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Help with upgrading to a better bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jcbassomatic, Sep 10, 2004.

  1. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    I'm looking to upgrade to a better bass. That sounds simple enough (maybe not), but it gets more complicated. The basses I like tend to be in the $6000-9000 range. It'll be a while before I can save up enough for one of those - probably several years.

    In the meantime, I'm getting a lot more calls to play and my current bass doens't have the sound I like. Its a very bright sounding bass. I prefer a bass that has a darker/deeper tone.

    So I thought of maybe transitioning out of my current situation as follows...

    1. buy a relatively inexpensive (less than $2500) ply bass that I'm more happy with

    2. take my time to sell my current bass (appraised between $2500-3500) - it'll probably take between 6 and 24 months (maybe longer) to sell

    3. take the proceeds from gigs and selling my current bass to buy my dream bass when I find it.

    4. keep the bass in step 1 as a backup/beater bass

    Here are my questions...

    - do you think I'll end up wasting my time or money doing this? If so, what's a better solution?

    - if this all makes sense, here are some options I found

    . new shen sb80 $1400 (any comments on this? - it's a new model)
    . new shen sb100 ~$2000
    . new englehart es1 (supreme) or es9 (swingmaster) ~$2300
    . '60's kay ~$2500

    All the above basses are for sale at my local luthier's shop except for the englehart (Bass Violin Shop in Greensboro, NC - all set up and guaranteed by Bob Beerman - www.bassviolinshop.com).

    Let me know what you think would make the most sense. I know it comes down to what sound I like best, but I don't wanna buy a good sounding money pit or something that will implode in a few years. The idea is to get a decent sounding low maintenance bass that will allow me to save money I make from gigs.

    I'm currently leaning toward the shen sb80 due to the price/performance. Any comments on that one? It seems to be a brand new model from Shen.

    - are there any other options/basses that may work?

    Thanks for the help!!!!
  2. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Just to comment on the new SB80...

    I have had one SB80 through the shop so far... It's essentially an SB100 minus some of the "frills," e.g., the purfling is not inlaid, it doesn't have the spruce veneer on the top, the machines are a little different, etc. Having said that, all the tone and quality of the 100 is there, and at around $1400 WITH setup, I think these 80s represent a great value. I know of some other dealers and players who've had their mitts on 'em, too, so perhaps they'll chime in as well...
  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    You already have a fully carved-romanian bass? If so, have you tried all the different kinds of strings to get the sound you want on it? You're going to drop a fully carved bass for a ply? That sounds strange. I would think that working with what you already have is the most cost effective way...
  4. T Sony

    T Sony

    Mar 5, 2004
    I agree with hdiddy.

    If you have a fully carved why go ply?

    Trade in the Porsche for a Corolla?
  5. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    I know it sounds strange. I can't say I've tried everything, but I've tried a lot. My bass is a very 'high' bass with no depth - sort of like setting a high pass filter at 200Hz and bumping up 1-2kHz by 6dB (nasty). My luthier has all but given up. He said that he could two things:

    - cut a new bridge that is wide enough to fit on top of the bassbar (which seems to be set wide) (would 10-15% of the value of the bass)

    - reset the neck to make a steeper angle and increase the bridge height which would increase the pressure on the top and maybe get more sound out of it (not to mention more wood above the heart of the bridge) (would cost 40-60% of the value of the bass)

    Both are a gamble and expensive. He hesitated to say that these things would make a drastic improvement. He thinks the thickness of the top and back (and possibly finish) are damping the low end - its a heavy bass. He went on to say that these things aren't worth trying and recommended selling it - then start with a bass that has a sound I like.

    This could be proof that carved isn't always better. This bass would kill in a rockabilly or rock setting. It would cut through the mix without having to contend with the muddy low end problems in a high volume setting. Unfortunately, I'm not into that. I want a full big sound.

    As for strings, I've tried spirocores, obligatos, and flexocores. I've settled on obligatos on e,a, and d, and flexocore on g. I've also installed a pecanic (heavy) ebony tailpiece and tailgut. All I can do is dampen the high end. Neither me or my luther can seem to improve the low end.

    Anyway - such is life. If my luthier gives up, I'm not going to argue...
  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Well, we didn't know the skinny so I guess we're all back to the drawing board too. :)

    Unless your short on money, I'd prob hang on to it til last resort. If you plan on playing that much DB, having a backup is good. I mean, look at what happened to MST3000. Who knows, you might use it in a rock setting later on.

    In the meantime, I'd prob just go try as many basses as possible - cheap or expensive. If you don't know they're all of them like, then there's only one way to find out... and maybe then you'll find something you'll like and figure out how to afford it. In the meantime, you have a working bass, which means you should probably take your sweet time finding the right bass. You're def shouldn't be in a hurry. I mean, if you're going to plunk down some major (or even minor) $$$ on a bass, I think you owe it to yourself to find one you actually love.

    Go find yourself a LaScala to try out at the least, that's what I'd do!

    EDIT: Also, it sounds like your bass is tricked out with the Pecanic's tailpiece and what not. I'd keep shopping and not bother with stuff at the level of Englehardt'st. I'd look for better. A used Juzek? A higher end or hybrid Christopher/Shen/Eastman? A New Standard Cleveland? Why bother with stuff that is the equal/similar level to what you've already got? Selling the old carved bass you can eventually put that money toward a fancier $3000-8000 bass that you can't live without.
  7. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    Thanks for the good advice. Once I get a bass for a reasonable price that doesn't drive me nuts, that'll free me up to take my time with the 'big' purchase.

    I just got back from a gig - it was a good experience with great players, but it would be a lot better without a crappy sound.

    The New Standards are on my list of basses to try. Everything I've read about them is positive if not gushing...
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Dude, if you're that upset about the crappy sound on your current bass... I'd just rent something that doesn't make you upset and start selling the old doghouse right away. That way you won't waste money on an interim bass. Buying a cheap one for the short run sounds like a bad idea. You might get stuck with sumtin else you don't like which ends up to be another money hole. Why bother?!? :confused:
  9. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    And if you DO decide on an Engelhardt, don't pay anywhere near $2300!
  10. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    Yep, I know I can get the bass for a lot cheaper. It's the necessary setup and upgrades that adds the difference. Here's how I got the $2300...

    $1500 swingmaster from (all hail) bob with shipping to my luthier
    $300 new bridge with adjusters
    $70 new sound post
    $160 plane fingerboard
    $85 better endpin
    $50 new tailgut
    $135 new strings
    $2300 total
  11. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    The basses I've found that are better than englehart and entry level shens tend to be $4500+ (more than I can afford for now). If I need to spend that much, I might as well wait and save up ~$2k more for my 'holy grail' bass. That's why I want to get a cheap beater bass that has a bass-like sound that can both tide me over 'til I find the bass that I really like and act as a backup.

    Believe it or not, the shen sb80 I tried has a better sound that my current carved bass. I pretty much bought a dud 25 years ago, but I was a beginner playing mostly symphony work with a bow which made up for some of the lack of good tone. Now that I'm getting back into playing it in small combo settings (mostly pizz), the crappy sound is pretty obvious.

    BTW, I really appreciate your comments on my plans for a new bass. Throwing out my ideas for public target practice is a great way for me to avoid doing something stupid. :)
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Endpin??? Would be nice but I wouldn't call it neccessary. Same goes for the sound post. New bridge? You can get away without one if your bass sounds good enough to begin with.

    What I did instead was buy a Hybrid Christopher 304T. Bass w/ setup ran me $2400. You can probably do better on the price. tack on some strings, like Obligato's or Corelli's and you got yourself a carved top that'll prob much sound better than an Engle with less work. Many players here are happy with their chrissies. Slap on that Pecanic's tailpiece that you already have and that should be one bitchin' fiddle - not just a beater bass.
  13. Aroneng

    Aroneng Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2001
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL
    If your current bridge is too small and not sitting over the bass bar, it will account for some of the missing low end. It would more than likely improve the sound - more of what you are looking for. When it comes time to sell the bass, the bass will sound better and be worth more. Or you might decide to hold onto it afterwards. If the bass is in good condition, it would be worth it to put down 2-3 bills for the proper size bridge with adjusters.
  14. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    I wouldn't pay over $1500 for a ply that didn't already have a set-up.

    I can only say, save some cash, take a few days and come up to NYC. I am sure you'll find the bass with the sound you are looking for. Gages alone has over 100 basses not to mention all the other shops.
  15. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    I feel yer pain and, unfortunatley, don't have any advice to offer. I think it'll be even more difficult to find that dream bass your looking for. I've been in the market for a bass in the $5000 - 10000 range for a few months now. I wish I could take a month off from work and drive around the country but then I wouldn't be able to afford the bass.

  16. I'd have to say a bridge for your current bass is a better investment then a cheap ply. Then there is the statement that you just started playing again, give the bass some time to open up, spend a 1/2 hour a day with the bow. Hell, get a teacher, talk to another luthier, have anothe bass player play your bass and listen from across the room. You do know that you are in the worst spot to hear your own instrument. Start small, look at the obvious, make an effort to get your sound on the bass you have now.
  17. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I too had an Sb80 in for a few days. It really shouldn't have sounded as good as it does for the money. It is a well built instrument.
  18. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    Doh! Renting didn't even cross my mind. I'll check into it... Thanks!
  19. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    After all the comments about the bridge, I'm considering having a new one made. Seems like the best next step and a reasonable gamble whether I sell or not. Whether I buy another bass or not, I'll hang on to it for a while. Thanks for the help!
  20. jcbassomatic

    jcbassomatic Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    I saw your quote on the Shen website. I'm looking forward to giving it a try. Out of curiousity, what's your relationship with Shen?