Cheap bass "tone-monster" surprise.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by zac2944, Jan 12, 2006.

  1. zac2944

    zac2944 Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I was just reading thought the " Who plays a cheapo as their main bass??" thread and it got me thinking about times I've heard monster bass tones at a show only to find the bass player using very inexpensive gear.

    It has happened to me a few times, once with a guy playing a Squire jazz, another time with a cheap Peavey, and one time with a little kid playing on a Dean.

    It was always really hard to believe a cheap bass can sound good, considering the money I've spent on gear. I guess it says something about the player.

    Have you ever been at a concert or show and been surprised to hear sweet tone coming from a cheap bass? Do tell.
  2. Not from a bass, but I was surprised to see the guitarist in one of the best local cover bands playing a Squier Strat.
  3. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Everytime I play my 1983 Peavey Foundation 4-string with the Peavey Super Ferrite pickups I'm simply amazed by the tone. I picked it up for $185 which included a hardshell case :eek:
  4. I like to think my jazz sounds good :/
  5. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    I picked up a Hohner J-Bass used a couple of years ago for $150. It's a little dark for rock, but great for jazz. As long as the strings aren't dead, I liked the tone I got.

    My sister plays an LTD B-50 that she bought used for $100, and I think its tone quality rivals my $500 Washburn (although the two tones are completely different).

    I knew a really great regional band who got an endorsement deal from Epiphone. So the bassist got 3 Thunderbird basses... and his Rickenbacker sat in its case for about 3 years. Finally, he sold the Rick because he liked playing the Tbird better. For that matter, their lead guitarist put away his Gibson LP to play an Epi for several years.

    Speaking of Epiphone, there's a groovy national Christian band called ApologetiX whose lead guitarist played a VANTAGE Les Paul until someone gave him an Epiphone, which is now what he plays exclusively. Their bassist plays an LTD which I think cost around $300 (I don't recall the model).

    Preamps are helpful in getting that "great" tone out of a budget bass. Case in point - my sister used to plug in direct at church since we didn't need a lot of volume. This last Sunday, she brought her amp head on a whim and ran a line out to the PA. I was astonished. The tone was now a lot more solid and up front.

    Oh, I almost forgot. I love the tone of a Squier P-Bass. No, not a Squier Precision bass... a P-Bass. They're so bright, so punchy... I dig it.
  6. jim primate

    jim primate bass guitarist.

    the bassplayer from the band the jesus lizard used a memphis jazz bass copy. he used it in scratch acid and rapeman as well.
  7. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Could it have been an '80s Japanese early Squier? Those are highly regarded!
  8. I have no idea, but it very well could have been. He's a highly respected player here in town, and I was just surprised to see the Squier logo on the headstock.

    Kevin Oliver of the Hoo Doo Soul Band.
  9. FeelTheGroove


    Dec 2, 2005
    I bought an early 80's Peavey Fury bass about 3-4 years ago...Its basically peavey's precision copy with a single slanted "super ferrite" pickup and ash body. It doesnt see alot of playing time these days, but whenever I take it out of the case and play it im amazed at the monster precision tone. Id put it up against any P-bass. Im thinking of putting a fretless neck on actually.

    Funny when I think about how I bought the thing for a dirt cheap $100...
  10. I think for many players familiarity is more important than quality. If someone has been playing the same crappy axe for 20 years, he has learned its every little quirk and adjusted - even perfected - his technique and touch accordingly. If you handed him some high end custom bass just before a gig, he would sound way worse than with his trusty workhorse.

    Of course he would probably learn to re-adjust his playing in due time and perhaps eventually sound "better" than ever. But would it be his sound anymore? One could also argue that a better bass with better setup would allow him to play with proper technique and be faster and smoother. But music isn´t a competition. If a certain beloved but crappy piece of gear gives someone creative vibes, no amount of sonical and technical improvement can compensate for the loss of those vibes.

    Jamerson was a great example of this; while a 62´ P-bass hardly can be called crappy, his setup and technique most certainly was very unorthodox and inefficient to say the least. But it worked for him.
  11. I played a show a while back and as we were loading/unloading i heard a cover of "The Trooper" so I went in side and some dude was just rocking out on his GSR200. Sounded awesome. He said new strings and all but the kid was great at the bass. He had only been playin three years too. *shrug* kudos to him.
  12. Ari


    Dec 6, 2001
    You guys are forgetting the "amp" factor! An average bass can sound pretty good with the correct rig while a boutique bass can sound crap with a bad amp...
  13. Can the sound of a cheap bass be improved by installing good pickups and good strings?

    *edit - and also put through a heap of effects?
  14. -Can the sound of a cheap bass be improved by installing good pickups and good strings?-

    It sure can! In the eighty's I bought an Ibanez Musician (neck thru) for Fl. 1000,-- which is about US $ 500,--
    The acoustics of this one are amazing: If you wanna know if a bass is well-build, then try it without an amp! Wierd idea? Try it and listen and feel very carefully. This way you can tell instantly a good one from a bad one.
    The electronics on the Musician sucked. So I replaced it by EMG pickups plus eq and pre-amp.
    The wood of the bass was and is still a peace of art and craftmanship. The sustain is unbelievable. And now that I mention it: The weight is amazing too. But a good amount of sustain is not possible by light weight wood can it?
    Eversince the replacement this is a top-quality bass alltogether.
    One day I will get the saw and cut some not needed peaces of wood out of it to make this thing more attractive.
  15. dgce


    Jun 17, 2001
    Massachusetts, USA
    Yes, good point. Through a kick-butt rig and PA, a baseball bat with string might sound good.

  16. dgce


    Jun 17, 2001
    Massachusetts, USA
    That's great! But lets keep in mind; that Musician isn't necessarily a "cheap bass". This was a great bass in its day that was discontinued and because it doesn't have Fender or Gibson on the headstock, you got it for a song. This has been my move for years, get a top of the line Peavey or Ibanez, etc. that was discontinued 10+ years ago, clean it up a bit and you have an excellent axe on the cheap. Putting in EMGs in yr Ibanez just made sense because you had an excellent bass to begin with that just needed some upgrading. But taking a $150 cheapie made in China the pumping almost $300 in upgrades (pickups, hardware, etc.) just doesn't make sense to me.

    You want a kick-butt bass on the cheap, do what this guy did with his Ibanez. I've done the same on an old Peavey guitar and old G&L SB1 bass.

  17. Why wouldn't it make sense? If you get the sound and feel you want, and it came at a price lower than you could buy the same hardware and electronics, where's the downside? Where do you think the price break is for a bass with Seymour Duncan pups, a BA bridge, and Schaller tuners? It's a helluva lot higher than $400. Jeez, did you stop to think that the $400or so dollars sunk into the wood of the import is about what your Peavey went for new?
  18. What Hambone said and also: even if that $150 bass somehow became unplayable (say the neck would twist beyond repairable) and had to be discarded, you would still have those upgrade parts. You could install them to your next bass, sell them on eBay or whatever. So the idea of expensive parts being "wasted" on a cheapo bass really doesn´t hold water.
  19. dgce


    Jun 17, 2001
    Massachusetts, USA
    Okay guys, it’s a matter of how much I like the $150 bass and how much of an upgrade we're talking that validates the expense of the upgrade. For instance, say if I lucked up on a used SX Jazz bass going for $100. I pick it up and son of a gun, the thing plays great but maybe I find the pickups a bit weak. I sniff around and find some Seymour Quarter Pounder Js, used, going for $45. Hell yeah, I'd buy both; it’s a sweet deal. Same if I wasn't so thrilled about the bridge and I lucked up on a Badass for a few bucks; it makes sense.

    What I'm saying is buying a cheapie and pumping in a bunch of cash beyond the cost of the bass itself just doesn't seem practical to me. What I also suggested was keeping on the look out for top-of-the-line basses from Peavey, Aria, Ibanez, and even poor man Alembics like Kaiwis (ahem) from the past. Many of these bases are excellent and in their day in the 80s or early 90s they may have gone for over a grand but these days you can score them for just a few hundred bucks. Clean it up a bit and you may have an awesome bass. And if the bridge is a little a funky or the pickups haven't aged well, it’s likely worth the upgrade because you have a very inexpensive professional caliber instrument that just needed a little TLC.

    Another cool move, searching eBay for, say, MIM Fender P or J basses that someone already upgraded with cool pickups and hardware and then winning the auction for about the same or less than the price of the bass stock.

  20. Groove Theory

    Groove Theory Grizzly Adams DID have a beard.

    Oct 3, 2004
    The Psychiatric Ward
    Hambone's got it...
    I got a cheap used Cort on e-bay for $60, spent another $50 on a BA bridge, $12 on a ashtray bridge cover, and a couple more bucks on new strings, etc...did my own fret leveling/crowning/dressing, recessed the bridge into the body to get the action I wanted, and it plays and sounds great, I didn't even need to upgrade the pups, the cheap ones sounded great and had no hum/noise at all (of course it was a MM, but still...) so for less than $150 I have a great sounding/playing bass...

    (ofcourse its going through a $1000+ rig that helps some too...:D )