are boutique basses really worth the $$$ ?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by oldfclefer, Feb 24, 2006.

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  1. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    I've seen lots of threads about Wish, Dingwall, and some others.
    I love the look of Alembics.

    A boutique bass is, at least on this forum, somewhat of a holy grail.

    Problem is:
    My heroes all play off the rack instruments.

    You know,

    Dane Electro

    I go to the music store and try to buy what McCartney played on his last video.

    Now I keep hearing all this talk about these boutique custom made basses.

    I could buy 5 Rickenbacker 4003s for the price of a new Alembic.

    3 Gibsons for the price of a Dingwall.

    I can make music with an Epiphone just as I can with a Fodera.

    So tell me tb crew, what makes the boutique basses worth so much more than the instruments my heroes got rich and famous playing?
  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    You could buy a lot more than 5 rickenbackers for the price of a new alembic :p
  3. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Most likely, your heroes aren't playing 'off the wall' production line basses. They're having 'custom shop' basses made for the same $$$ that others would spend on boutique basses. If they're really big stars, then they're probably being given these by the 'big' companies.
  4. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    The Wish bass is the holy grail.
  5. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Yes, it is quite a thrill to see Dingwall mentioned in the same sentence with Wish. A dream come true.
  6. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    It's all just personal preference. You can drive to work just as well in a POS $200 special as you can with a decent car- that shouldn't deter you from getting one you like that costs more.

    People (usually) buy expensive customs because they can get an instrument that plays, sounds, and feels just to their liking. Why compromise if you don't have to? Lots of those bass players you grew up watching didn't have any choice in the instruments they had. Once custom/botique basses became more widely available, many had already grown accustomed to their instruments (even if they would have chosen a different bass from the get-go if they had the option) and were content to stay with it. Some went for them as soon as they could- Jack Cassady had the first Alembic built for himself at a cost of about $4000...back in 1971. Entwhistle, John Paul Jones, and Stanley Clark all had expensive Alembics as well, so it's not something unique to TalkBass members.
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    Not to mention a lot of the apparently off-the-shelf instruments they're playing are vintage ones that cost thousands of dollars each.
  8. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    A wish come true.
  9. Boomer


    Sep 17, 2003
    Hollywood, FL
    If you don't know whether it is worth it or not to own a booteek bass, then it probably isn't. I own a bass that retails for $2400, one that was around $500 and a Dano Longhorn. Ten years ago I owned an original '64 Hofner 500/1. (never should have sold that one)

    Lots of people are perfectly happy to play $300-500 basses. The one I have is actually a very nice bass for the money but it is far from my #1, which is a four string passive bass. The $500 bass is a five string and has a two band active preamp on board. The Longhorn is just plain fun to play and was a close to being free as you can get.

    I've never played a Dingwall or Wish or any of the other basses that sell for over $5000. I'm sure I'd like them but they aren't in my near financial future. I try to get the best instrument I can for the money and if I can't afford what I need I'll wait until I can rather than buying something cheap and "upgrading" it.

    If an instrument doesn't sing to you, boutique or not, then don't buy it.
  10. AxtoOx


    Nov 12, 2005
    Duncan, Okla.
    Along w/ the vintage Fenders you see, Warwicks are becoming popular. Have you priced a neck thru streamer or thumb? Your in boutique range there. Like was said, Alembic has been being recorded since the 70's.
    I love my F Bass and my Dingwalls, but your not talking that much more or less than some Warwicks and Vintage Fenders.
    BTW Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith is an F Bass guy now.
  11. adept_inept


    Jan 9, 2006
    that is the major point though. your "heroes" were'nt playing many off the rack basses. you think jack bruce plays a standard thumb bass. its called custom shop, and its called measuring his hands and custom tailoring the neck, pickups, preamp etc to his needs.

    either way, you can make great music with a 700 dollar used warwick corvette standard, or a 5,000 dollar fodera. there's a point where your playing more of a piece of art.
  12. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    I'm worth the money :bassist:

    sure I can do the same things on a beater... but you know what, 25 year into this thing and I want what feels, looks and sounds best under my fingertips.

    That and I can care less what anyone else is playing... the cats playing the "off the shelf" stuff are mostly being paid to be seen playing them.
  13. instigata


    Feb 24, 2006
    New Jersey
    i think it depends on a lot of things. your finacnes, most of all, your needs, and your wants.

    in that order.

    so if it all checks out, and u got the cash, and want the absolute best bass, and have a somewhat realistic reason to have it. go for it.

    its liek asking why people buy a Porsche when they can just have a Chevy Cobalt.

    they both do the same thing...

    but i think one of em will look better, and vastly outperform.
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    Most pros and heros in the rock/blues genres maybe, where a lot of the prevalent attitude that speaks for the genre itself is to grab an axe and play. If you look at the top pros in jazz over the last couple decades, it's quite clear that most of them don't. The same thing applies with other instruments in jazz and classical music. The idea that being concerned with your instruments and trying to use the best equipment you can makes someone less of "player' is ludicrous. Anthony Jackson is greatly focused on the kinds of instrument/amps he uses, and he can out play anyone out there. Same is true with all the orchestral instrumentalist out there.
  15. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    Because I want to play a jazz bass, but not just a jazz, but the best jazz out there (Lakland USA JO, imo) I looked until I found what would work, modified some things, bang! A bass I play every day, and that makes me happy I spent every penny on it!

  16. beadgc


    Oct 10, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    Depends who your heroes are. Will Lee's one of my heroes (Sadowsky); others like Doug Wimbish (Spector); Oteil Burbridge (Fodera), Michael Manring (Zon) and on and on. I also see a lot of working pros playing boutique basses. Lots of Sadowskys and Laklands showing up in country bands, for instance.
  17. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
  18. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC Music. Warwick U.S. distribution
    +1. Because of my job I've been in over 200 music stores in the last 18 months. I looked, looked and looked for the right Fender Jazz for me. I couldn't find it. If it was a new Fender Jazz the body and neck were as resonate as a pillow. If it was "vintage", it was beat to heck, they wanted too much money for its alleged vintage status and it would take even more money to get it into shape.

    Hence, I play USA Laklands, Lulls and Sadowsky.
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    A big +1 on this.

    People seem to want to think that their "heroes" couldn't be playing off the rack basses... my guess is because then they'd have to come to the cold hard realization that it ain't the bass that's making them sound that way;)

    I know Gary Willis sounds like himself on an off the rack Ibanez GW bass because I've seen him play one. I picked up the same bass immediately afterwards, didn't change a thing... and sounded like Brad Johnson. So yes, Gary does need a special bass... and even more, so do I;)

    Perfect example... I stopped by Atomic Music to meet a friend, letting him check out a bass while he let me check out two of his recently acquired Fender Jazz fives... a QMT and a Jazz Deluxe. He had swapped necks (and gold for chrome hardware) on the basses and the difference was pretty obvious... he was able to dial in ridiculously low action on whatever bass had the JD5 neck on it. He couldn't with the QMT neck.

    Anyway, at least four people checked out the JD5-necked bass and it played as well as anything out there. Super quick and the B was very open and controllable. It was also very easy to slap, hard. A fifth guy came in and asked to try out the bass. As soon as he started playing it was clank city. All sorts of fret noise and rattle and he could barely get any output on the B that wasn't drowned out by the noise.

    This of course proves that Fender B strings are floppy and they suck.


    I can and have gigged with off the rack basses, with excellent results. I also have several boutique basses because they do what they do and I like it. In the end I'm the main reason I sound like I do. Are the boutiques I own "worth it"? Heck, yeah... but they're not magic.
  20. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    You are paying for the fact that the bass you are getting is unique and being made on a very small scale bassis when compared to the other mass produced instruments.

    Are twice as expensive "boutique" basses twice as good as their lower priced counterparts? No.

    A lot of what you are paying for in a boutique instrument is asthetics. When you get right down to it, do you need a quilted, flame or exotic top? How about those wood pickup covers and control knobs? And what about that fancy inlay that must have taken many hours to craft? You are also getting attention to details that just cannot be compared with a mass produced bass.

    The bottom line is that if you've got the dough and it's going to make you happy, go for it. If you are happy with a budget model bass and it serves your needs, then that is perfectly ok too.

    As a bassist, I am just happy that there are so many choices out there for us from the beginner Joe to the discerning pro.

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