Fretless 5: F, Roscoe or Zon???

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassmanbob, Oct 27, 2004.

  1. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    I'm wondering from you guys who have purchased one of these basses, why you chose one over the other. I've tried all three (only one or two from each maker in a store), and am having a difficult time deciding.

    The F Bass played the nicest to me, but I liked the sound of the Zon more and the Roscoe even a little more. They all sounded great. I have a fretted Roscoe SKB-3006 and was leaning toward a Roscoe fretless, but now I'm not so sure. I think I want something different.

    I have a little more time than I anticipated. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne's eyes passed over my office destroying much of everything in it. Insurance has helped for the most part, but not everything. Therefore, much of my bass money has been eaten by my family and ensuring a roof over our heads. The fruits of the responsibility of marriage and fatherhood is worth it though.

    Please. Tell me why your fretless bass is better than his (or hers).
  2. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    you just named the top 3 fretlesses in my book... can't really help you because i don't know which i prefer, but the Zon and Roscoes have diamondwood fingerboards, the F i had also had a diamondwood board, but that was a special order.. usually , they are mac ebony... the Roscoe is 35 scale, the Zon is 34 and the F bass is 34.5
    new, an F bass is about $1000 more than the others and stock, the F bass bridge is fixed and can be a pain to adjust ( you have to file the bone saddle)-
    that will probably make my next fretless a Zon or a Roscoe..
    i know, i'm no help! :rolleyes:
  3. I'm going to seattle this weekend and plan on stoppy by bass north west and checking out some stuff. on their site they have some F, roscoe and zon fretless' in stock so if I get a chance to play all three I will post my opinion. up to this point I've only played the fretted versions of those bases.
  4. sethlow3

    sethlow3 Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Nashville, Tennessee
    I love F basses a lot! Roscoes are cool too. I used to have a very cool fretted Zon. Given the wide range of tones each will yield I personally would go with a Zon for Fretless, but it would have to have the bart preamp for me. the Zp2d is alright but it tends to mud up a mix when certain other instruments get busy IMO. The Bart system just sounds a lot better to my ears.

    F is great but they are very pricey if you decide you don't like it later. Roscoe has a 35" scale so I don't think I would dig that too much on a fretless unless it had lines. Either way you have mentioned the best fretlesses made IMHO, besides Rick Turner and Rob Allen.
  5. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Roscoe will do a 34" scale length which I think would be over the top for his fretless basses.
  6. Definitely go for the Roscoe Fretless!!

    I have one and absolutely love it (Thanks Adrian!). I cannot comment on the F bass fretless, but hear nothing but great things about their playing. If $ is a consideration, you may want to look at Roscoe.

    I cannot recommend Zon because I had the fingerboard "settle" or collapse on 2 Zons that I owned. :mad: Without a truss rod inside to regulate relief, they became useless to me. Be very careful ordering a Zon!!
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    My experiences with all three have been great. I've owned a Zon Legacy Standard fretless 5 since ~1997. I set it up back then and adjusted the internal mid control when I got it. Since then I've occassionally changed the Ken Smith Burner NPS nickel rounds and wiped it off occassionally. Between the three brands the soapbar equipped Zon, in soloed bridge pickup mode, hits harder than any of the Fs and Roscoes I've tried. The other basses sounded great, the Zon (for me) stepped it up a notch. It PUMPS! Plus it sounds great slapped.

    I'm obviously biased but I have to add this: The Brubaker K5BNC Custom 5 I bought a couple of years ago was the first fretless I'd found since my Zon that hit as hard as my Zon... and it's even more versatile. It's still my overall favorite. When either bass is set in Jaco mode they can move midrange air in practically a synth-like fashion. Phat and articulate. Not an easy combo to find to this degree.

    In addition, I think Elrick makes excellent fretlesses, easily on par with anything out there. Again, I'm biased, I own two;). I'd also mention Chris Stambaugh. My MM equipped Stammie with Labella Black tapewounds nails the Rob Allen vibe.

    So... what's your budget? What kind of fretless vibe are you after? I have pretty much everything covered myself;)
  8. Thumper

    Thumper Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2000
    Layton, UT
    Unfortunately I've never owned a fretless Roscoe or Zon. Still, my Elrick is the best fretless I've owned with an honorable mention to the Sukop 5f.

    I had a fretless Fbass BN5 with full preamp and piezo. It was a very nice bass, and if I hadn't been downsizing my arsenal, I'd have kept it. Like Adrian said, the fixed bridge could be a problem, but this one had pretty nice action so I never felt the need to mess with it.

    I miss both the Sukop & Fbass. If I were more proficient at simultaneous vocals and fretless......
  9. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    So, of course all 3 are tops in the fretless areas....

    I prefer the zon. Because to me it is very close to a pentabuzz, which is actually what I settled on. Zon and Pentabuzzes are the ultimate fretless to me, but the do have a very distinct sound. Love them.
  10. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    I think that Zon has the fretless deal down, so that's my recommendation, even though I have never played the a Roscoe fretless, I still think the Zon would be better. The Sonus Special seems to me the best choice for a fretless bass.
  11. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    I don't have much experience with F Bass, but of the other two, I'd probably lean towards the Roscoe. I just really like the combination of a resonant mahogany or Spanish cedar body with a Diamondwood fretless board, while still having the option to tweak the relief a little bit. The Roscoe fretless I played at Bass Central a while back was one of the more awesome fretlesses I've played, topped only by the one I now own.

    Speaking of which, I like the Curbow solid Rockwood (Diamondwood) neck even more for fretless, but that wasn't an option....

  12. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker Banned

    Jun 10, 2001
    I've owned all three and can say without a doubt I'd buy the Roscoe with the Zon coming next. Actually, I would buy the Roscoe over ANY fretless I've played which is almost any brand you can name.
  13. Agreed. AND you can adjust the truss rod if you have any problems with relief.
  14. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Oddly, the fact that a truss rod is generally not needed on these is a big reason I bought mine... including a fretless Sonus Special 5, which is absolutely MAGICAL, IMHO.

    Also, whatever that problem was with the Zon fingerboards on the few reports I've seen (including yours), seems to be worked out, 'cause I haven't seen any recent reports, so I'd be careful "warning" folks about Zons like that. Yeah, I'm a proud Zon owner, but I also wouldn't BS anyone here at TB, so I'm not just sayin' that defensively.

    I also have a Roscoe and LOVE it, but it's not a fretless. However, I'm sure they totally smoke. I've heard some wonderful mp3's.

    The main thing I like about the Zon fretless, is it's got the depth and resonance as much as any 35" scale but more comfy to play for my smaller hands.

    Again, IMHO. :)
  15. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    the bass VICS speaks of is greatly missed.. :(
  16. mgmadian


    Feb 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    FWIW, there's a guy here in San Francisco (not me) who recently posted a Roscoe Fretless 5 (unlined) for sale on Bassgear. I had a chance to play it and it was very nice, more of a modern sound that I typically go for (my fretless is a Turner with a rosewood board), but very impressive to say the least. Feel free to PM me for contact info on the guy selling it.
  17. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Yikes! My avatar disappeared! (Guess that means it's time to renew). :)

    Bob, you've definitely suggested three excellent fretless basses. I've owned all three of them (and currently own two), and can share my take. My choice, of the three you suggested, would be the fretless Roscoe LG-3005. That diamondwood fingerboard is the absolute bomb from a playability standpoint, it's the best I've ever played (out of several hundred fretless basses, and just about every board wood under the sun). The bass is nice and light, and perfectly balanced. Mine has a Spanish cedar body, a redwood top, and little lights up and down the neck (for those dark stages). It really speaks, it's very expressive and it has a superb sound, with lots of mwah and plenty of growl. Mine has the standard Bart pickups and 3-way preamp. It's an excellent instrument at a very attractive price point.

    The F bass would be my second choice. Mine is actually a 6 string, but it has all the same features as the BNF-5. Ditto what Adrian said about the bridge and nut, but once they're adjusted you're home free. Of all the standard board woods, the ebony is probably my favorite for fretless, and IMO the Ceylon ebony is best. Definitely another excellent bass. The low strings (B and E) are especially nice and growly, I regularly use this bass for recording metal in the studio (go figure). But IME not as much mwah as the others, probably due to the hard ebony board as distinct from the synthetics.

    The Zon I had was actually a Lightwave system, which I finally got rid of because of issues with the battery and charging. Other than that, it was a very nice bass. Mwah up the ying-yang. Not all that much growl though. IME it was more suited for the jazzier sounds. it was much "cleaner" than either the Roscoe or the F bass. Except for the distortion due to the Lightwave system, which occasionally got pretty bad on the low B string. Mine had a phenolic fingerboard, like the Pedulla buzz basses, not diamondwood. The diamondwood sounds and plays much better IMO. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another Zon fretless, from a playability standpoint, but I'd want the regular active pickups and the diamondwood board.

    Sounds like a tough choice there, BassmanBob. Although, I wouldn't mind being in your shoes. :D
  18. I agree Vic, the Zon fretless sounds great. I loved my Zon fretless. It was the only Zon out of 3 that I owned that didn't develop this problem.

    If a truss rod is not needed, why did I have to sell 2 of my Zons because the fingerboards collapsed?

    Vic, I don't know what you're referring to on problems being fixed. His designs have not changed at all on his graphite neck basses.
    I called Joe Zon personally, and because 1 bass was no longer under warranty, and the 2nd was not sold by an authorized Zon dealer, Joe said I was on my own. It would cost me or ANY other bassist $500 to get the each fingerboard fixed from Zon, with no warranty on the repair.

    The 2nd Zon that happened to was a NEW Zon (old new stock from a non-authorized dealer). I was the first owner, I had the warranty card, but Zon would not honor it because the dealer was not a Zon dealer.

    I will give you or anyone else that this is very infrequent. Joe said it only happens 2 or 3 times per year. So I would have to conclude, what harm would there be to go ahead and fix the fingerboard on such a scant few number of basses and keep your reputation in the marketplace?

    In the meantime, I've had 2 other Zon players contact me - UNSOLICITED - and say they have the same problem with their basses. I equate this ordeal with riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Chances are you'll be fine. But whatever the statistics, if you end up in a crash, it won't be pretty. Is Joe simply trying to run a business the best way he knows how? Absolutely. Will I ever buy a Zon bass again? Absolutely not. Too much risk.

    During the construction of the first bass, I was assured on the phone something like this would not happen. I have owned 3 Zon basses and purchased about $800 worth of strings in the past 4 years, and this has rubbed me the wrong way.

    Look at my TB nickname, man. I stood behind Zons so much I put Joe's name on all my posts. I don't/can't change it because I don't know if everyone would know it's still me.

    I don't consider this a "flame" post, and I mean NO malice to any Zon retailers. I'm reporting facts only. I would STILL own Zons if this had not happened or if somehow, some way, the product would have been stood behind.
  19. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal

    Are you sure that the necks haven't changed any on the Zons? I could have sworn that Joe told me that he changed the necks to have little to no relief now, but the first years before he decided to do the switch, the necks had more relief. I'm sure this doesn't make any difference to your problems though, but I'm pretty sure there have ben some changes to the original design.

    As far as buying a new old-stock bass, I had the same issue as well. I bought a bass that was new old-stock from a place that let their dealership run out for some time. I asked about the warrenty card, and the store replied that since their dealership ran out, the bass had no warrenty. I wish they would have made that point clearer from the start. The bass is solid with no issues to date.
  20. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I want to chime in here to back up John the only way I can. I just wanted to say that in my dealings with John, along with personal emails, I can assure you that he's a stand up guy with a lot of integrity. He wouldn't say these things unless they were true and he certainly wouldn't do so to harm anyone's reputation.

    That being said, I'm very disapointed to hear that this happened. I find over and over again that while there are many great builders out there, there are few who are great business people. Someone who truly cares about their business would back up the product 100%.