Are cheap basses as good as the reviews?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by gigetto, Jul 2, 2020.

  1. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    NCBD!! Thanks @LowEndLobster for the giveaway prize! I plugged it right in and was immediately surprised by the tone?!?!?!? It's so light but has more than decent low end. I'm off to have some fun with it now!


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    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
  2. Moedailey


    Oct 21, 2019
    Omicron Persei8
    Thanks! I was just thinking about the pic I posted and looking for a pic of mine, guess I'm going to have to take some. I removed the pickguard and I plan on adding some vinyl graphics to the headstock because people keep mistaking it for a Hofner & when they realize it isn't they are kinda pissy about it.
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  3. EatS1stBassist


    Apr 15, 2016
    So cal
    I mod these cheap basses like crazy! I started buying cheap bodies and building my own stuff!

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    Moedailey likes this.
  4. I'll spend the Glarry bass money on a nice strap for my other guitars. LOL
    Bob E, nuage420b and EatS1stBassist like this.
  5. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    I definitely have straps that cost more, but they don't quite compare to the tone of the Glarry P!
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  6. Further proof that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get good bass sound! This one for beginners.
    Glarry P Bass -
    nuage420b and EatS1stBassist like this.
  7. Peter Weil

    Peter Weil Seeker of The New Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    I just picked up an Ibanez Talman TMB105 while I await a higher price mid range Sire. I can’t wait to see how the £200 5-string bass fares against the competition. Maybe I won’t need the Sire after all, who knows.

    The video reviews by Bullythakid and Johnny Long are pretty positive, although I note they both sound pretty good no matter what they play....
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  8. why for beginners?
  9. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    I'll say because while it's capable of being played and producing music notes, it's definitely lacking in many categories. And I would suspect if you were to tour with this it would probably crap out on you. It's a great low price piece to purchase of you want to try out bass but aren't sure it'll be your thing. I personally wouldn't have bought one, for $80 I've found quality mid range instruments on the used market, like my 92 Peavey Foundation, or $100 for a Toby deluxe, 100ish for an ibanez SRA300... and so on. All of which would surpass the glarry in nearly every category. I'll be using the glarry as a parts project and swapping on take offs from other basses but I won't be putting any money into it.
    LowEndLobster likes this.
  10. I asked because I often see the worst guitars being classed as 'beginners' when for me is a little counterintuitive. As a definitely non beginner I can probably make any guitar work, better or worse, but as a beginner a poor instrument can put a stop to someone wanting to learn. It almost happened to me.
  11. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    For sure, and a beginner isn't going to know the difference. While I wouldn't have purchased one because I have no need for that level of an instrument if someone beginning asked if they should grab one Inwould say Yes they should.
  12. Amazing price will interest people just starting to play bass is my guess.
    nuage420b likes this.
  13. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    I braved the Covid to check out my local GC the other day and noticed that they had a PRS CE24 in stock. I’ve never seen one of these in the wild but have been jonesing for one for awhile. I jammed on it for a bit and really liked it.

    I left empty handed that day but came back a few days later with my PRS SE24 which is the Indo version of the CU24 (both set neck guitars while the CE is the MIA bolt-on version of the CU24). I thought I might trade up from my SE to the CE. Long story short, I left GC with my SE still in its gig bag.

    The CE is a nicer guitar. The fit and finish is impeccable and the feel is nothing short of some of the finest quality you’ll find, but the SE is still fantastic in its own right. To put it simply, the CE didn’t offer $1,200 worth of additional guitar to me. In fact, I actually prefer the neck cut on my SE.
    filler83 and nabilhuakbar like this.
  14. Yeah, I get that, cheap is always attractive, but not necessarily the best for a beginner. Sure, don't get a Fodera, but when you're starting you need all the help you can get (at least I did!) so a decent instrument is very important, I think. It doesn't need to be expensive, but it's got to be decent quality. Beginners are not going to know how to set it up or adjust it or anything about filing nut slots and levelling frets.
  15. Moedailey


    Oct 21, 2019
    Omicron Persei8
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  16. gigetto


    Sep 25, 2019
    The market is dazed and confused especially for beginners....
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  17. Peter Weil

    Peter Weil Seeker of The New Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Here's a quick review of a very cheap bass - the Ibanez Talman TMB105. I went looking for a cheap or mid range 5er to be able to noodle on a bit, but not make my main. I would say the Talman is fairly representative of the saying 'You get what you pay for'. I'm even handed about it - I think it's important to be careful when reviewing any bass, especially cheaper ones.

    • The stock strings are fab (D'addarios). I love D'addarios, and these are fresh and sparkly sounding.
    • Acoustically, the bass sounds great, and the B string makes the whole body resonate. Jatoba and poplar may be cheap, but they sound great to me. I can't tell you how great it is to pick up a cheap bass with a good B string.
    • The PJ pickups and preamp sound great. Although the pre is HOT. I am really pleased with how the bass sounds - the P soloed is great, the J soloed is great, and the blend is great. I have no issues at all with how this bass sounds - not even 'for the money' - it just sounds good. The pre adds lovely low end used judiciously, and can tame what can be a very glassy high end.
    • It weighs 9lb 8oz. Not bad for a 5er at all.
    • The frets are levelled well and it permits a setup (measured at the 12th fret) of 5/64ths on the B and E strings going over to 4/64ths on the G without buzz. That's pretty low.
    • Truss rod works well - used it to get the relief sorted out.
    • The bridge is nice. It just works - not much to say about it.
    • The neck is fab. Feels great, and it's neither too wide nor too thick. I really really like this neck.
    • The finish is well done (black, lol), and the join between neck and body is tight, with no gap.
    • It only comes in black. A little boring. But hey, that's what we get at this price level.
    • The frets could use a polish - not surprising, I doubt it got a lot of attention when it left the factory. I can do this. (No fret sprout though). A time cost though.
    • It neck dives when seated like a beast. I knew it would have some dive - the upper horn does not reach the 12th fret, and the headstock is large with cheap clover tuners. But it really dives. On a wide strap, manageable, but keeping this bass would mean replacing the tuners with ultralites for most folks, including me. So I have to add another £100 to the cost of the instrument, if I decide to keep it. Just something to consider when comparing the bass to others.
    • The nut needs filed down correctly - it's pretty high. Not unusual for a cheap instrument - they have to skimp somewhere. I see this often on midrange instruments as well. Another time cost for me.
    • The cavities are unshielded. This is not unusual either on a cheap instrument, and I expect to shield cavities up into mid range instruments as well. I can do this myself, but it does take time.
    • There's some hum from the J pickup. Not bad unless I put it close to a computer screen, but typical of the PJ pickups in many basses. I rarely see PJ setups ship with a J humbucker, though in my opinion most of them should. If I keep it, I'm not going to replace it; the cost of the bass doesn't merit it and the stock J pickup sounds absolutely great.
    • The pre is super hot. Just turn it down though, works fine.
    • The pickguard (tort) is pretty cheap looking. About what I expected, but for me, I would want to replace it. If I keep it. Another investment....
    So, the cheap bass sounds great, but will need some time and money to get it right. At least £100 plus some tech work/time. Though I could gig it now - with some difficulty from neck dive - it does need fettling with to get it right.

    However, it may still be worth it....Some brief thoughts when I compare to other basses.
    • It looks to me like the next step up - the Talman TMB605 (£500) - will suffer the same issues with neck dive, as the tuners no different on it. Bridge is same, preamp is the same as well. It also will suffer the J hum, as although the pickups are nicer (Nordstrand design), it's still a single coil at the bridge. So jumping up a price bracket will get me a nicer finish and I bet a bit more work on the frets and nut, but probably will still need another £100 into it for lighter tuners, much as with the lower end model.
    • The Sire P7 I tried out (£600) had a much nicer finish/blocks/binding, nicer pre, great neck, but still had some neck dive, and would also have needed the tuners replaced (same £100 investment). It also weighed a ton - 10lb 9 oz. That's why it got sent back. Fab neck and sound/pickups though.
    If the Sire V7 coming to me next week doesn't represent enough value to take it over the Talman, then I'll keep the Talman and do the needed work to make it solid.

    I am impressed at what you get for £200. The sounds out of this thing are great. But it clearly isn't quite the fully finished article either.

    I agree with @mcnach though on his point - it's much better to give a cheapie bass to an experienced player, because it's easy for us to diagnose the issues and sort them. Beginners would have no idea why this bass would feel harder to play at the nut end, etc.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
    Durham52 and EatS1stBassist like this.
  18. Great realistic and dispassionate review Peter and you make some very good points.

    There are a lot of cheap basses that are not great for beginners, at least as shipped from the factory, but there are some that punch well above their weight among the cheap ones too. I'd always advise someone on a limited budget and/or with limited experience, to go for something from the bottom end of the range from Squier, Yamaha, Ibanez, Aria, Cort, SX and the like than a "no name" super cheap "bargain" without a proven track record. Some of those might be true bargains, but an untrained eye isn't going to know which are and which aren't.

    I happened to see an interview discussing gear with Laura Lee from the trio Khruangbin the other day. She has been playing an SX Jazz Bass copy for 7 years, it's stock apart from DiMarzio Ultra Jazz pickups and upgraded tuners. Regardless of opinions about the band, their music, Ms Lee's bass chops, or anything else, the fact that she and many other professional working musicians, find cheaper instruments reliable, functional and acceptable, over years of regular use does indicate that they have at the least reliable build quality and materials. (Even if the electrics and some hardware might need some upgrading over time.)
    mcnach and Peter Weil like this.
  19. Chubby Fingers

    Chubby Fingers

    Jun 23, 2020

    Virtually al that's left of the original of my Yamaha TRBX174EW is the wood.

    Strings got replaced right off the bat. D'Addario chrome flatwound. Much easier on the fingers and I stand by my assertion that most.modest guitars, regular or bass, come with really cheap strings and should be replaced from the get go.

    Tuners were next, as the cheap original ones wouldn't hold tune overnight. Gotoh compact ones fitted due to the small amount of real estate on the headstock not allowing for big beefy open backed ones.

    The bridge got changed for a chromed brass toploader. More because it's a toploader and because I wanted to than for tone.

    This morning I fitted EMG Geezer Butler pickups. Not - warning cliche' alert - "night and day", but at least now I can hear a difference between the neck and bridge pickups.

    Strap locks and new knobs too.

    So that just leaves the wood, the frets, and a few other bits.

    I reckon my $230 bass has now cost me about $580, still quite a bit less than a MIM Fender. I've learned a lot and it's spread the cost. And it's my bass.
    Durham52, EatS1stBassist and mcnach like this.
  20. "I reckon my $230 bass has now cost me about $580, still quite a bit less than a MIM Fender. I've learned a lot and it's spread the cost. And it's my bass." (Chubby Fingers)

    Yes, it certainly sounds like you have a great bass that's satisfying to own and play. There are obviously a lot of us who see modding an instrument, (regardless of price) as worthwhile, judging by the endless variety of pickups, parts and custom services available.

    I built my first electric guitar back in the mid 70's because I couldn't afford a quality instrument and the quality of the cheap end of the market was so bad that most weren't worth considering. (Not to mention that cheap then wasn't the cheap of today... Cheap guitars and basses were comparatively expensive then.) I figured that I had woodworking experience and had found a couple of suppliers to buy parts from, (no internet back then!) so why not give it a try. Plus I was living in relatively remote Tasmania, with little choice of instruments and few music shops, but plentiful supplies of great, unique timbers.

    While talk of building custom instruments, or customizing commercially made ones might be straying from the OP's original question, the reality is that all reviews are subjective and subject to caveats. Even mid range and some expensive instruments might need some extra work, or parts swapping, depending on the tastes of the buyer. One persons "good to go as is", might be another's, "needs work and some new parts", depending on intended use and expectations. Even seriously expensive instruments might not be perfect of the rack at times.

    All these things are subjective and reviews are subject to the expectations of the reviewer. But the question could just as easily be, "Are all basses as good as the reviews?"

    Peter Weil and Guild B301 like this.