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Let's get real...bass builder/Luthier opinion on SX basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dave120, Dec 27, 2005.

  1. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Well there's been so many SX threads lately and lots of hype going on about them. Some players say they're the best thing since sliced bread and some say they suck. The same can be said of Fenders or any other make though, so who really knows? Many people (myself included) are happy with them. Many compare them favorably with MIM Fenders. But let's get some voicings from those who have gone deep into the guts of these things and seen what they're really made of.

    But let's get some expert opinions here on the real build quality of these basses. With so many other threads on SX basses to share personal opinions already, I'd like to limit this one mainly to those who have built or worked on many basses and can say truthfully what they think of the construction. You can talk about hardware and electronics if you want, but I'm more interested in materials used and the construction process quality. IS a piece of Alder with SX printed on it as good as the ones that say Fender (MIM) on them? Are the necks and bodies as durable as a Fender (or other similar model basses)?

    We all know hardware and electronics can be changed and upgraded, but bad pieces of wood are bad pieces of wood. In my personal experience of AB'ing an SX P with my old MIM P. With the same strings on, they sounded very similar acoustically. This leads me to believe that the pieces of wood used in both are probably of similar quality (as good or bad as that may be), correct?

    So what is the real deal with these basses? Can Team actually produce solid, reliable, useable instruments at such a price point? We all know fretwork isn't the best, but who expects it to be at $100? My question to those fine bass-builders out there, is whether or not the necks and bodies on these basses (construction-wise) are solid enough to be worthwhile modding/and or getting fretjobs. Obviously lots of people gig with these right out of the box, and record with them and everything, but I'm more looking for, if you could mod a Fender or an SX with the same stuff, would they be as good at the end after the necessary work, regardless of resale value and all that?

    I myself am a big fan of my SX (I've had 2 before) and have been modding it to my liking and using to to improve my guitar/bass tech skills with setups and things, but i'm also realistic in what I expect from it. Let's hear from the pros on this matter since it's such a hot topic as of late.
  2. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    I build a lot of parts basses, mostly it is an addiction. Whenever I think I am done with it I see a deal on a body or neck and the whole thing starts again. I also work on a lot of guitars and basses and see everything from SX amd Squier axes, to things like my Zon Sonus.

    I've had two different SX basses. A fretted P and a fretless J. I have had them both apart, so I can comment on everything down to the basement. You have is pretty much figured out: electronics and fretwork is where the bulk of the savings seems to come from. Both are useable but pretty nasty. The wood is nothing great but it isn't bad, and the hardware is your typical scrub-level stuff. Still, I don't know of anywhere that you could get all of the parts for anything close to the price of a SX.

    Specifically about the wood: The ones I have seen seem to be a notch or two below the wood that I see used in entry-level Fender basses. Also, the finish work is not as good and the routing/drilling seems kinda hack-like.

    They are amazing considering the price point. But that is where the amazing ends for me. A level and dress on the frets will help, and even the pickups ripped out of the MIM Fenders are an upgrade. I'd still take the MIM Fender. At least with those I could go to the mega-box banjo center and play a bunch and get the one that felt best.
  3. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Well, you could drive to Rondo and play them there...connecticuit isn't that far off is it? oh thats corrupticut...
  4. Spend $100 on gas to check out a $100 bass? :rolleyes:
  5. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Thanks for the post!

    Interesting note...from what I've seen on the Sunburst models, I've never seen a MIM Fender that looked as good as some of the SX's look in that color. My old MIM P was sunburst and the SX my friend bought recently looks much much better. I also like the vintage tint on the SX necks...it's quite a bit different from what Fender does with the satin finishes though so people either love it or hate it.

    The routing I noticed is a little hack-ish on the SX though. The big CTS pots I put in my P/J don't fit..I have to route out the cavity a little more so it'll go in, and it's not the prettiest job to look at in the first place, but I've seen Fenders and especially Squiers like that too. It's all under the PG so who really cares though. At least the Jazz pup route in my PJ that's not under a guard looks good.

    I'm still learning about what makes wood good and bad. Obviously a $100 bass isn't going to have choice wood compared to basses much more expensive, but is there a consistent property of them that would make it not sound good with the right electronics and hardware? This SX bass has responded much better to mods than an old no name strat copy guitar I have ever did. A couple friends and I have done quite a bit of pickup/electronics/hardware swapping between the Fenders and SX's we own between us (3 Fenders and 2 SX's we've been using) and it's been pretty much a close game with how they sound with the same stuff in them. The fretwork on the Fenders is a bit above what you generally see on an SX, but I haven't seen one in the half dozen or so I've owned or have friends who own that's been unplayable out of the box. And the Fender vs Fender and SX vs SX consistency has been pretty much the same.

    Who else has any thoughts on this?
  6. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Hee hee hee..... Depends on what you're driving and where you are in CT. :) It could be just $15 in gas or less. And they may have some choice clearance floor models. That's how I got my Brice V2 6-string.
  7. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Banned

    Nov 20, 2005
    They are worth what you pay for them especially if you get one with a good neck and frets. I just have my SPB 62 now, I sold my SJB 57. I was going to do extensive mods to it but I got lazy {Or came to my senses!}. It just didn't do it for me like the SPB 62 does. The Jazz needed a lot of work and I didn't feel like doing it. So I went out and bought a Schecter Stiletto Studio 5. I know it's totally different, but thats what I wanted, something different. :bassist:
  8. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I think fretlessrock nailed it.

    I have bought and returned four basses from them (different models). I guess I was always hopeful that I would get a “good one” the next time around, but, what good is a $120 bass if you have to spend $200+ to get a decent fretjob and pickups/electronics? The deal breaker for me was always the rough fretwork, which made the instrument impossible to play; either because really rough edges or uneven fret heights that would not let you get even, playable action across the entire fretboard.

    They are great for beginners, though, but for professionals looking for a bargain thinking that they can upgrade, I think it is better to pay more upfront an get an entry-level Ibanez, Yamaha, Schecter or Fender, to name a few.
  9. Interesting...mind if I bump this?
  10. +1
  11. Johnny Fila

    Johnny Fila Formerly "The Crusader"

    Nov 21, 2004
    Elmont, NY (near NYC)
    Not bad for the money, but for a couple of dollars more, you can get a Squier.
    I bought one the other day for my friend's son and I was floored by it. Not one dead note. Sounded great, easy to set up. every damn note on this bass played and got the action down very low on it. I was expecting much less.
    It's amazing what you can get for<$200 today as compared to twenty years ago.
  12. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    No prob. I thought that the SX 62 finish was photoburst, not an actual finish. That is kinda unfair since the photo aplique has nothing to do with the underlying wood. I'm not a huge Fender booster. They make some nice stuff. Back about 6 years ago I bought a MIM Jazz V, and I played about a dozen before finding a MIM in black that blew the doors off of the MIA versions. Cherry picking is a big advantage.

    I've looked at a lot of the MIM stuff, sometimes out of curiosity and sometimes doing setups/cleanings. Rated on the essentials that I feel make or break a bass, the Fender MIM standard stuff is way ahead: Better wood, better overall fit, better electronics, better hardware, and better frets. Yes, Fender costs twice+ as much, but I think it is worth it. Still, on any of the low end basses I strip the bass of all parts, check all screws and holes, check the neck pocket for fit, check the bridge screws and their holes, clean the pots, retouch any sketchy wiring, replace the output jack with a Switchcraft, and replace the pots if they look especially chintzy. For about an hour on the bench and $20 in parts it makes a big difference using no replacement necks or hardware or pickups.

    On the bridge screws, I fill and redrill the holes, and use a little CA to tighten up the wood. That helps a LOT. On the SX J I had two of the bridge screwholes were stripped or poorly drilled. The before/after was pretty much night/day.

    A quick level and dress on the frets is a big help too. The SX fretwire in particular is soft. I wouldn't expect a huge lifespan from them, but at least they should be even and allow a good setup.

    I understand your concern/curiosity on body woods. I have tried and tried to overcome the sound of a basswood MIJ Fender J body and it never works! I think softer woods make for mushy sounding basses. Good alder has the "right" density so the weight doesn't get out of hand but it is still resonant. Light and resonant = good in my book. Basswood is on the soft side and I am not a fan. I like ash but it can be heavy. For these low end basses I'd rather have a good multipiece body with a real solid finish, than a nasty 2 piece with a questionable burst.

    Last: if I was looking for a killer bass cheap I would score a USA Peavey Foundation and work it over. A clean one with good frets kicks the ^&* off any of these and they go dirt cheap.

    OK, so this post got outta hand!

  13. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    Some people find the low price tag, inviting.
    The SX are bottom line basses.
    You get what you pay for.
    They are a $109.00 Bass.
    You owe it to yourself to get a good quality bass.
    If you can't play it, right out of the box. Why buy it?
    Save you money and get a bass that plays and sounds good.
    And has some sort of resale value.
  14. i honestly think that the sx basses we get here in australia are nothing like the ones you guys in the us have..honestly they are nowhere in the range of a mim fender, the pickups are so microphonic..necks feel worse than a squier....i can go on, and it can come to personal opinion, but i spose i am comparing them to a kubicki and my ksd (two most recent basses) and i have disassembled them, what can i say, i love pulling things apart and putting them back together, and even though the ksd has its rough spots i still wouldnt trust an sx at all
  15. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    It may be that Rondo has stricter conditions that they require - seems feasible.
  16. honestly, if thats the way it is, thats just plain old ****e....why keep the "good" products for america when we get the "rejects" ...if other brands can keep a worldwide level of quality then why cant sx..if thats what you mean and i havent gone all loopy becuase i didnt really understand ya...and still, we pay (well not me) $320aus for an sx here....
  17. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida

    Nah this post was exactly what I was looking for!

    I apologize in advance for the long post here.

    In my SX project I've been replacing just about every part I can think of on the bass, both for experimentation and just to dress up the looks of it in general. So far I've done the following and found the noted items:

    1) Replaced pickups with SD Basslines. Probably the biggest difference you can make in the sound of a bass. I always like the sound of them so they go in every bass I get, cheap or expensive. I had the P lying around from other projects and I had to buy a Hot Stack J for it. The stock pickups sound ok but are a little noisy and a little too hot for my taste. It's a tossup whether people like them better than stock Fender MIM pups and tons of people leave them stock.

    2) Replaced pots and wiring. I do this just for the heck of it on pretty much every instrument I get too (Putting my EE student skills to practice!). I trust the bass a lot more if I know I've done all the wiring in it to make sure there's nothing shady or questionable in it that might screw up mid-gig and I have come across some in the past, so it all gets replaced. No problems in this particular instrument though with the stock pots themselves, but the big CTS pots I replaced them with didn't fit in the cavity routing. My pickguard is raised up a mm or two cuz I had to squish it in there. I'm going to fix that once I get my shielding supplies in and I take it all apart again. I also replaced the jack with a Switchcraft.

    3) Replaced most hardware. Replaced white pickguard with a black one, chrome pg screws with black ones, chrome neck plate and screws with black, chrome football jack plate with a black one, and chrome strap buttons with black ones. Did all this purely for cosmetics rather than functionality problems. All this hardware was pretty standard and was really fine, I'm just going for a different look so the $25 I spent on all those parts really wasn't necessary.

    4) Replaced tuners, string retainer. Really just following my black hardware theme. I ordered some mighty Mite tuners in black but I haven't gotten them in just yet so I'm not sure what mods I'll have to do to make them fit. Hopefully not too many.

    5) Last but not least, a new set of strings and a decent setup. I still have the stock bridge soon to be replaced with either a standard black one or a BAII, I haven't decided which yet so I ca't comment ont he bridge mounting. The nut is a weak point on these though I think since my strings don't fit too well in it and it rattles on my open E. Probably just because I use heaver strings than came on it, but I'm gonna get that changed out soon with a better one.

    Really #5 is about the only necessity when you get one of these things. The bass as-is was perfectly playable with decent action and fit and finish was better than you normally expect at this price. But why am I replacing every part on the thing instead of buying a more expensive one? Pretty simple...everything I did to this bass I would have done to any Fender I bought too (besides an MIA that already has half of it). So I started with a lower initial investment and got to tinker with a bass and make something nice out of it and try my hand at basic bass tech work. Now I fully plan on buying a Warmoth body or something later on and transferring most of these parts to it and returning my SX to close-to-stock backup duty, but for now I'm enjoying the experience (and the gradual $$$ spending rather than dropping $600 at once), and most importantly, enjoying playing the bass! Once I decide to get my custom body and neck down the road I'll already have all the pieces I need. For now playing in smokey clubs and bars, the cheapo SX works great and I won't have to worry too much about something happening to it.

    I've done a lot of these mods to my old Fender and friends' instruments as well and in my experience, if you're going to mod the heck out of a bass like this, buy an SX instead. The fit and finish isn't worth $300 more to me to end up with pretty much the same end result. My buddies MIM Fender P deluxe (essentially the same exact thing as my SX P/J) with all these same mods (at least in the pups and electronics dept) on it sounds nearly identical to it. His fretwork is a little cleaner but that's to be expected, and mine doesn't hinder me at all since my action is as low as I want it to be anyways with no buzzing. Any lower and I'd probably need a fret leveling before he did but that's ok. The weight is about the same between them.

    I just love working on the things almost as much as playing them so a project like this is great for me. I'm pretty much the designated guitar/bass tech for my band and some of my other musician friends for everything besides fretjobs and such so I've been in and out of a decent amount of instruments, but still nowhere near what some of you guys have seen obviously that's why I wanted opinions of guys who see more middle to upper end equipment since my experience is limited to usually sub $800 things in my local scene, but I guess trying to compare an SX to anything higher than that is kinda ridiculous anyways, but I'm still curious mostly as to the wood choices/quality more than anything. The hardware/eletronic stuff I understand fairly well, but body and neck neck construction process (gluing, etc) is something I have little to no experience with.

    At the price point you can't get a better decent body and neck for anything less than double the price of these IMO. It's a good platform to play with and find your favorite setup without risking too much expensive gear in the process.
  18. I told my friends that but no one would belive me.. the action was almost to low on my squier.. the neck was straight as it could be.. it was a great bass for 160 dollars new..
  19. Johnny Fila

    Johnny Fila Formerly "The Crusader"

    Nov 21, 2004
    Elmont, NY (near NYC)
    I was actually annoyed by how good it was. Understand? :eyebrow:
  20. eots


    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    :eyebrow: A 75' copy. It has the maple fingerboard with black block inlays(paint) and black binding. The binding means no fret edges. :) I think the fret job is great.
    I bought this specifically cause I wanted a reverse headstock for my project and the body I was going to use it on had a 'non-standard' 2 9/16" wide neck route. Fenders are usually 2 1/2" wide.
    I suppose the wider neck could increase it's stability and resistance to bending or twisting perhaps at the cost of playability unless you're used to a five string.
    On the lefty SX body that I don't plan to use (anyone interested?) my autopsy inspection revealed a neck pocket that appeared splintered. Not quite the smooth milled surface I'm used to seeing yet flat and 'good enough' since it's hidden. The neck was tight to the body around the edges however.
    I had to flip the nut around for right handed use and with as light tap of a hammer, popped right out. It took a bit of the clear coat with it but I touched it up with some varnish after refitting it. The bottom edge of the nut was slightly tapered yet the angle of the taper favored leaning toward the bridge only for the life of me, couldn't figure out why it kept wanting to lean back toward the headstock. I finally got it to work using some of the varnish to 'glue' it in place. It's a critical fitment since it affects intonation so it's gotta be right.
    To summarize, I like the neck on this very much. It's wide for a four string but it keeps the strings one the board when bending.