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Differences in build quality and price between luthiers

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by HolyGrowl, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. HolyGrowl


    Jan 28, 2008

    I was looking at the prices ranges between luthiers and was wondering what was influencing it.

    For exemple, if the quality of sound and construction is the same, what would justify the price difference between a Valenti and a Sadowsky NYC? Between a Lakland and a Lull?

    The only thing I could think of is the hardware and accessories probably in-shop made by Sadowsky and Lakland versus ordered from third parts for Valenti and Lull.

    But are there any other factors or is a 4500$ Sadowsy better made and better sounding than a 2000$ Valenti?
  2. Rakie

    Rakie Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to...

    You're buying the name.

    Sound is subjective, and honestly irrelevant in this topic.
  3. wdinc01


    Nov 19, 2005
    Jacksonville, FL
    I think some of it might also have to do with demand and reputation.
  4. Yup.

    Why are some brands more expensive than others? Because people are willing to pay $x for the name and associated quality.

    My 2 cents, if you're looking for quality and paying a little less, go with a luthier who is known to make quality stuff but not have such a world wide reputation as another. You can get some really nice stuff from luthiers who are relatively unknown.
  5. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    Consistency. There are not too many basses I would buy sight unseen. The two I currently have in my possession and one on order I would. Sometimes you have to pay more to be sure that you will get consistent top quality.
  6. fullrangebass


    May 7, 2005
    Name, quality of work, demand, reputation, and the infrastructure of the company
  7. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    Getting a bass in months vs years
  8. Flintc


    Aug 15, 2006
    It is alleged that the Gods of Bass Lutherie can walk through the lumberyard and with a laying-on of the hands, identify potential Basses of Miraculous Voice buried in some portions of some planks, whereas Dick the handyman may produce something that LOOKS identical, and uses all the same parts and electronics, but the magic just won't be there. And it's this Gift which gives rise to the legends.
  9. Demand and reputation, as stated, are the biggest factor. If demand goes up, but production numbers don't follow, price goes up instead. Plus, names like Sadowsky are very well known in the professional bass world, and that has a large influence on price. If people know your name and are willing to pay a premium for items with that name, why not charge the price they are willing to pay. It's good business. Plus, a high price tends to give the product an air of exclusivity, as not everyone can just drop 4 grand on a bass. There's a lot of basic economic powers, and even more psychological drives at work here. We humans are weird critters, and we really value exclusive high dollar goods like American Laklands and Sadowsky's. Part of it's a material, concrete example of self-worth (a guy that owns and uses a Sadowsky is probably more successful than a guy that owns and uses a MIM Fender). Basses are like cars for a lot of people.

    Also, there is, on occasion, a job that requires a quality J or P bass, and Sadowsky's and Laklands are recognized and well liked.

    And then there's the special cases, where there really is no comparable product, like those from Carl Thompson, Ken Smith, or Vinny Fodera. Each one of them builds a product on a similar price level, but in terms of playability, construction, and design philosophy, they are wildly different from anything that came before them. Carl was the first to build the Piccolo bass, and the first to build the modern six string bass. Vinny, is, I believe, the reason that all of these other fancy single-cuts are around. Ken builds all of his instruments with such exacting detail that many luthiers who otherwise wouldn't have are forced to constantly improve the quality of their instruments, lest all of them be left behind (this is, in the end, almost a futile struggle, every Smith I've been close enough to inspect has had absolutely perfect construction). Guys like these can, and do, charge a heavy premium for their instruments. The people who are lucky enough to be able to pay do, and not only do they hand over many thousands of dollars for a bass, they do it with a smile on their face and thank the man for the privelidge. And why not? These fellows are artists in the classic sense, not just luthiers.

    As to the last question, I could see some Sadowsky's that are hand-made by Roger himself being of better build quality than some Valenti's, but on the whole that's more about experience, and Roger's been doing it for longer. The gap can and will close. As for other people in Roger's shop making them, it's probably a much closer race. Also, the love the person building the instrument puts into it cannot be overerstated. If you love what you're doing, and you love what you're building, it shows through in the finished product. That's why guys like Carl and Vinny are at the very top of the game, they don't just do it for the money, they do it for musicians, not because they need it, because WE need it. That's a labor of love, right there.

    And thus ends what is probably the biggest brown-nosing post I've ever made.

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