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In praise of cheap gear

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Andy Daventry, Mar 19, 2005.

  1. I have been gigging out on guitar recently and discovered to my concern that my aging Yamaha FG something or other (which I bought for $100) sounded better than my Martin live.

    I sold the Martin.

    Now I am back on bass and playing a '92 MIM P bass souped up with a set of Sadowsky PJ pickups and getting a sound which I prefer to basses I have had in the past, including:

    Fender Stu Hamm USA
    1964 Jazz bass
    MIA P bass

    The only expensive item I now use is a Flamenco guitar and I only play that at home which is where pricey gear should stay.

    Is SX the wave of the future?
  2. My Hamer cost my $380 used. As far as I'm concerned it has more of a solid feel then many new basses I've tried, Fenders included. Maybe it's just me. but man is it ever a nice bass.... Cheap but WELL worth the money.... :hyper: :bassist: :hyper:
  3. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I tihnk cheap basses can easily sound very good if upgraded a little, but i think more expensive basses, to me, will always play better, due to the detail and time put into the fretwork etc.
  4. Between the shrewd buying of lower priced, high quality, used equipment and the rising quality of lower priced new gear, I've bought and sold over 15 instruments, built 7 others, and maintained a personal stable of around 5 or 6 instruments without spendin over $2000 total for all of the transactions!

    And I have enjoyed every one of them.
  5. CaracasBass


    Jun 16, 2001
    Madrid, Spain
    I think "cheap" instruments are getting better and better in quality and sound. I have an Ibanez ATK that I bought used for the equivalent of $400, and is one of the best basses I´ve ever played in 10 years of bass playing. My other bass is a new Fender Mike Dirnt P-bass that sounds almost as good as a MIA P-bass and I only paid $660 (including USA-Venezuela shipping).

    It´s only matter of doing your homework and find the best bass for you and your needs.
  6. PeterF

    PeterF Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2005
    North East Wisconsin
    While I G.A.S for some of the big dollar stuff, I play my $225 fretless Dean Edge and it's great!. Plenty of mwah if you want it, good acoustic-like thump if you want. :bassist:
  7. dangjalopy


    Nov 8, 2004
    my new bass is an ibanez srp400 (it was a closeout) for 250. it sounds just as nice as my sr800. my sr800 is 10 yrs old but its in nice condition. i paid 900 (? i think) back then. I use Ashdown amps which are cheap compared to ampegs and GKs. and all effects are old cheapos from pawn shops and ebay. to me, its all in how you tune in your sound. i love my sound. I play surf/beach rock and it sounds great over a reverbed guitar.
  8. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    The word CHEAP is best used to when associated with a person, with equipment I like to say INEXPENSIVE. We all need to face the fact that playing bass is a not always a pretty job, many times it's like digging a ditch, nobody cares how pretty it is, as long as it's wide, deep and strait. YOUR FEEL IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TONE, YOU ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE BASS YOU PLAY!!!!!! Yes, some people(who happen to be writing the checks) hear with their eyes before their ears, but what are you going to do???
  9. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    I prefer my SX P-bass over multiple MM Stingrays I've tried in stores.
  10. dangjalopy


    Nov 8, 2004
    funny, the dictionary says the definition of cheap is inexpensive. but im from the east coast. we use the dictionary here.
  11. I just bought a '79 Ibanez Roadster for $290 and it sounds incredible. The active electronics give it serious punch and growl.
  12. As much as I LOVE my higher end basses, I tend to occassionally find myself picking up my Yamaha RBX765A. Pretty cheap and I think it's great. It's also great when I'm playing a not-so-great club and I don't want to risk harm to my 'spensive stuff.

    The only problem there (and this belongs in the "bass stories" forum), is that last summer my band played Seacrets in Ocean City MD. Anyone from the more northern east coast knows of this club. It's intense. Well, I brought the Yamaha that night, and the whole night, the engineer was raggin' on my for playing it. All in good fun, of course. He wouldn't accept that fact that i just "like" that bass. Oh well.

    Moral of the story, more $$$ doesn't always equate better gear.... Or more accurately, LESS $$$ doesn't always equate s**t gear!
  13. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Comments like this always make me question the comment-er. Yes they are good values, but the quality of an SX will never up to par with EBMM. Maybe you prefered the sound, thats understandable, seeing as thats all subjective. But in terms of what is a higher quality bass, SX owners need to realize the big picture. Yes, i have owned an SX. It is a good bass for the money but its no Messiah.
  14. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    "cheapie" stuff is getting better. Sure there is cheapie stuff that still feels cheap, but we're seeing improvements. For a budding bassist, a healthy amount of cheap gear is worlds better than the cheap gear I was playing 10 years ago.

    My 9 year old Korean-made Ibanez 5-string was a cheapie and it feels and plays like a cheapie. No matter what I do, I can never get the action the way I want it. It's always too high and if I lower it to my tastes, it buzzes out of control. However, playing that bass does help build up my hand and finger muscles since I keep the action on it high where it sounds best.

    Before that, I had an Ibanez EX bass, and the nut was badly glued in. It practically came undone during a restring.

    On the other hand, my Samick Fairlane 6, which I bought in June '04 for $300 used (and put in $35 for a setup & $40 to install a flip-up battery box) looks, feels, and plays like a more expensive bass. The 'cheapie' factors are that the nut has some sharp edges and the blend pot is a tad scratchy.

    I've tried out more expensive basses like Warwicks and Spectors. And while a Warwick Thumb and a Spector Euro do feel higher end than my Fairlane, said Fairlane is no slouch. Should I decide to upgrade the pups/preamp, then I'll definitely have a kustom killer that can rival the big boys for a fraction of the cost. My Fairlane even has dual truss rods. I think all 6-strings should have dual truss rods and many of the big boys (i.e. Warwick) don't put dual truss rods in their 6s.

    For now, though, my Fairlane is all the bass I need. I always drool for higher end gear and like to go to music shops to try out higher end gear, but at the end of the day my Fairlane feels just as good to me and is like home. And during those times I feel frustrated with that bass, I just play my old Ibanez 5 for a bit and realize how good I have it now.
  15. Here's how I can compare the inexpensive with the expensive. In 1975 I purchased a brand new Fender Precision "Blackie" from a store in FL. It was discounted down to $275 because of a ding on the body. I think the going rate for them at the time was in the mid $400's. That was 30 years ago. If I were to compare that bass to the SX I sold a couple of weeks ago, the ONLY discernible differences other than the obvious (maple/maple neck on the Fender - rosewood on the SX, different body colors) was the lower quality tuners on the SX, the thinner finish on the SX, and the SX's nut. Beyond that, there weren't any true differences. Of course one might have weighed more than the other but that's true of 2 of the same bass anyway. I think what I'm getting at here is that there is only so much "quality" possible in any product at a particular price point. At the time in the 70's, Fender might have been getting all of the quality from the mid $400 price possible. Now in the 21st century, importers like Rondo are packing the most quality possible in a bass at the price point of about $125. This is the benefit of technology we're reaping here. And I imagine there is a place somehere on the scale that we won't expect to get anymore quality for any lower a price. The thing that hasn't changed is the players need for a bass of a certain quality level. Mine hasn't changed too much and a lot of others haven't either. So while the quality goes up and the prices go down, our actual needs stay pretty much the same.
  16. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    How does everybody feel about buying a cheap but good instrument and upgrading slowly?

    My two Fenders were/are a matched pair of MIJ '89 models, a strat and a Jazz. I went into the store intending to buy an American Standard Strat...cash. I played all of them in the store. Then I started playing the 'regular' strats, then made in Japan and considered 'lesser' instruments. In general they were pretty good, with the only immediately visible difference being the 'vintage' bridge and p'ups. The MIA standards had Lace Sensors. One of the MIJ's had a much better feel than all the others, and in fact, all the MIA's. So I bought that one. Then while I'm standing at the register and thinking "A backup bass would be a good idea. And I've been wanting to try fretless." I went back and played all the Jazzes, and probably because I was thinking about a fretless anyway, liked the fretless best. So I bought both of them that day, with the money I had intended to spend for one guitar.

    Over the years they have both received makeovers. They match again. They are both that cream-white with a rosewood 'board. Now they both have a black pearl pickguard, new pickups (EMG's for the Jazz, Lace Sensors for the strat) and bridge changes (whole new Schaller roller bridge on the Jazz, Graph tech saddles on the strat) I put in a custom switching setup in the strat but it looks stock, Next I'm getting new tuners for both, separately. Sperzels for the strat, probably Hipshots for the Jazz-but that might change.

    Overall I probably have triple the original cost of each instrument invested. But mow I think I have instruments that I couldn't find for only triple the original cost I paid, so I'm still ahead.

    And I'm conspiring to mod the Jazz again. This time I will definitely swap the EMG p'ups and preamp for (probably) Bart's and a J-retro. And I might swap out the roller bridge. I haven't decided which bridge to try next.
  17. I'd lovemy Yamaha basses. I've got a severely upgraded RBX260 and a stock TRB6II, and they're both great. Not as flashy as boutique basses, but whatever. The TRB was rock solid out of the box. The RBX I modded over the years (it was my first bass, which I still play a lot): I replaced the split P with two beefy humbuckers (wood chizeled the cavities by hand), added an EMG BQC preamp and a Leo Quan Badass II bridge, and replaced the tuning pegs. It's now a very 'mean' sounding bass. With the initial cost and upgrades, I believe it still only cost me around $750. Even an inexpoensive Yamaha bass is still at least a great instrument, in my book.
  18. HamOnTheCob

    HamOnTheCob Jacob Moore Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Cambridge, Ohio, USA
    Endorsing Artist for Warwick Basses, Mesa Engineering, Joyo Technology, Dr. J Pedals, and Levy's Leathers
    I had a late 90's Ibanez Soundgear 406 and I wish I never sold it. It was an awesome 6-string bass. Very inexpensive and very adequate. The electronics were great, and it played nice.

    I also have a $200 Yamaha acoustic/electric guitar with Elixirs on it that sounds better than my best friend's $1200 Guild and my cousin's Taylor. It has a real sweet tone in it, and it projects well. The electronics suck in it, but when it's mic'd, it sounds awesome.

    My main electric guitar is a 60's Kay solid-body that I absolutely love. It needs new tuners and could use a better bridge, but it rocks. They sell on eBay all the time for like $150.

    I've had good experiences with cheap gear. I've also gotten some great buys on expensive gear. Whatever works and whatever you can afford. :)

  19. RED J

    RED J Lol

    Jan 23, 2000
    I have to agree with the sentiments above.Being a form and function person, I have to shake my head when somebody blows off a piece of gear based on a decal.I agree that the price / quality ratio is shrinking.
    It reminds me a lot of when foreign made cars were taking over in the states from the 70's on.The domestic stuff was overpriced, and had become largely junk.Lots of people had a hard time outgrowing the '48 volkswagen mindset, along with an emotional loyalty to domestic products. The quality of domestic stuff gradually improved, and the price field leveled based on real value.THe foreign stuff had claimed it's market share, though. Few people blow off the foreign stuff anymore.
    Like it or not, we are now in a world economy, and the musical instrument business is in that same state of flux.It's a buyers market, and we have all have benefited. I sell as well, and I can't get what I once did when I do sell. I have two choices, whine or adapt, and I am trying to adapt.The cream always comes to the top, but it takes time, sometimes a couple of decades, like with automobiles.
    There is still high end stuff for those who want it, but the increase in quality is seldom proportionate to price.Marketers know how many people will buy for a name or image. However there is no denying the reality of why high end makers have mid and budget lines as well. It is really becoming the biggest cut in the market as people who can't afford or do not choose to pay top dollar go for 85% of the substance for 30-50% of the money. Many people do not make the wages they once did.Sure, there is still pure junk out there, but there is just not the huge gap of quality to price ratio there once was.
    Finally, I , and I'm sure many of us do, own stuff that can now be bought "cheaply" that was once the high dollar rage.What changed ? The image, not the product.
    RED J :D