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Are there any bad basses anymore?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by tlite, May 10, 2019.

  1. tlite

    tlite Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2016
    Squier is good. SX is good. Epiphone is good. People are even digging Rogues.

    What the heck? Is anyone making crap basses anymore like in the good old days?

    I'm talking horrible action, intonation issues, sharp frets, terrible or misaligned parts and woods, electronics shorting out, parts breaking, etc. Something that really makes your fretting hand hurt, that kind of thing.

    While this thread may wind up having a brand or model bashing aspect to it (which is to be expected), this is overall a positive statement on the gear we have available now. Just saying, I went to my local shop the other day and played some expensive and cheap basses and while some were better than others, not a bad apple in the bunch!

    Anybody still making bad basses these days?
  2. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    My experience tells me, yes there are still what I consider "bad" basses. One recent example is when I had to try several Mustang P/Js over a period of several months to find what I consider a "good" one.

    It all depends on the players criteria for "good" and "bad"
  3. 92aceshigh


    Feb 11, 2017
    Brighton, UK
    There a certainly still bad basses at an individual instrument level, but I think the days of entire brands being best avoided for QC reasons are behind us. Generally speaking, there is more choice is the market and higher quality all round now than at any time in the past IMO. It's a great time to be a bassist :)
  4. Haha, this is too funny! Truth is, this is a horrible time to be a bassist at least for those of us who have been doing this long enough to remember. When I was young, you could play 7 nights week to packed clubs, in a lot of cases you could play the same club multiple nights in a row and BTW, actually make money doing it!

    But, I know what you mean, it is a great time to be buying basses. My first bass cost like $200 in 1978, the equivalent of about $775 today (for that amount you can buy a fairly decent bass today). And that bass was a horrible pile of garbage, but I played the hell out of it until I bought a 69 black Jazz that I paid $400 for in 1979 or 1980. An awesome bass that saw a lot of work until I decided foolishly that there must be something better and sold it. Truth be told, I don't even remember what that something better was or for how much I sold the jazz. Ya, sometimes I just need to remind myself that I am an idiot and have done some really stupid things!!
  5. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    Even in the good ol' days most of the problems could be solved by a good setup.

    However, the manufacturing process has been streamlined for cost over time & now they're putting the cheapest possible parts on the budget-friendly instruments.
    I've had my own share of issues with faulty machine-heads, even once on a limited edition model where'd you'd expect better hardware.

    The necks aren't as good as they used to be. Not sure what's going on, but I've had better experience with necks that are older than recent ones.
    I was just testing this recently on a new instruments vs. one I had just bought from 2009. The neck on the old one was much stiffer & even the frets were better.

    In some cases they literally don't make them as well as they used to.
  6. tlite

    tlite Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2016
    Not sure you'd say that if you had ever had the displeasure of working on my (now thankfully long gone) 1980's zebra striped "Phantom". But I take your point.
  7. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    Things proven to work have become assumed standards. Quality third-party hardware is abundant. Information is freely available on the web. When anybody can buy a kit and put together a pretty good Fender-type bass, it must be hard to market something that's barely playable, as you could in the '60s. If someone did, they'd be out of business right away.
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
  8. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Mitchells suck.
  9. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    If it retails for US$100 or up, nowadays it should be playable. This has not always been the case... :)
  10. juggahnaught


    Feb 11, 2018
    Seattle, WA
    I'd postulate that there's hardly anything out there that is actually unplayable. This goes double after a setup.

    I think it's possible to find basses where the spit and polish isn't as good as it could be. That doesn't mean they're bad instruments and it doesn't make them unplayable. I think many people get hung up on brands and materials and parts quality and all of these things - it matters, but not as much as most here believe, I don't think.

    So are there "bad" basses anymore? If there are, they aren't mass-produced.

    Edit. Case in point:

    SiliconElle, csp, doggo and 12 others like this.
  11. I worked at GC when they rolled those out, in the initial batch we received I think about 40% had obvious problems out the box
    csp, miljoneir, tlite and 1 other person like this.
  12. I think the paradigm shift is more about “is this acceptable for $xxxx?” which leads us to accept what you get for up to 300 bux, up to 600, up to 1200 and so on.
    csp, Dave Neal, wmmj and 3 others like this.
  13. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    I bought a Johnson bass for 50 bucks and sold it for a hundred. Not sure if it was bad, but after a set up it was playable.
    Ghook likes this.
  14. Good gravy that’s going to give me nightmares.
    csp, LYNCHMAN, rockinrayduke and 3 others like this.
  15. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    Last edited: May 10, 2019
    tlite and BamaBird like this.
  16. in the 80s there were some terrible basses. in the 90s there were some truly awful basses. in the 2000s things started improving, but there were some brands that got worse, many of teh worse disappeared, and some affordable brands started appearing that were incredible for the money. 2010s it got better. now we have some truly amazing basses for $50 to $150 used... china, indonesia, korea and others are making just awesome axes. yes some junk gets through, but most of it is plenty good enough for professional use.

    I've gigged with a 5 string affinity jazz that I picked up for $20 on craigslist from a 13 or 14yo kid who wanted cash and didn't want his christmas present any more. after serious setup work by me and new strings, it was truly excellent with a nice low action. people loved my tone and asked about the bass.

    But then I've also gigged with my old teisco del rey full hollowbody 335 style guitar and people raved about it and asked about it - cuz those foil pickups are all the rage now and I set it up decently.

    The worst junk can often be made playable and usable. some axes are beyond use as good instruments. most can be setup to work ok.

    fretwork isn't as bad as it used to be. stock setups aren't as bad as they used to be. plywood isn't used like it used to be.

    I own a Jay turser 7 string guitar that I got for - yep, $20 - off craiglist. it's a truly excellent instrument. I've done nothing but replace strings and adjust action (a lot). fretwork is great on it. finish is gorgeous. pickups are really nice. $20.
    csp, Dave Neal, kodiakblair and 3 others like this.
  17. My advice - ALWAYS try the instrument in a band context.

    I've witnessed the situation when cheaper instrument sounded almost identical as more expensive one - blindfolded you wouldn't be able to tell which is which.
    When played with a song you could easily tell which one is a cheap, crappy copy.
    csp, MovinTarget, MateoG78 and 2 others like this.
  18. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    The critical make or break components and assembly steps (most notably the truss rod rout, the neck pocket fit, and the fret slots on the fingerboard) are mainly done on CNC machines these days. So accuracy and consistency is no longer an issue for the three things that used to be major issues on cheaper instruments.

    Where the differences mainly lie these days are in the quality of the materials and parts used in the build, and in the steps that require experience and knowledge such as the fret finishing, nut cutting, and setup. Which is why you can take a relatively inexpensive guitar or bass and spring for a better properly cut nut and a fret job, swap in a better set of tuners and some more upscale electronics and pickups, get better strings and have a heavy duty setup done and you’ll end up with something that can hold its own with a far more expensive instrument. Maybe it won’t hold up for 40 or 50 years like its more expensive counterpart would. But 10 or 15 years wouldn’t be unusual.

    And FWIW the component quality is good enough that inexpensive instruments like Squier, Epiphone, Sire, et al sound pretty good already. Definitely good enough for the average bar gig’s acoustics. So the law of diminishing returns kicks in after a certain point. And as @Killed_by_Death pointed out earlier, a good number of issues with cheaper instruments can be fixed with a good setup. To which I’ll add some work on your fret ends and a little attention to the nut. And all three are tasks which only require inexpensive tools that you can learn to do for yourself.

    But the bigger question is: When would it make more sense to put $400-$500 into a $400 instrument as opposed to buying a $1000 instrument with all those things taken care of already? And the answer to that depends on the individual musician.

    So is it possible to buy a bad bass anymore? Sure it is. There’s some real junk out there. But whether or not it’s junk is no longer something the price tag alone is going to tell you. So in that respect things are very different today than they once were. And the big difference is they’re better.
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
    csp, wmmj, MovinTarget and 3 others like this.
  19. Aren’t those Amoon basses off Amazon made of MDF and fall completely apart after 3-4 months? I would call that “crap”...
    miljoneir, gebass6 and tlite like this.
  20. tlite

    tlite Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2016
    You know, I've never picked one up. Because I assumed they sucked. Now I know!
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