Boutique basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by LouieV2, Apr 22, 2012.

  1. LouieV2


    Jan 9, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Are they REALLY worth the money?

    I see them in the classifieds here all the time... Alembic, F Bass, Sadowsky, Fodera, Skjold, Mike Lull,etc...

    Do they really sound and play THAT much better or is it a status thing? I've got an '07 German Warwick Corvette std. 5 and a 2010 Fender American std. P w/ SD Antiquity PU and other than the Fender Marcus Miller V I played a few months back I've yet to find another bass that makes my ears and hands as happy as either of these.

    I've never played a boutique bass. I understand that the attention to detail is far superior than say, mass produced instruments. I've seen the beautiful flamed tops and the fantastic grain of the woods, the fantastic finishes.. I get that cosmetically, they are on another level.

    But in all honesty, in terms of playability and sound, whats the difference between say, my Warwick (assuming its been professionally setup, frets dressed, etc) and a boutique bass? Lets say Fodera for instance, since they seem to be very popular. I have a friend with one who swears by it but I've never played it.

    I feel like I can get any sound I need between my two main bass guitars so I really want to know what the big fuss is about boutique basses, other than that you can custom order them to your own specs.
  2. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    i can live without them. my Fender plays as good as any boutique i've played, although i was floored recently by a $4k Roscoe!:hyper:
  3. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    they're worth it. these companies wouldn't be in business if they were not worth it. some people like throwing down some extra cash for something with exceptional attention to detail, or hand craftsmanship, or superior tone. or all three.
  4. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    This is sort of like asking if a very high priced car is worth it compared to a more pedestrian brand as they both move you from point A to point B.

    As one becomes a better musician, nuanced in the subtleties of musicianship, the tools of choice can take on a deeper importance as the means of your expression.

    Not to take anything away from the more common brands of instruments... because they can serve that purpose extraordinarily... but a high end finely tweaked instrument can be a tool that moves it up that very small notch to a more special place... in the hands of someone who is capable of extracting that capability.

    Sort of like what's the difference between a horse and a thoroughbred race horse.
  5. Hobobob

    Hobobob Don't feed the troll, folks.

    Jan 25, 2011
    Colorado Springs, CO
    To you, no.
    To me, yes.
    Congratulations, you've just learned the definition of the word 'opinion.'
    I apologize for the snark, but this same type of thread comes up often, with always the same content: stock/production line bass player questioning the value of more expensive customs/boutiques, more often than not with an obvious bias against the boutiques (which they have strangely never touched). Please, try one before you develop such a strong opinion one way or the other, and then realize that there are millions of bassist out there with vastly differing opinions and requirements than your own.
  6. IntrepidCellist


    Sep 10, 2009
    None of the Fenders I've tried have played as well or sounded as good as my Dingwall or my Kubicki.

  7. LouieV2


    Jan 9, 2011
    Boston, MA
    I guess I should visit my friend one of these days and try out the fodera. Or maybe its better not to, because if I like it that much more than my current basses I'll feel like I need one and it will become a battle my pocket may not win! :x
  8. LouieV2


    Jan 9, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Please re read my original post. I stated no opinions, but merely asked what the difference was, other than the obvious attention to detail. I asked an honest question BECAUSE I havn't ever played one, what I did NOT do was state an opinion because, well.. How could I have one, having never touched a boutique bass?
  9. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Horses for courses.

    The build quality, aesthetics, and potential tonal possibilities of a boutique bass wouldn't make an ounce of difference in the situations I play in, which is why my Warwick or Fender will do just fine. If I were a session player or soloist, I would consider custom or boutique - but at the moment I just don't need the frills. It would be overkill and unjustifiable on my income.

    Also, I like to think of instruments as either liabilities or assets; an $850 Fender will pay for itself in 3-4 weekend gigs at a pub, and will continue to help me make a profit after that, so it's an asset in those circumstances.

    It would take me a lot more work to make my money back on a custom or boutique instrument, which is a further reason I wouldn't consider one unless I was playing and getting paid enough to a) make the investment comfortably, and b) turn the investment into profit in a relatively short period of time. I would also need to factor in the actual need of such an instrument, and ask myself "Will having this instrument get me more work/get me paid more for work?"

    I think there are people out their who have a genuine need for these instruments, and who can reasonably justify the expense along the lines of what I wrote above. If it's a decision based on rational thought and economics, that's cool. I would imagine there are also a lot of people who just wanted a special bass or a collectors item, and that's cool too.

    What I don't get are people who have no real need or appreciation of the instrument, but get it because it's expensive and no one else has one.
  10. ian_s


    Jul 10, 2009
    Well, I have both ends of the spectrum, a Fodera and an SX.

    The Fodera is unbelievably comfortable to wear and plays like a dream. The neck and fretwork are out if this world. It shows every flaw in my bad playing.

    The SX is a perfectly serviceable Jazz bass. The feel is great but the fretwork is uneven, so I use higher tension strings to keep it well behaved with low action.

    Carrots come in all kinds.
  11. LightGroove

    LightGroove Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2006
    Happy Bottom, VA
    Remind me the point of this thread again? :confused:

    As stated there are a ton of these threads...some for ...some against.. I think their worth it for sure but cant budget them with a family now.. Ive played a few and can say Yes if you can afford preference is Roscoe as well...I like that they are 2hrs away and I can see them whenever.

    You see nice ones come and go in the classifieds as some people are like me and want to try them and they are not readily available..others are like me and on a budget as well...
  12. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    Guitars are all very individual.
    J recently junked a MIA Jazz V because it was inferior to the back up Squier Affinity Jazz V it was mated with.
    Cost is only 1 factor but certainly not a guarantee of quality, tone, volume or workmanship, particularly in the modern world of CNC machinery where differences are often left to people's imagination and worse still, memory.

    Materials, on the other hand, is usually an unchallenged variable on the side of boutique instruments. In the end, a competent player can make an inferior instrument sound good.
  13. Hobobob

    Hobobob Don't feed the troll, folks.

    Jan 25, 2011
    Colorado Springs, CO
    A lot of this suggested to me that you had already formed your opinion. If that isn't the case, then I apologize for taking it that way. The only advice I can offer is try to get your hands on a few. You might notice a meaningful difference and decide the extra cost is worth it. Or, you may not. Just remember, some boutiques are so custom fitted to their owner's preferences that it'll be really like wearing another man's shoes.
  14. darkstorm

    darkstorm Guest

    Oct 13, 2009
    Boutique basses primary market is of course rich and other peeps with money who like spending a lot on instruments. They are worth it to these people. The vast majority of world touring pros play regular basses with a good percentage of those playing an import model by whichever mfg they favor. Some boutique basses are sold mainly for customized bass that would be rather hard to get otherwise with excellent built and attention to detail.

    Some boutique basses however to me are just gaudy things whose cost seems mainly based on their level of gaudyness. Like some alembics that to me look more like a jewlery display thing rather then a music instrument.
  15. I think the OP was legitimately wondering what the deal was, but I've been known to be wrong.

    I got started into customs simply due to options. I was an unlined fretless player and most production companies sold lined only.

    I started to notice that boutique basses could play better than USA made instruments. I like low action, so this is very much worth it for my needs.

    Low action is nice. So are the improved ergonomics. An easier playing bass is nice, especially when you can do this comfortably longer. The idea that you need a heavy bass to sound good is false.

    Luthiers tend to also be able to utilize improved construction to allow for a much better low B. My 32" scale Cliff Bordwell 7 string has a phenomenal B that I doubt most off the rack basses can touch.

    What do you want your bass to sound like? If you know how to utilize electronics and specs/construction, you can get most tones out there. Wal and Alembic are proprietary. Some Fodera tones can be had by other means. Still, there are plenty of pickup combinations, fretted/fretless, and electronics that can make for some interesting tones that you're not going to find in your local guitar shop.
  16. Harpo61


    Dec 15, 2000
    Tampa Bay
    It is worth it if you can afford them and it makes you happy.
  17. coyote1


    Mar 23, 2012
    You're wrong. :bag:

    Actually, IMO the 'bias' is just an unwillingness or inability to spend oodles of $$$ where it is not needed. You don't need a Ferrari to get to the gig, and you don't need an Alembic or Warrior to play Mustang Sally. There isn't a carpenter alive who cannot do his job with a $20 Stanley; a $219 Stiletto TiBone is a luxury.

    The 90-10 rule applies here. One need have no bias to realize the truth of that.
  18. LouieV2


    Jan 9, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Makes sense... Thanks!
  19. basspraiser

    basspraiser Jammin for the Lamb! Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Chicago - NW Burbs
    I own 7 Laklands which many say fall into the "boutique" manufacturer category (although only 5 of them are US models so....the other 2 (Skylines) are "mainstream"?)

    I do see a significant difference in the quality and workmanship of these basses when compared to say a MIA Fender....also, I Happen to LOVE the sound variance I can get from a 55-07 or a 55-94...something I cannot really get from any other bass....

    I also happen to like the sound I can get from my basses (better IMHO..and it is MY opinion....) than in Fenders or other "production" shops...

    I like dealing with Lakland because:

    1) They build consistently GREAT instruments
    2) The customer service is top notch
    3) I can talk to the owner of Lakland if I have a question or issue.
    4) I can get the woods, pickups, colors, and other "options" I want
    5) I like the neck profile on the 5ers MUCH better than any other 5er I have played.

    I bet you will get a similar listing from "most" (all?) people who buy from boutique bass builders....not sure about if you can say these about "most" production shops.

    in me is worth the difference in money spent....
  20. bassie12


    Aug 23, 2008
    Boutique basses are great. I love my Ken Smith!

    My experience has, however, been like that of a very knowledgeable collector/super successful songwriter I had the pleasure of working with in the 80s. He said that when an Alembic, or any other high end builder does a REALLY GREAT job of building an instrument, they get very close to what a a GREAT vintage Fender is. Of course, your mileage may vary. :D