  19. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    10 strings people. It's not a $3000 JB clone.
    Everything is special and take adjustments on such an instrument.
    I don't think they're making any significant profit at this price.
    ThuzzleFump and Infiniti like this.
  20. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    What else can three thousand get you that's similar?
    Infiniti likes this.
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