how is the Tobias Growler

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by FiveStringsNme, May 10, 2003.

  1. I was wondering how the 5 stringed Tobias Growler is. Any sound samples and any info would be seriously appreciated.
  2. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Pretty danged snappy. It's got a great playing B, is pretty light, and balances as well as you could ask for.

    Of course, I didn't plug it in, but it played very well acoustically.
  3. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    San Antonio
    I didn't have a 5'er, I had a 4 and it SUCKED. I don't have time to type it all out, so I've pasted my review from Harmony Central:

    Price Paid: US $700 used
    Purchased from: N/A

    Features: 8
    *NOTE* I NO LONGER OWN THIS BASS (more on why below)

    Bought used from BASS NW for $700 + SH which included a molded hardshell case. Because it was used, I'm not sure how new it was definately made during the Tobias/Gibson era.

    The Growler came with a beautiful swamp ash body with black Grover tuners and "basic" bridge. The body was left in the natural finish. And I mean was a very rough body with natural "wood flaws" which added to the character. The neck was a 3 piece assymetrical Maple/Purpleheart neck with Pao Ferro fretboard, medium frets and dual truss rod setup. The neck also had a heeless neck joint and inset design (meaning the fretboard didn't extend onto the body like most bases) This made reaching all the way up to the 24th fret a piece of cake.

    The electronics were 18V active and run through a huge custom Bartolini MM style QUAD coil pickup. EQ consisted of 1 volume, 1 coil blend (to balance between the 2 sets of coils), 2 stacked bass/treble knobs and 2 "tone-shaping switches"

    Sound: 8
    For having only a single pickup, this bass had a TON of sounds. Albeit they might not all be useful, they were there. The EQ allowed you to dial in bass/treble for each set of coils individually and in addition were the 2 "tone-shaping" switches. Each switch had 3 positions: "down" was "the ultimate slap tone" "middle" was a "neutral" tone and I believe "up" was more trebly. Add the coil balance knob and you had a pretty flexible tone setup on your hands. I owned the bass for 2 months but only played it for 45 minutes total(more on that below) but in that time, I could get a really J-Bass, Musicman or great slap tone out of it.

    The only issues I had in the tone were that, when the "E" string was plucked, there seemed to be some extra resonation or "overtones" coming from inside the bass.. I could never figure out what it was. Also, despite all the tones it had, being a single pickup, I did feel like each tone still had a decent amount of "twang" to it and the natural sound of the bass itself was always present. I found this annoying.

    Action, Fit, & Finish: 1
    Oh boy..*cracks knuckles* Here is where my time with the bass starts (and ends). As I stated above, I bought this bass used from BASS NW. When the bass arrived, it was tuned down about 3 steps so it was buzzing pretty badly. So I tuned it back up and raised the action alittle and..even worse. The neck buzzed EVERYWHERE, and on the "A" string, there was no difference in pitch between the 14th and 15th fret! It was horrible. So I took the bass down to my local shop to have it fixed. I had to have the neck adjusted and many of the frets were high so they had to be completely leveled before it was all set. When it "fixed", I went and picked it up and tried it in the store..all set! I took it home and a few hours later, the neck must have shifted again because I was getting HORRIBLE buzzing on the "A" string 2nd & 3rd fret and alittle on the same frets for the "D" string. I brought the bass BACKK down to be fixed.. this is where my story ends. 2 months later, it still wasn't fixed. In addition to my techs busy schedule, the neck just wasn't cooperating. The neck threw the frets out of level, and most of the time was going into back-bow with the strings off. Trying to balance the dual truss rod setup (stability my @$$) was like trying to balance an SUV and a coconut on a seesaw made of toothpicks. It came down to two options for me 1) Have the tech rip out the frets, do a complete fretjob and replain the neck or 2) Abandon ship. I took the latter and traded the my review on the Dean Jeff Berlin Standard.

    Also, in relation to the frets, the fret slots or "kerfs" weren't filled in all the way and the edges of the frets were very rough. Aside from that, everything else on the bass was pretty good. The neck joint was very tight, the tuners seemed very tight and stable, and the strap buttons were solid. The plastic tone knobs seemed a bit cheap though. One more thing to note also.. the cavity control cover was cracked and a piece broke off, but that blame goes to the previous owner, not Tobias.

    On a positive note though, this is a very comfortable bass. The assymetrical neck was great, VERY comfortable and the body shape allowed good balance and comfort. Also it was a very easy playing bass.

    Even though the hardware, neck joint and comfort level of this bass was pretty good, because of my experience and with how bad the neck was, I have to rate this a 1.

    Reliability/Durability: 3
    This is a hard one to judge.. the hardware on the bass looked like it would hold up fairly well and would last, except for the plastic control cover getting cracked (I assume fairly easily) I wouldn't abuse the bass, but under normal playing conditions I think it would've done well.

    The neck on the other hand.. I've never heard of anyone else having a similiar horrible experience, but from mine, I wouldn't trust this bass to be reliable at all in relation to the neck. I know that if I had gotten the bass fixed and kept it, it would've had to have been adjusted quite frequently. Probably more time would be spent getting it fixed than actually playing.

    Use a backup? This bass would probably have BEEN the the LAST resort..the "all the other replacements on the team are out of the game, lets send in the kid with one eye, no thumbs and one leg shorter than the other" scenario.

    Customer Support: 1
    I have to rate this in two parts.. Customer Service for BASS NW and Tobias Customer Service.

    BASS NW: They had a whopping 3 day return policy on the bass, which because I was hopeful the bass could be fixed and just needed a regular adjustment, ran out. They are very friendly and helpful aside from that though. I would buy anything else from them again, just not a bass sight unseen. The website said the bass was in "Excellent Condition" but that was a crock. So I would say that they are friendly and helpful, but not too reliable as far as describing the product condition and with the return policy.

    TOBIAS: Well actually, if you didn't know, Tobias was bought by Gibson..key word WAS.. I called Gibson about getting a new control cavity cover and they were NO help. Apparently Tobias is being sold and serviced by Music Yo now. They were absolutely no help..they couldn't get me any parts and didn't know where I could get them. Apparently the Growler is no longer being made, so good luck finding parts!

    Overall Rating: 1
    The Tobias Growler IS a bass that offers up alot of tone choices, is pretty comfortable and is unique looking. But that isn't much in the whole scheme of things. This bass was a NIGHTMARE. I would not recommend ANY Tobias product after this experience, unless it was a GENUINE Michael Tobias, pre-gibson bass. Customer service was horrible, and I honestly felt like I was alone and stuck kicking myself for buying this. Its a good thing that I was able to trade and say goodbye to it forever.

    If you do have a Growler or other Tobias bass and its fine, CONGRATULATIONS :) You've got a unique, comfortable bass on your hands. But I know that for me, I'm done with them.
  4. hey Tobias4 that's pretty funny you just showed me your review, I had read it

    it is good to hear what people say, and I hadn't gotten any negative feedback so far.

    that keeps me thinking.
  5. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    I've played alot of them when I worked at Sam Ash. Personally, I didn't like them. I didn't like the Assemetric neck profile or bartolini's of the MM style pickup. 3 strike & their out. :) The basses were well made for what they were (a Gibson) but don't compare the the Pre-Gibson or the MTD's. (frem reading many posts om TB)
  6. I would too love to hear some samples of pure Growler. I would like to know how the sound differs from the custom pre-Gibson Tobiases, because these are what Rob Trujillo played on the Infectious Grooves record 'Groove Family Cyco' and it's my favorite funk tone.
  7. hands5


    Jan 15, 2003
    good 'ol USA/Tampa fla.
    I had one but I got rid of it because it just didn't have enough ooommppff !.and also work in the control cavity was shoddy however I thought the playability was superb(thats because I personaly like the assymetrical profile type necks and also I have a pre Gibson Tobias which has the same type neck) but I think it's truly Hit/Miss with this particular model of the Gibson Tobias basses.With that being said I know a few players that does have the Basic5,Classic,and killer B models of the Gibson era Tobiases and they rave about them but those particular models cost quite a bit more.
  8. mogator


    Aug 12, 2002
    I have a 4 string fretless Growler, so I can't give all the answers, but, this may the lightest bass you'll ever own, and the least expensive to come with a USA Bartolini pickup. Being f'less, I can't comment on neck nuances, but overall I'm very happy with it. I use it for jazz, it works out well. They come up on ebay fairly regularly, but, I wouldn't pay more than $450 shipped for one (got mine for somewhat less).
  9. Reviewed on 11/1/00 by Anthony Gomez (199)

    Rating: 4 stars
    I go back and forth about this bass about the overall opinion...You simply can't beat the neck in my opinion, but sometimes the sound leaves a bit to be desired...

    Price: $1100 (new)
    Where Obtained: Guitar Center (blah)

    Features: 4 stars
    This one was made in the US (take that NAFTA, and is a swamp ash body with pao ferro finger board and maple neck...its pretty damn sweet...There are 24 frets and 5 strings...a plethora of tone tweaking controls, 2 eq switches that have 3 positions each, a bass and treble knob for each pickup and a volume knob...the pickup is an split bartolini soapbar active...natural came with straplocks!!! kind of cool feature...

    Playability: 5 stars
    This bass has the best playability I've ever found in a bass...The neck is just perfect for feels so sweet under my hand...The pickup is placed perfectly for all styles of playing Ie. slap...when I bought it I put it up against a stingray and a warwick...It definitely won over the others...

    Sound Quality: 4 stars
    I use it in conjunction with a Eden 4x10xlt and a Eden 1x15 xlt driven by an SWR Bass 750...It sounds awesome with fresh strings, then gets a pretty ugly tone, then after about 2 months of dirty strings sounds frickin sweet again...I have used it for funky stuff, jazzy stuff rockin stuff and bluesy stuff and it has performed very well...For hard rock you gotta boost the low mids as it doesn't cut thorugh a marshall very well...I am considering new pickups (thinkin basslines) and am also considering a badass or a 2tek bridge...

    Durability: 4 stars
    I have been using it live for a long time now and it has stood the test of time...I have only had it adjusted once, because it got pretty bad after about 2 years...Once it got left in the sun in the case and there was some moisture build up, but it didn't cause any problems...
  10. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I looked at a couple of them a few years ago but the store tech where they were warned me about the awful neck stability problems he had had with them. It would seems that Tobias4's bass was not an isolated incident...
  11. I had one of their 5 string basses not the growler but one of the upper end models. It was one of the 1st post-Gibson models. I loved the neck but could never get use to the way the extended horn changed my playing position when using a strap. The tone was OK but it seemed to lacked balls (imo). The workmanship really sucked for the kinda money the thing cost. (really sloppy control cavity and neck joint). All in all my experience was less than pleasant.
  12. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    The Growler series are Gibson made, or at least a subsidiary of Gibson. MusicYo is a Gibson sub overseas, I believe. They've taken the once great Tobias trademark of quality, handbuilt instruments and run it right into the crapper. These basses are nothing but cheap materials slapped together in Korea on an assembly line.

    You want a real treat? Go get your hands on a REAL, pre-Gibson Tobias. They are nothing like the Growler series, that's for sure.
  13. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    San Antonio
    What I find funny is that the Growler has 2 points that SHOULD make for a stable neck

    1) 3 piece neck

    2) double truss rod (which was more of a nightmare than a help)
  14. otnemeM


    Oct 29, 2002
    Ovar, Portugal
    Hey :)

    even though I haven't played any, I looked one in a local shop and the construction seemed flawless.

    For sound samples I'd check out Dr. Sin - Insinity (album).
    Andria Busic played the Growler 5 in all songs IIRC, and as far as I know he doesn't use any "major" fx.
    It's a little hard to find but it'll worth... specially songs like "Sometimes" will give you a pretty good idea of it.

    I'm a strong believer that the sound you get comes from YOU... You should always remember that :p
    BUT!... a good bass like that will surely help "a little" :D
  15. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    From MY experience of playign one, the B was about the floppiest I've played on most any bass. Felt like a friggin' rubber band in my hands.

    Overall, I was greatly underwhelmed. I wouldn't recommend one, personally - there are plenty of better deals out there.
  16. superphat


    Sep 30, 2001
    i guess the nashville-era tobias basses really were hit and miss... cuz i played one that i like ALOT. great playability, great tones from a simple EQ layout.
    (i like the assymetrical neck)
    i'm still kicking myself for not buying that one...
  17. SMG

    SMG Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    metro Detroit
    I have a few of these, so I thought I would throw out my two cents worth...with notes upon the ones I own:

    Growler 4...bought new. Made in near the end of USA production. This needed to go back to Gibson because the fret ends where horrible, but Gibson did correct this under warranty. Over all, this now plays great and has a lot of different sounds in it.

    Killer B 5 (lacewood)...bought used. From near the end of USA production. This one also had horrible fret ends when I got it so I had dig out the tool box to keep from cutting my hands up. Once this was done, it sounds and plays great. Has the same electronics as the Basic, Classic and Signature with a bolt on neck.

    Basic 5 (flame maple)...bought used. Another from near the end of USA production. Incredable bass. Plays and sounds superb.

    Classic 5 (bubinga top)...bought used. Again, '98 model from near the end of USA production. Plays fantastic...effortless like the Basic 6 I have (below). Sounds incredable...articulate. Super instrument.

    Classic 5 (quilted maple top)...bought used. OK, here is the horror story. When I got it (ebay) the neck (not the frets) had so many peaks and valleys it was unplayable. In fact, I send it to Gibson to have it fixed knowing that I would have to pay for it and willing to do so. They called me up and said they didn't know what to do with it, and didn't have anyone they trusted with repairs on a neck through bass, and sent it back to me. I called Michael Tobias just to see if he would give me suggestions of what to do with it. He was very nice, especially since he had nothing to do with the bass other then his name was on it. He suggested replacing the fingerboard to see if that would help the neck...thinking that a bad fingerboard could be pulling the neck out of shape. I ended up following his suggestion, and replaced the fingerboard and refretted it. It was fine from the third fret on, but there was still a dip down at the first two frets going to the nut. I had to replace the first two frets again and level them to compensate for the dip at the end of the neck, and then cut a new nut. Finally, after close to a year of working on it off and on it plays the way it is supposed to. (Knock on wood.) Hopefully the neck won't move any more. As it is now, it plays super and sounds great. It is quite interesting to compare the sound of this one with the bubinga top Classic 5. This one is much darker and not nearly as articulate. The difference is subtle, but it is diffinitely there.

    Basic 6 (bird's eye maple)...bought used. This is the 146th from Nashville production, so if records (rumors) are correct, some part of this was done at Micheal's shop in CA. The most amazing 6 string I have ever played. The action is so low without buzzes that you don't realize you putting any presure on the strings. I can't put it in words, but you can tell this one is different from the others when you hold it and play it. It just is. Older style electronics that sound quite a bit different from the mid - late 90's electronics.

    Toby Pro 6 (Korean from muiscyo)...bought used. My first 6. Plays pretty good, but nothing like the Basic 6. Horrible electronics. Seeing that the rest of the construction seems to be quite good, it is a shame that they don't put better electronics in these.

    Bottom line seems to be from my own experience and reading others is that Gibson made Tobias basses are sort of hit and miss. I have had good luck with most, but then the one horror story would ruin it all if I didn't have the tools and skills to do the repairs I needed to do on the one Classic. Also, my experience with playing Gibson era Tobias basses as stores is about the same...hit and miss. Most play great, but every now and then you hit one that is an absolute dog.

    Sorry I rambled on for so long....

  18. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I've played one very used Growler 5 that sounded great acoustically, but I can't comment on the tone plugged in.

    The feel, for me, was incredible. One of the most comfortable 5s I've played. There was good low action, and no buzzing.

    I did not notice any floppiness of the B.

    And to clarify another point, the Toby series are Korean-made instruments. The Growlers predate them, and are not part of that line. I believe they are USA made.
  19. LarryJ

    LarryJ banned

    Dec 12, 1999
    Encino, CA (LA)
    I played & bought a Gibson/Tobias Nashville-made
    Renegade fretted 4.
    I really like it. It's light, very fast, comfortable, and has a modern sound that fits my attack and style well.
    I don't enjoy the Bartolini pups & pre as much as I did on my Sterling, but I can still get a nice tound tone and good attack from this bass.
    Mine seems very well made; good fit, finish, fretwork, etc. The Renegade was the most basic model in the Tobias line.
    I had the neck tweaked by my tech for nice low action, no buzz, with the XL Rotosound FunkMaster
    strings I like to use, but I would recommend a pro set up for any new bass.
    I've heard bad reports about some of these instruments. Too bad, Gibson had a shot at having
    a niche in the higher-end USA made market.
    Glad I got a good one at least; I really like this bass.
    P.S. FWIW, I recently did a gig where the very excellent bassist in the opening band used a Growler 5. We talked later & he told me he Loves his Tobias!