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acoustic basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by UtBDan, Sep 15, 2005.

  1. UtBDan


    Oct 29, 2004
    This is not a "wow they make acoustic basses" thread, this is asking what is a good acoustic bass to buy. I've read more times than not acoustic basses are a novelty, but I played one in guitar center once that was loud enough versus an acoustic guitar (however I fail to remember the brand).

    My question is, what acoustic bass guitar would be best? I love the look of Michael Kelly Dragonfly's, and I read they're set up poorly (to which I wouldn't mind having it set up properly), but I need to know that something is loud enough unamplified for me to buy it.
  2. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    washburn AB34. I had one of these that I wish I had back. super nice and loud and it sounds great plugged in too.
  3. Atshen


    Mar 13, 2003
    Grim Cold Québec
    Never tried the Washburn, but the Tacoma Thunderchief is tough to beat in terms of unplugged volume.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    The Thunderchief is the only one I have ever played loud enough to actually use with other players.

    They are not much use other than that though, the feedback too easily to get a decent stage volume out of them.
  5. Zapp


    Sep 4, 2005
    Gruene Texas
    I asked this same question, apparently not so eloquently, on this august forum and got exactly ZERO response. what does that mean??

    I think this is an overlooked category mainly because it is not easy. ever watched any of those sham "unplugged" vids? they're all plugged in. every dirty one of them. it ain't like an acoustic set at a Led Z concert plus mikes.

    I have played literally every acoustic 4-string bass I could find in driving distance of Austin Texas [no slight music town] and here's my take:
    1. Believe or not: Martin B1 has best unplugged sound [the starting point IMHO..... all my remarks have to do with unplugged FIRST, plugged.... well, you can fix the plugged-in part easily]
    2. Believe it or not, a cheap UK-company Stagg something-or-other Acoustic bass, one of a kind at local dealer, sounded the best next to the Martin. It was in the mid $300's range with a soft bag. Plywood, but GOOD plywood
    3. I would pay maybe $200 for a Tacoma Thunder-whatever and still be looking for a good acoustic bass....
    4. Ibanez: no low end
    5. Fender BG-29 is pretty darned good. Here's a test of this little overlooked bass: check the NEW prices at discount shops like GC. Then look at USED prices on Ebay or wherever. Get the picture? How many go UNSOLD on Ebay? hint.... [ ... ... ... ]
    6. The sibling Fenders do alright to, but there is something accidental about the lowly -29 that allows it to reproduce the low notes well enough to get by in a living room gig.
    7. I would love to play the Larrivee but none of the Larrivee acoustic guitar joints carry the bass. Larrivee would not let it out the door if it were not pretty good. [how do I know that?]

    z :eyebrow:
  6. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    It's a novelty to some extent, and the fact that it's a sound that isn't replicated easilly by electrics because of the architecture of the instrument itself. Other than that, Martins sound great but aren't too loud because of a relatively small body. Plug it in, everyone else does.
  7. Zapp


    Sep 4, 2005
    Gruene Texas
    yet, those big body gut-string mexican basses have been around since Noah, and you can hear the thing all the way across a noisy restaurant, unplugged.

    i think it just hasn't had any real design work to see what the size of the envelope needs to be and how its structured
  8. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    The guitarron has a body volume WAY bigger than any of the ABGs. I have an Ibanez 5-string which is useless unplugged, and it has a body substantially bigger than a dreadnaught. The guitarron would make 2 Martins, or Tacomas, or whatevers, and that's where the sound comes from...but for us famous rock stars, they don't look as cool as the ABG.
  9. UtBDan


    Oct 29, 2004
    has anyone here played a Dragonfly?

    Zapp, what's wrong with the Thunderchief?
  10. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    Rather than post my opinions on ABGs again, I'll just link to my previous posts, in which I've given my personal experience with them:

    Tacoma vs. Michael Kelly

    Review of my Tacoma

    Martin vs. Tacoma

    BTW, I still LOVE my Tacoma, but it really IS best unplugged. If you want amplified, consider a Godin A series. Even the Tacoma isn't loud enough to overcome more than one acoustic g*itar, and it probably wouldn't work well unplugged in any situation larger than a coffee house-type gig.

    lpdeluxe is right, only a guitarron can really pump out unplugged volume, because it's a matter of physics -- moving lots of air. The Tacoma fares better than many ABGs, in part because it's body size is a little bigger, but it's not in the same league as a guitarron. Tacoma makes those, too, but I've never seen a Thunderhawk in person.

    Good luck!
  11. bassontherun


    Jul 9, 2005
    My Rogue had really thin acoustic tone and low acoustic volume. Only good for campfire sing-alongs (you won't mind if it gets scratched up or an ember burns a hole in it).

    However, I really like the tone of my Korean Fender A/E. Good workmanship, moderate acoustic volume, better preamp/EQ and, again, very smooth acoustic tone. A much better bass than I expected from Korea.
  12. ABGs are either fairly loud acoustically & feedback w/the volume at .05 on a Rogue 12-watt combo, or quieter than the average solid-body bass guitar(unplugged)but can actually be amplified w/o howling. I have not played one that does both ends of the spectrum well. I do have an old Washburn AB-20- wussy acoustic volume(except all alone & not thinking too much)but very resistant to feedback.
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    The best recipe for loud acoustic volume: A large air cavity with a thinner, more resonating top. (See a DB)

    That happens to be the same recipe for feedback. The quieter ABGS tend to have a smaller body and/or a stiffer (ply) top. This makes them feedback resistant, but at the price of acoustic volume.

    The idea of a loud, fullrange acoustic bass guitar is pretty stretched. Even a double bass, which is obviously much larger than an ABG, is not the ideal size to do what it supposed to do.

    Better build quality, materials, etc, will help, but you are fighting a war that can't be won. It's a physics thing.
  14. Futurebass


    Jun 22, 2005
    The reason none of them sound good or have any volume is twofold. First they are too small. Secondly players are so spoiled by active electronic basses that they are used to incredibly low action and barely touching the strings with their right hands.

    It is possible to make a loud and bassy ABG, but there are very few players who would be willing to develop the technique required to play it properly. Therefore it wouldn't sell, and that's the name of the game for manufacturers.
  15. Whappo Grande

    Whappo Grande

    Feb 9, 2002
    Santa Clara, CA.
    Manager: AccuGroove Speakers
    There are some decent ones out there, but there is only one that is outstanding. (of the ones I've actually played)

    The Ribbecke Guitar Halfling Bass. It's very unique with a beautiful but functional top that is flat on the bass side & carved on the treble side. It also has a gorgeous carved back & killer tone & playability.

    Here's a photo with my bud Bobby Vega playing it.

    AccuGroove Speaker Cabinets
    Ribbecke Guitars
  16. Zapp


    Sep 4, 2005
    Gruene Texas
    OK, now we're gettin' somewhere.

    First: guys, there IS a place for this type of instrument.
    Ever attended a Celtic Music Jam? there ain't no electrifying.
    Ever do a pickup Bluegrass jam without a standup? Feel like hauling a standup around all the time? Living room 'creative sessions' ???

    Again, I wish I had the note where I wrote the Model number of the el Cheapo Stagg ABG I played. you would be amazed at what clever plywood can sound like UNPLUGGED.

    I played three different Tacoma Thunderchiefs. None had a low E, much less a D [detuned]. From the A-up they sounded ok, but not to compete with the nose-heavy Martin. that simple. I have nothing against Tacoma and their many owners. By contrast, the lowly Fender -29 can outdo the Tacoma on the bottom notes. I do not know why. But it does sound cheap on all notes. Equal-opportunity offender.

    I trust Larrivee on things acoustic but have never laid hands on one of theirs. they just don't tolerate tonelessness.

    i wanna see a Ribbecke Guitar Halfling Bass !!!

    p.s. someone made an Excellent point about "Spoiled". We have lost the ability to listen, among other things. just look at the bottle-throwing arguments that happen onstage when someone's 200 pound monitor isn't JUST RIGHT..... The best players I know don't need a monitor. Look at... never mind.

    I went to old Colonial Williamsburg VA once, and when I was there, there was a little shop where a real luthier was handmaking real instruments. Hope he/they are still there. I asked a lot of questions about the classical-type guitar things, the fiddles, whatever. Somehow I asked about how they plucked the real GUT strings .... He said that it was unthinkable in those days to use a plectrum[17th-18th century for those of you who slept thru class]. The abrasive loudness of using a plectrum would be offensive. no car/traffic noise. no loud jamboxes, TV sets, radios, electrons, etc. people developed listening skills from childhood. Any of you ever worked with a young student who had an ear, but an UNDEVELOPED ear? U know what i mean.
  17. What I said(I think), only all smart and stuff.
  18. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    I'm surprised you had such a bad experience with Tacomas. Mine not only can do the low E very well unplugged, but even the low B cuts through pretty well. My wife got pissed at me when I was playing it through a Tascam bass trainer (using headphones) and she was trying to hear the TV. When I took off the headphones, she was glaring at me and the TV was blaring. She groused at me: "Do you have any idea how loud that thing is?" :D :D

    I hadn't realized how loud it is in unplugged in a small room.

    Still, it's not everyone's "cup of tea," but I like it! YMMV.

    P.S. I have noticed that the volume put out by the Tacoma in the lower notes varies with how I hold it while I play it. In some positions, it resonates like crazy and really pumps out the tone. If I hold it in different positions, I must be muting the vibrations somehow, because it's not quite as loud, particularly on the bottom end of things. I've lately, however, discovered a really comfortable way to hold it that lets it resonate freely. :hyper:

    ABGs aren't the best for a lot of performing situations, but they can be fun as heck to play if you find the one that works for you.
  19. I've got a 5er firefly that I put a high C set of strings on and love. Unamplified, I only find it useful for solo practice. I've tried playing with acoustic guitarists in numerous settings and just cannot complete with one acoustic guitar really, not to the point where more than me and the people to my left and right can hear me over the guitar. 2 guitars, some handdrums, and you might as well sing your notes. I do play fingerstyle with some fingernail strumming, so a pick might make it a bit louder. I've had mine for quite a few years, and this is just the way it is. Only gripe i've got is the body chews into my forearm meat and I can't play it for more than an hour or so without needing a break. The fit, finish, fretting, and overall quality is great on mine, and I put a strap button for the upper part of the strap to connect to at the base of the neck. Everyone comments on how beautiful the clearcoat over quilt maple finish is, and when i got mine, it was 400 bucks plus like 130 for the case, this was when they were factory direct a few years ago though.
  20. A good friend of mine has a Thunderchief 5 string. Very good volume acoustically, but he can't plug it in w/o the howl. :( I don't like the fact that there are no(fairly cheap)5 or more string ABGs w/wide spacing.