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Basses that stand out - playability, tone, value, etc.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MikeCanada, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    “They don’t make it like they used to” is thrown around a lot. But when does this apply to basses? I have tried searching, but “vintage” or “gems” or “studio” or “best year” comes back with “I got this vintage Fender for a steal!” or “This 2013 Squier is a real gem” or “I only play passive basses in studio” or “I got married and a Lakland this is the best year ever!” type stuff. I am not looking for collector value, but well made and good sounding gear to gig on. I’m thinking of things like:

    1. Used to be made in ____, and was awesome, then manufacturing location changed and quality tanked
    2. Used to have great pickups, switched to something else that sucks
    3. Before the Neck/Body shape/weight was changed, it felt great. Now it has neck dive, is way too heavy etc.
    4. “Experimental” or “Limited Releases” that weren’t gimmicks or desirable just because of their rarity, but are worth picking up
    5. Models that aren’t in production anymore
    6. Particularly sweet years of well know basses, like Fender P’s or J’s from 19—
    7. Fantastic original instruments, where the modern re-issue gets it all wrong
    8. They just really did it right with ____ bass
    9. This bass was awesome before they flipped the split coil pickup/moved the neck pickup/added a middle pickup

    If I had cash to burn, I would have a big collection of stuff for the sake of collecting. Instead I’m looking for gear that isn’t desirable simply because they only made 200 of them in ‘71, but because the magic only happened from ’71-74 (or something like that). It doesn’t have to be "vintage" in the strictest sense, as there were a lot of great instruments happening in the 90’s.

    I know there is a lot of love for high end, custom stuff here. I am not knocking that gear in any way at all. If you have a Fodera from '87 that's awesome, but you likely aren't selling it, and most of us can't afford it anyway. I'm thinking of old Gibson, Yamaha, Fender, Ibanez, Hagstrom, B.C. Rich, ESP, Rickenbacker, Steinberger, Music Man et al. Regular production basses that really stand out to you.

  2. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    USA Peavey Millenniums fit that bill.
  3. I'm a big fan of MIJ Fenders between 1987-94. The woods they used in the necks seem far better than the maple in any of the modern standard Fender necks - MIJ, MIA & MIM.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Fender Roscoe Beck Five String (RBV)
    Fender American Deluxe Five String (ADPV)

    Neither is still in production. They are perhaps the two best examples of Fender five strings ever built. I would take either over the current ADJV or the two current passive five strings offerings from Fender.

    If you want to through in a "vintage" vibe, most all of the MIJ BB series Yamahas from the 80s are killer.
  5. Ricky Caboverde

    Ricky Caboverde Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2004
    Miami, FL
    One of the BEST basses I've played...best neck, playability, and natural resonance...was an early 80's G&L L1k (ash, fretless). HUGE tone with the switch engaged and super comfortable body profile. Whether or not the current G&Ls are any different, I don't know; but chances are that the neck profile may have changed.

    My current bass, a 1978 Guild B-302, has the best tone and resonance of any bass I've played yet -- but it unfortunately also has a huge baseball bat neck which happens to feel awkwardly long because it's attached to a small 6-string guitar body :rolleyes: Despite the shortcomings though, the Guild is probably the one that stays till the grave. Also, this particular model was only built for 4 years (1977-1980).
  6. nolezmaj


    Sep 22, 2011
    Warwick Fortresses, made in first half of 90's have great ergonomy and feel (actualy, best I ever experienced) and very high production quality. Mine looks almost mint, you could never guess it was made 18 years ago.
    Now, Fortresses are made in China, have Rockbass brand and cheaper hardware and woods. Some say they are quite decent for the money, but they are not in the same ballpark with original model.
  7. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    early 80s l2k and early 80s squier jazz, both of these basses are super easy to play, resonant, and they just the right warmth to their tone
  8. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    Mid 80's Ibanez Roadstars. Made to compete against the p bass. Outstanding value for money and you can pick them up for real cheap.
  9. Just Thumpin'

    Just Thumpin' Commercial User

    Mar 7, 2008
    NE United States
    Manager and Partner, Fodera Guitars (as of 10/14/09)
    Fender Victor Bailey Jazz Bass. These were exceptional IMHO. I never understood why they discontinued them...


  10. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Mike Lull J bass.
    Sadowsky NYC J Bass.
    Pedulla Buzz bass.
    These 3 all left me with the Oooo factor.
  11. Ovation Magnum.
    I have my mine strung with flats and it sounds amazing. I haven't heard an other bass that sounds like it. It also has a few innovative features for it's time like a built in mute that you can switch on and off. I wonder why Ovation stopped making solid body guitars.
  12. Ricky Caboverde

    Ricky Caboverde Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2004
    Miami, FL
    Phenomenal basses no doubt, but I don't think these fit with the OP's topic.
  13. Relayer71


    Jun 25, 2009
    Late 80s/early 90s made in Japan Ibanez Soundgears.
  14. bass geetarist

    bass geetarist

    Jul 29, 2013
    Two basses I've picked up recently fit the bill:

    Fender Power Jazz Special: love the feel of the neck, which, IME, feels very different from a typical Jazz neck (sorta between a P and a Jazz neck), and I love the reversed split P pickup at the neck (super punch!). It has a total 80s vibe to it that I love, and it can do a pretty good impression of a standard P or J

    Musicman Cutlass 1: It's basically a Classic Stingray with a graphite neck (mine's fretless, but there are fretted ones as well). A bit hard to find and pricey unfortunately, but pretty unique.
  15. Yes, indeed! I love mine and would never part with it. It plays sooooo well.
  16. xhawk5

    xhawk5 Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Palm Coast, Florida
    My modded Ibanez SR905 is just as good if not better than an older MIJ Ibby of same caliber or Prestige model. I found that the heavier-gauge strings also help alot 50-130.
  17. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Whichever one that inspires me to play more and type less. They are just tools. I love the gear just like everyone else here but we do spend way too much time nitpicking to death. A bass that stands out to me might not to you and vice versa. The same old answer to your basically same old question. Play what you like, not what others tell you to like.
  18. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio

    My 92 MIJ AVRI 62 Jazz bass is awesome. People love the way it sounds and feels...
  19. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I agree with the "less type/hype" in a lot of ways. I am looking for a bass, and owned an 80's Yamaha BB300 in high school. A friend had an 80's Motion MBII(I?) that I loved and should have bought if I knew better at the time. I'm drawn to these kind of instruments because although there are fantastic modern instruments, these have survived the marketing hype, gimmicks and the "test of time" so we're looking back/at them now and thinking "this is a great bass".

    I believe there is a place for instruments like high end boutique, custom made, custom shop, 4 active pickups with 12 band EQ that takes half a dozen 9 volt batteries, made from 7 woods I can't pronounce. I am even considering something along those lines (with a little less hyperbole) for a different project. I see the instruments I'm inquiring about as really solid, straight ahead basses. Sort of like vintage muscle cars; they don't have a GPS, heated seats, satellite radio, or 12 cup holders, they're "just" solid, straight ahead cars.

    There are some really great basses mentioned, some of which I had forgotten about, others I wasn't even aware of. Great answers all around.
  20. Gretsch 2202. Short scale, one powerful TV Jones - designed pickup in EXACTLY the right spot, nice build quality, balances well. One of the best values I've ever seen in a bass that knocks your socks off when cranked up.


    I dropped a 2202 pickup into a Squier Bronco and it's just as fantastic! Note that the pickup placement is just about identical.


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