Have/Would You Upgrade an Inexpensive Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by CoffeeLove, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. Yes

    204 vote(s)
  2. No

    27 vote(s)
  3. Depends

    89 vote(s)
  4. Strawberries

    5 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Doing my first electronics/hardware upgrade. I have heard people mention upgrading inexpensive instruments is a bad idea due to the weak resale value. I am not worried about the resale, and could always pull the upgraded parts for another project, then reinstall the original stuff. I plan to keep this bass as well.

    I have an older Korean Ibanez SR405 that has an awesome neck, and is really light, but the preamp is loud/noisy and the tuning keys are weak. So, I am upgrading several components starting with the preamp and tuners. Found a like-new OBP-3 for less than half price, same with some Gotoh tuners, so seems like a good start.

    Anyone else do a budget bass upgrade? Pics are always cool.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
  2. Jackcrow

    Jackcrow Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2017
    North Dakota
    No, you’ll never get the money in upgrades back out of it if you sell it, but if it’s a bass you plan on keeping then it’s probably worth it. You could always keep the stock electronics and swap them back in if you decide to sell it.
  3. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    I've done it and would do it again. It's easy to keep the stock electronics and swap them back in if you decide to sell later. Zero effect on resale value, and you get to enjoy the upgrades while you own the bass.
  4. Lowend65

    Lowend65 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2006
    San Jose, CA
    I just finished modding up a Glarry P-Bass. It's been a fun project, but I don't know if I ever need to do it again.
    Mind you I think I have about $110 (and 8 man-hours of finishing work) into this thing.

    Don't buy instruments because you may sell them someday, they are awful investments. Buy what you want, consider the money spent. If you decide to sell, anything you get is "found money".
  5. Yep, that is the plan. That is, restore it to stock and use the parts for another upgrade in the future if something else comes along. I want this to be my "beater" bass, something that sounds/plays great due to upgrades, and that I dont need to fear getting stolen at some of the dives I play.
  6. TrustRod

    TrustRod Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2016
    Northern California
    Not if you plan to use it as an instrument. I find the concept of needing an instrument to not cost you anything in the long run to be a bit silly. Imagine thinking that way about a phone or a microwave.

    Here's a few pics of my extreme upgrades to a $115 bass that I wouldn't sell for a grand now.

    My OLP, and what it has become.
  7. Very cool.
    TrustRod likes this.
  8. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    I typically buy a Squier Jazz and put in an EMG J System, this makes the bass quiet and gives it a greater range of tones. If I want to sell it I'll put in the old pickups and controls and keep the EMG's for the next J bass, I make a loss of a couple of hundred dollars after a few years use so no big deal.

    In any other profession no one considers the 'tools of trade' as a money spinner, they buy, use and discard them when they become unserviceable. It's the cost of doing business unless of course you make money flipping basses, nothing wrong with that either but that's a different gig.
  9. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    some cheap basses i don't upgrade, some i do. as i voted, it depends.
  10. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I think a lot of upgrading tends to be less successful when trying to turn a mediocre bass into a better bass. That doesn’t mean that the process isn’t rewarding, enjoyable or educational....it just means the $572 you’ve spent total on a bass may not fully reflect in tone, playability or resale value....in other words you may have gotten more bang for your buck simply buying a better bass for more money that didn’t “need upgrades”.

    Very few upgrades are cost effective in terms of resale value..your lucky to break even if you buy used parts at a good deal...even if you can install them yourself.

    Upgrades are fun and a great way to “personalize” an instrument. I have certain preferences, like threaded saddle bridges, 500K pots and Pbass knobs so I install them on a lot of my basses. To me they’re upgrades...to the next person they’re probably just parts that need replacing.
  11. La Faro

    La Faro

    Jun 20, 2016
    Da Nang, Viet Nam
    If after a set up and bass plays nicely and feels and sounds good, then I think it's worth investing it. It's not throwing good money after bad, if it's a good player in the first place.

    Some people a down with buying and selling, some like messing with stuff (obviously some are both). So if you know you are going to sell it sooner than later and don't get a kick out of meddling, there's no sense in using money to upgrade, just use the money for something better, and sell it on.

    My Squier VM, has new bridge, pickups, push pull pots, (pickguard and knobs), and now new pressurewounds. The tuners are fine, so I'm kind of done. Spent the last week playing my new bass, but after finishing the electrics on the Squier last night, it's definitely not going to collect dust.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
    Bajo Clarkko, CoffeeLove and JRA like this.
  12. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    If the low cost bass is nice to play, solid neck, nice fret work, no dead spot , no ski jump, acceptable weight.... sure i will give it hardware , pickups and electronic upgrade.
  13. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug

    If you're upgrading to sell it, that's always a bad idea, and a sure fire formula for disappointment.

    I've upgraded a few El Cheapos in my time, for me to play. I have no plan to sell them, and know I will lose money if I do. My go-to girl, Jenny, is a modified Harley Benton Shorty that I got for €50.
    Bass Jenny.jpg
    bass jenny blueshaus.jpg

    Ivy, another modded El Cheapo I paid €50 for:
    bass ivy pumps & pearls.jpg

    I bought this one for €35, and went to town:
    bass NuKitty 1.jpg

    Katherine, a Harley Benton PB50 I'm still working on, also €50:
    bass katherine j1.jpg
  14. I'm a fan of inexpensive quality gear. Knowing when to spend the time and effort on a project is the key here. If there are more cheap parts than good ones or the most important/integral parts are the weak link that means it isn't worth the trouble. If the bridge is kind of cheesy, the pickup is rancid and the tuners are junk but the neck is great, the body is beautiful and balanced it is worth it. Understand that simply throwing money at an instrument won't guarantee it will be improved by it. Sometimes a perfect combination of mediocre parts makes a stellar instrument. First mentally disassemble the bass in question, evaluate what parts you have and decide based on that. I've done lots of mods and some were worth it, others not so much. Hope this helps.
    TNCreature, CoffeeLove, AEDW and 4 others like this.
  15. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    :laugh: i'm trying to imagine "major loss of resale value" on a cheapie!
    there are lots of threads and even some clubs devoted to such things!
    Official Exquisite/Glarry/Burning Fire Bass Club?

    if a cheap ax has some qualities (or if it can be made to have some qualities) that you want/need/prefer or depend on, then it's no longer just "cheap" --- it has value to you (e.g., as a "platform"). where modifications are concerned, i'd advise going all in or going home: make the instrument play for you. (e.g., why would i care about what you think of my instruments in your hands? :D the purchase price is irrelevant!)

    the conventional/useful wisdom is: it's only an "upgrade" to you. accept that bit and the world is your oyster!

    also: "resale value" is an important concept for those who:
    - have a "flipping" business.
    - are unsure of their purchases.
    - made a mistake with a purchase(s).
    - don't have the time, interest, or skill(s) to modify an ax to their preferences.

    gratuitous pics of cheapies modified to be priceless for this player:
    front2.jpg 20200309_111026b2.jpg DSCF3308.JPG DSCF3291b2.jpg no flash front.jpg
    Plectrum72, tito0515, Helix and 8 others like this.
  16. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    I took a brand new Squier Jag I bought for $200 and 24 hours after I got it home it was in pieces. I added a $600 custom fan-fret graphite neck, a $75 Badass bridge, $75 New tuners, $75 Hipshot D-Tuner, $120 Bartolini pickups, about $25 of miscellaneous aftermarket hardware and it's the best bass I ever played.

    I have no intention of ever selling it. The value of a tool has to do with how well it works IN YOUR HANDS, Not what you can sell it for.

    Worst case scenario I dismantle it and apply most, if not all, of the hardware to a new build.
    groove pump, JRA, skyline_01 and 4 others like this.
  17. squarepeg


    Dec 21, 2010
    CoffeeLove and JRA like this.
  18. I recently spent more than double what I paid for a bass on upgrades, and I’m very happy with the result. I got the bass for what I feel was a good price, and to buy something comparable new would cost almost double my current investment.

    I have no plans to sell, but if I did someday I could put the original parts back on and use them for a different bass. Meanwhile I love using my vintage Tokai, and the work & customization helps to make it feel like it’s mine more than if I just bought it as is.

    See these threads if you’re interested in the details:
    NBD — Tokai Hard Puncher, 1980 P Bass clone

    Tokai Hard Puncher, MIJ P bass copy upgrade stage 2

    Poll: Seymour Duncan Antiquity vs. emg GZR vs. etc…

    Metal Dome Knobs with Numbers

    Many examples of it in use (with my less than satisfactory current playing ability) can be found on my YouTube: Bass Song Covers - YouTube
    squarepeg, CoffeeLove, JRA and 2 others like this.
  19. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Have done and would do again.

    But your question begs a second question:

    What constitutes an upgrade? Is there a difference between modding and upgrading an instrument? Is it worth drawing a distinction?

    Because an upgrade (to me) is changing out to correct something that I would consider subpar or inadequate, whereas a “mod” is changing something (like pickups) just because I wanted to install something else.
  20. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    It all depends on your needs and plans. I have three main basses:

    - '76 jazz body with '73 P neck. Hen I bought it in '83, it had an upgraded neck pup and a Badass bridge. I added a Hipshot de-tuner, and three decades later, refinished (when I bought it, the finish had been ruined), and put a stock bridge on it.

    - 2004 (I think) Lull P4, bought new. Never touched anything.

    - 2001 MIM Jazz fretless. When I bought it last year, it had an upgraded bridge (don't care), pups, and tuners.

    So if you know what you are doing, a few upgrades can help. But in general here, I think people are too obsessed with mods. There are lots of threads with people looking to make extensive grades before they have even touched the bass. Most more expensive basses are better made and from higher quality parts.
    CoffeeLove likes this.