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Finding the best fretless 5 string

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ble_rush, Jun 13, 2001.

  1. ble_rush


    Jun 13, 2001
    Mty, México
    I want to buy a fretless 5 string, but there are so many different good options that it is hard to decide.

    My current basses are: Peavey Foundation 1988 (4 string) and a Yamaha TRB6P. So I'm looking for the perfect 5 string fretless bass to complete the cycle ... for now.

    I'm a "jazz bass" kind of bass player and my options at this point are: Sadowsky, Carvin, Stingray, or Pedulla (in order of interest)

    I would appreciate your opinions and recommendations.


    Saludos !
  2. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Out of those basses, I've only tried the Carvin.

    My main playing bass is the Carvin BB75F. I got it unlined with no inlays, HB2 p'up at the bridge, swamp ash with natural finish, and some accessories (strap locks, black hardware, rounded body sides, hardshell case).

    I couldn't be happier with it. I can get a fat, deep, booming sound, and a bright, punchy, more trebly (sp?) sound as well. It's an extremely versatile bass with great electronics.

    I think the best thing about it really is its fat mwah sound. You really hear the fretless sound. It's truly a bass that sings. It does seem to be slightly sensitive to the overtones, but it's never been too big of a problem. I love the wider string spacing, and the neck through design. Carvin customer service was extremely helpful and very nice. Great experience. I paid just over $1000 total.

    Very very good bass.
  3. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    The "best" five string fretless?

    What's your budget?
  4. ble_rush


    Jun 13, 2001
    Mty, México
    Well, my budget is $3,500.

    I want to get a very good bass for that kind of money.
  5. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member


    You have a lot of options at that price.

    If I had ever played a Sadowsky fretless, I would probably recommend one of those, but I haven't. I've played one fretted 5 and it was the best bass that I have ever played.

    I was on the same quest that you are a few months back, and wound up with a used Zon Sonus Custom with piezo bridge and Bart humbuckers.

    There are several that I would try if I had the money that you are talking about.

    The Zon Sonus Custom, Sonus Special or Legacy Elite, Lakland Deluxe 55-94, Pedulla Pentabuzz, Pedulla Thunderbass fretless or Thunderbuzz, USA Spector, Warwick Streamer Stage I, Roscoe, Sadowsky and F bass.

    There are also some very good fretless 5's for less than $2000 that I ran across. Musicman Stingray, Peavey Cirrus and Cort Artisan.

    Obviously, these basses are not in the same class as the first ones mentioned, but the Cort is the best under $1000 fretless that I have ever played, and the Peavey is darned near as good as the big boys.

    I had picked the Peavey over the Pentabuzz and the Lakland, and then happened onto the deal on the used Zon.

    Good luck in your quest!
  6. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    I would recommend you consider:
    - Sadowsky 24
    - Zon Sonus Custom w/piezo
    - F-Bass
    - Pedula Buzz

    I had the Anniversary model Carvin (can't remember the model - LB75?) fretless made for me 3 three years ago. It was a beautiful bass, but I was never happy with it - kinda dull sounding. I tried several types of strings but never found something I liked - YMMV...

    I've played two Singray fretlesses and just wasn't crazy about either. I didn't think they were in the same class as the ones listed above.

    I purchased a Pedula Pentabuzz from GC which I really liked. Great tone, low action, great workmanship. About 2 weeks later, I played a Zon Sonus Custom fretless. The Pedula went back to GC, and I traded in the Carvin and had a Zon Sonus Custom with piezo made. It was an outstanding fretless, for me anyway. Great articulation, flexible tonal options and sustain that wouldn't stop. I liked it so much I bought a Zon Lightwave fretless to go with it. Not thinking I needed 2 fretless basses, I sold the Sonus Custom (mistake for me, a win for Embellisher :)) The Lightwave is a great bass and I really enjoy playing it, but has a unique tone that's always sounds great, but not always "right". I don't plan to sell it, but I want a more traditonal jazz bass option.

    Being a big fan of my Sadowsky Vintage 5 fretted, I've decided to have a fretless Sadowsky made. They sound wonderful and are very easy to play. If you like a jazz bass style, you should try a Sadowsky.

  7. I'm gonna join Jeff (Embellisher) and Señor Rader:

    Zon Sonus

    After that, we part ways a bit. I'm highly enamored of the Sonus Special 5 fretless I've got. Amazing bass, plays like a dream, looks incredible, and sounds astounding. The bass that refuses to be buried in a mix, ANY mix, while still sounding warm and punchy with lots of that "mwah" everyone talks about. Give one a try, I think you'll be glad you did. You'll find the Sonus to be very comfortable, if you're a J guy, it's the Zon version of a J bass. Don't let the graphite neck fool you, it's very organic sounding!

    As for the others, they're good choices as well. I work at Bass Central (part time :D) and have had an opportunity to play most of them. Of the ones mentioned so far, the Lakland has been my favorite after the Zon. I'm gonna go against the general opinions here about Sadowsky, the one we have in (which is a used bass, admittedly) just doesn't float my boat. But hey, to each their own, if someone digs 'em cool. :cool:
  8. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker Banned

    Jun 10, 2001
    A friend of mine just got an F Bass fretless 5. All I can say is wow! It's definitely the best fretless I've heard. This other guy I give lessons too has a Zon Sonus Special 5 fretless and it sounds great as well. Like Gard said this bass will not get buried but if it were my money I'd get the F. It just has something...extra that I can't explain and it cuts every bit as well as the Zon. What I like better about it over the Zon is the range of tones. With there being more room in between the p/u's you have more options tonally. It has the abitlity to have a much rounder tone than the Zon but also can get a really good lowmid thing the Zon has by simply rolling the neck p/u slightly off. Then you can cut coils and turn the humbuckers into single coils and get a jazz bass sort of thing happening. It comes standard as a passive instrument and it seems to me that it does great without a preamp. And I really like the ebony bridge and bone saddle. It just looks classy.
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Zon Legacy Standard 5...and I'll add my Elrick hybrid New Jazz Standard 5 fretless to the list. It's the same layout and type of construction as the semi-hollow F-Bass Alain Caron.

    The Elrick sings more, the Zon has the punch.
  10. I'll give another vote for Carvin. My LB75F has a walnut body, matching headstock, HB2, and it was about $900. I absolutely love the neck on it. Get a Carvin and have $2600 left to paly around with.

    But, that's just my opinion.
  11. Check out Hanewinckel Guitars at http://www.hanewinckelguitars.com/ . They're building me a 7-string fretless. I already have a 7-string fretted. The owner of the company is very proud of his fretless models.

    Here's an 8-string Hanewinckel Fusion fretless:


    Mine is going to be kinda like that one but 7-strings with a Pau Ferro fretboard and a Maple laminate between the Mahogany body and Walnut top.

    Hanewinckel's prices are very reasonable for the quality.

    - Dave
  12. Sammy


    Aug 31, 2000
    ZON - Oh yeah.

    My fretless 5 Legacy is what made me switch to 5 strings!

    Also, once you've decided what you what, check out Ebay and similar sites. There's alot of people who though they'd play fretless selling basses.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Excellent advice, Sammy. For his budget he could be looking at used Foderas (which I don't prefer over what I have but they're expensive;)).
  14. ble_rush


    Jun 13, 2001
    Mty, México
    Thanks for all of your recommendations.

    One problem that I have is that there aren't many options that I can try on here in Monterrey, México. Almost every store here just handle what is easy to sell, and places like eBay doesn't deliver outside US.

    I think Sadowsky and Carvin do handle international orders. I don't know if Zon does too, I have to check it.

  15. Ah ha!!


    (800) 545-8813

    They deliver world-wide, and have just about everything you're asking about, usually in stock! :D Ship it to Mexico? No sweat...just give 'em a call or drop 'em an e-mail.

    In stock fretlesses right now:

    Pedulla Pentabuzz Cherry Sunburst (BEAUTIFUL!)
    Lakland D-55 Burgundy over AAAA flame maple
    Several Stingray 5's

    Available to order (with various waiting periods):

    ..and many others.

    (Yeah, I work there part-time, so sue me!!! ;) )
  16. I would get an F-bass if I were in your situation. I might get one anyway, even without being in your situation!
  17. I'll throw in a plug for the fretless 5 I'd buy if I had the $: Turner Renaissance. I played one of these and instantly fell in love. Awesome tone, rich and full without being muddy. Great feel with a nice tight B.
  18. drbottom


    Mar 7, 2001
    Manchester, CT
    If you haven't tried the Zon Sonus lightwave 5, try it.

    The neck plays like a dream, and those optical pickups really enhance the "fretless" sound...it's like a super fretless!

    I would also check out a warwick thumb fretless.
  19. Blown Out Amp

    Blown Out Amp

    Jun 14, 2001
    L.A. Ca
    I don' t what kind of sound your looking for, but I wouldn't recomend Carvin. Although I think they have a great design, their electronics are worthless, they sound realy airy, like it's not picking up everything you play. Warwicks make the best fretless basses, I dont know about 5-string, but I asume they sound good. What I would recomend is a De' Armond bass. They have been making pick ups and strings for years, so they sound nice. They just recently started making full basses, so you can get a $1200 bass for about $600. Remember, almost any 5-string you want can be defretted, and have it sound and play just as good.
  20. jbass27


    May 4, 2001
    St. Louis, MO
    From what I have seen so far, I would say to go for a Pedulla Pentabuzz, or an F-Bass fretless 5, either one would do pretty nicely! I have not yet had the chance to play a Zon, so I don't know how they are, but they are supposed to be pretty nice. For $3500 you can just about get whatever you want. You can probably score a nice Smith fretless 5 for that ass well. I've never played a fretless neck-thru Smith, but the BSR-4JMW we have at the store I work at is awesome.

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