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Christophers at FMI website; opinions?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Greywoulf, Feb 21, 2004.

  1. The below link (sorry, I didn't know how to get it in as an openable link) is to Fantastic Musical Instruments... They have a Gamba-style plywood Christopher with an ebony fingerboard and an adjustable bridge for $1,295, +$99. shipping... Looks like a good deal, no?
    Is FMI an okay, known dealer?


  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    It may be a great deal, but to be sure, you have to look at the hidden costs. You will probably spend another few hundred at least working with a local luthier to get the bass set up and playing the way you want it.

    If you factor that in, you may not be saving anything. If you buy the bass from the local guy, it should be the way you want it before you take delivery.

    I am not at all opposed to shopping online, even for a bass, but it has its advantages and disadvantages.
  3. undefinedundefined

    I know about those costs, and am figuring them in... And at least this Christopher comes already equipped with an adjustable bridge and an ebony fingerboard; many other 'starters' don't!

    And BTW, I would dearly love to buy a Christopher from a local guy! Lessee, there's Freehold Music who will get a Strunal from a warehouse iffen you buy it first (sight unseen), and Sam Ash in Edison who only sells Holbien (also Strunal; also usually never on the floor), and Guitar Center in East Brunswick who doesn't sell uprights, and Music Makers in Marlboro who also won't sell them, and a guy in Jackson who wants $895 for a cheesy floor model Pallidino (without set-up!), etc, etc, etc... Buy from a local guy? Listen, these ain't exactly Fender BG Jasses were talking about here, right? The closest thing I have to a local bass salesguy is either NYC (Roma, Erbele basses), or 160 miles away to Connecticut (Upton Bass), and I'm not sure I want a Rumanian or a Polish bass because I hear tell they're somewhat chunky and heavy compared to other makes...
    I appreciate your advice, but when it comes to buying from "the shop around the corner", this in no way conforms to reality!
    Would it only be so... :meh:
  4. Now hold on a second. You're talking about music shops. That isn't necessarily the only guy who wants to sell you a spiffy new instrument. Almost all the luthiers I've run into have their own favorite and they'll gleefully sell you something different than you can find in the music stores. Often times, it's a cut above what is commercially available. For instance, the luthier in my area that is well-thought of sells Christophers to his customers. You might call some of them and see if they can bring in something else for you.

  5. @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    Well, again, Beth, NJ reality doesn't seem to quite fit that mold either... I checked Gollihur's listing of all NJ luthiers and sent them emails. Got one reply for a 1/2 bass sale, at 5K!!! (Which is so far out of my league..)
    In any case, I contacted Steve Green who advertises with a banner at the top of this forum. He has laminated Romanian and German 1/2 basses at a little under $1K and also a little above it. I've been leery of these in the past because I've heard they're heavyweights, but then this is only hearsay, right? My best bet would be to go and check out these UBs for myself.
    Anyway Steve seems to be a nice guy... At least he's very responsive, and he's going to set up several 1/2 basses in his 22'nd St NYC shop for me to check out. Might as well find out for myself, 'cause if I like his Romas or Eberles, hey the price seems to be right...
    (PS: I suspect playing one of these dog houses is going to be easier than buying one and setting it up properly... ;) )
  6. The lutheir here works in his shop 4 out of seven days. Give them a week to reply, and try calling too. I have people that I know that check their e-mail once a month.

  7. Josh McNutt

    Josh McNutt Guest

    Mar 10, 2003
    Denton, Texas (UNT)
    If I were in NJ, I would at least consider one of Bob's carved basses. Before I bought my Christopher, I considered that, but I wanted to be able to play before I bought (which you can do).
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Don't bet on it. :)
  9. Nuggulux


    Oct 24, 2002
    Oakland, CA

    All I can say is if you're at all near to NYC, take a trip to David Gage's shop. I nearly die of delight every time I go into that place.

    Friendly, knowledgable staff, and so many instruments (granted most are out of the typical players price range, but they do stock lower-end models).

  10. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    'tain't necessarliy so.

    I have a Romanian carved flat-back bass- I think it's a Gliga- and I wouldn't call it heavy or chunky. I've been very happy with it. There are a number of makers in both countries, and I wouldn't generalize about either.
  11. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    . . . and again: Fine string instruments, including double-basses, are not fungible items. These are not stomp-boxes or Peavey amps. Consistency is not the prime goal. The closer you get to auditioning THAT bass, with THAT setup, the closer you get to making an informed decision about buying. And vice-versa.
  12. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004
    Bit testy, are we?

    The difference between the on line Christopher (which has some nice features but will still more than likely need a set up) and the set-up Christopher that Gage sells is only $606 dollars. Since you are already making plans to visit NYC, what exactly is the advantage to NOT swinging by to look at the other basses (well over 100) that Gage has for sale? Much less Paul Biase or Kolstein's? You're here, why not make a day of it?
    Geoff Morrow has a number of basses available on his website (bassgarden.net) that are available already set up, why not check there?

    The other area where this is not like buying a stompbox is the major investment area. Putting $1200 - 2000 into something, I would want to make sure that I was getting what I wanted. Which, to me, means putting my hands on whatever it is I'm buying so I can hear for myself.
  13. You're right, I apologize. I'm only going by hearsay and rumors, but that is about to change...

  14. You can call me 'testy' all you want to Peter ;) as long as you keep the good info coming... Your advice about where to look in person for URBs is the most direct and complete I've gotten yet in all my requests to this forum...
    ThankyouThankyouThankyou; somebody finally listened ...! :)

    But one question: Isn't $606 MORE for a set-up Christopher rather costly? Seems to me I could get the Christoper from the web and get it set up okay for $250-$300 locally and still save some $$, no? Or am I missing something here...?
    Thank You,
  15. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Maybe what you're missing is that, from a given lot of DBs made at the Chistopher Factory, the better ones are going to the luthiers, the not-that-good ones are shipped to the music stores, and the rest are sold to the ignorant compulsive over-the-net buyers. Even though the overall quality is good, still it varies a lot...
  16. Now wait a minute; do you know this for a fact? Sounds to me like this could be another one of those 'urban legends'! (And in this case one that would be dearly loved and encouraged by higher-end luthiers... :meh: ) Do you really think Christopher has a special testing dept at the end of their assembly line that designates quality separations as regards to whom they ship their basses to? Seems to me they would try and keep their quality as high as possible and just ship the product out in batches, as ordered... I could be wrong about this, but I'm thinking it would be a lot of trouble (and somewhat self destructive too) to sort the basses out the way you're talking about! (Especially since, as I keep getting reminded of on this forum, the quality of EVERY bass will vary slightly!)
    Or maybe Christopher has class "A", "B", or "C" factories? That would be a lot of unneccessary (and reputation destroying) expense too, wouldn't it?
    Usually when the same product is sold cheaper at one outlet than another it doesn't have as much to do with quality as it does with the amount of volume the wholesaler buys at one time and the retailer's overhead costs...
    So I still think $606 is a LOT to pay for a set-up, and maybe smacks of a high end luthier taking advantage of his good name? :ninja:
    (Again; my assumptions may be every bit as accurate as yours... :smug: )
  17. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Alright, I recognize that I do not know this for a fact, it is mere speculation. Maybe it is just my personal interpretation of warnings like: don't trust labels, each bass is different, try it with someone that knows, etc... maybe. I think the luthier will identify a dog and return it to wholesaler (& I know my luthier travels to the European warehouse to handpick the instruments he sells). The two other categories will call the luthier for a better setup... yet :D .
  18. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004
    The best way to find what the difference entails is to get on the phone and ask people who have the bass in front of them. Speculating endlessly without factual information CAN be great fun, but it's pointless in the end. And somewhat stupid, given the fact that there are easy methods for getting the information you seek.
    Call FMI and say "I see your Christopher comes with an adjustable bridge, what adjusters did you use? What strings are on the bass? Has the tailpiece wire been replaced and if so what with? If not, what's on there now? Has the fingerboard been planed? Has the back of the neck been stripped? Does it come with a case? What kind of case?"
    And then call Gage and ask the same questions. Every question FMI says NO to, well that's something you are going to have to pay for.
    I do know for a fact that Gage tweaks soundpost and bridge on all the Christophers, they have new strings (I'm pretty sure you have your choice of Heliocores or Obligatos, others may be available), the tailpiece wire has been replaced, the fingerboard has been checked and planed where necessary. In other words, you can pick up the bass and walk into a gig. No stops in between.

    As far as "a high end luthier taking advantage of his good name?", the formula in the bass world tends to go GOOD NAME=LOTS OF CUSTOMERS=LOTS OF BASSES IN THE SHOP at which point the law of supply and demand takes over. If you have something a lot of people want, then you pretty much get to charge what the market will bear. If you are serious about Dave trading on his "good name" to take advantage of bassists, what do you have to base this on? Your own insecurities? If you are so truly worried about being abused by one of the nicest guys around, rather than slander him here, why not pick up your phone and call Dave, call Jeff Bollbach, call Kolstein's, call Arnold, call Paul Biase, call Geoff Morrow, call Bill Merchant. Ask them all for specifics about what they wil charge for each of the items listed above.

    Look, none of this is rocket science. I'm not sure why it's more attractive for you to sit and type to a bunch of strangers and speculate wildly about what "might" be, when all you have to do is pick up the phone or get off your a** and get the actual real information you need (including putting your hands on the actual instrument) to make an informed decision.
  19. greene


    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    For what it's worth from a humble son of a long time string instrument importer/dealer etc. A set up by David Gage will make a good bass sound great - his set up can make all the difference in the world .. etc etc.
    I always recommend anyone buying a bass from me despite the set up that we do ... go immediately to David for the real deal !!
  20. FMI, as a large importer of bulk basses, will probably not even have anyone available or knowledgable enough to answer these questions over the phone...That's why their prices are cheaper; I'm not a fool, I understand this. But the questions you propose, why are they so neccessary for a bluegrass beginning thumper who's not looking for symphonic concert quality?
    Adjusters and strings; okay, I understand these make a big difference.. (But $600 worth?)
    Tailpiece wire replaced? Why?
    Fingerboard planed? Why?
    Back of neck stripped? Why?
    Why are these last 3 improvements so neccessary? Do all basses then come so badly made that they require this level of changing? Do most beginners who buy basses for learning and thumping always have to have such things done? What about the happy (ignorant?) guys I hear say the bass "played great right out of the box"? (And I'm not being sarcastic here either, I'd really like to know about such things...)

    I'm not trying to slander anyone here either; you yourself say if your product is popular you can "....get to charge what the market will bear.." It seems to me that most good craftsmen do trade on their good name advantage and charge higher. (And I didn't call this "abuse", you did! So who's being touchy here anyway?) It also makes sense that the overhead of a luthier/shopkeeper in Tribecca, Manhatten will be much much greater than a guy with a smaller shop in NJ. -So be it; all I'm saying is I don't think I need to pay higher prices for such things myself... Not at the level I'm currently at, anyway!

    Y'know sometimes I think the problem with this list is also what makes it so good; it's peopled with both expert bassists and raw beginners. And it seems to me that sometimes neither of us fully understands the positions and attitudes the other is coming from, yes?
    David Gage may indeed be a great craftsman and an extremely nice guy, with a wonderful shop. For me though, $606 is still a LOT to pay for a set-up!

    PS... Am dying to get out and try out that $650 repaired-neck Meisel in a NJ shop and also Steve Loeb's 1/2 ($1K) Eberle in Manhatten... "Hands-on" is exactly what I want too! Only this past week I've been ill with a virus and strepp throat, which is probably why you lucky guys have been getting so many postings from me... ;)

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