Beginner's Pricing Question Off Rental

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Suntower, Jan 1, 2015.

  1. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    Sorry for the crap title. Couldn't think of something succinct...

    I'm a professional guitar player. I played bass in college 35 yrs ago and I've always doubled on gigs as needed. I had an old Lewis which served me very well for many years but it got taken a few years back. Anyhoo, I finally got round to replacing it a few months ago and got some sticker shock at the pricing on (cough) 'vintage' Kay/Lewis/Englehardts.

    So I decided to rent a 'beginner' instrument and see what's what since I have -no- idea about current brands/price/values. I'm renting a Shen SB80, which seems perfectly adequate for my limited needs. The instrument serial # is dated 2013 but it seems pretty much brand new. It seems to mic OK for pizz on gigs and at home I can screw around with my bowing exercises and it seems to be at least as playable as my old plywood (probably better in fact.)

    I liked it enough that I e-mailed the rental dealer asking for a buy-out price. The dealer reported back $2,200... which took me aback since the MSRP is $1,600. So I wrote back and the dealer replied that the included strings, bag and (MOST importantly) good setup -more- than justifies that price. In short: it's good value for money.

    Look, I used to run a rental program for. I know the mark-up on kids band instruments is obscene so maybe I'm being cynical. But it immediately raised a red flag. So here are my questions:

    1. Is the dealer's POV (and markup) reasonable? Why? Why not?

    2. I can seek out a better price I'm sure, but how much is fair for a good setup?

    In the dealer's favour: Like most places, the dealer offers the rental price towards the purchase so if I go with another vendor, I'd lose that. Plus, I would rather not have to fool with finding another vendor/tech (there aren't that many in my area). And as I said, the bass -seems- to play fine, but hey, I've been playing a plywood bass so long I'm easily impressed. :D

    I'm being way too vague simply because I don't want to ruffle any feathers. It may be that the dealers terms are completely fine and... again... I'm out of touch.

    Just looking for some perspective. Sadly, since I am an 'old guy' and -not- part of a 'double bass community' as in college, it's hard to tell.

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
  2. 1. No. That bass should sell for $1500ish.

    2. Setup cost depends on type of strings ($100-$600), and details including whether it needs a new bridge ($300) fingerboard work ($200), and a number of other factors. $500 is reasonable, soup to nuts, for a setup.

    But overall, that bass should sell for not much more than $1500.
  3. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    Perhaps I should've specified, the bass I was rented is essentially brand new.

    In any case, a new Shen would not require a new bridge or fingerboard work, right? So what we're talking about are strings (I have several sets that I could use) and set-up. So let's say I buy an instrument 'mail-order' for $1,500, I assume one takes it to a tech for a set-up, right?

    What exactly is entailed by a 'set-up'? I assume that means adjusting the bridge but what else is involved on such an entry-level instrument? If this has been asked/answered 1000 times, if someone wouldn't mind posting a link to such info I'd appreciate it.

    And again... I don't wanna disparage the rental dealer... they're in business to make a living and I expected there to be some premium. I'm just doing some self-education.

  4. There is a noob wiki at the top of this page that will answer most of your setup questions.

    That bass was was imported as a shell, with no bridge, trimmings or anything else. The shell probably cost the dealer around $800.
  5. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    Thanks. That's kinda what I suspected. I think I'll e-mail the dealer and ask if there's a 'cash discount'. One should expect to pay a premium for 'rent to own' but this seems a bit much.

    How well regarded are Shen's vs. other beginner instruments? I tried a 'Christopher' a while back and it seemed in the same ballpark. Any other 'name brands'? I have looked on Craigs List for the names I recall (Kay, Lewis, Englehardt) but the prices seem crazy for what were essentially plywood.

    Again, thanks.
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Kungfu is quite correct (no surprise!) that the bass should sell for not much more than $1500 with a good setup. The rental dealer, as you mention, applies the rental price toward the purchase price but, honestly, the dealer seems to be engaging in a bit of double-dipping. If we think of the the price as $1500 and the rent-to-own option as a form of mortgage, then it would be fair to allow the dealer to collect some interest on the timed payments. At $2200, that amounts to about 45%! How long have you been renting? If a short time, then you may do better to leave the rental money on the table and get a better deal elsewhere.
  7. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    The low end bass world is flooded with dealers trying to rip off unsuspecting newbies. There is also a flourishing secondhand market of not vey inspiring Chinese bass shaped instruments. I know a local fellow that sells Chinese basses that I can buy wholesale for $1100 and he puts an almost $5k price tag on! Have a little patience and you'll find the same bass or better for half the price you are looking at. The next ten weeks are the absolute best time of the year to be a bass buyer and the worst for bass sellers! Good luck.

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
    Lee Moses likes this.
  8. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    Thanks again for the replies. Patience I have. I've only been renting for 3 weeks. I don't have a problem sacrificing a few months rent for a search. That, in fact, was the point.

    Can someone chime in on my other question:

    How well regarded are Shen's vs. other beginner instruments? I tried a 'Christopher' a while back and it seemed in the same ballpark. Any other 'name brands'? I have looked on Craigs List for the names I recall (Kay, Lewis, Englehardt) but the prices seem crazy for what were essentially plywood. I am vaguely aware that there are a LOT of other 'Chinese' instruments (as there are in all other musical instruments) but I have no idea which to avoid. I got the Shen because it was a name that kept coming up. I see lots of ads at the music-mega-stores for 'Englehardts' under $1k but I have no idea if they are worse/same as back in my day.

    Again, thanks for indulging the 'noob' questions. I gotta start somewhere. CHEERS!
  9. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
  10. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
  11. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    Good advice.

    At least in -guitars-... and I mean classical guitars... which is my closest point of reference, there are AMAZING cheap-o Korean instruments. So amazing in fact, that a lot of players/vendors simply refuse to accept they are as good as they are. And then there are... well... cheap-o Korean instruments. :D My obvious problem is not being able to know the difference.

    I'm reminded of one -very- nice instrument I bought years ago which had a HUGE hole in the top which to the layperson looked fatal, but was actually easily repairable with no detriment to the sound. It just always looked 'scarred'. But for sound, it was an absolute steal.

    OTOH, the school upright I used in college looked OK, sounded fine, but my teacher WARNED me 'never take it out into the cold.' But of course I didn't listen and one Minnesota night... the top bout literally popped off. OOPS. :D

    So any tips on what to look for would be most appreciated. Also... any recommendations on reputable techs in the Seattle area would be good.


  12. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Last fall there was a brand spanking new SB80 in my local shop. It was fully setup and ready to go. Price tag was 1600. I don't know if it included a bag but I thought all shens came with one.
  13. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Everything I've heard so far about Shen basses has been good - good value for what you pay, a fine first double bass and maybe even a second one for someone who started out on cheap plywood if you go with a Shen hybrid or carved instrument.

    If you buy a decent plywood bass used right now, you can probably keep it as a backup when you go to a better instrument, and/or you can probably sell it for more or less what you paid for it.

  14. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    Thanks. I would -always- want a 'second bass'... ie. a 'plywood' bass, even if later on I got a nicer instrument. Frankly, all the gigs I do... from pit band to bars... require micing and are mainly pizz--fine tone quality just isn't as importan as ruggedness. I have seen more than one guy's beautiful carved instrument get hammered.
  15. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    UPDATE: The dealer e-mailed me a 'buy it now' offer: $1850 plus $150 for the bag. Still seems a bit high, but I have to say... it's a bird in the hand as they say. Again, I may be easily impressed, but it plays so much nicer than my old Lewis. Maybe -any- new instrument these days would do the same.

  16. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Tell him you budgeted $1,300 and ask if he'd accept that. At this point, you're negotiating on a used car with a dishonest salesman so get the best price you can, without ruining the relationship, of course. Although, personally, I'd seek another luthier going forward.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2015
    KUNGfuSHERIFF likes this.
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    A bird in the hand but not a rare bird. Why pay through the nose?
  18. Suntower


    Nov 10, 2012
    I just want to push back a -bit- by saying this is not necessarily 'dishonest'. 400 years ago I worked in the band music rental business and the whole business model is based on big mark-ups. That's just how the biz works. One other poster used the simile of 'mortgage' and that's basically what it is: if you think about what you -really- pay for yer house, you'd throw up. Anyhoo, I'm not saying the dealer is offering a good deal for me, but I don't want to be disparaging. It's probably an unusual situation for the dealer.

    It's -definitely- an unusual deal... Having never had to -buy- a bass viol before, I'm in the odd position of being like someone who has driven all their life but knows nothing about buying a car.

    I'm tempted to 'pay through the nose' just to avoid shopping and schlepping around to luthiers. Or I may just go through the process of buying an instrument just to see what's going on in the world since 1980. :D

    Anyhoo, thanks for your thoughts. Much appreciated.
  19. I know a luthier in Massachusetts who gets "blemished" Shens from the distributor in Rochester and sells them for 50% to 75% of retail, beautifully set up with good strings, and he ships cost to coast inexpensively.

    $1850 is a joke, even for a bird in the hand. I've owned several Shens and they were all well-made, predictable and stunningly rugged basses.

    PM me for contact info if you like.
    sevenyearsdown likes this.