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Advice Please - Carved Chinese vs Kay

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Gambaholic, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. Gambaholic


    Feb 21, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Hi guys,
    I need some advice on a first double bass purchase.
    I have been talking with a local shop about some fully carved Chinese basses they have coming in.

    Spruce top, maple neck, back & sides, ebony board, Despiau bride, Delrine adjusters, German tuners, Spiro's, with bag & setup for 3K.

    The seller is a well known respected local symphony bassist. There have been many good things said about him on these forums as well. He says these are fantastic basses and that he has visited the shop in china and they are well made etc...

    There is also an old Kay for sale locally that I'm going to take a look at today. It's actually posted in the classifieds here. I've also seen a few other Kay's for sale locally, most in the 2K-3K range.

    Now my questions are...
    What are the pro's/con's of buying a "no name" Chinese fully carved vs an old Kay?
    If I can get a carved bass for a few hundred more than a ply Kay is that the way to go?

    Any comments, suggestions, insights based on your experiences would be greatly appreciated.

  2. bpclark


    Apr 30, 2003
    West Central, OH
    If you're main focus is playing classical arco, then the carved bass should have the edge. On the other hand if your focus is pitz-only then it's likely that the Kay may meet your needs. I have a Kay and it's a pretty good sounding bass, but it just doesn't make the cut for serious classical playing. Other than arco sound, the only thing I don't like about it is the thin neck.
  3. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    If it is a nice Chinese carved, it should sound better for arco and pizz.
  4. christ andronis

    christ andronis

    Nov 14, 2001
    I'm sure that if you take a little time and search through the threads in this forum you'll find this very subject addressed somewhere....and thoroughly. In the meantime, to paraphrase the general sentiment in those responses:play the bass you're thinking of buying beforehand and don't worry about it's lineage....if it sounds good to you then it may be the one for you or something along those lines.
  5. No brainer, carved from sting emporium
  6. i have one of these "unlabeled" chinese carved basses.

    they are quite nice and i keep getting compliments from professional classical and jazz bassists in new york about it.

    mine ended up being recognized as one from the Xuechang Sun shop. but it's quite great.

    go with the chinese... maybe post pictures so we can take a look of both?
  7. milomo


    Aug 5, 2007
    Bloomfield, NJ
    This subject was debated ad nauseum in this thread.
  8. Gambaholic


    Feb 21, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    My apologies Mike. I read that entire thread and many others as well. To be clear though, my intent is not to have a carved vs ply debate but rather "Chinese no name" vs "name" in terms of monetary value and resale value although I wanted to pose the question in a way that left room for other comments as well.

    Thanks for your reply.
  9. Gambaholic


    Feb 21, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
  10. Well, Gambaholic, you have to know that Kays are likely to keep appreciating. Not very long ago any Kay could be had for under 1K, and now they go for around 2K for just a playable example. They are definitely beating inflation. A lot of the bad ones have been culled by now also, I think.

    You aren`t so sure about the no-name chinese, though it may be a fine bass.
  11. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I won't offer advice on voice or tone, but I add a bit on resale value. I probably buy and sell 6-8 vintage Kays a year and have never sold one for less than I paid for it; usually it is for several hundred dollars more. I'll be the first to admit that I live in the heart of bluegrass country and Kays seem to be the gold standard for that market. (Crusty old string nodes please don't peg me as a toothless inbred 'grass'r from the hills; I'm a west coast jazz player who recognizes the business sense in paying attention to my current local market)

    The reality is that you will most likely sell this first bass at some time and either move up or move on. A lot of the resale value depends upon your local market. I run into a lot of folks who have bought imported chinese basses because they were on a budget and basically had to give them away when they decided they were done with it. I can typically sell an old Kay within a few days and sometimes within a few hours. Folks around here won't even finish the phone call once they find out you are trying to sell a Chinese bass. If you pay $2k for it here, you'll be lucky to get $600 in resale. You may have saved a grand over the vintage plywood bass, but you lost $1500 at resale time. A $2k Kay can get you $2300 or better six months later. Everybody's market has some differences. I also seem to get more money for the more beat up finishes. If I took the money from the sale of two Kays here and bought an old carved Juzak as a step up, I might have to wait 6-9 months to sell it. Ironic? Yes, but that is the local flavor here. If Bill Monroe had played a Chinese bass, would it cost as much as a Lloyd Loar signed mandolin today????

  12. milomo


    Aug 5, 2007
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Gambaholic - I hear you, and I'm sorry if my response sounded a sour note, that was not my intention. The "ad nauseam" was directed at the linked-to thread, in particular a few bizarre posts that got deleted. Basically, I wanted to bring the thread to your attention because some of the posts address this -
    - question.
  13. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Are you really talking about a "no-name" bass or one of the Wan Bernadel basses? They seem to have developed quite a following, and while I think the previous post about Kays appreciating more, from what I've seen of the Wans (and I've only played one briefly) they are very good value for money and seem to hold their value on the resale market.

  14. Resale value??? - You guys are too much. Wan-Bernadel is a better deal whether you’re looking for tone or if you want to trade it in in the future. And Steve at Stringemporium will be there to help, you buy his bass he’s your friend. Believe me you’ll need a friendly luthier if your going to play upright. Cats on the coast fly out to AZ just for his store.

    I know that last discussion about carved vs. ply got ugly but this guy is looking for straight up advice since he’s going to pull the trigger soon.

    Dude, unless your hearts set on playing the jug band circuit there’s no reason to get a kay.
  15. milomo


    Aug 5, 2007
    Bloomfield, NJ
    What a ridiculous statement. Jug band circuit? Weak.
  16. RE: Dude, unless your hearts set on playing the jug band circuit there’s no reason to get a kay.

    BY milomo: What a ridiculous statement. Jug band circuit? Weak.

    +1 . . . typical tb snobbish, uninformed (ignorant) remark . . . many successful professional bluegrass/rockabilly/jazz Kay bassists would/could disagree - but - why bother ?
  17. peterbright


    Jan 23, 2007
    On The Bayou
    Don't buy a "name"...buy a "sound".
  18. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    I simply can't imagine why that would happen. This is an all-inclusive forum - everyone should feel welcome, no matter what style of music they play.
    Oh. Never mind.
  19. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    It seems to me this is the best answer you've received so far. Resale value is a consideration, but how you feel about the bass will help determine how you grow as a musician, impacting both your practice and your performance. Listen to them both. You'll know...
  20. lowEndRick

    lowEndRick Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2006
    Not to cloud the issue, but this is a very personal decision. If your decision is based solely on resale value I think there is excellent advice above. But, you (OP) are planning to play this bass, right? YOU need to be happy with how it sounds and feels. And only YOU will know the answer to those questions.

    The prinicipal bassist in our local community orchestra plays a Kay that he has owned for over 30 years dating back to High School. I think he sounds pretty darn good.

    On the other hand people like Barry Bales with Allison Krauss plays a carved bass (a Meisel I believe).

    Point being, there are no hard and fast rules about which bass can be played in which context.

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