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American Industry

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by esvsteamship, Feb 1, 2004.

  1. I believe I have thouroughly scoured the threads, but since I am a newbie, I might have missed something. However......

    Other than Engelhardt and the New Standard, are there any other American-made basses that I can buy new that aren't craptastic? I am an avid industrialist, and feel that if I can, I should buy American when possible (which isn't very often.) I'm interested in about 2K, maybe 2500 after setup. I play chamber music, and would like to foray into ragtime. But, I'm tiny, only 4' 10" with tiny, tiny hands, and need a 1/4 size.

    Also, I haven't had a bass in four years, so I have nothing to currently compare a bass to. This might be to my advantage. My last bass was my parents' choice..... I have an idea of what I would like it to sound like this time. I'd like a good tone, it needn't be loud.

  2. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    I'm not the most knowledgeable person on this forum but I think besides the two companies that you mention, all of the American made basses are custom made by luthiers in different parts of the country.

    Robertsons in Albuqurque makes some beautiful basses, or gets them from highly skilled luthiers. There are luthiers that are on TB on a regular basis that make beautiful instruments. Nothing custom is going to be in the $2500 range though.

    Good Luck . . .
  3. Thanks, Fidget.... I'm hoping I run into something I really like....I just wish it were an American product, the patriotic thing to do and all.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    If you are set on buying American your options are very limited, But I would at least suggest that you give Engelhardt a good look.

    I personally think that they make nice basses and they do come in a smaller size. Your "tiny, tiny hands" may be very comfortable on the thinner neck profile of the Engelhardt basses.

    You could buy a new one, spend all you needed to get a very high quality setup, new bridge, endpin and strings and still be well under your budget. IMO, you would also have a very nice bass. As least as nice as most of the other offerings within your budget.

    I have played at least a half dozen examples of them in the last couple of years. The new ones coming from their factory are put together well and the construction is clean and neat. They just need plenty of set up attention.

    When set up well, I find that Engelhardts are a joy to play. The tone will come in time as the bass opens up with playing. Although, if you are limited to a 1/4 bass, to some extent, tone is going to be compromised with any bass. The body is simply too small.
  5. Hmmm, yes, I have heard that the setup really makes the Engelhardt sing. Is there anything particularly well desgined for being paired with a laminate? Does anyone thing that there are some particular strings/brindges, etc that really bring the tone out of the Engelhardt or other laminate?

    If you do, wow, that could really change the way I'm reasearching this!

  6. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Beth, it's a luthier that will setup your industrial bass to the desired specifications. You need to get in touch with a luthier who's within reach from were you are. Filling up your profile page could improve your chances to being helped with that respect.

    I'd be interested in ragtimes transposed for small DB ensemble, if you come across some.

    Good luck, keep us posted.
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Industrial bass? That sounds so . . . uh . . . industrial. :) I can't help but think of a flat grey bass loaded with heavy duty hardware and warning labels.

    But, to Oliver's point, it is certainly best to work with a luthier to get the setup where you want it.

    To speak more specifically about Engelhardts, there is quite a bit of info here at TB about them. The price and availability makes them fairly popular. My experience with them is the following:

    1. The bridges Engelhardt provide are of inferior quality. They come from the factory "fitted," but with a very high string height. Since it will require additional fitting work anyway, and you will likely want adjusters installed, you are better off springing the extra few bucks for a quality blank and having the luthier start from scratch. Otherwise, you'll just respend down the road for a new bridge anyway.

    2. The solid wire tailgut is suspect at best. Not only do they choke the sound, some propose that they can be dangerous as they are apt to break. A flex tailgut is probably the least expensive upgrade you can do to an Engelhardt/Kay. I RARELY see them that this work hasn't been done.

    3. The fingerboard will need work. How much and when depends on your playing preferences. I did not have mine planed for nearly a year, but once I lowered the strings a bit and started learning to work at and above the 5th position, the need was VERY apparent. In hindsight, I suggest getting it done right in the beginning. Part of this work should include properly fitting the nut.

    4. The endpins are about as cheap as I have ever seen. They do function, but it takes some doing to get the thing properly adjusted, and they are very prone to rattle. In your case, you'll likely play the bass with the pin nearly or fully collapsed, so it may be even more likely to rattle. IMO, a new, quality endpin is a $100 well spent.

    Many who play it really low simply cut the rest of the pin off so it is less likely to rattle. That may be another option for you.

    5. You may want to have a new post fitted, or you may not. This is a little tricky as new plywoods change a great deal over the first couple of years of ownership. Getting the post right for your sound will be tough since it will change so much at first.

    As far as string selection goes, well that is always a matter of debate. I don't know of a particular string that is known to match better than others with an Engelhardt. You'll just have to get some advice from your luthier based on the music you are interested in playing. There is also plenty on strings in the TBDB string forum.

    I will tell you that the factory-provided strings are suitable for Orchestra players with the hand strength of Orangutans or towing small motor vehicles from icy highways. They may provide something softer with the smaller basses assuming that they are targeting students.
  8. Why, in the world after ALL the negative posts and threads we've gone through here on TB, would anybody want to mess with one of these pieces of ****? If you get a new one, you have to practically rebuild it before you can play it! And then, most of the time, they still sound like ****!
    On another thread, we've been talking about ways to stop some bass machines from rattling. The ones we're talking about can be fixed...the Kay/Englehardt machines are more times than not IMPOSSIBLE to fix.
    After all this, you're left with purfling ( the black border around stringed instruments that are supposed to be inlaid ) but, in this case either painted on or are decaled. Then you have the BIG possibility of the glued on scroll volutes (or scroll ears) being bumped off, leaving you a bass with one or no scroll at all.
    My apologies to players of these instruments! once in a while there are exceptions, and i'm sure most of our people are in this lucky group! It does seem the older, the better...but, please be careful of the newer ones and try not to order an instrument on-line without seeing and playing it.
    Good luck Beth!
  9. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA


    I absolute intend no disrespect. I certainly appreciate your experience and perspective. But I do think you are unfairly characterizing these basses.

    You are correct in that they need a lot of set up work. But I don't know of too many $1,000 basses that don't.

    I have looked at and/or played several Engelhardts in the past couple of years. ALL of them showed a quality of materials and craftsmanship equal or superior to any other $1,000 I have ever seen.

    I certainly don't have the experience of most on this board, but I hold to my conviction that Engelhardts can be very usable instruments if you are willing to put the time, money and effort into making them right.

    As for the tone, well, it is very unlikely to begin to approach what you are accustomed to in your arena of performance. But I would love to hear about any fairly available $1,000 bass that does.

    I am not willing to argue with anyone that Engelhardts are the hands down best value in the cheapo bass market, but I stand firm in my opinion that they are reasonable option for any one shopping in that price point.

    Are you better off with a Strunal, Shen, Christopher or the like? Maybe, but that really depends on what you want to do with the bass. I don't think the answer is obvious.
  10. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    For the same reason I still drive my '89 Ford Ranger with 2.0 liter engine and beat up tailgate and bent bumper and three shades of gray paint - 'cause it serves my purpose and is reliable and CHEAP. I can't afford a $30,000 F150. Not that I wouldn't like to have one. I still have to maintain it and take care of it.

    I may be trailer trash but, it's MY trailer so don't knock it.
  11. CB3000

    CB3000 Supporting Member

    about engleharts--i owned the deluxe one--with the ebony board etc... and before that i rented an em1-with the rosewood board. i liked the em1 much, much better. it must have been a fluke but it sounded and played great for a plywood bass. too bad it was a rental...
  12. I also play chamber, classical, and jazz. If your looking in the 2k range, have you thouight about a hybrid bass as opposed to a straight laminated bass. You'll get a more even tone throughout the register than with any laminated. I talking about European made, not Chinese basses with carved tops, & ribs, with ebony fingerboards, and tailpice. They are also available in fractional sizes. IMO, it's something to think about especially if you do play a fair amount of arco. Hope this helps!
  13. Chas, i'm only suggesting saving some money and finding an instrument that'll give you a little more or a lot more sound and playability for your buck...to me, it's very important to be able to get a pleasing sound on your way to wherever you're heading in the music world. Playability is so very important too! These are the things that give you motivation to continue.
    You've made my point in the first quote of your post. You shouldn't HAVE to be willing to put more time, money and effort into making them right! And, as far as the second quote goes, of course you are not willing to argue that Englehardts are the hands down best value in the cheapo bass market! I'd be really worried about you if you did! And finally your arguement has gone straight down hill when you've gone to that word....useable. We just have to agree to disagree.
  14. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    Another Engelhardt fan here. My ES-1 does everything I need, and came in at the max my budget (and my marraige) would allow. If my skills improve to where I would consider a full-time music career, I'll invest in higher quality equipment. For now, I have an instrument that allows me to learn and grow, and have a lot of fun doing it. I've yet to have a patron at the local VFW complain about the tone of my bass.

    While we're on the subject, could someone please explain why a plywood bass even NEEDS purfling? I thought the purpose of purfling was to help prevent cracks - isn't that also the purpose behind plywood? Wouldn't plywood be WEAKENED by cutting a groove through one or two layers to install purfling? This seems to be a common knock on Engelhardts, but I've seen some pretty old instruments without cracks. Go, luthiers! (Sorry about the ensuing cloud of sawdust, guys)
  15. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    in addition to helping prevent cracks (i guess it does this) purfling's main function as i understand it is to guard the bass against edge degradation. i have an old kay with painted on 'furpling' and at the edges of the upper bout on the treble side (most common place to lay the bass down) the top is simply worn away to the ribs. with real purfling this probably lasts longer.
  16. ok, ok...you guys have all made good points for what you're looking for in a bass...I stand corrected and of course, there would be no reason in the world to put purfling in one of these.
  17. O.O I should check back more often! I all of a sudden have quite a few replies.

    The luthier here in Spokane WA (ViolinWorks, for the curious) carries Christopher's for quite a bit less expensive than I was expecting, and I was going to spend only about 500 less to buy and change the Engelhardt into what I wanted. So, although I'll probably go and play both, if the Christopher is as good as I am told, I might go ahead an take out the extra $$$. But I might really like the Engelhardt. I get to go play in month.... :)

    Anyway, I really appreciate the comments (I'll keep them in mind if I do buy the Engelhardt/Laminate, and go about having them setup), they do give me a much better idea of how to look at the market in general. And if you know the market, you can probably land the bargain or deal. So thanks a ton, and I hope this thread is able to help others in the same position as me!

  18. This was Beth's original question. In all our rants, and arguements, the question kind of got lost...so did the fact that nobody mentioned the third, and for my money, the best American made laminated bass...the Epiphone. To me these were the best looking {except for that sunburst spray) basses. The shape and F holes were really nice, I thought. They had real scrolls and, I think real purfling.
  19. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    And also that she's looking for a 1/4 bass !

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