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Hybrid or Fully Carved Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Rob Hunter, Dec 14, 2001.

  1. My search for a new double bass has begun. As a step-up from my current student plywood bass, I was thinking about getting a hybrid (solid, carved top with plywood back and sides).

    Trouble is, the hybrids I've been researching in Toronto (Strunals) cost as much to get as some fully carved basses!

    My justification for the hybrid is: (a) I don't play classical and rarely use a bow (b) I'm not a pro, just an enthusiastic community band member (c) I play OUTSIDE a lot! It's the last point that is pushing me away from buying a fully carved bass.

    So here's my question to all in the know: Is my concern justified that a carved bass will not "climatize" (stay in tune) compared to a partially plywood bass?

    Quite frankly, I like the idea of owning a solid bass, but I seem to be drawn away from it because of "the outdoor issue."

    Any wisdom is welcome - thanks!
    - Rob
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I don't think playing outside is such a huge, huge issues, unless you're in direct sun in 100 degree (farenheit) temperatures. If rough-and-tumbleness is a concern, you might count out older carved basses and get something up to 30 or 40 years old. If most of your playing is outdoors and through an amp, getting some work done to upgrade your current plywood or finding a better plywood might be a couple of good choices for you.

    All basses go out of tune when the temp and humidity change. I don't see much of a difference as to whether it is a 'lot out of tune' or 'a hell of a lot out of tune'. The former might garner more support from the rest of the band to pause and tune between numbers...
  3. Are the carved tops on hybrid basses any more or less prone to cracking than those on fully carved basses?

    Just wondering.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Unless you absolutely MUST sell the plywood to finance the carved bass, I'd say just keep it around to use in rough conditions.

    Like when the carved bass needs a repair :rolleyes:

    Good luck!
  5. englehart blues

    englehart blues

    Nov 30, 2001
    Interesting, I may be saying something here that everyone already knows.....I am a materials engineer and I spent a lot of time studying composites. Plywood is a composite. Wood and some polymer used as a "matrix". With composites, the properties of the composite are superior to the sum of the properties of the constituent materials. I.e., the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    I looked at several older carved and plywood basses lately. The carved ones all had cracks and repairs......The plywoods didn't have any cracks or repairs.

    Plywood has much higher strength and resistance to fracture then the wood used in a carved bass. That is a fact. But what about sound? I am new to the UB so I'll leave that to the bass experts........
  6. Interesting post! My budget has changed somewhat, so a hybrid is looking more likely - still, I'm eager to read more thoughts on this subject. Should I expect a solid top to crack at some point?
    - Rob
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Vastly different creatures.
    • Plywoods tender to have a more 'hollow' sound compared to a wood bass
    • Plywoods tend to be a bit more even than wood basses. This could just be my luck.
    • Plywoods tend to seem to amplify nicer, as they usually sound better through the amp than acoustically, and since the body is deader on the ply you usually have fewer feedback and infinite sustain problems at higher volumes.
    • Plys tend to put out a lot less volume.
    • Plys usually don't bow too well (sound-wise). This is where you really notice a huge difference.
    • Ply basses seem to be generally set up with less tension (less string angle across the bridge) which makese them play differently.
    • It seems to me that string length has a tendency to be more in the 41 1/2" range on plys, and wood basses seem to gravitate more toward the 42" thing. This could just be my luck.
    • There's alway the 'how much spent / how much you love it (because of payments made)' aspect to consider. Psycho-acoustics :)
    • The dynamic range of plys tends to be a lot narrower. All of the plys that I have had had a good middle-volume, but if you played too softly nothing would come out, and if you try to dig in too hard the bass chokes.
    • Plys tend to have a lot less clarity in tone.
    • Plys tend to do better with pickups that compress a lot (i.e., the Underwood). Fishman's (Fishmen?) and pickups that try to more accurately get the bass tend to sound like butt.
    • Playing plywood after spending some time getting to know your own wood bass is really a let down. I remember that when I'd it in on wood in the days that was still playing my first and plywood bass (played it for almost 15 years), that wood didn't seem as big a deal as it does now. I guess what you don't know doesn't hurt you :)
    If I thought about it, I could likely go on. Remember that these are my experiences, and that basses are not standardized, so your mileage may vary.
    boyceb likes this.
  8. Another consideration in your decision is that the top has a lot more to do with the character of the sound than the ribs and back.
  9. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    1 play several bass'

    1.a get some one else to play several you are interested in while you listen

    2 buy the one you like because it is a big investment that will last many years with a carved bass it will sound better the more years you play it.

    3. practice a bunch it is good for the bass.


    The augmented 4th
  10. kgraybass


    Mar 31, 2009
    southern maine
    Relative newbie here, as to UB and TalkBass. Apologies if this is covered in other threads, but I searched and didn't find what I was looking for.

    I am considering commissioning a new bass (Upton Standard) and trying to make a final decision between fully laminated vs. hybrid. I will be playing blues and jazz, probably unamplified about half the time.

    My initial question is whether there is such a difference in tone that it is worth the difference in price (about $1K). I could tell a bit of a difference in hearing the two but my ear is relatively uneducated, and that may not even be the most important question.

    Your thoughts, dear TalkBass friends?
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    No worries about the above - I've just been saving that pic for a multiyear thread resurrection. Welcome to Talkbass! :)

    I can only speak of my own experience, but as a pizz player I don't notice that much difference between a good hybrid bass and a carved bass of the same basic pedigree. I play a hybrid bass professionally about 120 nights a year, and while I could afford a carved bass I haven't bothered. If I played a lot of arco, I might feel differently. As always, YMMV.
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    How does your ply compare to your hybrid, Chris?
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The ply is a great jazz bass. The hybrid is a greater jazz bass, with some kind of focus-mojo to the tone that I can't explain in words. A couple of weekends ago, I took the ply to my steady gig just for yuks, and because there were likely to be a lot of super drunk Derby partiers stumbling about. The drummer liked it, and the guitar player didn't even notice it was a different bass (to be fair, if I weren't playing it, I'm not sure I would have noticed either as loud as the club was). But when I record or practice in a quiet environment and switch from one to another, the hybrid has a pitch center and complexity of overtones that is obvious the moment I pick it up and play a single note.

    I can't help but wonder what would happen if I had a fully carved LaScala set up exactly the same way and with the same strings, but that's $10K or so worth of experiment right there. I did play a carved LaScala at the Aebersold camps and it was beautiful, but it had lighter strings and lower string height, so when I went from the ply to the carved I preferred the power of the ply... but that was only the setup and strings talking. That carved bass was gorgeous.
  14. spoonido


    Sep 19, 2007
    Sierra Madre, California
    Endorsing Artist: Hagstrom, Mahalo
    I would assume that a solid wood instrument holds a better resale value than a ply or hybrid. Any thoughts on that, folks?
  15. apurdum


    May 13, 2011
    My hybrid was a great improvement over my laminated bass--especially when not amplified.
  16. I've heard some ply basses that are actually totally amazing pizz or arco.

    I have an old German ply that I keep at the coast for when I go there on vacation , and every time wonder why I dont use it as my main instrument . Its loud and has a super even tone . Granted that ply basses dont seem to have the 'complexity' of tone that a nice carved bass has but they can have a simplicity that make them easy to record and great for jazz .
    Eddie Gomez chose a ply bass that he played for many years ( one that was put together by Arnold Schnitzer ). Bear in mind that Eddie Gomez is a superb arco player ..... just some food for thought :)
  17. mdcbass

    mdcbass Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2005
    Seacoast of NH
    I agree with an earlier suggestion that you play several basses to learn about the different tonal properties. One of your countryman with aspirations like yours posted here about ordering a laminated bass from Arnold Schnitzer. That may be something to consider. Well, he has the hybrid option, too so you still have to make a decision.


    I have a pretty nice fully carved bass and tried to downgrade to a hybrid but it is nothing like my good bass. The clarity of the tone is just not there. However, if you are not used to that sound you can't miss it, right? Hybrid or carved will have more repairs than the laminated but that's another trade off.
  18. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    IMO, yes, the price differential between the Upton Standard ply and the Upton hybrid (that's what you asked about) is well worth it. This, of course, doesn't only apply to Uptons. In general, the carved top on a quality bass (ignoring cheapie and poor-quality basses) will yield a tonal complexity far richer and much more desirable (to me, and many others, anyway) than what what you'll get from ANY ply bass. All other things being equal, the jump from hybrid to fully-carved, in my experience, isn't as dramatic as that from ply to hybrid. (Of course, it can be if we're talking about jumping from a $3k hybrid to a $30k fully-carved, but then all other things are far from equal. :))

    Once your ear and your hands become more sophisticated with regard to the differences, I'm confident that buying a hybrid is a decision you'll never regret, assuming you have the $$$. Not so, the other way around.
  19. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    My New Standard Cleveland hybrid is a bit different than many others in that it had been returned to Arnold due to a top crack. He repaired the crack and while the top was off, he regraduated it. I purchased this particular instrument mostly b/c of this. If I was a better arco player, I'm sure it would really sing. One of these days, I'd love to hear someone really put a bow to it.

    I would get a fully laminate if I was regularly going to places that it would be getting knocked around a bit.
  20. E.P. Miller

    E.P. Miller Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2008
    Funny, I had PM'd Chris the same question some time ago as I was contemplating the purchase of a La Scala hybrid. I had already been playing a laminate La Scala for a couple of years. I remember him saying the same thing then that he said above. Now that I own both basses, I'm afraid I can't add much to it other than the fact that both basses are used often. I record with the hybrid La Scala, and use it on acoustic listening room gigs. The laminate was pressed into service for a private outdoor performance yesterday and it'll be used again on Friday for the loud blues band I work with from time to time... the New Standard basses are fantastic!

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