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Junk or worth tinkering?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by txpitdog, Jul 10, 2014.

  1. txpitdog


    Jan 1, 2006
    I am a beginner LH bass player. I bought a Johnson (by AXL) p-bass off craigslist for $100. At the time I bought it I didn't care about the tone, action , etc because I figured I would dump it for something better if I stuck with it and enjoyed playing. Fortunately the thing stays in tune, the neck is straight, and the frets have stayed in place. I really don't have any complaints about it for what I paid for it.

    I can't find much info on Johnson or AXL instruments but I have discovered through the interwebs that some off brands can be decent, like SX. Does anyone have experience with Johnson basses, and if so are they built well enough that it would be worth another $75 to put in a Quarter Pounder pickup or should I leave it as is and save the $75 towards a better bass?
  2. I'm not familiar with the Johnson brand or if it was an OEM maker, the brands that used the product under a different name. The important thing is the thing plays well and sounds well as far as you are concerned relative to what you shelled out for it. If you want to "tweak" it I don't see any reason why you shouldn't. But to make it worth your while (and money), buy pre-owned stuff rather than new for the major components so your "buy in" and "sell out" prices wouldn't be that far of if you decide to dispose of them (heck, you could even make money out of them if you buy and sold well). The nice thing about going this route is you could hear/feel for yourself how the mods change the outcome. Hopefully by going through different components you would eventually find one that is IT. Make one mod at a time (don't do two or more mods at the same time) as you wouldn't know what caused the change in the output.
    Rebopmass likes this.
  3. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player

    Mar 14, 2011
    I have a Johnson P-bass, probably 10 years old that I basically inherited. I think they are Chinese or Taiwanese made. It has terrible action but the PUP's are actually not bad. It is heavy....have not weighed, just subjective. I have only tried to play it a few times and since then it has been a loaner bass for beginners or in the back of my closet. Like you said, it's a good functional beginner bass. I personally would not spend a fortune on it. Before you spend money make sure that the truss rod works so you can put a good setup on it. As far as quarter pounders, the good thing is they can always be removed and resold or used on another P so why not. I don't thing you will increase the value of the bass by installing QP's though.
  4. Gougedeye

    Gougedeye Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Central Washington
    I agree. I believe Johnson is an Asian knockoff. But, like stated, I would put a lot of money into it.
  5. If you're comfortable with the Axl put the SD in it. The bass itself is the important bit everything else can get changed out.

    Here's an example I've a Harley Benton,its a brand sold by Thomann in Europe ,it's similar to the Douglas Pisces 2TS model.
    These are cheap basses at around 99 euros another guy with one put a 135 euro pup in his as he liked the bass that much.

    Others will disagree but for me the comfort counts and it's quicker to get $75 together for a change in sound than probably
    $200 for another bass. Jaco D has the right of it in my mind.

    Good luck sourcing used QP's
  6. el_cody_loco


    Feb 13, 2013
    I think any bass that has a good neck and good frets is worth giving a shot. Throw a Duncan in it, set it up, and let it rip. If all else fails, you'll probably be able to get most of the money back on your investment
  7. Apolicious


    Jan 16, 2014
    I hate to be the negative nancy, but I'm not a big fan of Johnson. As beginner instruments, they're... fine. But I think you'll find if you apply that $75 towards another instrument - say, a Squier Vintage Modified - you'll be much, much happier. The differences between the two may seem subtle at first, but with time you'll realize how much the quality of construction matters.
  8. txpitdog


    Jan 1, 2006
    I appreciate all the insights and help. I took it to a shop yesterday to get their opinion on it. The tech wouldn't say that it was flat out junk but he said it was just ok for a beginner. He recommended a set up and showed me how the neck was bowed. I didn't want to drop another $40 into it since it was only $100 so I came home and spent some time with YouTube, the search function on this forum, and a set of Allen wrenches and set it up myself. Plays much better now and was a whole lot easier than I expected. I might just hang on to it and try soldering in a pup myself too as practice. I guess it's decently playable and might sound ok but won't ever be worth more than a decent bottle of whiskey. I s'pose I can live with that.
  9. ericdanger13


    Oct 30, 2012
    Danbury Ct
    If you like the bass put the pickup in. Worst case you get a nicer bass and put the pickup in that.
  10. OP, If you had any plans to practice modding anyway, why not begin with this bass? The lowest investment for the most potential.

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