Buying a bass sight unseen

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Ozzel, Dec 2, 2004.

  1. I've been in the market for a 5-string bass for what seems like months now. I've visited all the music stores in my area either by phone or in person, and almost none of them have what I'm looking for. I'm getting impatient and I just want my new bass already. There are always great looking basses here at talkbass and on eBay that interest me, but I'm understandably wary of spending $1000-$1200 on a bass without actually trying it out in person.

    My question is to those of you who have dropped a sizable amount of dough on a bass sight unseen. There's a wealth of information on almost every bass at harmony-central and bgra (not to mention that '97 5-string shootout article in Bass Player mag), but how did all those user reviews compare to your own experience once you finally received the instrument? And in your opinion, which basses can you just NOT go wrong with? (I think it was Wooten who once said you can't go wrong with a Fender J, and that he always brings his for backup). Anyway, FYI the 5-stringers I'm interested that fit my budget are any Pedullas, Roscoes, Mike Lulls, Stingrays, Modulus Genesis, Matt Pulcinella and Fender Am. Deluxe JV. Are there any in that list I should avoid? What others should I consider?
  2. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    Ok, here is my biggest thought about buying something sight unseen.

    If you have an idea of what you want, it would not be a big issue. The problem is, most players don't know what they want.

    Here are some example questions to figure out if you do know. What kind of sound are you looking for? Will one pickup do? (gets rid os stingrays if the answer is no). What kind of spacing between the strings do you want? Is there certain about of spacing from the pups to the neck or bridge? How important is the weight, and what is the max you are willing to go for? How important do looks become? Do you require a slim neck, slightly meaty, or the norm?

    If you have a specific answer for all of those, your choices narrow considerably. If you don't, you are shooting in the dark, and I'd say the chances of you ditching your ax gets pretty high.
  3. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Well I cant speak about the models your interested in, but I bought my Dingwall sight-unseen. I read every review I could find, and really couldnt find anything bad said about them. I couldnt even find sound clips, but the idea behind the instrument was so logical that I couldnt see any reason why it wouldnt live up to its reviews.

    I spent $1500 on it, had it shipped to me, and havent been dissapointed in the least. I would be a lot more wary of mass produced instruments though. Quality and sound vary greatly between same models, and Id be scared to get a dud of the bunch. But going to a respected luthier, I think your a lot more likely to get the quality and craftsmanship the money should get you.

    And if its in your price range, you might consider a Dingwall yourself. If you have any questions about them, myself or a couple others here that play them can probably answer any question you might have. Not to mention, Sheldon Dingwall posts here too, you could get answers straight from the source if you choose.
  4. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Sometimes you have to take chances. When I was switching to 5-string in early y2k, I did some research here and elsewhere and took my best shots. I learned the hard way that I prefer "wide" string spacing on my fivers. I loved the tones of my Lull P5 and Modulus Q5, and they both were "wide" at the nut, but I sold 'em because I discovered that my right hand never gets completely comfortable on 17mm bridge spacing (ymmv, obviously). I don't believe I would've known this without owning and gigging with these basses.

    The first fiver I bought (a Fender Roscoe Beck 5) is still one of my favorites. But even though I tried one before I bought one, I had no way of knowing that it would *remain* my favorite... I had too little experience with 5-string basses. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts... what works for someone else might not work for you.
  5. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I can't speak for your situation, but as for buying sight unseen, I did buy my Ibanez RB800 off of Ebay, and its excellent, although I hadn't spend as much as your are going to spend...

    But In the end, I got what I payed for...and more.
  6. Thanks for all the replies so far...

    I have played only 4 stringers so far, so I'm not sure of everything I want, but here is what I know I want.

    1) A slim neck with wide string spacing would be best because, firstly, my hands are medium sized but I don't have long fingers; secondly, it'll take me a while to get used to that B string, so the wider the spacing, the easier it should be to feel my way around the fretboard. Does that make sense?

    2) I like what I've been reading about the versatility of J basses. The sound I'm looking for is warm with a rumbly yet articulate low end. I hate that brittle, metallicy sound you get when your fingers glide along the upper registers of the D and G strings.

    3) I think I'd prefer two pickups. I know that would rule out the SR5 but I still like the SR5 because they're built so well (from what I hear).

    4) Weight is pretty important. I play in church, and although I may play for 15-20 minutes at a time, I don't like to be uncomfortable at any time. 8-9 lbs. would be preferable.

    5) Looks are important, too. All the basses I've owned before have been painted, and I'd love to finally own one that shows off some wood grain. I love the look of birdseye maple fretboards.

    What do you guys think?
  7. I would not worry about sight unseen so long as you have some assurance that you can return it if it is a dud. And a bass unseen is one unplayed and abused in the stores. You can save a ton of money ordering unseen and get exactly what you want. And when you open that case catch your first whiff of "that new bass smell." You don't get that in a store bass that has been touched and slapped and handled by all those cretans.
  8. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Well if your hands are small, the Dingwall might not be for you. It has a pretty flat neck, about 18mm string spacing I think, two pickups and available in some pretty flammed maple tops, however...the B string is 37 inches long, as opposed to 34 on most basses. It takes some reach in the low end. Its also a little tight for slapping because of the angled pups.

    What Fuzzbass said brought some things to mind too. The Dinger happened to be perfect for me, a couple things I might change, but I had no experience with any others so I didnt know any better at the time. It turned out I really liked what I ended up with, might not be the same for others.
  9. The Hammer

    The Hammer

    Jul 13, 2004
    I think that the last 5 basses I've bought I have bought site unseen but I have a pretty good idea of what I like. If it is any consolation this is what I spent on some of them
    1. Rickenbacker 63 reissue 4001 - $1200
    2. custom Alembic Mark King 5 String $6000
    3. Peavey Grind bass - $269
    4. Pedulla 8 string Thunderbass $2700
    5. Warwick neck thru thumb 5 - $1200
    None of these had I seen or played before I bought them.
    Good Luck :)
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    IMO these criteria rule out the SR5, because it has a narrow chunky neck and active preamp (though the highs can be tamed). I would suggest a passive bass... but perhaps not the Fender RB5, because they tend to weigh around 10 pounds or more.

    Some Pedullas have wide string spacing... that's where I would look.
  11. I 2nd this. Make sure you but from a company that will allow you to return the bass if you are not satisfied for any reason. That way, you can have it in your hands a couple of days and have a chance to send it back if you don't like it.
  12. Oh, I most definitely want active electronics. One of my basses was a PV Dyna 4-string. It had a 3-band active eq but also a passive/active toggle switch. In active mode the bass just came alive. I never used passive.

    From your answers, looks like as long as I know the bass I'm getting is from a reputable company or seller, and has a thin neck with relatively wide string spacing, then I shouldn't be disappointed.
  13. I bought my Peavey Cirrus 5 off of a guy on Ebay. He put up some pictures, but I never played it. I had heard great things about 'em and went off of that. I also looked around for sound clips of the different basses, before I made my decision. Do your research and you should be fine. The TB folks are also a huge help. BTW, I absolutely love my Cirrus. I've had it for about a year and a half now and I just had to take it in for it's first adjustment. Not too bad for living in Texas, where one day it's in the 90's and the next it's in the 30's. Crazy temp changes around here. A Cirrus is definitely a bass you would want to consider though.
  14. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Dude, your profile says you live in Ft. Lauderdale. Take a Saturday off and drive up to Orlando to Bass Central, I guarantee you will find something you love up there. I only wish I lived close enough to drive there from time to time!
  15. The Hammer

    The Hammer

    Jul 13, 2004
    Yeah Beaver and Grasshopper at Bass Central are great honest guys! I got my Warwick and my Alembic from them. They will not steer you wrong!
  16. Ft. Laud has good music stores on Sunrise blvd. There is M.A.E. and this other place further down. The little place further west has good gear, but sells kind of high. Kind of grumpy at times, but a great bass player. I think he even used to play for "America" back in the day.

    That said, don't be afraid to order unseen.
  17. Absolutely!
  18. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    Check out the Carvin Bunny Brunel 5 string. Wide string spacing, reasonable price, American made.
  19. That's the adventurous spirit! :)

    I have to agree 100% with you, Fuzzbass. :cool:

    You can consider the specs while researching a bass, but playing one in your own hands is the only sure-fire way to decide if a certain bass is right for you - a certain bass, not just a certain model. While many Jazz basses and Stingrays can feel very similar, I think all of us here agree that no two are exactly the same.

    The adventurous part: I bought an Epiphone Jack Casady almost four years ago without ever having seen or heard one live, let alone ever having played one. To this day I have not played another Jack Casady, so how do I really know if mine is so good? It feels and sounds great to me, but how can I really be sure? :confused:

    As long as you can return what you buy, and the shipping times won't drive you crazy - take a chance. (also agreeing with angelopb)

    Why not?

    I did a couple of times and everything turned out pretty good.

    Good luck.

    Mike ;)
  20. HamOnTheCob

    HamOnTheCob Jacob Moore Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Cambridge, Ohio, USA
    Endorsing Artist for Warwick Basses, Mesa Engineering, Joyo Technology, Dr. J Pedals, and Levy's Leathers
    I've owned 6 Warwicks, all of which have been bought on eBay. I wasn't disappointed with any of them. They show off beautiful woodgrain, are pretty versatile (except for maybe the Thumb, which has a unique sound that's hard to fit into certain types of music), have 2 pickups typically, are very reliable, and I've never had a problem with weight. Bubinga is pretty heavy, though, and I'd imagine a 5-string Corvette standard with bubinga body might be a bit too heavy for you. It's going to be hard to find a quality 5-string in the 8-9 lbs range I think.

    I buy a lot of stuff on eBay without trying it out first and have only had a couple of bad apples:

    1. A Spector I bought had electronics problems the guy didn't mention, and he refused to deal with me once I got the bass.

    2. A Warwick 410-Pro bass cab I bought had a blown speaker, though you couldn't tell at low volume. The eBay seller was a pawn shop, and I'd imagine they hadn't checked the cab out at high volume, and didn't know of the problem. They refunded my winning bid, and shipping both ways! Can't complain about that.

    I think as long as you check out lots of reviews to make sure the bass itself is worth buying, and as long as you buy from a seller with quality feedback and a good return policy, you can't go wrong.

    One obvious thing to take note of, however: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. I saw a Warwick Streamer Jazzman go on eBay for like $350. It had a cheap price, but a poor description, and the pics did not match the description. I kept in touch with the winning bidder and he told me that once the auction ended, the guy seemed really shady so he didn't pay him. There probably was never a bass to be bought in the first place. It was a scam, and the seller unregistered and disappeared from eBay. It's pretty common sense, but just beware of possible scams. :)

    One thing I like about buying used gear, whether you try it out first or not, is that as long as you get a reasonable deal, you can turn around and get your money back if it isn't what you were looking for. Can't go wrong most of the time. :)

    Good luck, and keep us posted on what you decide to get and how it goes for you!