1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Budget offshoot brands discussion

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Philbiker, Dec 30, 2005.

  1. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I was reading the Lakland Skylines are made KOREAN MADE! thread and started typing a response and decided that the idea would be better served by a new thread.

    Often, outsourcing lower priced instruments to Korea and other places has a very deleterious effect on the brand name. When I think of a Lakland I used to think high-end like Sadowsky almost, but now I think Skyline first. Now, Skylines are great basses, don't get me wrong, but they aren't in the same league as the USA made Laklands that they imitate (or are they?). G&L seems to be going the same way with their "Tribute" line. On a much smaller scale, Michael Tobias and Ken Smith, as well as many others have done this, too. It seems to be a popular way to enlarge the company.

    This strategy does raise market share, but the effects on the brand are often bad unless the outsourcing is very carefully managed.

    Some examples of very well managed outsourcing are Gibson/Epiphone and Fender/Squier. The existance of a Squier Affinity P-Bass doesn't take anything away from a custom shop made in USA P-Bass, and say what you will about Fender's QA, they are extremely careful with anything that comes from the Far East with the Fender™ name on the headstock. The Japanese and more recently Korean Fenders are excellent basses by all measure. And, like them or not (and as much as Gibson ruins so many brands they buy), Gibson's import Toby basses are another very well handled brand.

    Some smaller high-end USA brands have also done very well managing imports, Spector comes to mind immediately with their exceptional Czech line, as well as Music Man with the OLP basses. Nobody's going to mistake and OLP for a real Stingray, and they manage to keep somewhat affordable USA made basses in the line up.

    However, if you've got a smaller less well known higher end or botique name, this outsourcing can very easily kill your brand. Let's remember two great bass (and guitar) companies who completely changed their reputation and brand meaning with this market approach:

    HAMER. Anyone else here remember Hamer USA stuff? My local guitar shop "Classic Axe" carried them. They had high end components (including the neato 2-Tek bridge), excellent electronics and pickups, and were extremely well made. Anyone who's played a USA Cruise will tell you they are very comparable and equivalent to the best USA Fender Jazz basses out there. What happened? With what they thought was a well enough established brand name, they introduced the "Slammer" series. Now, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think HAMER? Those fantastic USA Cruise basses?

    Schecter. Before the imports, the aforementioned Classic Axe shop up the street from me had the largest Schecter selection in the Eastern US. They had a 5 string honey colored ash jazz bass that I almost bought (I bought my blue Fender instead). Fantastic bass. Top shelf production through and through. Easily on par with the best stuff coming out of Fender's USA non-custom shop. Schecter started the imports slowly, like Lakland is doing. All the Korean stuff had to come through their California shop for set-up, inspection, etc. Then the flood came. Then the Guitar Center started carrying them. Now what do you think of when you see Schecter on a headstock?

    Do these companies even manufacture guitars at all in the USA any more? Who knows? (according to their web site HAMER makes some very nice stuff indeed in Chicago - who knew?) If you had $1500 to spend would you go looking for a HAMER or Schecter bass? There was a time, not so long ago, when you would. These used to be small companies started by dedicated artisans with a passion for luthiery who loved the guitar craft. Now they're big import/export companies.

    It's not that these imports are bad for players, or for the businesses. They're great basses, and the brand names allow the (already excellent and getting better) Korean manufacturers to sell their wares here in the USA. The basses and guitars themselves are great, even if they are mere shadows of their exceptional former USA-made bretheren (and sometimes they're as good as the originals!).

    It takes so long to build up a brand, it's sad to see excellent brand names like G&L and Lakland aparently going down the same road of cheapening the brand with imports that we've seen before. I suppose that's just how the market is now. I'd rather see them sell out to bigger manufacturers like Tobias selling his basses to Gibson then sell out to the marketplace.

    Reading that thread just made me wan to comment that it's kind of sad to watch these once great companies (hell, G&L was started by Leo himself!) go the way of Kramer and Charvel and BC Rich and so many once great names before them.
  2. didn't Peavey used to proudly state all their products were made in the US? since then they've outsourced like everyone else.

    a couple of interesting interviews that touch on the subject of outsourcing-
    Lyndon Laney, laney amps MD

    I suppose Laney's always been a budget brand, at least for bass gear, so outsourcing hasn't changed the brand reputation much, apart from bringing prices down.

    Mark Gooday, Ashdown and former Trace Elliot MD
    (goes as far to say that trace went under largely due to his refusing to outsource)
  3. Billy-Bob


    Nov 4, 2005
    So Cal
    You make some really good points, amigo.

    I just scored a '95 CruiseBass--fantastic bass and has become a favorite. Why this series didn't make Hamer a bunch of $$ is baffling. Unfortunately (as you noted) Hamer now means "cheap" to most casual instrument purchasers (who probably have no idea Hamer still builds stellar guitars in the USA).

    As to G&L, they would have been better off spinning off another line rather than the name confusion of the "Tribute" series.

    And, don't forget the "G"--George Fullerton also had a little something to do with the company...

  4. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Yes, they were the absolute last compamy to outsource their budget stuff.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member


    I have found Schecter Custom Shop basses hard to find on the east coast but like with some of the other brands you mentioned i think they are very much identified by their import line now.
  6. lyle

    lyle Guest

    Jan 10, 2004
    Vernon, B.C. Canada
    Nicely put. I admire Ned steinberger for having his CR series double basses made in Czech rep. I wouldn't doubt the craftsmenship of an upright made in europe, yet with the reputation of korean/asain offshore builds It would make me think twice about buying an NS upright if they were asian built. I'm sure thats one of the reasons he offers them from Czech, and your right it would seem "cheapen" his company if they were asian built. Are performance spectors made in the Czech rep or asia?
  7. toad


    Jun 26, 2002
    Couple of thoughts:

    1. I think the quality of Fender imports says more for the QC of, let's say, Fender Japan than FMIC managing quality of their brand. I've seen the Fender Japan stuff in Japan; their stuff is much more consistent than the MIA stuff hanging in Guitar Center.

    2. Here's a nice little story based on speculation:

    I would imagine these smaller makers who experience some success are going to have to make a business decision of whether or not to expand at some point . If they are successful in what they do, they probably started by not competing directly against the giants like Fender and Gibson; maybe high-end, custom, boutique. If they want to expand their marketshare, the risk and cost of gearing up mass production in this country would probably kill them, so they outsource. They would not do this unless their business model was potentially more profitable than their existing business. They may very well come up with great products, but now they are competing for that same market that those giants dominate. They may realize at some point that they underestimated the import stigma and their ability to compete with the larger marketing dollars and the industry influence of the bigger names. They struggle to sell. Well, at that point, the only thing they can do is to cut costs and lower their price points. QC suffers, cheaper parts.

    Going back to Lakland Skylines, purely based on what you actually get, I don't see why they should be much cheaper than let's say MIA Fenders; I personally don't see it. The line seems to be doing well, so maybe some folks agree with me. But if enough American consumers decide you shouldn't pay the same for a Korean made instrument as you would for MIA, then there goes the business; they're going to have to change something.

    I guess the point is that, IMHO, the idea that imports=inherent bad quality seems outdated. These overseas factories and luthiers seem more than capable of building quality products. There's enough examples out there. However, what we see here are based on business decisions and if, for whatever reason, people aren't buying at the prices you need to charge, then you have to change.
  8. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Mock, thanks so much for posting those interview links. Both interviews are really insughtful. I'm considering a budget head for my rig (an everyday work-a-day so that I don't have to gig with my antique blackface Fender) and Laney and Ashdown are both very high on my list right now.
  9. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    IMHO, if a prestigious brand wants to build basses for the value or entry level market, they should take a page out of EBMM's book. The el cheapo line is strictly known as OLP. Heck I don't even know if they are actually tied in. This IMO, protects the better known Music Man line's "street cred". To capture a piece of the mid level market, the guys from SLO has a made over here bass that is designed to be manufactured for less $$$. So the SUB is free of the Made in Asia stigma (but why do we like Nikon?).
  10. another interview from that site worth checking out-

    Trevor Wilkinson, hardware designer.
    interesting bit about the court case with gibson, and his subsequent green card refusal..........

    'I've worked closely with Fender and they have their problems, too. Take the Vintage V6 guitar. There is no Fender anywhere near that that has a tuner that locks, a good, retrofitable, functioning vibrato. It doesn't have Alnico pickups, it doesn't have 22 frets, it doesn't have the attention to detail and all for the simple reason that of Fender were to produce that guitar at £179, why would you buy an American Standard Strat at £899?'

    he predicts near the end that things in china will go the way things in korea and japan have gone-
    labour rates will rise and presumably eventually cheap labour will have to be sought elsewhere.
  11. let's not forget Fender did it over a decade ago with squier.
    and Gibson with Epiphone- clear demarcation of the cheapo models. (albeit a bit of a mess with the US, mex and MIJ Fenders)
  12. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I tihnm EBMM did it the best. THe OLPs are not mistaken for real EBMMs, and the SUB basses are still made in USA. :)
  13. Hamer is alive and well, now located in Connecticut. They still make 2 basses in the US, a 12-string and a chambered body model called the Monaco Bass. My 2-Tek CruiseBass is my #1. It baffles me why they didn't sell better.
  14. I glanced at what was said above and my mind began to wander so here's my take on the situation in the most terse sense:

    Don't care where it's made, if it plays good, feels good, looks good, holds up good, and most importantly sounds good, that's all that matters.
  15. I'm going to agree with Marcusalan

    if it plays good I'm not goin to check where its made. As far as I'm concerned every company has gem basses. Its just that some companies gems are fewer and farther between.
  16. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    My take on it is, if it plays good and sounds good, ill buy it BUT, if it is made outside the US, i want to pay less than if it was made in the US, since it cost them less to make.

    Im not sure if i could justify paying over $1k for a 44-02 or 55-02. I could easiyl spend $600 on an 01 model though.

    Why? Because for the price of an 02 model i could find something else i liked.

    Where it is made is somewhat important to me. I mainly like USA, Japan, or Korea. Im not fond of chinese or indonesian basses.
  17. I respect what I've heard about the Bass Company in china.

    That is a decent way of manufacturing there. I bet they pay a truely decent wage, and have good working conditions. The guy moved his whole shop and himself there.

    I don't get the same vibe from those Chinese and Korean plants that are making 6 different companies basses under one massive roof. It just seems like a more hands off, detached operation. Far removed from the parent company. Not saying they are all like that, I'm just saying I can respect what the Bass Company is doing.
  18. UtBDan


    Oct 29, 2004
    was gonna say when someone said that they found on their site "Chicago". They and some acoustic company (I forget what... I think they make only REALLY EXPENSIVE ABG's and I've never played one and they only make dirt cheap acoustic guitars, and I've never played one) are in the same building (or nearby buildings, I forget; its been a while) in Connecticut. Seen it, but its been a while as I said.

    Anyways, Hamer still makes some good guitars; I don't know about basses. A friend of mine has a niiiiice Hamer.
  19. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    This thread was fresh in my mind when I visited my local music store just now.

    After years of woodshedding and playing in church, I've been in a gigging rock/blues band for a few months. My '66 blackface bassman has done well so far, though an outdoor company picnic demonstrated to me that I needed something with more oomph. And playing at local DC rock dives with a valuable antique isn't exactly the smartest thing to do I don't think. The prospect of a glass or pitcher of beer spilling all over my vintage amp has caused me some nervousness.

    So I have been in the market for a reliable abuse-loving low end low power head to match my Eden 210 cabinet for a few months. I've tried some in local stores, I've read here, I've looked at online commerce sites. There was a possibility that I might be subbing for a friend tonight (I won't be, which is fine) and it hit me that my bassman wasn't going to cut it. At very least I needed a direct box to feed the board, but in a large outdoor setting the Bassman doesn't do the job. (for low volume it sounds unbelievably fantastic)

    Complimentary with my philosophy about imports, I also prefer to do business with local independant music stores instead of the big chains and the big internet outfits (I also like small independant internet outfits). I would rather keep the profits from the sale in the community, I like having a place to go to buy low profit stuff like strings and such. I don't mind paying more for something locally over buying it online. Not that I absolutely won't buy online - I just got a bass from musician's friend last month, it was a great bargain. And I've got strings on order from online, but try to find LaBella six string tapewound flats at a local shop.

    So I walked in and found their cheapest direct box was $39.99. That seemed steep when I could get a Behringer amp with an XLR direct out for under $300. So I browsed at low priced heads, pretty much resigned to buying an Asian import. They had three for under $300, at first I only spotted two. A Behringer 450Watt for $249, a Hartke 2000 for $299. I don't know where the Hartke is made, but I used to own a Hartke 2000 in a combo and it's a good amp, but I don't really like it much. I prefer a semi-parametric to a graphic EQ.

    -aside- I don't know if it's as crazy in the bass amp business, but in the home theater business there's no real standard for how "watts" are measured. A cheapo $199 Home Theater In A Box can claim "100 watts per channel", and a $1200 receiver can claim "65 watts per channel". Guess which one's louder and cleaner. So I operate under the assumption that a higher wattage number doesn't translate to "better" or "louder".

    The Behringer sounded ok and was certainly loud enough. I always try amps with the EQs set flat. Then I spotted a NOS Peavey Max 160 tagged at $279. On the back of the amp were the words MADE IN USA. I tried it and with the eq flat it seemed to sound better than the Behringer to my ears. Not as loud, maybe, but loud enough for my needs, and certainly much louder than my antique Fender.

    Sorry for the long story, but in the end I walked out of there with the brand new old stock Peavey amp. And at home it sounds significantly better through my Eden cabinet than it did through the Behringer 410 cab in the store. I helped employ my fellow countrymen, the local profits help my local independant music store (Sorry Jong, but IIRC I don't think you have an amp in the sub-$300 range) not Guitar Center.

    I guess this may be the result of me studying Globalization fairly rigorously for the last three semesters at my local university.
  20. my favorite basses are ibanez and non of them are made in the US, i could care less where it is made as long as it is made good. on the other hand if i read something abuot a company (US or other) that doesn't treat their employees well i will not touch any of their stuff.