Help a newbie shopping in Japan?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Combathook, Oct 23, 2017.

  1. Combathook


    Oct 23, 2017
    I’m planning to buy my first (fretless) bass and I’d like to ask for some advice.

    My budget is the equivalent of US $1,000.

    I played a Fujigen Neo Classic (made in Japan) with a glossy maple fretboard that I liked for around $1,000 new, but I checked the used market and was surprised to see a fretted version of the same bass for half that price. Is that an indicator of poor quality?

    I also saw an Ikebe-limited Bacchus (International make? I think these are made outside of Japan) for $500. Would this be a big step down from the Fujigen?

    The Fender Japan Jazz Basses seem to be around $800, but I feel perhaps some of that price is paying for the Fender name, while the wood looks to be cheaper basswood compared to Fujigen’s Alder.

    I’ll be using the bass in my home studio going directly into my audio interface and through outboard effects to compliment synths and drum machines. I’ve got my mind set on a fretless (with fret markings of course) because I like the smoother and vocal type sounds they make.

    Because I’ll be recording direct into my audio interface I think the sound of the pickups will be important. I did a few searches on the OEM Fujigen pickups and people seem to think they’re decent, but more often than not they need to be upgraded. To be honest I don’t really know what to even listen for in a bass pickup!

    Anyway, any advice is very much appreciated. Thank you.
  2. Bigpig


    Oct 9, 2015
    I've been a major Fujigen fan for a while now (I have an EMJ and a Neoclassic sold under the CoolZ label, whoever they are), and I don't think it's a quality question, since they're the two best basses I've owned. I also had an E-Series Japanese Fender which I have long since sold *sniff*.

    My suspicion is that it's much more a question of it being used than being of questionable quality. Used stuff in Japan tends to go for cheap. I'm speaking from experience, since I lived there for three years, and on "sodai gomi no hi" (bulky garbage day) you could pretty much furnish your house with near-new, still-working stuff that people would just pile on the curb since they'd gotten the latest newest version of whatever it was - a microwave, a sofa, a TV, a set of skis, you name it.

    Can't speak to Bacchus directly, since I don't own one, but I've heard nothing but good things about them. IIRC, their Universe and Global lines are built outside of Japan, but they're apparently very good bang for the buck, even though they're budget lines.

    Ishibashi's U-Box is a great place to shop, assuming you haven't already discovered it:

    Used Musical Instruments (UBOX) | Ishibashi Music

    They've got just about everything under the sun - Fender, Fujigen, Bacchus, Zematis, Momose, Sugi and some brands I've never even heard of, all at substantial discounts. It's all used gear, but judging from the pictures, most in very good shape.

    Japan is music shop heaven - enjoy!
  3. Combathook


    Oct 23, 2017
    Thanks for your reply. It was very helpful.

    Since I posted this I've tried out a few more fretless basses and I've got another quick question.

    I played two basses with glossy fretboards and one without the glossy coating. It sounds like with the gloss that it imparts a slightly brighter and a more "fretless" sound, which is nice, but I also like the playability of the uncoated fretboards. However the shop staff said that if the fretboard isn't coated on a fretless that it will bend backwards over time. Is this true or is he just trying to sell me a certain make?

    Also, what is the general opinion on FL bass regarding coated/noncoated fingerboards?

  4. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I’ve never heard about unfinished boards “bending backward”, in theory any piece of wood that’s unfinished on one side would expand as it absorbs water vapor, but what about all the unfinished rosewood fingerboards? The trussrod is there to balance out wood movement and string tension.Sounds like BS sales talk. The polymer coatings give some protection against string wear and finger grunge, but they do sound brighter in my experience, which isn’t necessarily a good thing depending on the tone you want. I have a Warmouth Fretless Frankenjazz that I had Pedulla coat with the stuff they use on Buzz basses. It’s incredibly tough and very clear, bright “mwah”. 30 years of round wounds and it still shows very little wear. The ebanol boards are a nice compromise, tougher than wood, but it doesn’t have that plastic look or feel.
  5. Bigpig


    Oct 9, 2015
    I have to agree with Gilmourisgod - this sounds like a bunch of sales staff eyewash.

    Depending on construction (one-piece vs. laminate) some fretless necks may be more prone to bending or bowing than a fretted neck. However, I don't think coating or lack thereof has anything to do with it.

    Coating will give you a bit more brightness and zing, but then, so would ebony.
  6. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    I coat the fingerboard, and then sand almost all of it off. It's more to make the fingerboard absolutely flat than for sound.
    I don't think an ebony board needs coating, and I always coat rosewood. My $.02

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