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Best budget fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by louloomis, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. louloomis

    louloomis Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2004
    Hi. I have a fretless Yamaha BB350F from the late '80s (I think) which is a great bass, but my hands are kind of small and the neck is too wide for me. It has more of a p-bass neck whereas I'd really like to get something with a j-bass neck.

    So with that in mind, I'm looking for a new/used fretless with the following restrictions:

    1. Must have a thin neck (as above).
    2. Must be in my price range of under $300.00
    3. Can be new or used.
    4. Must have a lined/inlaid neck (where frets "should" be).
    5. Must not be a MIM Fender or Essex/SX/Brice, Rogue, Carlo Robelli, etc.
    6. Must be a 4 string bass.

    The Yamaha bass I have now is good and fairly inexpensive for what it is. I'm trying to see if there's something better out there which IMHO the MIM Fender or Essex/SX/Brice, Rogue, Carlo Robelli, etc. basses are not. I've been recommended them before, but I don't like them.

    Are the Ibanez Soundgear basses any good?

  2. Ian Perge

    Ian Perge Supporting Member

    May 11, 2001
    Evansville, Indiana

    Quite honestly, I think you're shooting for a bass above your pricepoint when considering the list of requirements you've set up. You've limited a good amount of worthy basses by this, and lower-end lined fretless basses aren't a huge list by any means. For example, Fender's Standard Jazz fretless would be an ideal choice, except you've stated no MIM basses, which I wouldn't put on nearly the same level as SX/Brice/Robelli as you do. I think that besides a difference in neck size and the (natural) increase in build quality among lower-end basses, you're asking for too much for too little ca$h.

    I do find Ibanez basses to be good instruments, but the neck size on their four-string Soundgear models are very slim, almost to the point of being uncomfortable to play for extended periods. That being said, their SR-300DXF fits a good amount of your requirements (fret lines, thin neck, four-string) and sells for $279.99 at both zzounds.com and AMS. I've also seen used/NOS SR-400F's from '01-'02 which IMO are a major upswing in build and electronic/pup quality for around your price range here, but this model is unlined, and having lines installed by a professional might bring it beyond your limits. There's also an SR-500 fretless model which would be another step up in terms of quality (and price) but lacking inlays as well.

    One other model that comes to mind that might suit your needs is the Yamaha RBX-270F fretless, which is certainly a thinner neck than your BB-series.

    I just played a brand-new Ibanez Gary Willis GWB35 which would be an amazing beginning-to-gigging level fretless with fretlines and mwah for weeks, but unfortunately it's a five-string and roughly double your spending limit. I was tempted to start begging the fiancée (it was my birthday ;)) if not for the fact that I'd bought a second RBX-775 last spring specifically for defretting purposes (and that I'd just ordered the tools for the job and will be making my attempt next week) and that Ibanez string spacing is too narrow (16.5 mm) for me right now after having adapted to the "standard" 19mm of my Yamahas. I'm sure I could adapt to it, but circumstances have led me down another path.
  3. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Look for a used Dean Edge fretless. It fits all your requirements and is a hell of a bass! Some years they made them with lines, some years without. The one I'm playing in my avatar was unlined, but they made them with lines the year after that. Now I think they're unlined again.

    Better than a Soundgear in my opinion, but that's just a subjective opinion, the Soundgear is just as good a bass in an objective analysis.
  4. If you can stretch your budget a bit, and are even slightly handy, you could buy a Carvin B4F kit and assemble it yourself. The kit has the same parts used in the B4 bass (minus final sanding and finishing, which can be done in a rub-on fashion with tung oil), and IMO the B4 is a far better bass than a Rogue or a Carlo Robelli. The neck is fairly thin from front to back, and width-wise it's a tad wider than a J but not as wide as a P. You can order the kit with fretlines on the FB.

    You could also shop around for a used instrument.
  5. louloomis

    louloomis Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2004