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Handmade luthier basses, or boutique manufacturer basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tupac, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    So, once you've spent a long time accumulating around $4000 of bass money, it's time to buy yourself a very nice bass. So my question is, when you have the money to buy a bass handmade by a single expert luthier, like a Wal or Sadowsky, why would you buy a bass from a large manufacturer? IE, a Streamer SII or a Spector NS. In fact, what's the building processes of basses like these? Surely they aren't made in a factory like their cheaper cousins? How can they possibly compete.
  2. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
  3. bootsox


    Apr 28, 2012
    Biloxi, MS
    the difference is a streamer or a spector is CNC cut out of nicer woods than lower-priced instruments, uses better hardware than lower priced instruments, and made to a tighter tolerance than lower priced instruments. You're paying for consistency when you buy a high-end manufactured bass.

    Play a wishbass and you'll understand, about half of them leave the workshop completely unplayable.
  4. I actually think often about this. For me the division is between boutique manufacturer - and I would actually include Sadowsky in with Spector and what not - or pure custom build, something like a Wyn. I've always liked the idea of a bass being made just for me, exactly as I choose it and want it, and with no one else in mind. Even with Sadowsky, you aren't getting that. Yes, you do get a handmade bass, but it isn't necessarily built to exactly your specs. But, of course, the business/luthier is probably more experienced and "consistent" with their product, so there are pros and cons.

    My Warwick Thumb comes from the handmade era (1995), and its quite lovely. Given that I have this already, at this point in time if I had $4000 or so, I'd get a total custom. There are lots of amazing builders out there who can make you a fantastic bass for that amount. Check out the Wyn site to launch your search and go on from there. I'm sure you'll get lots more suggestions even just in this thread.
  5. SJan3

    SJan3 Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    You can have a truly hand crafted instrument from M Bass in Terryville, Ct. for perhaps LESS than you're willing to spend. Mine will be done in a few weeks. Jon's work is wonderful and I was able to be very specific about the woods, hardware, neck shape and electronics. This is a no brainer to me. Jeez, American Fenders are creeping close to the cost of this handmade instrument. I have been playing for 43 years and I am truly excited for the first time in a long time!:)
  6. IntrepidCellist


    Sep 10, 2009
    Does a production instrument from a boutique manufacturer provide what you want?

    If so, then go that route. It is quicker, easier, less risky, and often cheaper than going for a very small one- or two-man shop. There's no shortage of excellent choices in that price range and below.

    However, if you absolutely must have something unique, custom, or different from what the boutique manufacturers offer, than look into a small shop luthier.
  7. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    There are many truly awesome builders that can build you a bass in that $ Range. Jon Maghini at M Bass is definitely one. Ray Roger at R Bass, Mike Lull, George at F Bass has a model in the $3K range, it's all shopping around. Remember that Sadowsky's are not exactly hand made, their necks and bodies are made by parts companies to Rogers specs then assembled in NY.

    You can talk with Mike Padulla, Chris Stambaugh, Ken Lawrence, or any number of custom builders, the real idea no matter what avenue you choose is to express emphatically to the builder(if you choose that route) what feel you are looking for, and be as detailed about what you like and dislike as far as neck shape, weight, action, strings, frets etc. The more detailed, the better chance you will have of gettng an awesome bass.

    Good luck and have fun with it.
  8. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    The answer is this:

    People are different. People like different things.
  9. Ds1

    Ds1 Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2008
    Syracuse, NY
    Owner: Ish Guitars, Inc. Owner: Ish Case, Inc
    Theres a million (okay, slight exaggeration) people out there that will make you a totally hand made instrument for whatever price. Many are actually cheaper than the "larger" lines. But you'll probably be missing out on custom hardware, perfectly placed pickups, and years of honing in the perfect measurements.

    Nothing agains't the smaller guys, there are many that are very good, but a "larger" manufacture isn't a bad thing. Plus, most everyone these days uses CNC machines. The consistency and quality is just plain better than "hand made."

    And don't think that having a CNC machine on the line means no one ever touches the bass, either. Spector's shop, for example, has one CNC to route the basic body and neck shapes and and stuff like that, but there is Stuart and 3 other highly skilled luthiers that still have to do extensive finishing work on the body, neck, fretboard, and everything else. Then it goes to the finisher who does it all by hand... then it goes to their one-and-only assembly guy.

    You can probably find videos of Spector's shop online. Its definitely not a factory (the whole place is like 1500 square feet), its more of a handmade process that is streamlined and efficient.

    Warwick, on the other hand, is a different story...
  10. Ds1

    Ds1 Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2008
    Syracuse, NY
    Owner: Ish Guitars, Inc. Owner: Ish Case, Inc
    Feel free to PM for more info on Spector, btw :D
  11. Been GASsey for a Warwick Vampyre...when I got my 5k rounded up, you bet they'll get my hard earned dough.
  12. SherwoodGreen

    SherwoodGreen Banned

    Dec 25, 2012
    I thought that this was a good subject for a thread.

    I've gone both routes- Waited (2) years for a custom build from one top-rate, one-man shop; 7-8 months from another. Both are fine instruments and were well worth the wait-Once the wait was over!

    Recently bought 2 "stock" basses, only lead time was 2nd-Day UPS shipping!

    These were high-end, low-production models; not that many kicking around. (Xotic XP-1T4 & Yamaha BB2024X).
    The "instant gratification" was nice!

    I'm every bit as pleased with these "Stock basses", and they're every bit as well made as the custom builds.
    The only real difference outside of their specs of course is that the built-to-orders are unique to me; highly unlikely another customer would order the same specs.

    There are custom-build quality basses available right "off-the shelf" from companies like G&L, EBMM, Warwick, Modulus, and several others as well.

    Another option is that sometimes a custom builder will have available stock basses for sale & you can find one that you like & get it right away.

    Nice decision to deal with no matter what the choice is! :D
  13. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Uh oh... what's the story with Warwick?
  14. I am no expert in the matter, but I do believe that through the 80s and a good chunk of the 90s, Warwicks were entirely hand-made. At some point they switched to what they are now, which is CNC cut and a lot of automation, perhaps excepting some custom builds.

    To get totally handmade, you probably have to go with a small luthier.
  15. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I once had a custom bass built to my specs. It was a beautiful instrument but, in the end, there were aspects of the design that I would have changed. When it comes to custom made instruments it's really important to know what you want and, even then it's a crap- shoot. At least with an instrument that has a stock design/designs (such as an MTD) you can try one out beforehand. You may not know exactly how the one you order is going to sound but at least you'll have a good idea of the ergonomic/playability aspects of the thing.
  16. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Bajo Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    Youtube it. Warwick has plenty of videos on the building process of their instruments.
  17. IronLung1986


    May 19, 2010
    Exeter, NH
    Warwick uses the tony stark approach to bass building. Super high tech and efficient. There are a lot of really cool machines involved and the quality is very good. But some people prefer the one man shops at the $3k+ price range.
  18. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    I'd flip the question round first. List what you want from your dream bass. Match that against production models. Do any of them meet your requirements? If so, try them out and buy. If not, go custom.

    Don't start with the money. Start with working out what you want. And spend the change on amplification. :)
  19. If I had a budget of 4000 for a bass I would look at Modulus, Alembic, and possibly Roman. Also consider used instruments from those companies. You should be able to find a very nice one for that price. Be sure to look through the forum at the Alembic Club. There are some incredible guitars there.

    I have an Alembic so I know they are very nice and I have played guitars from Modulus that I liked a lot. I looked around Roman's site and they have some really interesting stuff with cool wood. Those are just three more companies to consider that I haven't seen mentioned yet and seem to build very high quality guitars.
  20. Good point. When you have a very high quality instrument it makes little sense to not be able to hear it at its full potential.