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Inexpensive 4-string Acoustic Bass Guitars

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 1964, Oct 31, 2002.

  1. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    [formerly titled: "Inexpensive 4-string Acoustic Bass Guitars"]

    OK, I’ve just read all the threads, and it seems that most favour the Olympia by Tacoma.

    However, I don’t want such a big ABG as the Tacoma. Btw, the US Tacoma sells locally *from* ~US$1750.

    I quite like the idea of the Godin A4 fretted (~US$1350), but I can’t afford or even justify one of them, and I wonder if unplugged volume would be sufficient for my purposes.

    Planned Usage
    I plan on using an *unplugged* ABG mainly for *fingerstyle* practice by myself, playing along to CD’s, occasionally practicing with a friend on keyboard *or* acoustic guitar, or occasionally accompanying an acoustic guitar at a BBQ.

    Playing *plugged* on a gig would be *very* occasional, and I’m going to get a Fishman Pro-EQ Platinum Bass (for acoustic and electric use).

    Unplugged, I’d play a wide variety of styles. Plugged, it would probably be limited to mainly Latin and country rock…maybe jazz, acoustic soul…so the upright end of the tonal spectrum.

    Playability-wise, I’d like as close to electric bass guitar feel as possible. I’m primarily an electric player, and currently my only acoustic guitar is a thinline double cutaway Ibanez Talman.

    I live in New Zealand, so there’s a limited choice, and prices are quite a bit more expensive than in the US, especially on brand-name stuff.

    So, for me, the choices seem to be:

    New Choices:

    Ibanez AEB10 (32" scale, maple top, back and sides, high gloss finish, local price ~US$450). I haven’t seen or played one of these, but I can get especially good deals on Ibanez, and the AEB10 already retails at the cheapies end.

    ...The AEB30 (32" scale, spruce top, mahogany back and sides, semi-gloss finish, and ~50% more expensive) is seemingly unavailable here (similarly the Takamine EG512C isn't easy to find).

    I've got access to the range of Cort ABG's, which seem a cut above from the middle of the range to the top (34" scale), with better electronics. SJBCE has a local price of ~US$625; NTLB has a local price of ~US$750.

    I saw a nice quality Crafter thinline bass that I could probably afford, but it seemed very “loose” feeling and quiet. Though I’ve seen “plastic” back Crafter guitars, I recall this ABG being “wood”. (local price ~US$500)

    Used Choices:
    I’ve only seen an Applause within my price range, and it wasn’t quite as loose as the Crafter (I guess the Crafter is a shorter scale), and was a bit louder, but not as loud as I expected a "plastic fantastic" to be. In fact, there's been quite a nice black one hanging in a store here for some time now for US$350. I haven’t made up my mind regarding the bowl back, but most Ovation guitars I’ve heard plugged sound pretty good, so if they’re a good option for an ABG I can probably get used to the bowl back.

    The Ibanez ABG’s seem to have some standing at TalkBass, so I’d like to read more about them and the differences in tone and volume between the two 4-string models - especially with the AEB30LG being 50% more expensive (though seemingly unavailable to me here).

    And, of course any input on the other choices I’ve presented would be welcomed, especially with regard to the Applause ABG (which seems to be the same spec as the "deep bowl" Ovation, except instead of a solid spruce top it has a laminated spruce top).
  2. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    I know this sort of thing gets discussed to death, but I’ve taken the time to be pretty specific, and I’ve read nothing more than passing comments about the options I’m interested in.
  3. Noobai


    Aug 25, 2002
    Stanford, CA
    Ive always wanted an acoustic bass, but to my knowledge, the sound on them always sucks my right nut.

    I've only ever found 1 bass that sounded good, deep, without that crappy ass fret ring and buzz. It was a Fretless Dean.

    I live 30 minutes from the Tacoma shop. Ive palyed every bass there is to play and Ive never found a GOOD Olympia Tacoma.

    Shop around for low-brow companys or ripoffs, since acoustic basses vary so greatly (IMO), there is no garuntee.
  4. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    1964 -

    Sorry I missed your original post, but I'm in the middle of moving and am quietly going nuts. There's only four ABGs I've ever liked enough to consider owning:

    · Martin
    · Tacoma
    · Dean
    · Applause


    · The Martin was too much money, and was a bit too old-fogeyish for me.

    · The Tacomas I've tried have almost always blown me away. I bought one and am extremely happy with my choice.

    · Quite a few of the Deans were great, and some were awful. I never came across one I liked at the same time I had the money.

    · The Applause bowlback was a poor match to my bowlfront, but sounded great. Very nice tone and good volume.

    I've played a few Ibanezes, and they were roughly comparable in tone and volume to the middle of the pack Deans. I suspect there's a lot of sample variation, just like the Deans. The few Olympias I've demoed have been the same - one great, one sucky and one just OK.

    Try before you buy!
  5. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    I know what you mean, though I've found big body flat backs can be uncomfortable too.

    I can try a used Applause, and that's what I'm leaning towards if I can get the price down. Importing an Applause from Music123 costs US$508 (+ 12.5% tax when landed, though I'm not sure if they calculate the tax on the shipping component).
  6. Basso Profoundo

    Basso Profoundo Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    The Bass Palace has lots of acoustic basses right now. Check out the Takamine for $400.00 and the brand new Dillion for $400. there is also a JB player, an Epiphone, Kramer. There is an Ovation Celebrity for under $400.00. Don't buy a new one. There are so many mint used ones because people think they need an ABG, and they end up getting rid of it in mint condition. I owned an Applause acoustic bass and the one I had was a piece of #$#%$$##, just wanted to let you know. I would look for a Celebrity for better quality. Many of these acoustics are made overseas by Samick anyway. I have heard great things about the Takamine for the price.

  7. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    The big problem of taking advantage of US variety and prices is the exorbitant shipping costs for oversize items like a bass.

    I don't want to spend too much because if I don't take to ABG I would imagine I'd have a hard job selling an ABG down here. If I did take to it, then I'd probably look at ordering a Godin A4 and either keeping whatever cheapie I bought as a "carry everywhere" bass, or possibly trading it. I'm wary of spending over US$500 on a new Cort or something that I'd take a bath on if I didn't take to it.

    I would expect to be able to get at least US$50 off the Applause, and possibly as much as 100 off. US$250 for the Applause down here would make it very tempting, but then again I don't want a piece of junk.

    There's a dented new Fender available too, but IIRC it's a short scale BG-29.
  8. BassAxe


    Jul 22, 2002
    Culpeper, VA
    I can't seem to find a Tacoma Olympia anywhere on the internet. I've never heard of these. Is it a predecessor to the Thunderchief?
  9. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
  10. Basso Profoundo

    Basso Profoundo Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Bass Northwest has them listed in their standard basses section also.
  11. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
  12. BassFiddle63


    Oct 4, 2002
    I'm kick'in around the idea of buying a Washburn AB-10. I saw Bonnie Raitt in concert on TV the other night and Hutch her bass player pulled out one of these Washburns and it sounded GREAT!. I believe you can buy one for around $630.00. I think I'd really like one because they are a kind of a thin type body.... I never did like those big fat wide suckers like most AB's because by the time my FAT BELLY hits the back of the bass then the thickness of most AB's the bass is 4 miles out in front of me and my arms won't reach the strings and neck to play the stupid thing :D Anyway, I believe my choice will be the Washburn AB-10.

  13. Basso Profoundo

    Basso Profoundo Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    The applause may be a great acoustic for the money, maybe the problems I had was isolated to that particular bass. I have also heard good things about the Washburn. In my experience, you can practice unplugged with just about any acoustic bass, but when you start adding acoustic guitars, the definition on the E string disappears.

    Plugging in and playing live is a different story, there are feedback issues to deal with and acoustics can sometimes sound a little thin and do not cut through very well. The best acoustic I have ever owned for plugging in live was the Guild thin body, can't remember the model, but it was pretty pricy and you don't see them much anymore.
  14. I recommend the Regal resonator bass. It's louder, smaller, and cheaper than any other ABG. I written it up here a bunch of times, just search for it. I got mine from www.folkofthewood.com
    Good luck on your choice.
  15. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    Thanks, but, as stated, I REALLY have read ALL the ABG threads on here, and would appreciate discussion within the context I’ve outlined.
  16. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    In response to your original post:

    I was very much in love with the idea of owning an ABG. I spent about $500 (US) for a Takamine. In the stores, it was by far the best projecting when compared to an Ibanez, Dean and Washburn. It also had the best plugged in tone and was the least likely to feedback.

    That being said, there wasn't an acoustic guitar on that planet when playing normally that wouldn't drown it out. To play with even a single guitarist was frustrating. If anyone was singing, it was worse. I kept it about 3 months and sold it.

    I say that only to respond to your post. IMO, there is not an ABG out there short of the very expensive Taylor, Martin or Tacoma (Thunderchief) that can hang with an acoustic guitar unplugged. Especially if someone is singing and the people that you want to hear you are more than 6 feet away. Acoustic guitars, especially solid top ones, are LOUD! I can barely sing over the top of my J-100.

    Of course any of them would be fine when practicing alone.

  17. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    OK, be that way. ;)

    I'd say get the used Applause. Then, if you still like the concept of (and need) an ABG in say, twelve months? - look at upgrading to a Tacoma, Taylor or even a full-blown Ovation. I bet you'll find the Applause will do it for you.
  18. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    Yeah, I think I'll see what kind of deal I can push on the Applause. They have had it for some time now. As I remember it, it was in very good condition, and it was a nice black gloss. I don't normally like black, but this was very nice. It definitely needed a good setup.
  19. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    As they've had the Applause a while, I'm hoping that it'll still be there next month, when due to Xmas, I can push for the maximum possible discount.

    It seems to me from what I've read elsewhere that a laminated top is actually advantageous on an ABG, because it would reduce the feedback caused thru top vibration that is often experienced with solid top ABG's. Therefore, the lam top Ovation, which seems otherwise the same spec as the deep bowl solid top Ovation (non-MIA), is actually probably a better proposition.
  20. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I know that you said that you weren't into Tacoma or Olympia but those and the Martin ABG's are the only ones that I've tried that I've liked. Never been a fan of Ovation tone or body shape. The Godin will probably not have the volume you are looking for.

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