Highly figured wood tops - emperors new clothes huh.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mrbungle, Oct 31, 2002.

  1. mrbungle


    Nov 13, 2000
    tampere, finland
    Anyone else think that the current trend with highly figured wood tops has became ridiculous. The fancier top is associated with better bass which necessarily isn't of course the case. And in artistic point of view AAAAA -tops are often not (IMHO) even beautiful. Those quilted maple tops look like cheap finery! Not what i'd expect from my bass.

    Ten years from now and we probably see the tops in same way we now see the pointy basses of the 80's ... (Well, the figured maple tops have been around for a while though... a few centuries here or there)

    The solid color high end basses are so hard to find nowadays and they - again in my point of view - usually look classier. OTOH the bassist might prefer to see the wood as proof of quality of the bass; I'm not complaining about see-through or natural finishes here, just the fancy tops.

  2. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden

    I think (warning: taste issue!) you're quite wrong about paint finnish (pun intended). Natural is much prettier, even (or especially!) on a plain top, like alder.
    I expect Rickbass and several others to ventilate opposite opinions.
    No offence intended to anyone - yet!;)
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Hm, most "we are famous for our ridiculous wood tops" companies will make you a solid color version if you ask them nicely.
  4. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    Although many 'fancy wood tops' look amazing, I can't be bothered with them either. I use an old natural finish Warwick whose body is made of two pieces of cherry, one for each wing, and despite the bass being expensive I find myself rarely worrying about superficial damage. If I had a pretty Fodera or even one of these shiny modern Warwicks with figured tops I think I'd be scared to gig with it. I guess I just want something that sounds and feels good and looks cool rather than looking like a work of art. YMMV.

  5. BassistJ


    Mar 20, 2001
    Hemet, CA USA
    I donno...call me crazy but lately I've been really liking the look of a solid color or sunburst finish on a bass as aposed to the fifteen-different-woods tops. But then again I've been diggen Jazz basses like never before, so that may be the reason.
  6. I'm afraid I'm quite taken with Quilted Maple tops - in a transparent colour or in a transparent (ish) burst!

    Although, I don't really find spalts and burls too nice! A personal taste thing I guess!
  7. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    It's just a matter of opinion.

    I also happen to like quilt/flame maple tops. If ya don't like em, don't buy em.;)
  8. gfab333


    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Mr. Bungle,

    You have a very good point there, but I still appreciate the visual beauty of a nice quilted, flamed, burled, spalted top.

    OTOH, when just considering the tone of a bass, one of my favorite basses is a plain '60 - '70s Fender with an ash body and maple neck and stock pick ups. I guess you could say that I can see both sides of the issue that you've raised.

    As far as solid color finishes, I can appreciate those too. I just ordered a lake placid blue Joe Osborn Skyline 5 string with a J Retro. Looking forward to that one.

    I received a funny compliment from a female friend (non-musician) who had seen my maple burl MTD 535 and a quilted maple top Lkaland 55-94 that I used to own. She said that wished she had a coffee table in living room that looked as nice as my basses. That really cracked me up!
  9. I, for one, prefer the simple elegance of an MTD 535 or Fodera Emperor to the Eisenhower-era kitschiness of high-gloss solid-color finish and colored plastic.

    Now, some of the crazier figured woods are probably a little bit too rococo, but at least those are things found in nature. Candy apple red is not.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    What was that then? I didn't see any good points - just an opinonated rant. Nothing special for TB - but I didn't see any good points, or opinions that haven't been bandied around here, more than 50 times, before! ;)
  11. I just don't understand why everyone doesn't like exactly what I do.

    After all, I KNOW what's right!

  12. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    I like both a quilted top and plain ol' sunburst or natural ash. As with sound, the looks are just different options and flavours and may be best suited for different occasions. And then again, sometimes it's just nice to break the mold and bring the quilted maple Modulus to a blues gig, just to stir things up a bit! I don't think you have to accept stereotypes. ;)
  13. TRU


    Apr 12, 2002
    Northern Europe
    I think highly figured woods lose their looks when viewed from distance. A nice solid color works well at gigs, on the tv, etc. where there are non-bassists watching ;) I've even heard compliments about the good looks of my black Kingston! Furniture basses look nice in your living room.

    However, a nice flame or quilt maple is ok with sunburst finish.
  14. Chuck M

    Chuck M Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    San Antonio, Texas
    Well, if we all liked the same things then I'd have to be fighting you guys all the time to keep you away from my wife so.............I'm glad you like the plain looking basses. I like basses with finishes that show some nicely figured wood. Fancy tops are cool IMO.

  15. mrbungle


    Nov 13, 2000
    tampere, finland
    Well, the points were that people are overrating the looks over sound and that the figured wood tops are usually quite ugly. I know khis sounds very overstated but take a look here at TB threads for examples.

    Compare the bass guitar section of TB to double bass section for example, and one thing you'll see a great difference in is that BG section is full of pics of basses and discussion about the top woods. And people are drooling for more. This is the main reason I wrote the original message (which was honest ranting btw: I even wrote the IMO things :) )

    I want sound clips and reviews on playability! It'd be even easier than getting the picture online.

    I think that people buy guitars with exaggerated tops just because they look like - and are - more $$$. Partly it reflects the overall quality of the instrument, as it shows that the luthier has carefully picked and assembled the woods for the instrument. So AAAAA top means AAAAA bass? well, nah. But it looks like AAAAA bass.

  16. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    I don't think the wood you use for a top neccesarily says anything about the 'quality' of the bass, it doesn't make it any better. Maybe some make that leap in logic because they tend to cost a little more money?

    Do most tops affect the tone that much? If not, then it's a cosmetic choice. Cosmetics is going to be based mostly on personal preference, yah?

    Everyone is entitled to their preference...
    It's cool that you've gone on record and shared your opinion; whereas some of us might have titled this thread 'highly figured woods tops- I have some, so I must like 'em.'

    looks like we posted simultaneoulsy, I just can't type fast enough, Pekka...
  17. pd_5string

    pd_5string Admin: Accnt Disabled

    Jan 23, 2002
    Let me ask you this:

    If you were paying 2500+ for a bass, which would include choice woods that sound better, would you want to paint this bass red or black etc??

    Personally, if I am spending that much money, I want the bass to "speak" to me, and be unique looking. That is most easily achieved with a nice bookmatched top of some sort.

    Certainly these tops don't guarantee a great bass, but you rarely see sub 1000 dollar basses that offer the attention to detail that bookmatching and laminating tops requires.

  18. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Well maybe it's your opinion that only sound matters (or that a solid color top is better looking than a figured wood top). But it's just about personal opinions. I see nothing wrong in wanting to spend money on looks as well as sound, and the world would be a boring solid grey place if it weren't possible.
  19. pmkelly


    Nov 28, 2000
    Kansas City, MO
    IMHO, I do see where some companies have gone overboard with tops... I really don't care for a AAAAA flame maple tops. I think it is just taking it to far! I like a flame top, as long as it is subtle... same as other tops! I guess that's just how it falls for me... Thankfully, that way I don't have to spend hundreds of extra dollars on the tops!

  20. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    AAAAAA quality doesn't mean a nice wood for me, at least aesthetically.
    I like tortured figures and natural finishes, but it doesn't mean the wood has to be expensive.
    I think I'll still love my fretless in 10 years.