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Acoustic Basses worth it?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Hunter432, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. Hunter432


    May 5, 2020
    looking for an acoustic bass loud enough to compete with a guitar/violin player at a bonfire so far haven't found anything. It's a pain bringing a double bass just for fun little jam sessions thanks in advance.
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    HolmeBass likes this.
  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    And yes, acoustically loud basses exist, but they are large, hard to find, and generally quite expensive. And even the loudest still won't keep up with several steel string acoustic guitars played hard with picks.

    Pretty much no matter what you get, you're going to eventually want to amplify it if you plan on playing with others.
    TN WOODMAN, ii7-V7, Schurger and 14 others like this.
  4. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I love my acoustic bass(s). But full disclaimer, they are totally piles of crap, equal parts awesome and junk.
    One is a Guild B30 and the other is a Kramer Ferrington (from the hair era). Yours will be a pile of crap too, even if you get an expensive one. But get it for the right reason and you won't care.
    Get one:
    Super convenient, grab and go, pull it off the wall and play on the sofa, play to the rain on the porch, jam with your friend who sells insurance but brings his guitar to every party. You can even record with one, there is a unique sound that can be quite useful in studio. Be prepared for when "Unplugged" is a thing again.
    Don't get one:
    Not loud enough, either spring-tastic twangy (rounds) or nearly inaudible thud rubber bandy (flats/tapes). Feel heavier then they are due to the reach, somewhat uncomfortable to play. The narrowest of mine (Ferrington) is 3 1/2" deep. Reach? Hmmm, 7 1/2" from the body to the E string, 6 1/2" from the back to the bridge. Compare that to what you are currently playing and you'll know what I mean.

    So what I'm saying as an owner of 2, go in prepared with realistic expectations. Your arm isn't bendy enough to make it as comfortable as an acoustic guitar and physics defy the volume reaching the level of a guitar under any circumstance. Be amused by the next handful of posts that say "my ___ is really loud with tapes and easy to play". That's BS. But understandable BS because we all love our instruments. So if if you choose to believe BS, that's your choice. But still, get one because of the reasons above. So much fun anyway.

    Hint, if I play with an acoustic guitarist I use a pick, it is much louder even if that isn't your preferred style.
    Other hint, bronze wounds feel terrible in bass gauge but they are louder than whatever someone in the next post says.

    In conclusion:
    Totally worth it, piece of crap, not loud, most fun.
    p.s. if you still can't pair with a guitarist look at the Blackstar Fly Bass, 3W mini amp that can run on batteries. It's loud enough to play an electric bass with an acoustic guitar at the fire. Fits in gig bag.
    makaspar, TN WOODMAN, ii7-V7 and 41 others like this.
  5. kinopah


    Oct 19, 2014
    Everything Killing Floor said.

    I've had several and let them go, not because I didn't like them, but because no one ACTUALLY needs one (unless you're Nathan East playing a Guild behind Eric Clapton on Unplugged and you need to LOOK like you're playing acoustic). I would never pick one over an electric to play with a band, but they do a special thing, and if you get the right one, they CAN have a strangely satisfying tone, even if it's not gonna compete sonically with even a tenor ukulele at a campfire jam.

    I'm back in the market for either a Taylor AB-1 or Boulder Creek for the solo sofa and porch jams described above.
    Eric66, Rezdog, mattj1stc and 4 others like this.
  6. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Yeah, totally agree. I'd buy one again.
  7. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I too have one I enjoy. This topice comes up regularly. If you do a search you will find hundreds of opinions. The prevailing one is they aren't loud enough to keep up with any but the quietest of jam sessions. I agree. I violin will drown it out.
    MarkJC8, bass4u and Lobster11 like this.
  8. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Right, there are a dozens if not hundreds of threads on this topic, and most folks agree that ABGs generally are not loud enough for anything more than solo practicing in your living room or porch (which is all I've ever used mine for). A few people argue for particular models that they deem loud enough for playing with an acoustic guitarist, especially if you use a pick, but as previously mentioned these tend to be very large and expensive. There are good reasons why double basses are so large, having to do with laws of physics.

    As has been suggested above, for your purposes you're probably better off using an electric bass with a small battery-powered amp. Most ABG's come with a preamp and can be plugged in, so even if you get one -- because they're lighter, or because you want that "vibe" at the campfire -- you'll still want an amp.
    TN WOODMAN, Eric66, macmanlou and 3 others like this.
  9. Wanker_Joe


    Sep 26, 2017
    I love mine. They can be quiet, sure, but phosphor bronze strings and playing as aggressively as you can makes them project a decently loud mid-range sound. When I'm slapping my ABG I can totally keep up around the fire with a guitar or two and a couple of hand drums. But they have some downsides. They are bulky and you can't really get a super low action on them (or at least I've never been able to). But really, it's hard to be just grabbing my ABG off the wall and playing in the shade of some trees by the lake on a hot summer's day.
    dmt likes this.
  10. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I'll just add that an ABG amplified still gives a set of tones no solidbody electric can match, and one that fits in better (in many peoples' minds) with acoustic guitars. Just something to keep in mind. But an electric with a small amp will get you there in terms of being heard.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2020
  11. As has been said, alone they are not loud enough for the traditional "around the campfire" type of jam.

    That being said, I had a short scale Fender ABG and if I played it with a pick with a little effort I could do it but it was uncomfortable and awkward since I normally don't use one.

    YMMV, that was my experience with the ABG, I've since let it go.
  12. brushfirewolf


    Nov 12, 2016
    Fine as a novelty item.

    They certainly do not satisfy the need to play bass.
  13. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I find mine to provide an excellent way to practice bass -- on my couch in front of the TV while I'm drinking my morning coffee.

    But no, it certainly isn't anything like standing in front of an 8x10 fridge with your shirtsleeves flapping in the sonic wind.....
  14. brushfirewolf


    Nov 12, 2016

    Well I'd take a vox amplug and an electric bass for practice any day of the week over an acoustic. Equally mobile.
    TN WOODMAN likes this.
  15. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    An Ovation or Applause acoustic (same bass, full size Ovation back) is just loud enough to work with one or two guitars at a campfire. Otherwise it makes a good practice instrument.

    My Applause AE-40 short scale, acoustic-electric. I have played it with a couple of acoustic guitars, and it worked OK but I did have to play with a lot of force on each note.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2020
    TN WOODMAN and B-Mac like this.
  16. Thegrandwazoo

    Thegrandwazoo Supporting Member

    Sep 8, 2013
    West Virginia
    I play a fretless Tacoma Thunderchief (1998, pre-Fender) with Rotosound TruBass tapewound strings set up with medium-high action as a rough but convenient approximation of an upright in fully acoustic old-time string band jams with a RESPONSIBLY PICKED (a big dreadnaught played hard is too loud, not just for the bass, but for others, too) guitar, open-backed clawhammer banjo, spoons/washboard/suitcase kick drum sometimes, mandolin sometimes, and a fiddle or two regularly. Dug in hard with the meaty side of the finger(s) in an upright-ish style, it gets the job done, and on field recordings I've heard it's perfectly audible and complimentary. My bass isn't the loudest acoustic bass guitar out there, probably not even in the top 5. I put a K&K Pure Bass pickup in mine, and I do have a Phil Jones Bass Briefcase in case it's necessary, which it occasionally is.

    The basses @bholder mentioned, I have no doubt, are as loud or louder, as are the old big Guilds (short scale, so sorta-kinda more playable, B50 and B30 are the models I know, but there may be others). I tried a Boulder Creek fretless (the natural finish model with the cedar top, I think the model name is like NB3F or something similar), and it seemed louder to me but I'm almost certain it was a function of the side monitor soundhole, it seemed considerably softer than my Tacoma when heard from across a room. Tacoma's budget import line, Olympia, made a Thunderchief variant which in theory should be pretty similar to the real deal, but I suspect much of a Thunderchief's magic comes from its very thin solid wood and super light satin finish, which I don't believe the Olympia version has. The Spector Timbre is supposed to be pretty similar to a Thunderchief, but then so is the Warwick Alien, and the Alien I played was scarcely louder than the typical thinline acoustic/electric bass, so take that with a grain of salt. Ernie Ball Earthwoods (Lamont Guitars builds a model called the 'Flatback' which appears to be a better, slightly modernized, more affordable copy) absolutely roar, but they're expensive, huge and potentially uncomfortable, and then there's the Rigel Acoustabass, which will soon be replacing my Thunderchief when I scratch up the additional funds, though they're about as much upright as bass guitar (particularly in fretless, as mine will be).

    For the most part, all acoustic bass guitars that are comfortable for most players need amplification to be viable, but there are exceptions. I don't think any exist that cost less than $1000-1200 bucks, and they're all big. None of them is going to effectively compete with 2 or 3 heavy handed dreadnaught strummers (I usually invite more heavy handed players to try my Gibson L-00 and fingers or thin pick in campfire jams) or much in the way of real percussion. Worth it? I think so. None of them take up as much room, are as hard to transport and maneuver, cost as much to buy or maintain, or have such a vastly different technique from electric bass as a decent upright, and obviously fretted ones don't even sound similar. Stay away from the bronze roundwoud strings at all costs, steel flats or nylon tapes make acoustic basses sound great. Be sure that your expectations are realistic, and they can be super handy tools.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
  17. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    Last time I did this I just broke down and bought a practice amp. A Roland something or other at about 8 watts that would run on batteries. Took it and my Carvin Bunny 4 to my friends house and did it that way. It was audible so it did the job.

    An amp was a lot cheaper than a bass, so that was my reasoning. There are probably better small amps than the one I had tho.

    Killing Floor and Wisebass like this.
  18. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I have a Thunderchief and a Guild B-50NT, and yes, the Balor and Svoboda are quite easily louder. The old Ernie Ball Earthwood is in between the two sets, to my ears. There are several other "acoustic volume competitive" brands out there (like the Rigel and the Lamonts), but yeah, they're pretty much all, big, hard to find, and expensive.

    And in the end, you'll still most likely eventually want to amplify anyway.
    B-Mac, Wisebass and Thegrandwazoo like this.
  19. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Hi Hunter432 :)

    Loud acoustic basses are big or expensive or both!



    Or a cheap acoustic bass with electronics and a cheap small battery powered amp.

    I wouldn't bring expensive gear to a bonfire gig! :D


    timplog, Killing Floor and bholder like this.
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