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My day of playing and buying basses. (LONG)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MichaelScott, Dec 29, 2004.


  1. MichaelScott

    MichaelScott

    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    This thread is going to tell the tale of my day long trip to Hollywood and my very hard purchase decision between three outstanding basses:

    The Carvin LB70P

    The G & L L-2000

    The Ibanez BTB1000


    I’ve been eyeballing these three basses for a while now. I am expecting a custom fretless in the mail in the next three weeks and I wanted to replace my dual MM pick up fretted Hamer with something that had less neck dive and more tonal diversity. All three of the above basses seemed to have enough diversity with their pickup combinations and pre amps.

    Another thing I wanted to think about (obviously) was the price: all three of these basses were around the $1200 range on the internet and I was ready to spend about $1000 today if I fell in love with something.

    I had the day off today and I enlisted my Father’s help as a second opinion on the looks and sound of each bass. We drove out to Sunset blvd. where there is a Carvin store on the same block as Manny’s Sam Ash, which are both across the street from Guitar Center (talk about Mecca).

    We walked into the Carvin store first at about 11:00 am

    I was a little disappointed in the selection of basses inside the store. I was looking for Carvin’s flag ship bass in a four string model and they only had an LB70 in a four- not the LB70P. The P has built in peizo pickups on each string/bridge which I wanted to hear to compare it to the other two basses I was going to be knocking it against.

    The Carvin LB70P

    Sticker Price: The LB70P goes for about $860. The paint/headstock options I want brought it to about $1000. Carvin is having a great sale right now and all the options are half off.

    Aesthetically: Carvin makes a beautiful bass. There wasn’t one in the store that I didn’t think was attractive. The edges are all rounded, the bodies were all finished very nicely, the necks were fast and felt very comfortable, and the body was super light and the whole package appealed to me.

    Playability: Like I mentioned above- I really dug the neck. Felt great in my hand and I was able to play what I wanted with no problems. Of the three basses I was testing today the Carvin had (IMO) the most comfortable neck. They ALL had great necks but the Carvin just felt a tiny bit better. The right hand gets plenty of love too. The neck J-pup is extended far from the body for an easy thumb shelf. 95% of all the J style pups I have played have a very uncomfortable shelf for the thumb on the neck pup. The bridge humbucker felt fine to rest on and I had no problems muting and slapping. The controls were also very easy to understand. Although the 4 string model they had didn’t have the Peizos; I played on a bunch of fivers that did and got a feel for the controls.

    Sound: BRIGHT. That was the best way I could describe the sound. I played all of their fretted 5’s and their one fretted 4 and couldn’t seem to get a rich full deep sound. One of their 5’s had flats on it and I was able to get a nice boomy bottom as well as a bright sound out of it. But I didn’t want to have to limit myself to flat strings to make the bass sound good. I liked they way the Carvins sounded but I wanted tonal diversity and they seemed to be a great axe for a slapper. I am not currently in a band where I need to slap. I mostly do it in my personal practice time.

    Random Turn offs: I was getting some crazy mad hum from the amp I was playing through. It sounded really bad and the sales rep informed me that the transformer for their building was behind the wall I was at. Now the store is in a great location on Sunset but I thought they might do better if the bass amps were on the other side of the store away from the transformer. They also gave me a bad cable to first test the basses on. The 4 stringer I was playing on was also set up awful. I asked them if they could do something about it and they fixed it. I also noticed that one of their basses had dead batteries. They were more then happy to replace them but I thought they should have been maintained better.

    RandomTurn ons: Hanging on the wall was a very lonely Fretless LB70P-F. It had a swamp ash body with a transparent blue stain. I wasn’t really looking for a fretless (since I have a custom one being finished) but I couldn’t resist plugging it in to play on… WOW. I couldn’t describe how amazingly full it sounded. Packed with Muwah and excellent with harmonics- I don’t know if the peizos have anything to do with it but I was able to make Portrait of Tracy sound very good on the flatwound strings that were on there. The bass had a small nick in the back and was being sold for $699. The sales rep said it had been on the shelf for 6 months.

    I also want to give a big thumbs up to the guys in the Carvin store. Very nice, very accommodating- actually seemed to enjoy talking to me and they weren’t trying to pressure me into any sort of sale. The guys in the store were guitar players but they knew their bass info just fine.

    After about an hour of playing at the Carvin store (30 minutes of it was probably on the fretless). My dad and I walked down the street to Manny’s Sam Ash store. Hanging on the wall in their bass section was 1 Ibanez BTB1000 and a large variety of G&L L-2000’s and Tribute L-2000.

    The Ibanez BTB1000

    Sticker Price: The sticker said $1174 and I had seen it on ebay for under $1000. I asked the rep how good he could do and he came back saying he could let me walk out the door with $1174 after tax.

    Aesthetically: The BTB has a walnut maple body sandwiched with a very pretty quilt maple on the front and maple on the back. It kinda looks like a peanut butter sandwich on white bread. I thought it looked really good. It was covered with dust- I doubt many people knew about the instrument.

    Playability: The neck felt great- not as good as the Carvin’s but I think the differences were splitting hairs. I enjoyed the neck and I liked the finish on it (is it tung oil?). The Bart soapbar pups were rubbery and it felt really good to rest my thumb on them- plenty of shelf space. This bass is much heaver then the Carvins- I think the BTB weighed even more then the Carvin 6 stringer. The BTB even felt like it weighed more then the L-2000. The horn comes up enough to make neck dive out of the question- and I hit the gym enough to not mind the additional weight. The controls are way simple- easier then the Carvin’s and a bizillion times easier then the G & L.

    Sound: Wow. Very little fret buzz when I dug in. FAT P STYLE sound from the neck pup, nice growl from the bridge pick up. The controls were so good I was able to quickly change my sounds and almost every combination I could think of gave me an interesting sound that I liked. I’ve never played on Bart pups before and after playing on the BTB I could understand why people love them so much.

    G & L L-2000

    There were 3 made in America L-2000 and 3 Tributes. I played all of them. I also played an ASAT Semi Hollow.

    Sticker Price: The American made ranged between $1400 and $1600. The Tributes were around $600. I thought the Americans were WAY over priced- I’ve seen them advertised new on the internet with a high of $1200- low of $900.

    Aesthetically: Really good looking bass. I liked the way the pickups looked and they had some great colors (orange stain and flame maple red stain with matching headstock) to play on.

    Playability: The neck seemed thicker then the Ibanez and the Carvin but I didn’t find it uncomfortable. It had the same finish as the Ibanez and my hand was easily able to play through my left handed exercises and scales. The right hand felt good resting on each of the humbuckers- It didn’t feel as good as the Ibanez BTB but it felt better then say a standard Jazz bass or P-bass. The controls were complex and even though I had studied them I found that when I actually had the bass in my hands I couldn’t get what I wanted out of it.

    Sound: The neck pup sounds nice and full. The bridge pup also sounded meaty and full- I spent about 10 minutes trying to manipulate the controls to make it growl but I couldn’t do it. I was pretty disappointed because the G&L was my pick before I started this adventure. I liked the idea of having all these controls but when I got it in my hands it was just too much to worry about. It did sound plenty fat (as fat as the Ibanez) but I couldn’t get it to have the variance I had imagined it would have.

    Random Turn Offs: I tried 3 Tributes there- and all three of them had serious pot scratching when I turned ANY of the controls. There could have been reasons for this that are not G&L’s fault but it really made me think twice about recommending a Tribute to anyone else. How often do the guys at Manny’s go through and play the basses? They aren’t doing anyone a favor by keeping instruments with bad electronics on the shelf.



    I spent about two hours in Manny’s switching between the various G&L’s and the Ibanez. I also test drove a couple of other basses- none of them I felt were as strong as three choices I had decided to test.

    I decided that I needed to play some different instruments. It is easy for me to pick out the flaws of my three basses now at the end of the day- but after the first pass I felt they were all really good (except for the Tributes) and I was lost trying to figure out which one I should buy.

    I headed over to Guitar Center and spent the next 3 hours playing almost every bass they had in their rumble room. I think I went through about 20 basses and the only ones I thought came close to what I wanted were the expensive warwicks. There was a really nice white maple warwick with abalone designs in the fingerboard. It was jazz style, super comfy to play, and had no fret buzz. Of course, it was around $2400 which was way out of my price range.

    Now there were a lot of really good basses that I played and I don’t want you guys to think I am knocking any of the other fine basses out there. I played a Bongo, a bunch of Sterlings and Stingrays, about 4 different warwicks, some Fender J’s. But except for the Bongo none of them had the variance I was looking for- I couldn’t get a bunch of different sounds. I spent a lot of time on the Bongo but in the end I didn’t like it as much as the three I had chosen to test today.

    I was pretty exhausted and I hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch so I took a break and mulled over my decision. I had played so many basses that I almost felt more clueless then when I had first started my day. But after talking with my dad about it I narrowed my decision down a bit. I decided that the G&L wasn’t really worth the money compared to the Carvin and the Ibanez. The G&L looked good on paper but when I had it in my hands it wasn’t practical.

    After lunch I went back to the Carvin store and spent another hour there. I went through them all again and I kept going back to the fretless they had. I really, really liked the way that it played and sounded. And though I wouldn’t even think to buy a blue bass with gold hardware… it looked really good. I was frustrated because I had a fretless on the way and my brain was telling me that I didn’t need another fretless. My hands, ears, and dad (aren’t your parents supposed to be the voice of reason?) were telling me that I needed this bass and it was a real deal.

    I went back over to Manny’s and tried the Ibanez for the second time. This time there was no question. The BTB1000 was the best fretted instrument I had played that day. I sounded great in any pup configuration; it was punchy, fat, smoothed when I wanted it. It had no fretbuzz unless I really slammed the strings and it looked great. I really can’t say enough good things about it- and I felt pretty good with my decision because I had spent the whole day playing almost every production bass under the sun.

    I knew I could get the bass off of ebay for $1000- and I was also totally in love with the Carvin fretless. I asked the Manny’s rep if I could have the BTB for $1000 out the door. He talked to his manager and came back with a no… their loss.

    I walked back to Carvin again and we went over how much it would cost to build the fretless model that I liked over again. My thought was that I could buy the Ibanez BTB on-line and maybe order the Carvin Fretless a few months down the road if I was still thinking about it. After all my options were factored in the bass would cost around $1095 without the case and the bass in the store they would let me have for $684- with a hard case and strap locks.

    I paced around the store for about 15 minutes trying to figure out what I should do. I didn’t really need another fretless- but I couldn’t say no to this bass.

    So the Carvin Fretless is sitting behind me right now waiting for me to finish typing this up so I’ll start playing it again- it is also 3:45 am but I am too excited to sleep.

    I’m going to have to wait a couple of months before I get the Ibanez BTB1000 but I definitely plan to. If you haven’t had a chance to play one I recommend them.

    I’ll post pictures of my new baby later today.

    Thanks for reading!
     
  2. Killer Review, thanks for taking the time to share this with us.

    But just so you know the BTB series has a Mahogany body inbetween a figured maple top, and a maple back. Wouldn't want to cause confusion with Walnut, which sounds waaay different.

    Thanks again!
     
  3. MichaelScott

    MichaelScott

    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    Woops didn't realize it was mahogany. Well it sounded awesome.

    Now that I have had some time to break in my fretless I've come to love it even more. Here are some pics for those of you who are interested (not the best lighting):

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]
     
  4. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    nice Carvin!, Carvin is the win! I kind of want a fretless 4 with that old style headstock... but I've moved on to sixes...and have Pedulla Buzz GAS.... :bassist:
     
  5. Zemaitis

    Zemaitis

    Jan 7, 2004
    New Paltz NY
    I just found an Ibanez BTB1000EOL in a local guitar store that had been sitting there for probably a year, I'd played it before and always liked it but $1000 is an investment that I couldnt make after buying my Modulus. So anyway I sold a bunch of gear on Ebay trying to buy an MTD Saratoga, that deal fell through so I headed down to the guitar store and there was the BTB for $499!!!!!!! I immediately put a few bucks down and picked it up a couple weeks back.
    I LOVE this bass and would highly recommend it. The Barts have a different sound than the barts I have in my Modulus or the jazz ones in my FEnder but it really has a great sound, very versatile!
    Ive set up the Ibanez a little more to my liking and the action can be set quite low not Modulus low but pretty low.
    Ive seen a few on Ebay that Im sure you could get for under a grand new and my advice would be to DO IT!
    Sorry to tease you with the ridiculously low price but that was just a great deal, probably cheaper than the store accquired it for from Ibanez.
     
  6. Schwinn

    Schwinn

    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    MichaelScott,

    Nice reviews! Sounds like you spent a lot of time to make an informed buy. I like how you used headings in your review instead of making it one long paragraph like some people.
     
  7. karrot-x

    karrot-x Banned

    Feb 21, 2004
    Omicron Persei 8
    Nice review, I really liked how you were so patient when you wanted to buy. No way in hell I could do that :).

    I usually hate the carvin bodys and headstocks but that one you got is pretty damn appealing....uh oh :(

    ****ing GAS
     
  8. tekhna

    tekhna

    Nov 7, 2004
    Thats a beautiful carvin!
     
  9. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    MichaelScott, excellent reviews, very detailed and balanced and undoubtedly would be of help to others looking at those instruments. They also serve as a good template for other reviews. I'm not looking at any of those axes, but I enjoyed reading of your day.
     
  10. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    How do you like your Canon 1D?

    Nice looking bass. Take some more pics with better lighting. I love that headstock.