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Bass guitar reviews - let down? - or delighted??

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Zegie, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. Zegie


    Dec 8, 2009
    UK South East
    Many musicians especially those of an amateur persuasion, consider at some length the pros and cons of buying a particular instrument. As many instruments can cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds, it is probably fair to say that most amateur musicians seek value for money. If you consider that to be a euphemism for getting the best instrument (whatever that might mean) at the cheapest price then that is fine by me.

    Modern manufacturing techniques mean that the hand made instruments of just 30 or 40 years ago can be faithfully reproduced (and often exceeded in quality) for just a fraction of the price of so called handmade instruments. Having said that, it is necessary to be discriminative – there is also a lot of cheaper rubbish around.

    The question is how to sort out the wheat from the chaff or to put it another way find a hidden gem.

    Many turn to good old google and when it comers up with the goods read a review on the particular instrument(s) under consideration – a sensible and reasonable approach, especially if they are buying online – sight unseen and sound unheard.

    But what is questionable is:

    a) The motives behind the reviewer and
    b) The knowledge and experience of the reviewer.

    The motives of the reviewer is the subject for discussion on another day but lets look for a short while at the knowledge and experience of the reviewer.

    Bear in mind the reviews most of the time are simply other individuals like yourself who have taken the plunge and bought something. Having bought it they then decide to tell the rest of the world.

    This prompts the following questions (and I expect plenty more):

    What sort of musician are they? Do they just want a cheapie to try out? Or is it a rich flash guy that wants to impress his mates by getting ‘the big name’?

    What other instruments does the reviewer own how many instruments have they picked up and played?

    What other instruments have they played? i.e. what are they comparing it with?

    What research (if any) led them to selecting a particular instrument?

    And probably more importantly, are they really going to admit that they MIGHT have done the wrong thing?

    So are reviews valuable – or should they all be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Have you been let down or delighted? Come on be honest!

  2. Lennihems


    Apr 20, 2011
    When looking at reviews, I don't look at just one, I look at many. I look for consistency of pros and cons. Therefore the type and style of reviewer is negated. To me, relying on the opinion of someone else pointless, unless they are reviewing many different basses of the same model.

    Though, my pet hate is having video reviews where the player will only slap and shows nothing of any other technique, but that is a thread for another time.
  3. Zegie


    Dec 8, 2009
    UK South East
    Well said - and how often does that happen?

  4. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    This is why, as I've discovered, people always respond to "which bass?" questions on Talkbass with "play some". Reviews can point out postives or flaws that you can look out for when playing, but the 'right' instrument can be such a personal matter and can yield some unexpected results when you walk into a bass shop with an open mind.

    (Says the passive 4 player with fairly small hands who walked out of the shop with a comfortable and great-sounding active 19mm 5er...)
  5. Zegie


    Dec 8, 2009
    UK South East
    Good point...but if only there were such facilities available to all.

    A recent trip to Denmark Street resulted in being unable to find - nervermind play many of the basses on my (quite small) list.

  6. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    More information is always good.

    I read reviews of a piece of gear, then go try it myself to see if I find the same things, pro or con. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I usually don't question the "motives" of reviewers, just put their info in the databank.

    But, for example, if a dozen people report that in two weeks use, the bass fell apart or blew up... THAT is good info that I would not be able to tell in a five-minute in-store demo.

    Arm yourself with as much info as you can, but then make your own judgement based on your personal tastes, needs, and aesthetics. The "perfect" bass for one guy might be a Dano, for another might be a Dingwall.
  7. mp40smg


    Aug 11, 2010
    Worcester, Ma.
    I have been guilty of reading reviews before trying.

    Unfortunately, the majority of reviews tend to be buyers trying to make themselves feel good about their purchases (somewhat understandable). Harmony Central tends to read more like a support group than anything else.

    Typical review.
    Ygolvr21 " I just bought an '84 Yugo with 357,000 miles on it for 50k!! Wow! This is sweet best car ever! As usual, the floor boards rotted out long ago and I can see the road when I look down. But it's got that Great Flinstone's vibe! Wow. And yes 2nd and 3rd gear don't work, but who ever uses those anyway? This is the best car ever!!"

    typical responses:

    commiecar6: Ygo!! Congrats! on your purchase! I have had one just like yours for 2 years? Wow! I paid 52k! YOU GOT A DEAL, Buddy! And no, 1st and 4th are all you'll ever need. And remember, you might want to get some window screen materials for those floor boards to keep from getting hit by rocks as they come through the floor!!

    BarneyRubbleBrakes2: Guys, A better way to go is invest in Really thick soled boots, like Herman Survivors and a cup. The boots, when used properly, really increase braking performance! but they do wear out quick so get several pairs. And the cup is really needed for those errant rocks that kick up!
  8. TNCreature

    TNCreature Jinkies! Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Philadelphia Burbs
    ^so true.
  9. Zegie


    Dec 8, 2009
    UK South East

    Do you know what? the above is exactly what prompted me to start the thread - it is soo typical....

    Very well put Sir.

  10. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Hmmm... from experience, Denmark Street is a nice place to window shop but not so much for serious buying or even trying things out. What basses are on your list at the moment?

    From reputation I'd mention Bass Merchant in Colchester and Bass Gallery in Camden, or from experience Bass Direct in Warwick (which might be a bit far, depending where you are in the South East).
  11. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    User reviews are all over the map. Professional reviews are too for that matter. When I buy a car I will look at Consumer Reports but I throw out all their value judgements and study only their real data because they and I want/value completely different things in a car. I was once reading some online reviews of a telescope eyepiece I was considering and came to one that claimed that it was absolutely the best line of eyepieces he had ever used and that since buying it he sold off all his much more expensive, very highly regarded eyepieces and now uses only these. Two reviews later another person said the eyepieces were garbage, he could not get them to focus in any of his telescopes. It was easy enough to see that both those opinions were worthless to someone looking for good information. In most cases it is a lot harder separate wheat from nicely presented chaff.

    I try to study the reviewer as much as possible from the content of the review. If the phrase "blown away" is used I pretty much throw out the review, I've seen enough of both in stores to know that Squiers do not "blow away" MIMs for example. If you tell me on the other hand that you feel they are quite comparable and give me some details about why you say that I tend to give your comments some weight. I try to look for people who have measured opinions rather than flamboyant opinions whether those opinions follow or contradict the consensus. I am always a bit leery of the consensus because it tends to become a self fulfilling prophecy, so to speak. If one person says X, many others will parrot him whether they put much thought into the issue or not. So I tend to value original comments over those that reiterate the consensus. When possible I also look for comments from those who have owned and used a product for an extended period because that is all the reliability information that you are likely to get on most products. I am also very careful with comments that seem to be tied to personal preferences. I put them in a different mental bin because while they can be valuable they are things to check out in person rather than to use to make judgments in advance. I already know that the Consumer Reports car reviewers have completely different personal preferences than I do, I have no idea how my preferences match those of random product reviewers on the internet. I also look very carefully at those who report serious and obvious problems with a product, in many cases it is obvious that the review simply does not understand how to use the product he is reviewing! I look carefully at negative reviews, they often are based on a bad experience that is years if not decades old or on a bad experience with a retailer, not the product.

    So I do factor the comments of users into my product purchase decisions. I still rely heavily on my own judgments though. Sometimes my judgement agrees with the consensus, other times it agrees with one of the minority opinions. Usually if I have done my homework the use of consumer reviews contributes to good purchase decisions. When that doesn't happen, well Guitar Center has a generous return policy....

  12. Zegie


    Dec 8, 2009
    UK South East
    Useful advice - thanks.

    Happy at the mo - settled on a Yamaha BB1024 why?...

    ...because I've been delighted with my Yam 6 strings - acoustic and Jazz box.

  13. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    I don't read reviews of basses, but I used to check out bass amps at HC (before it went into the toilet). I live in a small town and usually I have to get the local dealer order me something I'm interested in.

    This has actually led me to a place where I have my perfect bass, a Fender AV '57 P. Sure, the backwards tuners are weird and the high crown on the fingerboard takes some getting used to, but I can get around on this beast better than any other bass I've owned.

    And, if I were to write a review, it would say "Try one out, play it with your band, find out if this is the one or not. Nothing I can say about its 'features' will mean a thing if it doesn't speak to you."
  14. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Can't go wrong with a Yamaha! I've owned four - first acoustic, first electric, first electric 12-string, first bass. All fantastic instruments in their own right, and all of them did the job perfectly and sounded great, without being quite perfect for me. If I had more money and space I'd still have all of them!
  15. Zegie


    Dec 8, 2009
    UK South East
    Ah... another enlightened Talkbasser.

    I decided some time ago to keep my head down a bit regarding Yamaha guitars - in case too many people realised just how good they were and what excellent value for money they represent. As you say, they do the job perfectly and sound great. If you still seek perfection, I suggest you check out the high end models especially the made in Japan ones, which are the best kept secret in the music industry.

    ...well they are not now... I've just let the cat out of the bag!

  16. MakoMan


    Oct 17, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Big believer in online reviews here. You have to take them with a grain of salt, but overall I believe if you pay attention to what is said, you have a much better chance of getting a good instrument by doing your research. Surprised so many on TalkBass are down on reviews. Isn't this a place people join because they want to read opinions on equipment? That's certainly the reason I joined up here.
    Playing in a store just doesn't work for me. I'm playing through a different amp, usually sitting down, with people around talking and in a completely different environment than in my music room. Everything sounds good in the store LOL! The only way I can really tell if I'll like the instrument is when I get it home and get to play it for a few days, but usually I have to actually buy the instrument before I can do that.
  17. IngerAlb


    May 11, 2007
    I like to read (a lot of) reviews of the products I'm interested in - usually for the stuff I can't find in the local shops. I like to read a review that puts the item in context, and not just repeating what's already written in the manual, and I'm paying attention to stuff like this:

    1. the type of music the guy is playing, and the rest of the gear/rig he's using - if possible.
    2. if he's playing it fingerstyle or with a pick.
    3. whether the review was written after owning the gear for a short or long period of time.

    1. it helps to know for what specific tone the guy is going for; sometimes ppl say an instrument sucks because it simply doesn't fit their needs - that doesn't mean the instrument is bad ;) Also, knowing what else goes into his tone helps to see if the rest of the rig is colouring the tone a lot and that's what he's describing as a nice thick tone, or not (especially if he's a beginner).

    2. depending on the playing style, the bass will sound different; since I'm using a pick most of the time, and not all basses sound good when played that way, it's important to cover that aspect.

    3. if the review was written by someone shortly after buying the thing, I'm looking for any issues /defects, etc - if I see the same thing mentioned multiple times (in other reviews as well) then I can start to worry; if the review is written after testing it for an extended period of time, I'm looking for durability / maintenance / performance reports.
  18. BIG +1!!! Almost every review video on youtube for a bass or amp they slap like hell...they may play a minute or so fingerstyle, but generally its a "1 minute-long-nails-clacky-clacky-fingerstyle and 6 minutes slap" ratio...GRRR!

    i.e. - useless if you want to do Motown/60's stuff and want something other than the usual precision or jazz...
  19. online reviews of musical gear have always been of questionable value, mainly because everyone has different expectations of what a "good sound" is. Also depends on the players technique. Moving your playing area even an inch in either direction can change the sound quite a bit, as does whether you use your fingers, a pick, slapping/popping, etc.
  20. JonahTheAmazing


    Dec 19, 2010
    I don't know aout user reviews. But when somebody recieves a review copy for free, and it is their job to review it, there really is no justifying unless the product is good. That will tell you if the product is worth buying, coming from someone who didn't pay a cent for it.

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