Baby Bass megathread

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by nil, May 2, 2001.

  1. I've been playing EB for a little while now, a little fretless EB here and there, and want to get into some EUB/URB playing.

    I'm feeling that an URB will be too quiet for the style of music i'm leaning towards with an upright (dub jazz experimentation).

    I dig the old Ampeg Baby Bass though - nice size, shape, etc (plus i'm a huge Ampeg fan!). What are they really like? Never seen one here in NZ, the only experience on EUB/URB before was on a homebuilt ply number (wasn't much fun), so it's gonna be hard putting one to the test (i'd have to buy the bass overseas sight/sound unseen/heard).

    Can anyone give me some impressions of the BB-4, sound, playability, etc? I've read in several places that the sustain was lacking and it produced more of a "thud" - is this really the case or is it a signature sound? Are they a one-trick pony for a specific style of music or playing?

    And finally, what would be a good price to find one used? Are there things to watch out for when buying one used? Is the body, being foam-filled plastic, prone to cracking/breaking/melting?

  2. I can't talk about the newly reissued Baby Bass, but I've owned an old (made in the '60s) one for several years.
    The plastic body was made of uvex and was definitely subject to warping because of the heat and pressure in the long term.
    The tone with the original bridge and magnetic pickup (under the bridge feet) was quite thud-like.
    Very little sustain but very percussive and dark.
    It's considered the best for cuban/salsa music, but I'm not sure this is the kind of tone you're seeking.
    I myself had replaced the bridge/pickup system with a maple bridge plus Underwood bass pickup and I had a nice tone very suitable for jazz.

    Now, as I said, maybe the new model is a different beast with a different tone though.

    I sold mine for $US1500 and it was in top shape, but you could find some for maybe US$1000.

    Hope this helps!
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The reissue was built for Ampeg by Steve Azola (Ray Ramirez in Puero Rico also makes Baby Bass copies) and cost WAY more than the real ones. I had one for a number of years, I still see them around for $1000-1500 used, but the reissues were like $3000!!! Of course they came with wood bridges and more modern pickups, but still...

    Personally for that price, any of a number of other EUBs would be a better choice, although most are sticks and look pretty silly.
  4. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    if i may, i'd like to offer a suggestion - bill conklin makes a pretty happening electric upright bass called the MEU - mobile electric upright. it's set up so that the scale length is 34", like an electric, and it can be worn with a strap or placed in a stand.

  5. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    I'll third (or fourth) the opinion that the original BB was a thud machine. I sold mine, too, for the same reasons.

    I played the reissue for quite a while in a store and it is quite nice, but as mentioned, there are a lot of instruments out there to choose from. Many are good attempts at duplicating the URB feel and sound, some are fretless electrics in URB suits.

    If you haven't already found my Double Bass Links Page - - visit and you'll find over 100 EUB makers along with info about a EUB evaluation database and a discussion group (minimal activity). That may help in the resource dept. to help you set your aim.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    There's also the Eminence EUB, which had a thread going about it a while back. A lot of the people discussing it (including {all hail} Bob G) had a lot of nice things to say about it. I know it was the best playing/sounding EUB I've ever seen. I'll go drag that thread out of the basement of this Topic so you can read it if you want.

    Good luck.
  7. Thanks for the info!

    Francois - is body warping easily noticable?

    Since i'm in NZ my spending power is pretty lousy; i've also been seeing good condition BB's around on the internet for $1000-$1500 which isn't too bad I guess.
    I guess i'm real partial to the BB because of it's cuteness factor, size and shape (probably the same reason why I own an Ampeg Lucite bass).
    I've seen some info online about replacing the stock diaphragm - real benefits here or not really worth the hassle?
    Is there anywhere online that would have audio samples of a BB sound? I do like the idea of a dark percussive sound though (i'm expecting that and the lack of sustain anyways, coming from playing absurd-amount-of-sustain Rickenbackers and the Ampeg Lucite).
    Are they a reasonably easy bass to play?

  8. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    As I recall (over 20yrs ago!) it was quite easy to play, and the adjustable neck angle is a nice feature. As you mention, there are some online resources for upgrading and repairing the existing magnetic pickup. Personally, I'd just be sure that the instrument had good sustain and I think I'd look into replacing the bridge with a wood one.

    The updated model had a wooden bridge and a K&K Bass Max in one side (which is what Steve Azola uses in his other basses as well) along with the updated magnetic pickup. I would go that way, or perhaps look into a pair of Bass Maxes (one out of phase with the other) if necessary, also mimicing what Azola does with some of his latest instruments.

    I am assuming you have the URLs, but you will find a link to the Unofficial Ampeg web site with baby bass info on my Double Bass Links Page - in the EUB section

    I'll also second Chris' comment (and echo my own prior one) about the Eminence basses, as well as Azolas.

    You may also want to ponder making your own, which is what I did.
  9. Any idea on where online I could find sound samples of a baby bass (for comparison to normal URB/EUB)?

  10. Nil, check your private messages for my reply.
  11. chipmolter

    chipmolter Guest

    Aug 27, 2001
    Baltimore, MD
    I went to the used music store near the Peabody and saw this crazy EUB. It's an Ampeg upright that's gotta be 30 years old. It's so wierd looking: the body is made of wood, about 1/3 the size of a normal upright, then it's surrounded by a 3 inch "bumper" made of plastic. The bridge is made of metal, either aluminum or stainless steel, and the volume knob is located right below it. The guy wanted $1600 for it. Anybody know anything about this bass? Is the price unreasonable for one in fair condition?
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's an Ampeg Baby Bass. The body is NOT wood, it's fiberglass :eek:

    The bridge feet extend into the body and have small coils wrapped around them, so the pickup is actually a magnetic system but detects bridge motion rather than string motion.

    $1600 is on the high side of the going rate.
  13. chipmolter

    chipmolter Guest

    Aug 27, 2001
    Baltimore, MD
    Cool. Thanks, Brian!:D
  14. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I recently bought an Ampeg Baby Bass presumably from the later 60's. It was strung up with an astounding sounding set of Gut strings, plain D and G and Silver wound E and A. The A string was shreaded with the silver wrapper was coming off everywhere. I thought I'd try some other strings so I tried a set of Helicore Hybrids (Med) which sounded a whole lot like my Fender fretless (been there done that). Lost all those short notes and big round tone. Felt like super light flatwound electric bass strings. Hated them. Took those off and put on a new set of Labella 980's gut. That set, the E was dead or falsing, the A sounded pretty good, and the D and G were hollow sounding. I played two 3 set nights on them. Thought they might break in but I don't think so. I'll keep those as spares.

    I put the E D and G from the orginal old set back on with the A from the Labella's and that sounds great again. Big fat tone, real big notes that have little to no sustain. Great for the Country and Salsa things I'm doing.

    I'm probably going to use that set for awhile. Meanwhile I'm thinking ahead to when these things finally give up. I fear not to long from now. The E is already blacking out pretty good. They are kind of drifty and need frequent tuning. I'd prefer to just get a fresher set of the old things.

    Thing is I can't figure out what these old things are. I've surfed around here and on Quinn's site and other places trying to ID these old Guts. They have Purple wrapper on the silvered strings on both ends. Maybe what looks like a little greenish thread underneath. The plain guts have nothing on them anywhere. They feel lighter in tension than the Labella's. Any guesses?

    The local double bass guys are suggesting I try Spirocore's, Supernil's and Labella Black tapewounds. I'm still thinking gut. Pirastro Eudoxa and Olive's perhaps? Or Velvet Garbo's? Overkill with the Baby Bass? Any opinions?
  15. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Purple on both ends? If your E&A are flat-wound, they sound like Thomastik Dominants, which are actually perlon-core, designed to emulate gut. Your plain guts could be anything. If you're looking to get a complete new set, Lemur sells 'European Gut' (Efrano) sets for under $200, and Bob Gollihur sells Lenzners for about the same... Pretty affordable, as guts go.
  16. In fact, they offer several DB strings sets in BB lenghts, but not a specific BB strings set.
  17. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    [Brent Norton]"Purple on both ends? If your E&A are flat-wound, they sound like Thomastik Dominants, which are actually perlon-core, designed to emulate gut."

    Could be, but If you mean flat wound like the helicore wrap its more like a roundwound. Pretty thin like small round gage wire. Interesting thought though. Perhaps a synthetic gut may be more usefull in regular giging.
  18. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    For those of you that might be interested I've installed Spirocore solo strings in orchestra tuning on the Baby at the urging of some Salsa players. They don't have the roundness of tone or the warmth of gut but they are very consistent and punchy sounding. They have super sustain (almost to much) and clear clean note that is very useful and easier to play with than the guts I've used up to now. This is a tone I wasn't really expecting out of the Baby Bass. I have some Eudoxa's waiting in the wings for when I get bored with the Spiros but so far I'm digging the spiros. I've played a handfull of gigs with them and all is well. I've got a wood bridge with the K&K bass max pickup in a wing coming from Azola for more tone options and will post a review of that after I install it.

    Ok I know it's a Baby Bass and not a real URB but hey someone may be scanning for this experience so here you go.
  19. mikjans


    Dec 17, 2003
    Uppsala, Sweden
    Anyone out there having experience with or knowledge about Colombian Baby Basses? I have come across at least four makers in the city of Cali making Baby Basses (i.e. old style Ampeg fiberglass body basses). I guess to some extent it reflects the popularity of salsa music in Latin America, plus it´s probably rather easy to make molds for the fiberglass bodies (all these guys also make conga drums). It seems they also make their own diaphragm pickups.

    The makers are Bladimir "Blady" Torres (website, Sendel (by one Fernando Garcia Mesa), M.O.G. (by Mauro Ortega), and Simet.

    Some of their basses are straight Ampeg replicas, some have smaller bodies and headless necks, and some of them are quite futuristic, often finished in bright metallic paint.

    I can´t say how they stand up to vintage Ampeg or new Azola or Ramirez basses, but the fact that one small Colombian town holds four bass makers is intriguing. I suspect there may be even more such bass makers in Latin America - I have seen several offering "baby basses", but then again it´s quite often used as a synonym for EUB.

    (Pls no jokes about crack in the necks and other references to Colombian pharmaceutical export...)
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