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Ken Smith Basses?-Are they worth the$$??

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 4stringznuff, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. 4stringznuff


    Apr 13, 2009
    Hi Bass People..this is my first ever post here-just joined...I'm in Australia and i just got tld about Smith basses by a mate that played one in the USA and he said it was awesome..after we convert our dollar for one of these we're paying about$4500!..Can any players out there with experiance playing /owning one of these give me a bit of a review and opnion on value? or recommend any other basses of this kind that are cheaper?
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    You'll find that "are XYZ boutique basses worth the expense" threads bring out the worst in people, and rarely produce an answer helpful to the person asking.

    There are also heaps of threads about Smith basses here, so you've got some reading to do.

    Additionally, there are hundreds of other boutique bass builders at all price points, whose work may be "as good as" Smith's depending on what sound, look, and feel you're after. So as far as recommending "any other basses of this kind", nope. Can't be done--just because the field is way too broad.

    What exactly was it about the Smith that has you interested? Perhaps if we know that, then we can recommend a less expensive maker that would give you the exotic feature or quality you're after.
  3. 4stringznuff


    Apr 13, 2009
    Ahhh...ok...well..I was told the tone out of a BSR5 was amazing-is that due to his pickups/selection of prime woods/quality construction?-apparently he finishes every bass himself??-true?...I'm after a contempory design(for a guitarist come bassist but quality ala Wooten,Bunny Brunel).
  4. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    High-end instruments always play good. Search youtube to decide if the tone works for you, also, check specs for string spacing, neck width and stuff like that. Compare to basses you know and then decide.
  5. jmiller


    Dec 31, 2006
    Manager at Bass Club Chicago
    i have one and its worth every penny.
    BWorm likes this.
  6. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Side note: There is a brand you'll see around called "KSD", which used to stand for "Ken Smith Design", and they are not what you want. They are not cheaper Ken Smith basses, they are just cheapo basses that Ken licensed his name to for a while.
  7. Bass Response

    Bass Response

    Aug 16, 2008
    I just found my dream bass and I love it. I started out researching by reading about lots of different makes of basses and playing as many as I could get my hands on. The first to draw my attention was Michael Tobias- MTD. This was my first time to play a bass with super low action. I fell in love- I bought his Korean line bass and was very happy. Fast forward a year- Kieth Roscoe, also great action, but this luthier had this wonderful tone to go along with it. So now that is my primary bass. I doubt I will be making a change. The moral is- play lots of basses, read about lots of basses and you will find the right one for you. Also dont be afraid to go the used route. Good luck and happy hunting!
    Kice likes this.
  8. I've owned two & they were definitely well worth the price I paid used($2100 for a bolt-on 6 & $1500 for a similar 5). I sold both because while their build quality & playability are largely unparalleled, their tone- while sweet- was not the most versatile. IMO very much a sit-incredibly-well-in-the-mix bass(not a lot outside of this)whereas I like having the option to go from that to snarling, in-your-face/cut-through mid-strong grind & more.
  9. 4stringznuff


    Apr 13, 2009
    this place is too big to check all threads...Can you tell me where i can find a Ken Smith Club thread or the most info.on them?:bag::bag::bag:
  10. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Welcome to Talkbass!

    Given that you are in Australia and may not have access to all the stuff we get to play around with here in the States, let me try to answer your questions. These responses are totally MY OPINION ONLY.

    Are Ken Smith Basses Worth The $$ If enough people didn't find them to be worth the $$, Ken would be out of business. In Detroit, where I live, bassists at most of the larger churches use the high end Ken Smith basses. Now, consider that there is only one store in the area that sells them and it is in a fairly remote area. But people are finding these basses. That says a lot. The true answer to this question though is will it be worth it to you. Only after you have played one and experienced the tone and the playability will you be able to answer that.

    Are there less expensive basses that get the tone? There are a couple basses that cost about the same as some of the lower end Smith basses that can get close to the Smith sound. Peavey Cirrus has been said to be close. I don't know which wood combos come closest. This is important, because from my experience, based on the Cirrus basses I've played in stores, they can sound dramatically different based on the wood combinations used.

    Other basses that provide somewhat unique sounds, though not necessarily Smith sounds, that you may want look at before you make big spending decisions are...

    • Roscoe basses. Not Fender Roscoe Beck. Basses built by Keith B. Roscoe
    • MTD Kingston series of basses (Heir, Z5)
    • Lakland Skyline series

    Good luck! Have Fun!

  11. ethans1980


    Jun 10, 2007
    I own a fretless BSR5J, and I have to say, the tone for recording is amazing, but live, the bass doesn't cut enough through most bands. I pretty much only use that bass for recording, if you go here: You can hear what my bass sounds like.
  12. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    +1 to most of the above. Once you get to basses of the level of the top of the line Smith, the better question to ask would be:

    'Is this the feel and voicing I like best in a top of the line bass'.

    As most know, the Smith's REALLY have their own voice. They are very punchy and low mid present, with a very 'pingy' modern top end. If you can get a hold of Bruce Hornsby's wonderful 'Here Come the Noisemakers' live CD, that is one of the best recordings of the Smith tone I've heard. The bassist (from Detroit!) plays a 6 string top of the line Smith, and if you listen to the entire disc, you will hear that bass in everything from a rock to funk to ballad to slap to swing context.

    The two basses that get closest to this 'tight low mid tone with modern ping up top are:

    - Sadowsky Modern. The Metro Modern models are relatively low cost
    - Peavey Cirrus.... REALLY close and quite reasonable.

    IMO and IME!
  13. dakpluto


    Oct 14, 2006
    Orlando, FL
    Can you find the tone for cheaper? Sure

    What you are really paying for the amazing craftsmanship, one of a kind, and features of a Ken Smith. The question is, are those worth the price to you? Only you can answer that question.
    Kice likes this.
  14. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    I'll second that! That Smith sound is pretty much instantly recognizable to my ears...I'm talking about the good old fashion customs, not the overseas budget models. There is just something about the combination of Ken's insanely awesome preamp, pups, and that brass nut that seems to impart the same killer smith sound.

    :help: Maybe someone else with more experience than me can chime in, but I find that no matter what different crazy combination of woods a Smith bass is made of...they all have the same sound going on. Normally, I would think that there is no way a standard solid ash/maple bass is going to have the same tonal vibe as a 5 piece body with exotic woods and a 7 piece neck w/ ebony fretboard, even with the same pups and preamp.

    Somehow, to my ears, Smith's can do that. I think there is some black magic hoodoo in that 18v preamp. :cool:
  15. rodneyat

    rodneyat Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    Everyone else has already given everything that I can really give on them. Like many have said. The build quality and craftsmenship on them is as good or better than any high end bass on the market. Over the years, I have owned 4 of them. All top notch basses. I will piggy back on what Ken (KJung) said. You will want to make sure the feel and sound is what you are looking for. When you get into basses in this range. That is what needs to be most important for you. He is also right about the other 2 basses (3 if you count the Sadowsky Metro separately) that sound somewhat similar but look and play differently.
  16. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    DR Strings Dealer (local only)
    There are a couple lower cost basses that will get you close to the sound of a Smith as stated, but are they are not as consistent in build or playability as a Smith. I have owned a couple Ken Smith basses in the past and I thought they were worth the money. I have been playing Roscoe basses for the last 5 years, for me they are a better fit and the customer service is excellent.

    $4,500 is a lot of money to put out for a bass you have never heard or played. I think I would look here on TB and see if you can find a used Smith, that way if the sound is not for you, you are not going to take a big financial loss if you decide to sell it.
  17. D Rokk

    D Rokk Banned

    Feb 19, 2009
    Delta Quadrant
    the question isnt 'is it worth it?' the question is 'is it worth it to you?'
  18. jonster


    Nov 12, 2008
    I haven't played a Smith in a long time. The biggest thing that stands out is the wide spacing, which helps a lot with slapping. The six-string necks are especially wide - whoa!!

    Before committing to that kind of expense, ask yourself: Will it make me play better? Will it make me sound better? And, most importantly, Do I love it?

    Good luck!

    Jon Liebman
  19. Lunchbox4u_6


    Dec 1, 2008
    Dallas, TX
    +1...I was interested in buying a Ken Smith for a long time after playing one in a local music store, but at the time i coudn't afford it. I continued to play them whenever i got the chance just so i could get a handle on the tonal character of the basses. Recently an opportunity presented itself whereby i was able to pickup a Cirrus for a steal, i really almost feel guilty about it, and i completely agree that it's a "poor man's Ken Smith". It's got great punch, nice round lows and amazing clear highs. It's not the same, and with the wrong EQ can sound a little thin, but i paid $25 for my Peavey (after trading a used MIM Fender 5 stringer) and when i compare that to the cost of a used Ken, it's worth it for me.

    Get out there and play all the basses you can, i go in to music stores just to play different gear because i never know when something is going to show up that is exactly what i've been looking for.
  20. bottomzone


    Oct 21, 2005
    I've owned a number of what I would consider great basses, including an Alembic Spoiler and a Warwick Thumb BO-both of which I bought used and well worth the money. I considered my Peavey Cirrus 5 the best bass that I have ever played-UNTIL I GOT MY KEN SMITH BLACK TIGER 5!!!!!!!!! I bought both basses used and they, too, are well worth the money. If you like the Smith tone and playability-which I do-then a Smith is the ticket. As stated earlier, both the Sadowsky Modern and the Cirrus are in the same tonal family as a Smith. As nice as my Cirrus is, the Smith in on another level!!!! Another bass that has a Smith-like vibe to me as this Xotic bass:


    Check out Mike Hill on his Tiger Eye 5, which is a close as you can get to the "Smith sound" without playing a Smith IMHO:

    Bottom line, it's your ears, hands, and $$$.

    A Groove is a Terrible Thing to Waste! :cool:

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