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Do boutique basses give significantly lower action?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by pringlw, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. pringlw


    Nov 22, 2008
    Seattle Area
    I have a Musicman Sterling that I couldn't be happier with. I've got the action at about 3/32" on the E string and 2/32" on the G (12th fret).

    That's not bad, but I wish it were lower. My other bass is fretless and because you can take fretless basses looooowwww I've probably become spoiled.

    Anyway, I do like low low action - even though I play moderately aggressively. If I spend the big $$ for a boutique bass (Lakland, Sadowsky, whatever) - does it accomplish that for you?

    It's not really about the sound for me because I love the sound of my current basses.
  2. 73jbass

    73jbass Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2004
    As the owner of 5 MM Sterlings,and a couple of nice custom boutique basses,I can tell you that if the bass is set up properly,you can get as low an action as you require.Whether it's boutique doesn't matter.It's all in the setup.I keep a medium low action on all my basses.I have a pretty light touch these days,so I went a bit lower than I used to,leaving a bit of digging in room. Getting a low action on a MM bass is never a problem. If you play pretty aggressively and need a really low action,you might have to go with heavier guage strings to minimize fret noise.
  3. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Yes. No. Both are correct. IME, boutique (or just higher-end) basses have better attention to detail. Less assembly line, more individual attention. This leads to better fretwork, etc. - all those things that allow for lower action. But, that's not to say that there aren't a lot of basses out there for very modest $$$ that can have very low action, right out of the box. And there's even more that, with a little fretwork, can go pretty low as well.

    I've found for me, though, there is a practical limit to low action. Too low and I can't dig in enough without getting all clickety-clackety. That's not a bad sound; its just rarely my thing.
  4. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    If you really are into low action, a PLEK job will be more efficient than buying a boutique bass.
  5. I don't own the basses you mentioned, but I have CB, Conklin, Stambaugh, and a few Rob Allens. I've never seen a stock bass that can come close to everything but the Rob Allens. In Rob's defense, it's part of the tone, so I'm aware of what n' why.

    Keep in mind, the guys telling you that you can get a Squier to play like a Fodera....have rarely touched a Fodera.
  6. I don't think you need a boutique bass to get low action.

    My G&L L2000 has the lowest action I've ever touched, after I did a good setup on it.

    I've been told this may have to do with the Plek machine, as Jazz Ad mentioned, all though I don't know if the machine was around when this bass was made.

    In any case it is possible. All you need is a straight neck, with the right angle, and sufficient travel in your bridge saddles. Theoretically, any bass can achieve those things.
  7. Marley's Ghost

    Marley's Ghost Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    My Bongo is super low. And I set it up myself.
  8. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    EBMM basses, in my experience, can get as low action as any.
  9. gt96g

    gt96g Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Philly Area
    try taking it to a luthier and getting a fret dressing might be able to squeeze a little extra low action that way. and no, i have owned a few boutique basses and have come to the conclusion they aren't worth it, but thats just me.
  10. kirkm24


    Jan 1, 2007
    Columbus, Ohio
    A good setup can make any bass play well and if the components are in good working condition, truss rod, neck, etc. You can get the low action. The best thing you can do is to get a professional fret job done and then a good setup. Strings (different tensions) can play into the action on a bass as well.
  11. Matt Dean

    Matt Dean Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    SF (North) Bay Area
    Not necessarily.
  12. Mikio


    Feb 21, 2009
    Santiago de Chile
    I don't know, ZON basses seem to be the ultimate low action bitches xD
  13. ClassicJazz

    ClassicJazz Bottom Feeders Unite!! Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Delray Beach, Florida
    My Squier CV 50's P-Bass had action as low as my Sadowsky basses! A good setup on almost any bass will get you low action.
  14. dog1


    Dec 30, 2008
    I agree. The action on my 4003 is as low as any I have ever played. But, so is the action on my inexpensive Ibanez. Even cheap basses can play well if properly set up. Anyway, if the action is too low you will get a lot of slap when you dig in.
  15. Flintc


    Aug 15, 2006
    While a well-built bass with a good stable neck can be set up with action as low as you'd want (and better basses means, among other things, this action stays put longer), super-low action isn't necessary the Holy Grail of setting up.

    I've raised the action on some instruments only because they played better that way, at least in my hands.
  16. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Sweetwater Sales Engineer
    +1, or invest a little money and time and learn to level and crown your own frets;)
    My basses can go as low as any other bass out there.
  17. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I agree. My recent G&L's received the Plek fret levelling at the factory, and get amazingly low action. I'm thinking about bringing my Fenders down to Philtone in Baltimore for this, as that's the closest Plek machine to my office in Delaware. Here are the U.S. locations:

  18. Surly


    Feb 2, 2007
    South Florida
    Doing your own setup and experimenting are best IMO. What's low for you may be too low for someone else. You can only go so low before you'll get buzzing, on any bass. I like to keep a little room so when I'm using a pick and digging in, I don't get too much buzz.
  19. pringlw


    Nov 22, 2008
    Seattle Area
    Thanks for all the input. Looking at where I'm at (3/32" on the E String, 2/32" on the G) my guess is I'm getting about as low as I reasonably can expect to get. I was looking at the Sadowsky set up article and he describes that sort of height as "low action". If Sadowsky calls it low action, I guess it probably is.

    My problem is that I've become so spoiled in playing a fretless almost exclusively for the past 15 or so years (No frets + no slapping + light touch = fuggedaboutit).

    I'm kind of interested in that PLEK thing. I hadn't heard of that before.
  20. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    In my travels, the winner for lowest action consistently over many of them I've owned and tried it the USA Peavey Cirrus line. They can be slammed WAY down w/o little to no buzz. Awesome necks! And best of all, most can be had $500 - $700 used. This does NOT apply to the import Cirrus basses (only USA).

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