Cheap bass ramblings

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by travhop42, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. travhop42


    Dec 21, 2010
    What effect will current economic and environmental conditions have on guitar manufacturing? I am beginning to think all these cheap (but very well made guitars) may be worth something one day. There seems to be 5 million brands out there but I can't see how a bass you get these days for 300 bucks new can stay this cheap.

    By the way how close are the cheap basses (up to $300) to the expensive ones in general?
  2. mward69

    mward69 Guest

    Jan 20, 2007
    Conyers, GA
    I honestly think a few of the squier basses, like the Vintage modified is one that with a little upgrades {tuners/bridge} you pretty much have the same $1000 fender jazz bass.

    {Prepared for the onslaught of Fender guys attacks} :)
  3. While I haven't AB'd them one to one personally, my Squier MB-4 cost me $180 new in 2009. The strings were garbage and setup was a little iffy but I didn't know any better at the time. Tweaked the setup little by little throughout time, went to Chromes and was really happy, then switched to Hi-Beams to change it up. So far I can't foresee replacing that bass and I've played many more expensive basses. I think I'm close to replacing it as my Go-To bass with my newly-acquired SB14, time will tell.

    My MIM Fender Stratocaster leaves a lot more to be desired for an instrument that probably cost twice what my Squire did new. Especially in the fretwork department. My Crafter 5-string isn't nearly as responsive across the pickup as the Squier, and needed some serious work on the nut. It cost me about $400 new.

    Honestly my cheaper instruments are my favorites, with my Schecter Omen guitar (new, $300-ish, cost me $180 used) being my favorite of my three regular guitars (The aforementioned Strat, the Schecter, and an Epiphone Les Paul Zakk Wylde). My Schecter impresses every guitarist who plays it and my MB-4 scares a few of the bass players at the local open jam because I have it set up really low and fast compared to their instruments. Tone rules on both too, they are nice and light and play effortlessly.

    Do I think there is a difference between a $250 buck Squier and a $2500 Modulus, Alembic, or other guitar?? Oh Hell Yes. But most of the complaints I hear about the cheaper guitars are mostly related to setup woes which are pretty cheap to fix (or free if you are so inclined). Not to mention I'd rather risk a $180 buck bass that sounds "good enough" at a gig than a $1000 boutique bass since, honestly, few folks in the crowd are gonna say to their friends "I'm not going out on the floor, their bassist is playing a SX." If you suck it's a different story ;)

  4. Believe the world is about to hit a popcorn shortage.

    I have some brand snobbery but not enough cash. I'd like to think (and am about to pull the trigger) that cheaper basses have all the potential to perform as well as highly priced basses. The biggest difference being the quality control of the instrument at that lower price point. The next difference will be choice and quality of wood used. Nothing we can do about that.
  5. waleross

    waleross Guest

    Nov 27, 2009
    South Florida
    +1 as to good set-ups making the difference. If you buy a bass, say a Squire (any model) for under $300 and then get a new set of strings (your choice) and a set-up by a good shop ($80) , then you should be good to go for a while. Of course don't forget the amp, which is a whole other thread.......:)
  6. I'm giggin' in Cambridge Bay this weekend with my$179 Squier Affinity Precision and gonna get paid $800.:D
  7. the wako kid

    the wako kid Guest

    May 11, 2011
    I own a johnson and a squier.I recently posted how much better I think they play compared to even ernie ball mm's and's not the name on the headstock as much as it is the player and the way the bass feels,because if you don't like a basses tone you can swap the pickups and change it later.
  8. soulman969

    soulman969 Inactive

    Oct 6, 2011
    Englewood, Colorado
    In the hands of a competent player and in a band mix you'd never notice the difference between a $300 Squier and a $1300 MIA P or J Bass if you couldn't see the logos on the headstock.

    Most players will end up changing the strings on either to a set they like and that enhances their style of play. Beyond that the difference can basically be measured in the cost difference of maybe $100-$200 worth of other components which can easily be upgraded if the buyer desires.

    I see little if any difference between the QC of top end Squiers coming out of China vs MIA Standards and if anything the quality of a Squier CV exceeds that or many MIM models. It's all about lower labor costs and virtually nothing about a cheapened product. The neck finish on most MIM's has been notoriously poor yet that doesn't seem to be an issue at all with Squier CV's that run $150-$250 less in cost.

    Even the body wood is a non-issue. A Basswood body is no less resonant and able to produce good tonality than an Alder body. The only difference that I can find is that the finish on some Squier models tends to be heavier possibly to protect the softer wood. Once again tonally and in a band mix you'd never be able to tell them apart.

    There are differences but IMHO not enough to separate a MIC Squier from a MIA Fender by $1000. What the Squier line lacks is simply the number of variants in models and color finishes that MIM and MIA product offer. That's another reason why the Squier's are less costly to produce.

    Over the years I've played high end basses, mid priced basses and now a Squier and I have no problem getting on stage and getting the tone and playability I need out of it.
  9. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I like that math!
  10. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nice to think so, but as far as today's cheap basses becoming vintage collector's pieces, it's going to be the unpredictability.

    I used to collect comic books. Old comic books are valuable for two reasons: 1) the characters (some of them) endured in popularity and 2) at the time, nobody thought they were worth anything and threw their comics in the trash. So there are very few copies of Action Comics #1 in existence but lots of demand for it. In the 90s, there was a comics "bubble" where the publishers were creating new characters at a furious pace and "investors" were scooping up all these First Issues of everything. The result was predictable; the characters were forgettable, there were heaps of these #1 issues that nobody wanted, and the bubble burst.

    The same thing is true of vintage basses (and guitars); in the 50s and 60s, people didn't think of them as important, fine instruments, and let them go to pawn shops or whatever. Now there aren't that many, but their appeal endured and collectors want them, so they're expensive. The same dynamic isn't likely to happen with most modern basses; either they really are crappy, and won't gain value, or a more sophisticated market will recognize their value and hold on to them, in which case you won't have the shortage of supply to drive up the price.

    The ones that do rise in value (beyond routine inflation) will be the oddballs that aren't selling well and get discontinued because nobody notices them, but twenty years from now some celebrity will get famous playing some old one he got from his uncle and everyone will start scouring the pawn shops to find more. But there's no way to predict what that will be.
  11. coyote1


    Mar 23, 2012
    To me, the thing about cheap instruments is that nowadays they are far better quality than they were 40 years ago. Back then, a ZimGar's neck usually warped within months of leaving the Sears catalog depot. Nowadays, any Strat clone or P/J bass clone you get will play pretty well for years, with the only real service need usually being fret dressing.

    And then, what will the collectibility be when they are no longer unique but just copies of stuff that is common itself? Bottom line IMO is that instruments ought not be thought of as $$$ investments, but as investments in your own passion for music.
  12. Dogman67

    Dogman67 Guest

    Apr 3, 2012
    Central PA
    I have a variety of basses that I regularly gig with, and none cost me over $800. Korean made Spector, ESP/LTD, Fender, and a couple of 80's "vintage" Ibanez basses. The Spector was the most expensive. The Ibanez basses I got for around $300 each, and they are some of the best built, best sounding instruments I own. I have a German Warwick and an American Reverend which are also very nice, and cost over $1000 each. But I could not truthfully say that they are significantly better than my other axes, just different.
  13. Ken J

    Ken J Hartford Hot Several Brass Band

    Aug 19, 2011
    Middlefield, CT
    I’m a lifelong musician and a novice bass player. I love the affordable basses because I can tear them down and upgrade them without worrying about ruining them. It’s a great way to feel my way around and see what I really like at the same time learn something.
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Inactive

    Jan 29, 2008
    I like 5, 8, 10, and 12 string basses
    Some cheap basses are firewood. Some are real players.

    I have owned both.
  15. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Since I happen to actually own a number of SX basses, a Squier, a Modulus and an Alembic, I know a little about what money can and cannot buy. Basically if you demand uncommon features in a bass it's going to cost you a lot for them. Are they "worth" it? That is up to you. Hey, nothing has tone like my Modulus which you wouldn't have to tune if a UPS truck ran over it. Worth it? Up to you. And the Alembic is unique too. But both these basses are not "pure factory". I changed the pickup switching on the Modulus to make it more versatile and the Alembic had a host of problems. The only difference with the new Alembic over the new SX or Squire basses was a large back and forth with the factory to fix them rather than doing it myself in the basement.

    So that's the deal. Cheap basses are going to be "standard" and quality control may be up to you. Now if you can tweak in a cheap bass yourself and pick a good one to start, it can really work out well. If you have to pay an expert to do the quality control for you, then you'd probably be better off just spending more and not having to bother.

    Spend some cash on a Sadowsky and Roger & co have gone over that bass with a fine tooth comb. Plus it represents his unique vision of what a bass should be. Spend little cash on an SX and you have to rework it yourself from one end to the other and if you picked (or lucked) into decent raw materials and your luthier abilities are up to it, you ALSO end up with a really decent bass for little money. Your choice.

    So does the audience notice I'm playing SX? <snort>! In my experience virtually all of them (unless they play bass) think I'm playing a guitar! But does it matter? Yes it does. Because how I feel about an instrument affects how I play and that affects how the band plays and that definitely IS noticed by the audience even if they haven't a clue what a bass is.

    So does a cheap (but tweaked-in) bass do the job? Often it does just fine. But when you want the nuance of that "look" or "sound" of the Alembic or Modulus, the SX or Squire just won't do. And yes that's over-priced, but if that's what you want, then you just have to pay for it. Period.
  16. bjabass


    Jan 10, 2011
    Mountain South

    Yes, cheap in 1972 and cheap in 2012 are two different animals. What is available as an 'entry level' instrument nowadays has improved immeasurably.
  17. dspellman


    Feb 16, 2012
    I don't know that we'll see a lot of change; guitar manufacturing isn't all that large a user of wood. FWIW, the top five wood buyers, last time I checked, were Home Depot, Lowes, Ikea, Kimberly-Clark, and Proctor&Gamble.

    Second, wood is probably not the most expensive thing you're paying for in the final cost of a guitar sold at a retail outlet. Primary chunk of change is the collective profit margin taken by manufacturer, distributor and retail chain (FWIW, the final selling price of an Asian guitar at Guitar Denter is 6-10 times (or more) the amount a company like Schecter pays for the thing FOB). After that comes marketing expense (endorsement deals, magazine ads, web presence, etc.). Then transportation costs. Gibson has a year lead time from the time they set prices until the guitars meet the consumer. Last time fuel headed for over $4 a gallon, they raised their prices a chunk and those guitars with their new prices hit Guitar Center with fuel on the decline and a recession in full swing. Asian importers pay for container ship fuel as well, and a couple of years ago ship owners slowed their ships to a crawl in an attempt to save fuel costs, enraging both crews and customers waiting for their goods when the time-to-dock doubled and tripled. Most hardware (even for USA-made guitars) comes from Asian manufacturers.

    Wood might be the cheapest thing about a guitar. Don't go by what the specialty wood markets charge for onesy or twosey hunks of curly maple to some guy who's going to build guitars in his garage; wholesale wood prices in any volume are a tiny fraction of that.