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Anyone have any experience with Ametto or Keith, Curtis & Clifton basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jumpshotjonny, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. So I'm a self taught electric bass guitar player. I've always wanted to learn how to play upright bass and I've decided there's no better time than the present.

    There doesn't seem to be many options for places to buy/rent upright basses here in Central Florida (if anyone knows of any shops I should check out let me know). There's a a shop pretty close to me called Atlantic Strings and they carry upright basses.

    They carry entry level basses from a couple of different makers Ametto and Keith, Curtis & Clifton. I don't know too much about upright bass makers but I've seen on the forums a lot of people have good things to say about makers like Upton, Shen, and Christopher for quality entry level basses.

    Anyone played either an Ametto or Keith, Curtis & Clifton and have an opinion? Can't really find much info so far searching the internet.

    I'm trying to decide if I should buy or just start off renting first. Definitely want to get a teacher, the Atlantic Strings shop gave me some numbers to some local teachers.
  2. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    The best thing you can do is to start right here with the Beginner's Guide. Among other things you'll find in that guide is the recommendation to buy a bass from a real bass bass shop. The basses you mentioned look like house-branded Chinese and European imports of unknown (to me, anyway) quality.

    You are wise to be planning on getting a teacher. Besides teaching you proper habits and technique, a good teacher will help you to prevent injury-- which is likely more probable than you think.

    If you're not sure you want to take the plunge, renting is a good option. Its important, though, that you rent a quality instrument that is properly set up. Nothing will discourage you faster than an instrument that fights you all the way.
  3. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
  4. Thanks for the replies. I actually did do a forum search but couldn't find much. There was another thread asking about KCC basses but it didn't seem like anyone responded who had actually played them or heard of them. Just thought I'd give it a shot and see if anyone had any additional info since that last thread.

    When I went to Atlantic Strings they didn't have anyone there that played upright bass so wasn't able to get much advice from the staff working there at the time. I think they're more of a violin shop than a bass shop.

    I'm thinking my best bet is probably to start contacting some teachers get some lessons and they can probably point me in the right direction to find a good instrument.
    TroyK likes this.
  5. Duce-hands


    Nov 4, 2010
    Greetings, I'm in the exact same position as you was(OP) in the exact same Central Florida area (I4 corridor) and was looking at the exact same Ametto bass. I'm curios what did you ultimately end up doing if anything at all?
  6. mtb777

    mtb777 Serving bottom for the Most High. Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2010
    Sunny South Florida
    Any recent info on the KCC basses? I'm looking at one next week and I believe it's a carved top, possibly a hybrid bass. Is anyone out there with some real experience with any of these basses? I'm also checking out an older '50's Kay as well.
  7. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I realize this is an old thread, but in case someone searches on Ametto here on Talkbass, as I did, they will have some current information about it. It is brand stocked by a stringed instrument store in Orlando, Florida called Atlantic Strings. It is their low-end brand for upright bassists wanting decent quality without the price tag. Perhaps others will find them in other cities...

    They work off the same concept as Gollihur does with their Estle Louis laminate bass. Take a bass made in China by a QUALITY instrument factory, and then replace the low-end end pin, tailpiece and bridge with good quality material. You get a carbon fiber end-pin and tailpiece, and quartersawn, adjustable bridge, and a setup. They also put Helicore strings on them and a stronger cable around the end pin and the tailpiece to prevent it from snapping and causing damage to the bass and everything around it when sitting in the store. The manufacturer gives a 90 day warranty, I think, and the store gives you 1 year parts and labor. The fingerboard is blackened hardwood.

    I spoke to a luthier -- a very knowledgeable person whose opinion I trust because he gave me solid, evidence-based answers to most of my questions. I asked "If this bass is made in China, how is it different from the Cheap Chinese Basses (CCB's)"?

    His answer:

    a) CCB's use really cheap plywood. The Ametto uses good quality plywood with no fibreboard, sawdust, or air spaces in it -- CCB's tend to have all these cheap plywood problems. Unlike CCB's, it won't crack under the pressure of the strings on the bridge. The CCB's have cracked tops all the time (check the reviews on online stores as I did -- more people had that problem than I am comfortable with) due to cheap plywood.

    b) On CCB's The neck joint is not tight. They fill the joint with sawdust and glue to make it tight, so it tends to come apart if you pull it sideways on the bass. When he takes off the neck completely, and tries to repair it, the only way he can repair it is with shims because the natural wood is incredibly loose fitting. The neck construction is tighter on an Ametto, but not a dovetail. Englehardts he has worked on, use a dovetail joint, which is stronger than the joints on the Ammetto and CCB.

    c) There are no wood blocks in the key positions inside the body on a CCB. There are neck and end pin woodblocks, but not in the other corners of the bass like the Ametto's. He actually shone a light into the f-hole and showed me.

    d) CCB's last about a year, he said. He gets a lot of people asking to trade them in, and they refuse to take them because the next owner will bring them back eventually, angry. The Ametto should last about 20 years, only because the fingerboard will wear out because it's not as hard as ebony.

    e) CCB's come with a cheap soundpost -- one was bamboo, he said. It tends to be whatever the Chinese have available, he said, in his experience. Not the Ametto's, which come with a decent soundpost, or one they install that is good quality, I can't remember which..

    He didn't seem to know what the tuners were made of -- not sure if they were brass, or not. But the winding post is steel, he said.

    So, essentially, they get a quality body and neck from China (if you can live with the blackened hardwood fingerboard), and upgrade it with better parts and a setup. This is for the Ametto VB-100 model. If you want an ebony fingerboard, go with the Ametto VB-150.

    The Estle Louis from Gollihur appears to be a similarconcept, except you get an ebony fingerboard for their price. Check Gollihur for their prices. With a Gollihur, you get your choice of strings, which is nice. Not so with the Ametto.

    I did notice one thing -- I had a gold mine of an opportunity to play TWO identical Ametto Models across three different visits. Very rare where you get two new basses of the same model in the same store for such a specialty instrument The sound was different between the two. One had a fuller, warmer sound, the other was more focused and less resonant. So there is variation in their quality. The full sounding one had a rattle at the C note on the A-string, but had a nice tone everywhere else. Also, one had a very nice finish, the other looked used with the corners and edges not finished at all...it seemed.

    Last of all, I learned that with the shorter instruments (5/8, 1/2, 1/4) you take a hit in the upper register. With less distance between the bridge and your finger, there is less distance for the string to vibrate, so that makes it harder to get a solid tone out of it. Kind of like how it sounds beyond the nut and the tuners on an electric bass or guitar, but not as bad -- the short distance doesn't allow enough amplitude to get a sound or resonance out of the strings. But I found this was true only 1/2 way into the upper register and beyond on both instruments.

    The luthier, of all people, also showed me how to pluck the upright to make the strings growl. It made a big difference compared to how I was doing it.

    And that's my brain dump for posterity.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2016
  8. Ortsom

    Ortsom Banned

    Mar 23, 2016
    Pau, thanks for sharing the results of your research and your candid impression & opinion on these instruments. I cannot comment on any of the brands you quote, as I have 0 experience with any of them. I do however have a positive impression of the Gollihurs, both technically & business-wise, and I question the basis for the comparison you make concerning their products, hence the reliability of the judgement expressed.

    On distinguishing the Ametto from the CCB class, the following. I have experience with 1 instrument that falls in the CCB/BSO bracket. Although it was originally marketed at €1000 (less later), I think it falls in the low cost range that characterises that group of instruments. I do not know the entire group, or the variability therein, and I cannot characterise the group other than by their price when new (say $400 - $1000?). Other characteristics induced by cost reduction might include painted purfling, 'ebonised' parts, poor fitting parts, and varying quality. As seen in other cheap products; some work, some don't. If you can't handle that: pay more, then the chance on success increases.

    I question the reliability of the following assertions you published:
    • The quality of the plywood. It might be true that some BSO/CCB plywood contains sawdust or particle board, but I don't think it makes sense doing that intentionally, i.e. by design. And mine doesn't contain any, at least not insofar as I can see. It's nicely in shape without any bumps (which you would see in the shiny finish...), other than that the there is some deformation on the SP-side due to bridge pressure. It is true that the top is thin, but the quality of the plywood seems fine (even with a spruce top layer).
    • The lack of corner blocks. Cost reduction will lead to poorer quality wood, and poorer fits, and the use of PVA glue, but not in fewer blocks. I think that would make the construction more difficult, hence more costly. But if you (or anyone) shows pics of a cornered bass without corner blocks, I'll accept it. Did he show you a cornered bass with, or without corner blocks? Mine has corner blocks (and no neck mortise issues, actually, but also there I do not dispute fit & variability).
    • The life expectancy of 1 year. Mine's been tensioned-up for 2y with me now (though played infrequently & never left the house), and is probably 5-10 years old. Of course it breaks if you drop it, but all basses tend to do that.
    • Cheap soundpost? It's just a spruce stick, can't go much cheaper than that... Again it's the fit that's economised upon. That price range comes with poorly fitting parts and no set-up worth mentioning. I've never tried it, but bamboo might work quite well as SP (need another setter, as with CF).
    • Tuners? Again it's not the quality of the mass-produced metal hardware that's the issue, but rather how well it is fitted (and mine were fitted abysmally).
    Note that I'm not trying to defend CCB/BSO's here, but I'm just pointing out that the list you published leaves me unconvinced that these Ametto's are not CCB/BSO material. I'm not saying they are, but I remain unconvinced and a judicious independent look and/or reviews by experienced DB players would be more convincing.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
  9. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    More details on the Ametto -- as I've played these a lot at Atlantic strings, I want to make a few more comments.

    Although they are better quality than Cheap Chinese Basses, I don't think the are as good as Gollihur Estle Louis laminated basses for a few reasons. First, in terms of details, the printed outlining (purfling) that goes around the perimeter of the top is printed on the Ametto, but actual inlaid, they say on the Estle Louis. Not a big deal structurally, but it does show the difference in attitude toward quality for the manufacturer of Estle Louis. Also, for less than the price of an Ametto VB-100 ($1895 plus tax if in Florida) or even a bit less even after shipping, you get an ebony fingerboard and an ebony tailpiece.

    The Ametto VB-150 has an ebony fingerboard, but it makes it even more expensive than the Estle Louis for the same feature, and it's already more expensive. And the Ametto VB-100 or VB-150 gets an upgrade to a carbon fiber tailpiece. The luthier told me the difference between an ebony and carbon fiber tailpiece is not significant in terms of sound, although carbon fiber is more responsive than ebony, in his opinion.

    Plus, Gollihur is willing to get their partner luthier shop to plane the fingerboard, and set it up so it plays right out of the box. At Atlantic Strings, any extra fingerboard work was billable, on top of the purchase price. But Atlantic Strings does do a "tonal adjustment", which I took to mean adjusting the height of the bridge and repositioning the bridge and soundpost as part of the purchase price.

    Gollihur seemed to have more choice regarding strings as well. I asked for Helicore Pizz strings at ATlantic Stringsbut they couldn't do that for some reason, so they said they would use Hellicore Hybrids. Golihur seemed to have more string choices than Atlantic Strings did for someone who wants Pizz.

    They do give you a really nice padded case with the Ametto for the purchase price, and the bow is actually very cheap. I didn't see that you get a bow or a case with the Estle Louis...for the $1395 price before shipping.

    The Ametto actually sounded good to me though -- and the ability to play the instrument before you buy it has me leaning toward Ametto's for people who want to play the instrument at a local shop. Also, the luthier at Atlantic strings was willing to go back and forth to his shop, on premises, and show me the result of his handiwork in getting the thing set up to my satisfaction. Not so if you buy one mail order....

    On the other hand, if I was in the boondocks somewhere, far away from an instrument shop I would consider the Estle Louis over the Ametto without any question. Particularly since they have a 10 day return policy too. Not so at Atlantic Strings -- once you take it home, it's yours with no refunds.

    This isn't meant to exclude the other brands people are talking about here like Shen, Christopher, and Englehardt. I just haven't tried them so I can't comment.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
  10. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 19, 2000
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Owner/President, Gollihur Music LLC
    Thanks, PauFerro, very much for your kind comments on our basses!

    Just in the interest of correcting a couple minor points; the current price is $1,349 + shipping, and though it doesn't include a bag or other accessories at that price, we do discount our Gollihur bag when purchased with a bass (and would also discount other accessories to make a package.) And yes, we can install any string we sell on the bass during setup, you pay only for the strings (no charges for installation).

    I only mention these things to correct/clarify, I'll leave it at that because I'm not trying to be sales-ey. Anyone may contact me separately if they want further details or have specific questions.
  11. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Thanks, I was going off memory, sorry I jacked up the price by accident. Yes, I like your Estle Louis bass. I haven't played one, but it certainly seems like a good quality bass for someone trying to get into upright and not wanting to drop thousands and thousands until they know if it's going to work out...
  12. Ortsom

    Ortsom Banned

    Mar 23, 2016
    Pau, happy 2017 & thanks for refining your comparison between the Estle Louis & Ametto!

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