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New Bass Day: Halo Custom Guitars Build

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Swift016, Jan 7, 2017.


  1. Swift016

    Swift016

    May 15, 2015
    Strap yourselves in boys, this is going to be a long one. I wanted to post this thread because I have seen a lot of people asking about this company and their gear, and I want to give an honest review of the bass itself, as well as my communication with the company so potential customers can make an informed decision.

    For anyone not in the know, Halo Custom Guitars is based out of California, but they do all their building in a factory in China and then ship the guitars stateside for fret leveling, electronics installation, and possibly hardware. I'm not sure how much is done on either side, but I am certain that most or all of the woodwork is done in China.

    Back in May 2015 I was looking to pick up a 5 string PJ with 24 frets and a 35" scale length, which seemed impossible to track down. I posted this thread and was directed to Halo's site and instantly fell in love with the build app. I put in my specs and submitted an order pretty much right away without doing any research.

    Oops.

    If you've ever heard of Halo or done any research on them, the internet is pretty clear on the fact that they don't have a good reputation. Here are some more recent links for reference:


    The most concerning thread for me was the 15 months one here on TB because it was quite recent and the poster ordered at around the same time I did. I placed my order in May 2015 and found the thread a few months ago because I was antsy about getting my own bass. It ultimately arrived in December 2016.

    Anyway, without further ado, here's a summary of everything from day one. Enjoy:

    Ordering

    btXcRz1.jpg

    This is the guitar that I created in the builder on Halo's website. As I mentioned, I wanted a 5 string, 24 fret, 35" scale bass with PJ pickups. I really liked the "Chainbreaker" body shape on their site and decided to go with that one because it reminds me of a pointy Explorer. With that in mind, I modeled the build loosely on James Hetfield's white Explorer from the late 80s because it's my favorite guitar design of all time.

    VfbOeYl.jpg

    To summarize, it's a "Chainbreaker" body with a "traditional" headstock (because I don't like the "HALO" logo and opted for the "H" instead), black hardware, black nut, Hipshot triple lockdown bridge. The finish is solid white gloss (headstock matched) and the body has tapered edges like the Explorer. The neck is a maple bolt-on and the body is alder. I decided to go with Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders for both the P and J because you just can't go wrong with them.

    When I placed my order, Jeff (the owner?) contacted me with a spec sheet to sign and scan to send back to him, and answered all of the questions I had (and I had quite a few). He was very quick to get back to me and was very helpful. The earliest build time he quoted was October 2015, which would be ~5 months from my order date. All of our e-mail conversations took place on May 16, which was the day I ordered, and I left it from there.

    Also, when you place a custom order, they set up a build page on their website that you can apparently use to keep track of the build. From what I'd heard, Halo had, in the past, updated these pages with pictures of the build process to keep customers in the know.

    Follow Up #1: One Month to Original Projected Delivery

    I contacted Jeff on September 1 to verify that the October shipping date would be upheld. He got back to me a week later to let me know that the bass was in production and that he would be looking to deliver in December. I was kind of bummed, but not surprised, as delays do happen.

    Delay count: 1, +2 months.

    Contact from Halo: October

    On October 19 I got an e-mail from one of the techs in California letting me know that he would be taking care of my order, which I assumed meant that he would be the one putting all of the electronics in and doing the setup, etc. I was kind of caught off guard by this because I had previously been corresponding with Jeff, and I was kind of worried because I had mentioned some very specific things to him about the electronics and pots I wanted and didn't want to end up having them ship something to me that was not to the specifications as discussed. In any case, I restated all of the specifics to the tech just to be doubly sure that everything would be followed. Our e-mail conversation went on from October 19 to October 27 and was pretty consistent. When I asked, the tech told me that my bass was not yet stateside, as it was in the process of being painted.

    Follow Up #2: One Month to New Projected Delivery

    I contacted the tech on November 13 to ask if there had been any developments on my build. I mentioned that I was under the impression that the custom order page would be updated as each step of the build was completed because that's what I'd read other customers mentioning. As of that date, I had not yet seen any pictures of anything and had no idea if the bass existed. I was starting to get a little nervous. The tech got back to me that day to tell me that the build pages aren't updated that way any longer. I was sort of annoyed, but I left it alone.

    Follow Up #3: Month of New Projected Delivery

    On December 3 I contacted the tech again and was beginning to get really nervous that there would be another delay or something would be miscommunicated. I wanted to know if they'd had any trouble getting the custom Quarter Pound P pickup because they (at that time) did not come stock in a 5 string model and were only available through the Seymour Duncan custom shop. I figured Halo could at least confirm that the right pickups were on hand and everything was ready to go as soon as the actual bass arrived in California. I also wanted to know how long it would take to get everything installed once the bass got there. I was very set on the December ship date.

    I got a response from Jeff on December 9 instead of the tech saying that it would be easier if I just communicated with him from then on out, which I was fine with. I asked him to be frank with me about the build progress because the tech had told me he would update me as soon as he knew anything, and I had not gotten any further information. I heard back from Jeff on December 15 and he answered all of the questions I had directed to the tech, and also said that the bass had been painted, was in queue for getting a factory setup, but would not be shipped in February because they had a backlog of other instruments that needed work. From what he said, they had some instruments from the shop in China with frets that needed to be "redone". I was happy to hear that Halo is dedicated to shipping out well-fretted guitars, but I was also concerned that the fretjobs from China were bad enough to create a two month backlog. If the factory couldn't ship guitars with decent frets, how good could the woodworking possibly be? I was kind of worried.

    Delay count: 2, +4 months.

    Follow Up #4: Month of Newer Projected Delivery

    I e-mailed Jeff on January 28 to find out if my bass would actually arrive in February. I also asked for a picture of literally anything just so I could see that it existed. He e-mailed me back at the beginning of February and was able to post the three pictures, one of which was this:

    EiAUccy.jpg

    He also said he was unable to ship my bass out before Chinese New Year, and that he would have it in March, and ship by March.

    Delay count: 3, +5 months.

    Follow Up #5: Month of Newerer Projected Delivery

    I e-mailed Jeff on March 14 because I hadn't heard anything and didn't want to wait until the end of the month to find out the inevitable. I got a response on March 24 stating that the bass was in transit to California and would therefore not arrive in March, but definitely before May.

    Delay count: 4, +7 months.

    Follow Up #6: One Month to Newererer Projected Delivery

    I e-mailed on April 18 because my address was changing in the coming weeks and I was worried about the bass getting lost in the mail. Jeff and I communicated back and forth well into May, and he was kind enough to issue a partial refund on the shipping because I was moving quite a bit closer to California. He also told me that there was a minor issue with the Hipshot bridge fitting the body of the bass, and that they were waiting on a replacement. Everything else seemed to be coming together, so I was happy enough. He finally hooked me up with some pictures:



    This was on May 20, and finally, the bass was slated to be shipped in one week after neck adjustments could be made.

    Contact from Halo: Five Minutes to Midnight

    I received an e-mail from Jeff on May 25 explaining that my build was going to be delayed because of continued issues with the bridge. He provided me with the following pictures and explained that, because of the thickness of the body, the Hipshot saddles were not attaching very securely.



    He needed to get some longer tubes to make sure that the bridge could stand up to the tension. For what it's worth, I really appreciated the attention to detail and finally getting some transparency, so I was not upset. If waiting on a few parts for the bridge was all that needed to happen, I was willing to wait. He got back to me on June 7 to let me know that the new bridge was en route and he would be able to ship early the next week.

    Delay count: 5, +8 months.

    Follow Up #7: One Week Past the Date of Newerererer Projected Delivery

    I contacted Jeff on June 20 (the Monday after it was supposed to ship).

    Delay count: 6, +8 months.

    At this point I was trying to be patient, but insistent, because I expected to be kept in the know. On June 22 he told me that the new bridge had been installed, and that it would be shipped by June 24 or earlier. I waited until June 29 before e-mailing again after hearing nothing.

    Delay count: 7, +8 months.

    On June 30, Jeff responded to say it was being buffed and would be shipped the next day, June 31. I received the shipping number on May 1.

    I bet you think this is the end of the story. It's not.

    Act Three: The Ride Never Ends!

    Lord help me. I've already been typing for an hour and I'm still not done.

    On July 5, I received an e-mail from Jeff explaining that, despite a UPS label being processed, my bass actually hadn't been shipped out because there was an issue with the guitar's finish. When the bass was being buffed and polished, they discovered a hairline crack in the neck joint of the guitar, which turned black when the polish got into it and made it really obvious (whereas it wasn't visible before). He was very apologetic.

    JSWNNRB.jpg

    Jeff informed me that the crack was in the finish, not in the wood, and that it wouldn't affect the neck joint or its stability. They were having a difficult time getting the buffing compound out of the crease to do a clean touch up, and he mentioned that they might need to re-paint the instrument... but their local painter was on maternity leave, and sending the guitar back to China would take 30 days. He told me that solving this issue was a priority.

    At this point I was not really annoyed because I'd already gone through the seven stages of grief with this build and finally accepted that it might never be in my hands. My immediate response was to ask if the finish cracked from the wood expanding due to being shipped overseas, which could be really bad in the future. I also informed Jeff that, at this point, I was dead set on taking the guitar to my local luthier to get a comprehensive inspection done as soon as I received it because I had just heard far too many negative comments about Halo's quality assurance to take him at his word, and this development made me even more nervous. Luckily, my local guy told me that cracked finishes do happen, so there was nothing to worry about as long as the builder made it right.

    Delay count: 8, +? months.

    Follow Up #8: Questionable Period Without Newererererer Projected Delivery Date

    I had to e-mail a second time on July 22 to insist that I get a response because I had yet to get one. I asked what solution they were pursuing, and Jeff got back to me on July 29 to let me know that the wood was stable, that he reviewed the issue with the crack with one of his luthiers to make sure it was purely cosmetic, and that he was sending it to some guy who did Gene Simmons' custom basses to get repainted. He estimated another 2-3 weeks, putting the Newererererer Projected Delivery(TM) date toward the end of August.

    Delay count: 8, +10 months.

    Follow Up #9: Approaching Newererererer Projected Delivery

    I e-mailed on August 14 to check progress and got no response.

    Follow Up #10: One Week Past Newererererer Projected Delivery

    I sent a one word e-mail ("Update?") on September 1 after not hearing back in August. I received a pretty prompt response from Jeff saying that he had my bass back at his shop (where did it go in the meantime?) and that he did not have the painter do anything with it, but had arranged to have it ready to be shipped out toward the end of September.

    Delay count: 9, +11 months.

    Follow Up #11: One Week Past Newerererererer Projected Delivery

    At this point I was being very, very strict in keeping up on my e-mails. I sent another very short e-mail to Jeff on October 2 and reminded him that it was now October and that I was expecting an update because I had not heard anything, and the ship date had passed once again. He responded saying that it would ship out by October 21.

    Delay count: 10, +12 months.

    Follow Up #11: One Week Past Newererererererer Projected Delivery

    Once again, the slated shipping date came and passed, and I had to check in again. I e-mailed on October 25 insisting on another update. No response.

    Follow Up #12: Two Weeks Past Newererererererer Projected Delivery

    I sent another e-mail on November 5, this time more strongly worded. I explained that I had been immaculately patient so far, but that the shipping date being pushed back without me being notified was unacceptable. It had been over one calendar year past the original shipping date at this point. I explained that I understood the difficulties of a completely custom build like this, but that I was owed so much more in terms of being kept in the loop. Even if I just got an e-mail like "hey, we just finished repainting and we're waiting for it to dry, thanks for your patience", I felt like it would have made a world of difference.

    Delay count: 11, +1 year and counting.

    Follow Up #13: Two Weeks Past Newererererererer Projected Delivery

    And yet, I still got no response! On November 9 I copied the same e-mail from November 5 and resent it, and finally got a response the next day. Jeff acknowledged that his continued apologies held less and less weight, and informed me that he'd had the bass rebuilt. I'm guessing they just made up a new body and shipped it over to swap everything onto it. He attached the following photo and estimated a shipping date between November 21 and 30.

    NvUmeG7.jpg

    By now, I was honestly just happy to hear some good news. There was a new bass, presumably with no hairline cracks, and it would be coming soon. Or would it? I'm pretty sure I'd developed full-blown Stockholm Syndrome at this point. With that said, I sent a lengthy response and insisted I be kept in the loop.

    Delay count: 12, +1 year and 1 month.

    Follow Up #14: Week of Newerererererererer Projected Delivery

    As diligent as ever, I e-mailed Jeff on the morning of November 21 because I wasn't about to let the date pass once again. He notified me that they were completely on track to ship by November 30, which would be the following Wednesday. Regardless, I e-mailed on Friday, then followed up again on Tuesday November 29, to which he responded that they were on track to ship the next day. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel?

    The next day he e-mailed me without prompting to let me know that he was still working on the frets and it might be tight to get it shipped out that day. I was happy enough with this and told him to just get it done and let me know, even if it took another business day. November 30 came and passed.

    Follow Up #15: Two Days Past Newerererererererer Projected Delivery Date

    I e-mailed on December 2 (Friday of that week) at noon with another very short e-mail. I received an e-mail confirming that the bass would be shipped out that day, and I would be receiving the tracking information by the end of the day. I received it at just shortly after 5PM California time. I confirmed the tracking number; it was actually en route this time.

    Delay count: 13, +1 year and 1 month.

    (Newererererererererer) Delivery Day and Unboxing!

    I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:



    General comments:
    - The packaging was a little dinky. I have a 50 pound Warwick flight case for my Corvette, and it came packaged more securely than this did.
    - The case is not a "true" hardshell case. For the $200 extra paid, I wish I had gotten something a little more hefty, but I can't complain because I literally would never find a case for this monstrosity elsewhere. The bass needs to go in on a diagonal because of the awkward shape, which is hilarious, and the case is already longer than any I've ever seen.
    - The white finish is gorgeous and everything I could have hoped for.
    - The neck cut is amazing for accessing the higher frets.
    - The neck is extremely comfortable to play on. It's very thin.
    - The fretwork is well-done and looks tidy.

    Now, for the more astute observers, you may have noticed:
    - The top strap button is missing!
    - There is a significant rough patch where the neck joins the body (see the last three images).

    Follow Up Phone Call with Jeff and Inspection by Local Luthier

    I called Jeff on the day that the bass arrived and shared my feedback with him. He was surprised to hear that one of the strap buttons was missing and sent me two replacement sets right away. He agreed to compensate me for having my local guy install the new button, and was also open to paying for any work that I decided needed to be done where the neck joins the body. Overall, he was very helpful and interested in what I had to say.

    I took the bass to a local guitar builder/repairman who is extremely well-known in the world of guitar repair (the dude is published and has been around for ages; I can guarantee that most technicians who do repairs have heard of him) to get the button installed and to get an expert opinion on the build quality of the bass. Here's what he had to say:

    - He was very impressed with the quality of the build, especially for a $1500 price point.
    - The neck joint, especially with the awkward body shape, is very well-done and secure.
    - The paint job and finish are very obviously professional.
    - The person who soldered the components did a great job.
    - The neck heel is rough underneath because joining a neck to a custom body shape takes a lot of shimmying, and the Hipshot bridge raises the fretboard more than usual, which reveals a bit more than is normal. He said it's completely fine and since it's only visible to me (the player) when I look down, it's not even worth touching.
    - He wants to check out Halo's booth if they're at NAMM this year.

    My Feedback

    Okay, so what did I learn from this experience?

    Halo:
    - Is capable of delivering good products.
    - Will get you exactly what you ordered and will go to any length to accommodate your specifications.
    - Needs to be more concrete with its shipping dates.
    - Still has some growing pains to figure out, but will not ship you a piece of garbage (although a strap button may be missing).

    My advice to anyone ordering is to only pay the 50% down and NOT PAY THE REST until a UPS label has been printed and you've received multiple pictures of the guitar. Halo is one of the only companies that will get you something completely custom at under $2000, and in my opinion, it was worth it. Semi-custom mass production builders like Kiesel can get something to your door faster, but if you want to dictate EVERY detail of your build, Halo might be worth the plunge. Just be prepared to wait.

    The guitar sounds and plays great. I'm not going to bother with a recording because it sounds like every other bass with Quarter Pound pickups, to be honest. The B string is fat because of the longer scale length, and I have absolutely nothing to complain about now that I have the bass in my hands.

    Thanks for reading. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
     
  2. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    That bass is unusual, but beautiful. I hope you enjoy it!
     
  3. shawshank72

    shawshank72

    Mar 22, 2009
    Canada
    Great to hear you got your bass and loving it.
    I was a hair away from pulling the trigger on a custom build once and am very glad I didn't.
    I'm the type of person who couldn't wait that long for a bass.
    Hopefully they keep on learning and can fix their reputation.
    Congrats.
     
    el_Bajo_Verde likes this.
  4. Swift016

    Swift016

    May 15, 2015
    What's so unusual? I wanted something that would stand out haha. I don't understand why so many basses have the same shape. It'll stand out at shows, that's for sure.

    I agree. I really do hope they keep getting better. Jeff seems like a good dude, and I'm sure he's just swamped with all kinds of crap. He probably takes on way too much of the work, but if you want to get stuff done right, that's the way to do it.
     
    wvbass likes this.
  5. lug

    lug

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    In that time frame, I would have gotten to old to rock and then would have switched to blues. Not sure about that as a blues bass.



    :D
     
    Alacajun likes this.
  6. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    Denmark
    Congratulation, looks neat! :bassist:

    I got inspired and went to the site to create my own dream bass, and made a thread about it here on the forum: My Dream Bass!!!

    Sadly I won't likely get $ 2800+ to spend on a bass in the near future :crying:
     
  7. hypercarrots

    hypercarrots

    Jan 28, 2009
    los angeles
    thanks for a detailed description of the process. i had wondered what it's like ordering a custom bass from halo. the customization tool is a lot of fun. seems like with the wait and lack of response it's all downhill after that... until the bass arrives that is.
     
  8. That's the biggest bunch of BS I've ever heard in my life. I would have pulled the plug and called my CCard co. And filed a complaint of failure to preform. I also could have one built locally for the same or less in far less time. I don't think anyone should support this half baked excuse for a legitimate company. Completly unprofessional and incompetent IMHO.
     
  9. Forgot to add I'm happy for you not losing your money. And if it made you happy great. How much did you spend on this great experiment pray tell? Enjoy.
     
  10. You are more patient than I. A friend built me a custom bass that took over a year, but he was doing it by himself. Plus, mid-build he shattered his hip and had to recover from that. Unrelated to my bass...

    Hopefully Jeff at Halo used this as an opportunity to really get a hold of his supply chain and set proper expectations in the future. But at least the bass is everything you want!
     
  11. shal1234

    shal1234

    Dec 21, 2006
    D.C.
    Congrats on finally receiving your bass. I'm glad that it turned out well. As someone that also went through the same ordeal with Halo, I understand how relieved you must be to finally be done with it.

    In the end, I also received a bass that was constructed very well. I do have a couple issues with the bass, but nothing that can't be taken care of. Mainly, the bass needs to be re-finished, as the paint job is not aesthetically pleasing, and the neck pickup I selected doesn't quite do it for me. So I'll need to swap that out. Until then, it remains in the closet. But all-in-all it's a solid build.

    I think what people need to know about Halo is that they are not a large company, and since they build completely unique custom instruments, they will likely experience problems during the build. It's not like they are stamping out pre-fabricated templates each time. And I think Jeff deals with these issues when he can, but since the factory is in China it can consume months at a time to ship the bass back and fourth when there is an issue. It's not an ideal situation by any means, but who else will build complete custom instruments with comparable prices? No one that I know of.

    I think Halo still has potential. Jeff needs to be better about providing updates to his customers, and the customer needs to be patient, and understand that due to the logistics, the process is extremely slowww. Say 1.5 years to be realistic. And Halo needs to be up-front about that.
     
    Swift016 likes this.
  12. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I've never heard of this company, but interesting choice for a name, especially given that reputation you mention: In the cycling world a "Halo Bike" is the term used to refer to the best-of-the-best, no-expense-spared, top-of-the-line, creme-de-la-creme, u-can't-top-this, flagship bike.

    I'm guessing a Halo Bass is not a "Halo Bass"?
     
    DiabolusInMusic likes this.
  13. Swift016

    Swift016

    May 15, 2015
    100% agreed on all points. I was so disappointed when I saw the pictures in your thread because the translucent finish in your sample picture looked awesome, but what you ended up with looked nothing like it. I'm glad that I went with a solid finish because it's hard to screw up.

    And yeah, custom guitars are going to present difficulties, and I'm not at all upset at what happened with mine because it's unavoidable. The price point is just hard to beat if you're willing to wait, and yeah, some transparency about the wait time is my biggest complaint, if anything.
     
  14. rockerjeff

    rockerjeff

    Apr 25, 2009
    Cupertino
    General Manager, Halo Custom Guitars, Inc.
    To address one of our biggest complaints (lead time), we now have a new Production Manager (as of 1/13/2017) so I will no longer be directly responsible for that aspect of the company, as I have not performed well. We will work harder and smarter this year to reduce our lead times! - Jeff Lee, Halo Custom Guitars
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
  15. Awesome post. Bravo to you sir! Nice to see there are still some people of integrity in this world!
     
  16. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Does take a pair to stand up and admit that in public, kudos and good luck getting things straightened out.
     
  17. Nahguavkire

    Nahguavkire

    Sep 28, 2012
    Great thread and great to see the response from Jeff!
    I'm really hankering for a fretless 6-string bass and with limited options out there I have to say I'm really looking towards Halo as a viable option:

    full?d=1487075615.png

    Have to start a little soul searching and see if I can justify it now!
     
  18. J Gold

    J Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2011
    Houston,TX
    I find myself designing a 6 string bass in their ES335 body shape.
    I've had 4 custom builds and delays are part of the deal-- the fact that you got photo updates and he admitted his mistakes is refreshing and actually instills more confidence in his dedication to customers.

    Keep us posted on how this bass stands up!
     
    Garret Graves and Nahguavkire like this.
  19. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    For that kind of money you could get something similar hand built in America by Chris Stambaugh.
     
  20. $2600+? Lots of US builders can do something for that amount or less!
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
    songwriter21 and DiabolusInMusic like this.

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