Help wanted - Purchasing a new bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by rabid_granny, Jan 20, 2002.

  1. Hi everyone. I was wondering if y'all could help me buy a new bass. I'm replacing my crappy generic Samick bass but I'd like some input about features.

    Just want to know what to look for before I head off to the music store. I'm concentrating on Fender basses because of their legendary reliability.

    1) What are the advantages of a string-thru-body bridge? What qualities should I listen for when I'm testing?

    2) Related question - What is a Badass II bridge? I've seen them and they look like...a bridge. What's so great about them?

    3) Are single-coil Jazz pickups really noisy? I noticed my Samick buzzes but quiets down when I put my hand on the strings. Is this the same problem?

    4) Do active pickups require batteries? If so, how long will the battery last if I just left it in the bass?

    5) How do machineheads contribute to the sound / playability of the bass? Does anyone really care about them when they buy a bass?

    6) Related to active pickups, if I bought a bass with active pickups, does that I mean I don't need to be a pre-amp?

    Any help with these issues would be greatly appreciated. None of my friends are bass players.

    I'm probably going to splurge on this one, since I've been saving up for a replacement for a couple years. I'm willing to spend up to $1500 Cdn ($1000 US?) on a bass but of course, there may be good basses for less than that.

    If anyone has recommendations for basses (Fender or otherwise!), I would really appreciate that too!

    All in all, I want to buy a bass guitar that has a few different sounds but is reliable (meaning it can last through many performances, not like dropping it out a 10 story building, or wacky stuff like that).

    Thanks and sorry about being so long-winded.

  2. old_skool


    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    I’ll help you with as much as I can.
    The advantages of a string-thru body are that it gives the strings a little more downward tension.
    A Badass bridge is just a companies name for their model of bridge. They are supposed to add resonance and sustain.
    Not all jazz pups are noisy. It depends a lot on the shielding of a particular bass. You can also get hum-canceling pups.
    Yes. Active pups do need batteries. The batteries last a long time. After a while you’ll forget you ever put them in there. You are supposed to leave the battery in if that’s what you were asking.
    Its nice to have a good set of tuners on a bass. They can contribute to the basses over all balance and can help your bass stay in tune better.
    A lot of basses come with a pre-amp. You can easily find upgrades if you don’t like the existing one.
    What kind of music do you plan on playing? That will help us help you even more. Is there any player’s tone you particularly like?
  3. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    1- It is supposed to increas sustain. I dunno how. I think it has to do with more pressure on the witness point, so the contact is more definite, and therefore more stable, and can vibrate better, longer.

    2- BassAss II bridges are high mass bridges, which increases sustain, and the tone of the bass. One of the most common aftermarket mods.

    3- They are noisy, but due to the 60 cycle hum. Sounds like your Samick has a grounding problem.

    4- Yes. Battery is drained whenever the bass has a cord in the input jack. Normal battery life is about 4-6 months, roughly.

    5- They can be made withbetter parts, and less likely to slip, and thus altering the tune you bass is in. They can play a role, but are not a major factor.

    6- Active pups can have a passive pre-amp, though 9 times out of 10 when a bass says "Active Pickups" they mean an active pre-amp. Most pickups are passive. But, yes you need a pre-amp, unless you hardwire the pups to the output jack, but that's a whole different mess.

    Overall, can't go wrong with Fender. Help?
  4. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    These guys pretty much nailed it, except it looks like Brendan got a little confused on the preamp issue. Preamps, by their very nature, require power of some sort. If they are mounted in your bass, they generally use batteries. Bass heads and combos also have preamps in them, which is where your tone-shaping commonly takes place. You can have passive tone controls on your bass without having a preamp - this is what a Fender Jazz or Precision has, what a Rickenbacker 4001 has, etc. "Passive pre-amp" is an oxymoron, because preamps are by definition active. You can, however have active pickups with passive controls - this is the standard EMG setup.

    If you have a thousand bucks US or so, and really like Fenders, I don't think you can go wrong with an American Series Jazz or Precision. You might also check the Hot Rod P, and the active versions of the Jazz and P, they don't cost all that much more. Good luck on your quest.
  5. basslax


    Apr 20, 2000
    Washington, DC
    welcome to talkbass!

    im proud to say i know nothing about jazz basses so....

  6. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    If you're considering a 5 string, I highly recommend the Lakland Skyline 55-01 or the MTD Kingston 4 or 5 if you prefer a passive bass. In my opinion, they're better playing and sounding basses than the Fenders, and for less money.
  7. Wow, thanks for the fast reply everyone. I only posted this a few hours ago and already, so much help.

    It's difficult for me to say what kind of sound I want because I haven't performed live in quite a while.

    From what I've been reading, I'm somewhat attracted to the Jazz Bass because many people say it can create many tones while the Precision is a "one trick pony".

    Ugh. Unlike most people on this board, I don't have much technical experience so right now, everything sounds a bit the same.

    ...Does it really matter what the bass sounds like? I mean, the only thing that really matters is your ability to play, right?

    I haven't developed a discriminating ear yet so when I walk into the music store, everything sounds the same...
  8. Hello 'granny, and a warm welcome to Talk Bass.:D

    (I'm another of the Techies on here, I'm affraid....!)

    My advice would be not to spend your 1500 on a bass. Look to a used instrument for some really good deals. You should be able to get something really nice for half that. Eg. I paid £250 for a used Bass Collection 4 string that was in ABSOLUTE MINT condition.

    I'm a Yamaha fan (although I don't own one). I think they're really well made and sound good for the $$. There's something in their range for everyone, I think.

    If you're into Fenders, have the reputation of being neck heavy and I don't like them for that reason.

    Go round as many shops as possible and ask as many questions as poss....even if some questions sound a little silly. Learn all you can, play as many as you can then spend your $$

  9. hey
    heres my answers to your questions (hey, the more answers u get, the better bass you'll get...well, in theroy)

    thourgh body stringing often gives u a slightly different tone, a little more mellow, and some more sustain etc

    A Badass is an after purchase mod, its a high mass bridge, better then those flimsy piece of metal that fender put on their basses, more sustain.

    Yes, and if your gonna get a bass with a battery, mmake sure its fairly easy to get to/change!!!
    it SHOULD last u about 3-5months...depends how much u play, and don't leave the jack plug in, it drains the battery.

    obviously u can get better quality machineheads, often the quality only varies in the amount of time they stay keep turning :)
    dn't worry yourself with this wen buying a bass, they're all pretty much alike!

    Active pickups and pre-amps are different things...some basses have active pickups and no preamp..some have passive pickups and a pre-amp, some have both, some have niether, depends how versatile u wanna be and what sound u want

    hope all these posts help u

  10. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    Not by any means. However, I'm not going to tell you to buy one. You should play a lot of basses if you can, before you make your decision. If you want to spend $1000 usd on a bass, you have a lot of excellent instruments to choose from. Rockin John is right, you may be able to find a bargain in a high-class used instrument. This usually works out fine, but when you buy new, you get a warranty. There's a lot to think about. If you buy a Fender, you get a lifetime warranty, I think Yamahas have a lifetime warranty, most others are from one to ten years. I've mostly bought used with no problems.
  11. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    That's an healthy attitude. And pretty much of the tone comes from the player. There are differences though, larger and smaller, in playability, looks, sounds, tweakability, etc.

    There might be some 'gear-frenzy' - known also as "GAS" btw - when you see or try some bass at store and know you have to have it, even if you'd have 7 other basses waiting at home. Ask JT, he prolly knows. But anyways, when times are like that, you just need to try to hang in there, and perhaps buy something like DVD-player(God knows I did).

    Some day you'll know excatly what kind of looks, sounds and feel you want from a bass, and that's why there are kazillion different basses out there just waiting for you to grab one lucky of em.
  12. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Since it looks like you have a few responses to your 1-6 numerated questions, I thought that I would address some of the more general issues regarding a new bass purchase....and I too am famous for my lengthy responses! ;)
    First, it is important to match the bass with the style of music that you are interested in and are interested in playing. However, since you haven't mentioned anything about musical styles, I'll assume that you would like to have a "middle-of-the-road" versatile instrument. Further, the criteria used in evaluating a 4 is VERY different from that of a 5, so I'll concentrate on 4 strings and let the 5er guys handle the low B discussions.
    The most important thing that I look for in a bass is the feel. For most players, the feel of the instrument (the neck shape, the number & position of pickups, the balance, etc.) are some of the major contributing factors to playability. If it isn't comfortable, easy, and fun to probably won't play it. Likewise, although looks are important and can inspire the player, the overall tone (or sound) of the bass is probably the second most important aspect of an instrument. Some may argue that these two criteria could be reversed...and they might be right...but if the bass doesn't SOUND like the sounds you hear in your head, and if the tone is uninspiring, then you probably won't want to play the bass.
    As far as your price range is considered, there are some VERY nice instruments that one can purchase in this price range. If you do your homework, play a lot of basses before you buy, and determine which bass fits YOU the best, you can walk away with a fine-crafted instrument that is well-made, sounds and plays great, and will last a lifetime. Since you're looking at a jazz-style bass, be sure to try the following, which are all jazz basses or jazz-related:

    Fender American Standard
    Fender '62 Jazz Bass Reissue (highly recommended)
    Fender '75 Reissue
    Lakland Skyline Joe Osborne (highly recommended)
    Ernie Ball Music Man Sterling (highly recommended)
    Peavey basses
    Yamaha basses
    Carvin basses

    Good luck in your search!
  13. Thanks again for everyone who read or responded to my original message. I'm saving this page for future reference!

    Anyways, I am hesistant to mention a style because I float around...or maybe I didn't want to get flamed for liking "pop music."

    I like to listen to bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Rush (fun bass lines) but I would also like to play with my best friend who is a hard bop jazz drummer (Art Blakey, Monk, Miles Davis, blah blah blah - but I can't play jazz, yet).

    I finally understood why bands posted their gear. I liked the tone of Nate Mendel from Sunny Day Real Estate and found out he uses a Fender Precision.

    But of course, that's his tone and everyone wants to define their own sound.

    ...As for the price range I quoted, I'm not going to automatically spend that much money but I found that amongst Fender basses, the prices jump from $500 Cdn (Mexican Standards) to about $1500 Cdn for an American Series Precision or Jazz.

    I haven't seen a middle ground yet, but I haven't checked out all of the available music stores where I live (Vancouver, BC, Canada).



    I guess if I have more questions, I'll post a new message to jump up in the message queue, heh heh.

    But if anyone has anymore comments regarding this post, please post! I'm still checking this message thread everyday.
  14. Oh ya, JPJ...just curious.

    You recommended some basses. Could you tell me why you recommend them? That way, if I run across them in a music store (I saw a '62 Jazz just the other day), I can test them in an educated manner.
  15. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    Don't automatically rule out the made in Mexico basses either. I'm one of those wierd bassists that generally can't stand Fenders, but once in a long while I find one that I like. Recently I was in a music store and spotted a nice-looking 5-string Fender Jazz, so I gave it a try. I really liked the way it felt, and the main thing I usually don't like about Fenders is the way they feel, so this was one of the few exceptions. I looked a little closer and found that it was made in Mexico. :eek:

    When I plugged it in, I thought it sounded like poo, but that's just my opinion. Oh, well, I know where a store still has a new Fender Precision Lite that is identical to one I almost bought back in '89. I go play it now and then. Maybe one of these days...
  16. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    First, all of the basses that I listed are good basses, but are all variations on a theme. Of the three I recommended, I actually own two (and will soon own a Lakland Skyline), and I rate them highly for a a reason. To learn more about the Lakland Skyline Joe Osborne, and other Skyline models, do a search on this site for "JPJ" and/or "Lakland Skyline". You can also read reviews at and the Bass Gear Review Page (
    For me, personally, I am a HUGE Led Zeppelin fan and John Paul Jones fan. I primarily am a blues/funk/classic rock-type player, so the bass tone I hear in my head is very similar to that found on recordings from the mid '60's to the mid '70's. Not only does the '62 Reissue inspire me visually, as it is a great looking 'vintage' jazz bass, but it also has a tone that allows me to get my ideal tone. The '62 Reissues are well made, have good fret and nut work, and tight neck pockets. Further, the pickups are very clear, and while the rosewood board isn't the best for slap or modern tones, the clarity and treble bite with both tone controls up is far from its "vintage" purpose. However, by backing off the tone a bit, I can get a warm, round, punchy tone that is very Zeppelin/James Brown/Motown-esque.
    As far as the Sterling is concerned, it is my least favorite because of the limited right hand positioning due to the single bridge pickup. My model is a fretless, but they are well-made and offer a lot of bottom and tight punch. The nut is 1 1/2" wide (just like a Jazz), and the oil finish on the neck is FANTASTIC. The flat profile is also similar to a vintage jazz bass neck. It is an active bass and will give you more convincing moder tones, with deeper bass, glassier highs, and more control over the mids. It is also great for slapping, if that be yo bag. While these are just generalizations, and are only one guy's opinion, this should give you more to think about once you actually play the basses and can compare for yourself. Good luck, and let me know if you need any more info.
  17. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Haven't seen you around in a while, mgood. How have you been? Have you received the new Carvin yet?
  18. old_skool


    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    I have never played a Fender that was neck heavy...Squier sure, but thats a diffrent story.
  19. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000

    Fender Jazz basses are one of the most versatile basses out there. Ive used them in country, rock, metal, pop/top-40 and even for church music.
  20. Right on! I use my Jazz for Rock, Metal, Blues, Jazz, etc...even though this Fender '62 orig (I believe) I play in Jazz Band growls like a freakin Tiger! It's perfect for rock, but I feel lacks in other spots that the Jazz really shines in...but that's just my opinion.