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At what point.......

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MikeBass, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. MikeBass

    MikeBass Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2003
    Royal, Oak, MI.
    I've had the discussion with my buds at Low Down Sound on more than a few visits there and want to pose it here:

    At what point does price not play a roll in quality of a bass or after what point are you paying for a luithers distinct style and quility is the same?

    I'm saying about $1800 (street price, not list). After that point your going to get a high quality bass. Just because you add some crazy exotic wood top for $800 doesn't qualify as a "better" bass for me.
    A standard Fodera Imperial 5 with no top is as good as the same bass with a extinct chestnut burl top for $1200 more correct?
    Quality is consistant as hell, attention to detail is paramount.

    And I have played/currently own basses that cost quite a bit less than $1800, that I freakin' love (ie. my Fender Victor Bailey Jazz). So I don't live and die buy that figure.

    I'm talking quality, not crazy optioned out basses. I have one that today would list from Fodera for over $8000. Is it better than a F Bass with the same options?? Or again is it just that builders style?

    I played a crazy nice Elrick 4 with a silly sweet buckeye burl top that was sub $3000. The same bass from other well known and highly respected luither was double that.

    Please, I DO NOT intend this to be ABC bass is better than XYZ bass. I'm just asking at what price point do you see things start leveling out?
  2. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Well, from what I've heard about Warrior basses, their quality is very incosistent. Many of them go for > $1800.
  3. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    For me, right around $1200, production wise. I think from $200 to $1200 is many times greater than from $1200 to $2200.

    $1200 used furthers my belief in this. What you can get for about $1200 is amazing. A Pedulla, for one.
  4. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com
    I know I won’t touch on nearly the expenses that go into building, etc. but heres a little of my thought on this..........

    You have to keep in mind that there are many figures($) that go into a price. Place of business, area of the country and cost of the shop which includes rent, equipment, employees if any and all supplies that are continuously wearing out, also the profit in which they have to make to support their family and house hold. Quality of hardware and quality of woods, pickups, electronics, etc.
    Also shipping of woods, not all builders live in an area where wood is cheap to buy and some/many have to ship it in to their shop.

    Does a Chestnut, Buckeye, Spalt all make a bass play or sound better, No. its cosmetic and something the customer has to decide if the value is there for them to pay for.

    Many builder’s have cheaper instruments in their line that don’t cost 1000’s of dollars and don’t have exotic tops. A customer can easily get into a high quality and high-end instrument with the same pickups and preamp for 1000’s cheaper, generally in a Bolt-on. Depending on the builder and his equipment also depends on the hours they must put into a bass and those that put few hours tend to have higher cost in better/expensive equipment so its a tuff to figure out where the real break even point is.

    Its the same with the number of string’s for extended range players. It really comes down to the player and what he/she finds value in. You can buy a cheaper brand bass that has close to the same quality of woods and electronics, but then they might not have the warranty or back their instruments as well as the other manufacture that builds a bass which cost more yet offer life time warranty and will build another bass if your first one doesn’t meet your expectation. Choosing a brand builder is a comfort level as buying a BMW over a Honda.

    In the end, the Builder doesn’t make the amount of money you pay. You would probably ask why even build if you knew the net amount he or she makes when everything is paid. There is a profit to the dealer, which he/she deserves because with out that profit the dealer couldn’t keep his doors open, have the inventory for you to check out and pay for his house and support his family, not all get to play Golf :) .

    It would be tuff to go to work and never draw a paycheck to pay house note/rent and eat 3 times a day..... ok some of us 4 times :)

    Good question though, and I think if customer’s knew more where their money goes they wouldn’t have a problem paying... and not all do have a problem paying for quality and comfort and understand that in their line of work they wouldn’t be able to afford nice things if someone didn’t pay them for their service and quality.
  5. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    I think realistically around 2k. But even at that price you are paying for a luthier's interperation of what the bass should be.

    I think the definition of great tone is very elusive and somewhat hard to define. This plays into your comment regarding woods. In some cases (not all) that $1200 top helps to define the tone you are looking for and becomes a "necessity" for your sound.

    I wondered off.. quality kicks in around 2k usually because the target market knows what to look for and can be somewhat exact about details. Consequently noting subtle differences the beginner (I haven't met many beginners with $2,000 basses) may not notice.

    If you were to take a poll, I'm almost sure most owners of a bass in the price range have a least 5+ years of experience
  6. eric atkinson

    eric atkinson "Is our children learning "Is our teachers teachin

    Feb 4, 2001
    I couldnt imagine spending more than 3000.00 on a bass because i got my usa spector for around that. I personally think its all glamour after that! And my spector is a BAAAD BOOOY! But if i had they extra money over caring for my family would i buy a fully custom fodera? Well helll yeah i dont have time for dumb questions! lol :p
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    I couldn't come up with a figure if I tried... way too many variables.

    Take the Elrick you mentioned. IMO Elricks sound like Elricks. If the sound and playability of an Elrick is what you seek there's a very easy way to get it... at Rob's price. Fender Jazzes are another example of this. There are all manner of "improvements" that make Jazz inspired basses "better"... you the buyer have to decide whether it's worth the upcharge or not.

    I've played $300 basses that I've been very impressed with. I've played $4,000 basses that left me cold. The opposite could be true for the next guy to pick each up.

    I think the floor for getting a pretty decent bass is steadily declining.
  8. burk48237

    burk48237 Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2004
    Oak Park, MI
    Mike, I'll agree that 1800 is the starting point, and if you pay 1800 for a bass you damm well better get a good one. But, I have seen several basses in that range and above that had SHODDY QUALITY, so just because you paid 1800 alone does not guarentee a great bass. And although there are a lot of great basses for 1000 to 1800 that price range offers a mixed bag at best. I am not speaking now about subjective differences (ie;tone, feel ,look) but objective differences (poor electronics, sloopy fret work, bad neck joints, etc,) . There are plenty of good basses (for a particular style or player) in lower price ranges where the workmanship does not equal higher end basses. However there is NO EXCUSE for manufactuers or luthers turning out shoddy work for above 1800. And as far as value, I beleive you begin to hit dimmenishing returns at a certain price point too, maybe at about 3000, where no matter how much more you pay your not really getting a subjectively better instrument. This obviously dosen't apply to ERB's . They are a whole different animal!
    PS: Mike, I missed you at New Way tonight, we'll still have to do it some wed.
  9. from my personal tastes I think 1800 is a good starting point and for me it tops off around $2400. I am a somewhat lucky person because I like to look at basses with exotic tops but would not purchase one for myself. I like colors and natural finishes on the more standard woods like ash.

    I think you can compare it to cars in many ways, you can go out and purchase a BMW 325 (which will be a very nice car in the 30k's) or you can go out a buy a 700 series BMW for much more, the 700 series is not a "better car" in my opinion but it provides more luxury items and is "big pimpin" in most people's minds.
  10. mike sancho

    mike sancho SANCH

    Feb 10, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I've owned and played several "high end" basses and really liked most of them. The cutoff for me is 2000. Anything in this range will be a "good bass". The 2 things that come to mind for me are mass produced instruments just don't have the feel as customs and that's just me. I know a good setup goes a long way but they just don't feel the same. Also at some point it came down to tone and playabilty. I loved my Roscoes but the 35" neck was killer on my left hand so I let them go. I have not thought about any other basses since I got my Smith 5 which has a nice tiger maple top and my Sadowsky Metro which is natural finish,nothing boutique about it. Both of these basses are built solid and play wonderfully and have tone to spare. I still GAS for other basses but am really content with both of these basses because of the way they sound and play. If you find a less expensive bass and you like the sound and how it plays that should be the final determining factor, not how it looks. I've had my Smith for 2 years and although I've tried to talk myself into trading it away I can't part with it same for the Sadowsky.
  11. armybass

    armybass Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    The most I ever payed for a bass was in the $3000 range and it was for a new Smith. It was worth every cent to me. It was not a bass I was buying as much as it was a voice. I agree with Brad that with the upper end basses you are getting something very unique. But on the average I can get by with a $700-$900 Fender or Music Man and be quite happy.
  12. Maybe this will sound cynical, or even missing the point of the question, but i think that the amount of money in the buyers pocket is the line drawn in the sand.

    If you had 8K to spend on a bass, u probably would spend that. If you had 500 bucks, thats all you would spend. So to me, its more a question of finding the absolute best instrument for the money you can spend. And yes, mostly quality falls down to neat fretwork, well wired and insulated electronics etc.

    I agree also that luthiers are not golden childs with the world at their feet - they are always faced with a market that demands affordable high quality. There is likewise a questionable variance in quality for basses regardless of the price.

    just my thoughts....
  13. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I agree .... the quality of some of the "mass manufacturers" is incredibly improved over the stock basses available when I started playing in the early '60's. Back then, you basically had a Fender xxx as your high end, with very few other choices. And any of the other choices were definitely sub-standard (IMO).

    Now, with the overall quality of the mass produced market, even a beginner can afford to get a bass that is probably much better in overall quality than many of those old Fenders. I believe that this situation makes it even harder to try to sell a higher end bass.

    Hanging out here at TB gives you a distorted sense of the real market; Fender, Ibanez, MM, etc .... these are the basses being bought and played every day by most bassists. Spectors, Conklins, Sadowsky's and others at their respective levels are not real common names in the bass world (outside of TB). I would guess that the average bassist spends about $500 for his/her main bass.

    For me, $1200 used, $1800 new (depending on the builder), anything over that I'm just indulging myself for no practical purpose (which I have done far too frequently, trying for more self control recently :( )