EMBB Caprice/Cutlass & Fender Dimension, Why they didn't catch on.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by gt96g, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. gt96g

    gt96g Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Philly Area
    Since I saw an announcement on the forum that Music Man is ending production of the Caprice and Cutlass basses, it got me thinking about the Fender Dimension as well. I had a chance to spend some time with a used American Dimension recently and it was actually a really nice bass. Well put together, solid preamp, and I actually thought it did the stingray thing well while bringing a different flavor to the whole experience, both visually and tonally.

    I also sampled both passive Ernie ball offerings at different times and they were also impressive as well. Excellent build quality and while I won't say total sonic carbon copies of the Fenders they are modeled after, they are still in the right ball park.

    What's obvious here is that both companies were trying to take a bite of the other's apple. So in the end, what went wrong? I was always interested in a Caprice and will probably still try to nab one at some point, though now it might be harder.

    In my mind what doomed the Ernie Ball basses was the recent price increase. I think had both the Cutlass and Caprice remained at a $1600ish price they would have still had parity with American made Fender's and been able to compete but in the mid $2000 range, they are approaching custom build prices and I think that sealed their fate.

    That being said, I would love it if they would release the cutlass and caprice under the SBMM line. If one of those priced out around $700 to $800, I could see them selling well and at least keeping the models alive in some form, and then maybe doing limited BFR releases of them ever now and then.

    Now the Dimension. I'm not sure why this one didn't work. The bass felt really nice and I might even venture to say had a more even frequency response that some stingrays I've played (the pickup was interesting). I think in the end there just wasn't enough marketing behind it. Fender's angle here was probably we have a better mouse trap, but I don't think there was enough messaging behind it.

    Another thing I wonder is had things been reversed and EBMM released the dimension and called it stingray 2 and Fender resleased the Caprice and Cutlass and called it the Fender's modern series, would both have fared better since each company would have been "Staying in Their Lane" so to speak. I guess in the end it just speaks to what customers expect of particular companies.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
  2. darwin-bass

    darwin-bass Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    Well, people are dumb. I know because I am one myself! We buy something comfortable rather than taking the chance on something new and different. What should catch on doesn’t because what we already have is more than enough.

    My theory, at least. I may be wrong.
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  3. I would’ve liked the Caprice (?) better if it had had a double J pickup circuit instead of the PJ.
  4. John Freeman

    John Freeman Supporting Member

    Jul 29, 2009
    Happy Valley, PA
    Simple answer is they were different from the typical offerings. People who buy Fender want a P or J. People who buy EBMM want a Stingray or similar.
    Les Fret, ERIC31, Dr. Cheese and 8 others like this.
  5. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    Things that are different or unfamiliar can be scary :D
  6. LadyLoveStingRay5


    Jul 17, 2004
    I can always tell who has actually played one and who hasn’t.
    Once you get one in your hands or read up in the specs you realize that it is NOT a P/J. It is a P/H. That’s is not a single coil in the bridge positiion. It is an inline humbucker .
    It doesn’t sound like a P/J or a Jazz bass nor was it designed to . It can sound like and I a Pbass if you solo that pickup . But once you start blending in that brindle pickup or using it solo, you have an entirely different thing going on. It sounds like a passive P/MM with a little less meat in the bridge. Definitely retaines that signature MusicMan tone. But solo the P pickup and add some vintage fender flavor.

    The misconception that it is a P/J is probably one if many reason it didn’t last. People often look with their eyes but don’t really understand clearly what they are seeing at all. Looks can be very deceiving .

    Oh well. I’m glad I bought mine when I did. Best 4 string I’ve ever owned .
  7. mmbongo

    mmbongo I have too many basses. Supporting Member

    Basic, no frills Caprice/Cutlass = $2300
    Top of the line Stingray = $1999

    I think that sums it up.
  8. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I think the Cutlass/Caprice/Dimension problem is a mirror of the Foundation problem. The Foundation should be one of the "staple" bass, along with the Jazz, P, Ray, L2000, etc., but it hasn't even been in production for a long time. It is definitely an uphill battle fighting tradition.

    I also like the OP's use of "parody" verses "parity." That gave me a chuckle in an otherwise great post.
    wmmj, Bunk McNulty and Charley Umbria like this.
  9. Persona87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    If you're interested in the MM passive basses, you might go check out a local GC. There's one on clearance at my local shop that's been on clearance for months. They have it priced right around $1200.

    I was up there a few days ago and an older gentleman was trying fenders and wanted a P bass with a jazz-style neck, and he wanted something Californian-made. Well, I suggested he try the EBMM a few times for a few reasons, but he refused to try anything that didn't have Fender on the headstock. Some people are just too conservative to even attempt change.

    Personally, I have an Ibanez, a Roscoe, a Squier, an SBMM, a (Korean-made) Conklin, and an NS Design electric upright. I have no real brand loyalty, because I believe that all manufacturers have strengths and weaknesses, and that those can change over time.
  10. JIO

    JIO Be seeing you. Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    I think they were never meant to stay in production, that the marketing strategy is a new model every now and then to add to the tried and true lines. If one catches on (like the Jaguar and Road Worn & Aerodyne series) - they keep making them, and if they don't - they cut the rope. The cross-borrowing of look/style of the big makers of late is more a half-hearted attempt to lure buyers from the completion. As long as they are all doing it it's "ok" and besides, it is only temporary anyway - a stylistic blip on their radar screen.

    As a contrast Epiphone has knocked it out of the park with their new VP Thunderbird, a well made RI of the legendary gen1 (Gibson) T-bird. Speaking of which, Gibson never made one that was even close to being a RI. (even the 70's bird had different pu's and the dreaded 3-point bridge) Well made, at a very reasonable price for what you are getting - this is how to introduce a line with staying power. Big kudos to Epiphone. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
  11. gt96g

    gt96g Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Philly Area
    Haha, just caught that I did that. Wrote it quick, now corrected.
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  12. FugaziBomb


    Jun 5, 2017
    All of my PJs have in-line humbuckers in the bridge position, but I've never thought of them as a "P/H" since it's not a double wide, dual coil pick-up back there. A split coil Jazz pick-up isn't going to sound much different than a standard Jazz pickup because it's still "sensing" the same amount of string.

    While I recognize the Caprice is a little different than a typical PJ, I don't think it's different enough to justify a $2200 price tag - especially when there are so many really great PJ options for a lot less cost. The Caprice I played was an exceptional instrument, to be sure, but sounded a lot like a Fender Deluxe P that was sitting next to it - that was about 1/3 the price. The Fender also played really nice, which blurred the lines between the two even more.

    To be honest, my only criticism with the Caprice was it's price tag. I think if EBMM had a way of keeping those basses branded with a Musicman logo while offering them below the market price for a Stingray, they could have been successful. Fender's Dimension basses were doomed from the start, however. These days, people only seem to want 3 basses from Fender: P, J, and Mustang for short scale fans. There's not a big enough market for musical instruments to support a myriad of different models from one company. Heck, even when the market was huge, Fender had a hard time moving basses that weren't P or J. Remember the first Dimension bass that took a swing at Ibanez? Or the JP-90s that were aimed to compete with the "dinky" bodied basses from Kramer? None of them got any traction because people didn't want that from Fender.

    All that being said, I'd love to own a Caprice AND a Dimension if I could get each one of them for a reasonable price on the used market.
  13. derlewine


    Nov 12, 2013
    That’s kind of a bummer. I just picked up a coral red caprice, it needs a neck shim to correct some buzz on the 2nd fret, but otherwise it’s one of the best sounding basses I’ve owned.

    I was in the market for a jazz-ish sound but the American jazz basses were falling flat for me. The humbucker bridge pup is awesome solo and mixed with the P. IMO The promise of a passive EBMM is really appealing. Maybe the fabled Joe Dart MM bass will be the replacement :)
    lowdownthump and HD007 like this.
  14. Gizmot


    Mar 22, 2009
    Pittsburgh area
    I've written in other posts on this subject that the apparent lack of success of the Caprice and Cutlass had nothing whatsoever to do with the product, but by incredibly bad strategy. Based on everything that I saw and heard, these basses had a bunch of critical acclaim and were actually selling decently well following their introduction in 2016.

    So - what did MusicMan do? They raised the prices about 30% (a big no-no in a market where there are lots of good choices available - especially when you cross the $2K threshold). As others have pointed out, Caprice and Cutlass models are more expensive than StingRay models (which have a preamp and more controls - which should make them cost more). Although I don't have any specifics, I bet EBMM got greedy and thought they could get away with a much higher price. When any product gets a value established for it in the market, raising the price by a significant amount is damned near impossible.

    I think there is plenty of room in the market for the Cutlass and Caprice to succeed, but they need to be priced in the $1,500 street price range max. Yeah - these could be re-introduced as Asian built models, but I bet they'd do better as what they were conceived as - good quality, but feature-basic well made instruments.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
  15. FugaziBomb


    Jun 5, 2017
    Couldn't agree more. EBMM could have raised the price on the Stingray and Sterling, and let the Cutlass and Caprice fill the market segment that the Ray and Sterling used to inhabit.
  16. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017
    Companies try to innovate bc selling the same ol same ol gets into the increased cost of living vs back catalog of used gear beating your sales to death.

    Inevitably you get designs that are perceived like the Pontiac Aztek.
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  17. I agree with the price tag analysis. I liked the Dimension, but the price of my L-2500 tribute was better and I felt like the Dimension was trying to replicate what the -2500 already did better.
    jd56hawk likes this.
  18. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    The market is flooded with all makes/models of basses. They also have ridiculously high price tags. None of them are selling.

    I feel very sorry for the dealers that are stuck with dozens of basses that just sit there for sale.

    Just take a peak at sold listings on Ebay and take note of the low price tags Vs. What is being asked. If you can even find ones that have sold.

    Most new models are destined to be a flop!
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  19. You just summed up society as a whole
    TrustRod, Bunk McNulty and metron like this.
  20. Good point,i have not had the opportunity to play one,so i presumed it was a SC PJ situation.
    What you’ve pointed out would make me want it even less.....
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