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Anyone else otu there? Bass Player mag reviews are useless-

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Franklin229, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. Franklin229


    Jul 25, 2004
    Northeast USA
    OK-Sorry if this is a rant...but...I am a car buff and the reviews I read in most of the top car mags are pretty clear and critical when it comes to reviewing and ranking. Why can't we have the same quality review process with Bass mags, including Bass Player? Are they still so tied into kissing advertiser butt? Sorry but equipment reviews seem so "nice and neutral". I would think that after all this time we could have a decent bass mag with good "hard" reviews. If there are folks out there that have a favorite Bass mag for equipment reviews-please advise. I have totally lost interest in most, except for "Bassics" because of thier CD/Interviews.
  2. genderblind


    Oct 21, 2004
    Don't worry about ranting, some of us appreciate it.
    Yeah, I think you have a point here. Are all "boutique" basses amazing and worth the cash outlay? Are they all significantly better sounding and more playable then say, a good Stingray or an old Aria SB1000? Hmmmmmm...
    Of course, it's all subjective to a large degree.
  3. In BassPlayer, they do make it hard sometimes: they plug a 300$ bass into 2000$ rig and praise the sound of the bass - hey through SVT stack or that demeter/hafler/eden rig anything will sound acceptable ! I want to see them get a cheap combo and try all basses also through there. It might come out more realistic.

    Also, I got the feeling that the same companies get that editor award - altough it could be just me.

    Otherwise, the magazine is inspiring - every aspect is improving (interviews. columns, transcripitons...), except reviews.

  4. andysvec

    andysvec Supporting Member

    I liked the old reviews where they had the scores for different areas. The new one does seem that they like everything, with just a few 'cons'.
  5. petch

    petch Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    Medina, Ohio
    I miss the scores as well. :(
  6. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    The newest issue of Bass Player has a string review of 100+ sets of strings. I concentrated on the flatwound section, and was disappointed that they didnt include string tension as part of the review.
  7. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I think Bass Player can give some decent interviews. In my latest issue, November 2004, there was a review of the Copley CBE-59NT. The reviewer noted that the bass came with problems and they made a point of saying that one should be aware of return policies if you buy it.

    One other point to make is that as far as I can tell, the overall level of instrument manufacturing has greatly improved over the last thirty years. There are simply very few absolute dog basses around. I suspect this is especially true of basses sent to Bass Player for review. Maybe if BP bought basses on the market like Consumer Reports, they would get a better idea of what is really out on the market.
  8. they review cheaper basses, just not enough of them. they use cheap roland and fender combos in addition to the crest/demeter/aggie rig.

    but what they don't seem to do is review basses or amps that don't advertise in BP.
  9. tonynoriega

    tonynoriega Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2004
    Tampa, Florida
    When reading reviews in a magazine that either takes advertising from manufacturers, or may want their business in the future, you have to take in to account that the writers have to tread lightly, so as to not offend that manufacturer, while still producing an article approaching usefulness for the reader.

    With that in mind, you can 'read between the lines' and draw your own conclusions. It's too bad that we don't have sources akin to Consumers Reports in the music equipment industry - it certainly would be easier to cut through the crap!

    Tony Noriega
  10. stamman5


    Aug 10, 2004
    I aggree with the last post saying that you should just read between the lines. It is the subtle differences about the products that I find useful. Maybe they praise everything too much but what do they praise? I just look for things that are being praised that are more in line with "my" sound.

    And, I also miss the ratings very much myself :crying: .

    All that said, I mostly just use the reviews to learn more about the product. Specs, cost, things like that. Then I hop on down to the GC and try in myself if I can (the GC near my home town [Indianapolis] stocks every bass known to man I swear)

    Bass Player Mag is awsome :bassist:
  11. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Well, in car mags there are lots of opportunities for *objective* measurements and comparison. Same isn't true in a bass mag. Even if they did focus on every possible objective measurement of a bass, it still wouldn't tell you a thing about how it would work for *you.*

    I do agree that Bass Plaguer would do well to depart from the "kid gloves" approach it seems to have adopted recently. :)
  12. DigMe


    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    I think they've gotten MORE critical in recent time. It used to be that you wouldn't read many negative comments but now I regularly see products in which they point out problems they had with them. I used to rarely see that. They pegged this new EBS head as being somewhat unreliable based on some problems they had and they also pointed out problems they had with a recent Zon bass.

    brad cook
  13. Franklin229


    Jul 25, 2004
    Northeast USA
    I hear you on the car mag analogy...but...There are a lot of good magazines out there with pretty decent testing mechanisms/dialog used for even more subjective things-like art, wine, food, stereo/home theater equipment, etc. Here are my thoughts as to what bass mags should start to do:
    1. Establish basic sonic parameters for things like sustain and freq. response. These could be real measurements.
    2. Design one high and one low end rig to be used as reference for a year or two. Not different rigs for each test article.
    3. Each magazine should establish some sort of standard dialog for use across different reviews and reviewers.
    4. Test basses for real life conditions such as durability (like drop tests), temperature and humidity extremes (how revealing would this be?).
    I could probably go on...
    The fact is, consumers win when manufacturers know thier products are going to be scrutinized in a popular trade mag-makes them work harder to keep the quality, consistency and value high on the list.
  14. Bill Leigh

    Bill Leigh Editor In Chief, Bass Player Magazine

    Apr 8, 2003
    I appreciate that you guys are thinking critically about Bass Player’s editorial. We certainly try to. With that in mind, please allow me to try to clarify some things.

    First, and most important: Our process for choosing the gear we review, granting Bass Player Editor's Awards, or determining whether or not a review is "positive" or "negative" has nothing to do with advertising. I’m surprised--and more than a bit peeved--at how often this sentiment comes up in online forums. And, like many things in online forums, it's always a supposition presented as fact without any evidence. The real fact is that my colleagues and I work really hard to keep our reviews fair, complete, educational, real-world, market-appropriate, critical, and genuine. We're generally not aware of whether the manufacturer is advertising the product--we editors don't even see the ads until you do, when the issue comes out--nor do we take advertising into consideration when evaluating the product.

    I personally write product reviews nearly every month, and I can't think of any product I've reviewed that I didn't criticize in some way. Furthermore, I'd suspect many of the products I've reviewed in recent months haven't been advertised in Bass Player. To the person who suggested we don't review gear from non-advertisers, I challenge you to back that up. I believe if you truly investigate that claim, you will find it false.

    As a modern human, though, I can understand this sentiment. When it comes to mass media, I'm more skeptical than most. I'm constantly questioning the motives behind news articles, I'm always disappointed when a crass product placement spoils an otherwise good movie or television story, and, as a magazine guy, I'm acutely aware as to when magazines and other media seem to be pushing a product uncritically. If you ask me, all those marketing MBAs have turned us into a pretty jaded bunch of consumers.

    But that doesn't mean there aren't great products, and it doesn't mean there aren't still magazines and newspapers with journalistic ethics. Unlike some other magazines--even some other musician magazines--Bass Player's primary aim with our product reviews is to serve readers. We purposely keep our ad sales and editorial operations separate for two reasons: First, our editorial mission is predicated on a continuing quest to be the bass community's trusted authority, not the bass community's shill. We genuinely want to help you be better players and more savvy about gear. That leads to the second reason, which has to do with our business philosophy. It's our feeling that readers and manufacturers both find Bass Player more valuable because we try to be authoritative, accurate, rigorous, and fair. In short, the more editorial quality we have, the more readers are attracted to our magazine, which is ultimately good for the advertisers.

    Now, it has happened that a manufacturer or builder became angry with us over something we printed in a review. On some occasions they've eventually realized that our criticism ultimately helped them build a better product. In other cases, there are a few folks out there who hold long-time grudges over past reviews. That simply wouldn't happen if we were nicey-nicey all the time (and that's where our fairness mandate comes in; unlike on the internet, when we criticize something, we have to be able to back it up.). Overall, though, we BP editors take very seriously the idea of providing you with honest, credible reviews every month; we wouldn't sleep well at night if we were shilling products in the editorial. That's what the ads are supposed to do, and we find that, generally speaking, our advertisers respect and appreciate Bass Player for taking that approach.

    To address a few other things: Yes, products are generally of much better quality than they were years ago. That’s part of the reason it was becoming difficult for scores to be meaningful in a consistent way. Yes, we test low-end basses through low-end amps, not just through the fancy Soundroom rig. We do test gear in real-life conditions: rehearsals, gigs, and sessions. Sometimes we drop things (if I’m the reviewer, chances are the product gets dropped), but purposely dropping things doesn’t seem like a real-world situation at all. On the other other extreme of “real world,” I’ve read reviews in other magazines that seemed like the writer never actually used the product, short of a few plucks while tapping away at his computer. Can you tell the difference? Secretdonkey, apart from secretly being a donkey, is right that bass gear testing, unlike other kinds of product testing, involves a peculiar combination of the objective and the subjective. We try to achieve this balance by specifically testing the product against what a manufacturer says it’s supposed to do, and we test with different players, situations, and styles, to try to give you a sense of whether a piece of great gear will actually be great for you. Still, we’d hope most of you otu there you’d try the thing for yourself, but do so armed with information and perspective from a Bass Player Soundroom review.

    I’m glad most of you feel the magazine is improving overall. We have more improvements in store for you. I’d love to hear any other specific suggestions you have about our coverage (too much gear, too little gear, too much for old guys, too little for old guys, how about an article on so & so, etc.). Feel free to post your thoughts here, send me a PM, or e-mail me at bleigh@musicplayer.com. Technical Editor Jonathan Herrera, head honcho of our Soundroom product reviews, is always looking for ways to make the reviews more useful. Send him suggestions at jherrera@musicplayer.com.


    Bill Leigh
    Editor in Chief, Bass Player

  15. Wow... Now you've done it. You've pissed of the Editor just enough for him to reply. Now he will send the black Bass Player vans out in the middle of the night to get you... :ninja:
  16. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I think the reviews would benefit by not taking the standard 3-part essay format (intro with preview, middle, end with recap) that everyone learned in grade school. It make look nice, but there is so little room for each review that the space is basically wasted when more information could have been presented. If the reviews are thorough enough, you don't need to end every one with ""with its good looks and great sound, the so-and-so 2000 would be a good thing to add onto your try-out list." I'm exaggerating of course, but I can't remember how many times I've seen informationless intros and endings with attempts at witty wordplay in place of valuable information.

    As I said, these are normally good writing elements, but when there is such little space devoted to each product (a person who might want to spend $3000 on the Elrick they reviewed would certainly appreciate a lot more info than they gave), you need to make every word count.
  17. I think the idea of star ratings is a little bit flawed. It's hard to place every bass on the same scale, and when a MIM Fender gets the same construction rating as an Elrick because it costs less, for example, it can throw off the ratings significantly for a beginner or less knowledgeable player. And placing them on the same scale means that the MIM will likely get a 2/5 in playability, for example, because it does not compare to an Elrick. This also wouldn't work because it's not very fair to the MIM, which is pretty decent playing to the say the least. I think a better system would be to review each section without necessarily giving that section a specific rating that may be misleading. A pros/cons approach would be more helpful than a rating for each component. For example, a MIM Fender could have a rating:

    Pros - Very solid assembly, etc.
    Cons - Heavy, cheap hardware.

    Pros - Slim neck.
    Cons - Apparent fret buzz, glossy neck can be sticky.

    There could be a rating for playability, sound, construction, and finally a value rating. The value rating could be based on a star system and simply weigh in each factor for the price. That way, you can give a MIM a 5 star rating because it's a solid bass for the price, for example.

    In my opinion this would be effective because it eliminates the need for absolute ratings, while allowing the important criteria to be evaluated.

    I don't have a subscription to BP but I've read it on several occasions and am planning an subscription soon. It's a very cool mag with great sections, and the reviews are still useful. That's just my 2 cents on a possibility of improving the section.
  18. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Wow... that was a very thoughtful post by Bill Leigh. Bill, thank you for taking the time to post here.

    It is no doubt much easier to snipe on an internet forum than it is to put out a magazine each month that is able to successfully speak to a demographic that includes both rebellious teenagers and stodgy oldsters, casual hobbyists and professionals.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one here who might grouse a bit about BP here and there, but count it as the only bass mag I read consistently.

    Thanks again, Bill!

  19. Franklin229


    Jul 25, 2004
    Northeast USA
    Yes Bill, Thanks for the feedback. Although I did mention Bass Player, I was geralizing about related publications as well. I do read and enjoy Bass Player but do not take interest in the equipment reviews for reasons previosly stated. I understand your comments and can appreciate the dynamics involved. The point is, however that there are still hardly any reference measures used when testing these instruments. I am refering to reference measures/test equipment that remain constant, day in and day out. Sure the quality of most instruments has improved but it is still mostly the manufacturer's who've led with these improvements, or in very rare cases, it's been outstanding pressure from dealers reacting to customer complaints. Just look at how slowly our instruments have evolved over the years-certainly there has been a lack of consumer information or pressure to do little to change this. We all play instruments that, for the most part are way old shcool in thier design and technology-good or bad. As a matter of fact, we still worship the old more than the new. Don't tell me that that's the same dynamic is happening with consumer electronics, computers or even appliances. If you compare yourself to other similar bass or guitar mags, Bass Player is outstanding...but...if you compare yourself to other consumer product publications, you will see that the product testing methodologies need to greatly evolve to a point where they are comparable in the quality of information offered. When consumers get good information from research, it affects thier buying habits. Dramatic buying habits are the things that drive innovation.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But that would be no use to anyone really - it's all down to personal preference! Some people go on about sustain - but then other people come on her complaining about how can they stop the strings ringing!! ;)

    Some people are looking for low thumpy rumbles - others are looking for brittle shimmering highs in their solos. Most are probably in the middle, where the differences in the measurements you suggest, are so subtle as to be indistinguishable!!

    But what if your preferred amp has completely different charactersistics - it'll be no help to you?
    It's all totally subjective - ask 5 different people round here what they mean by "growl" and you'll get 5 different definitions!!;)
    But I don't intend to drop my basses and live in a temperate climate - durability would be useful, but it would be very difficult to test - also, would that mean that nobody would buy a Double Bass, as they come out worse on this test than a Squier P Bass? :D

    Bottom line is we buy basses for how they sound and ultimately that is totally subjective - magazines like BP can help you with some information and let you know what's "out there" - but they can never say what's the best bass(es) for you - only you can decide that, by trying them!!

    [PS I like reading BP to hear from other players...great post from Bill Leigh! ]