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New Kay K162 Electric Pro Bass Reissue

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by thejumpcat, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    I haven’t seen much on this bass here on TB, so I thought I’d offer some info after I bought one for $799 from Musician's Friend last week.

    You can read all about the origin of this reissue here (http://www.fritzbrothersguitars.com/kay-guitars.htm). In a nutshell, luthier/musician Roger Fritz has been making high-end ($3,600) recreations of the old Kay and then Kay partnered with him to make Chinese versions. Fritz also offers a version that’s priced ($2,500) in between the two.

    When I talked to Fritz's wife (who was very nice and informative), they only had the sunburst model in stock. It would've cost me $50 for them to ship it (as opposed to MF's free shipping), but Roger also does a setup (which probably would've been worth it as you read further). But I was set on a blonde.

    I ordered mine from MF on Saturday; it arrived Wednesday (free shipping) with a cool looking two-tone case, but I think regular gigging will take its toll on this case fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the bass is too thick to fit in my Fender gig bag.

    When I first took the bass out of the case, I noticed a rattle inside the body’s hollow chambers. I took off the control panel and found a couple of small pieces of wood chips and a screw. Weird thing is, there are no screws like it on the bass, so who knows where it came from.

    I’m a little picky about details, and I wasn’t impressed that the pickup/surround are off-center and a bit cockeyed. You can see in one of the photos what I mean. It’s not a lot, but it’s noticeable.

    Next, the D string tuner needs to be rotated counter-clockwise a bit, which I haven’t done yet.

    The pickup surround and the control plate come covered in clear plastic that you have to peel off, and it’s a total pain in the ass. I never did get it all off around the knobs and pickup height adjustment screws. I even used tweezers to try and pull it out, but couldn’t.

    The bridge needed to be raised slightly because there was fret buzzing initially. No big deal to twist the adjusters a few turns. The bridge is not the highest quality; there are small metal pieces under each string that you can move forward or backward into different slots, but I wouldn’t call it fine tuning by any means. It is what it is, and probably a recreation of the original (?).

    The neck is pretty thin with small frets, but I really didn’t find it hard to adjust to on my first gig (trio) Friday night. Having come from an upright and a Fender CS 55 P, it was different but not difficult.

    I had a little problem with the nut that holds the cord jack coming loose, so I’ll have to see if just tightening it will suffice.

    The dot markers, both on the side of the neck and on the fretboard, are very small, dark and hard to see. On stage, they are tough to see.

    You can really get a lot of different tones out of this Kay, depending on whether you use a pick, thumb or fingers, and especially on where you hit the strings. I can get a nice fat upright tone if I rest my thumb on the edge of the fingerboard and use the side of my index (like on an upright). You can rest your thumb on the lipstick pickup and get a nice tone, and muting the strings near the bridge and using a pick yields a totally different tone. (I realize you can do this with most EBs, but the variances in tone seemed really wide with the Kay.)

    There’s a volume and tone knob ( I play with both wide open) and a fat toggle switch that produces a very trebly or very bassy tone. At home, I thought the bassy tone was overkill and would be useless live, but I found just the opposite on gigs. We did some blues, jump, surf, jazzy instrumentals – there was a great tone available for all of them. I was using an Ampeg BA115T, which I just purchased Thursday, and the combination was pretty damn sweet (and cheap, in my opinion - $1285).

    Saturday’s gig (quartet) was much louder, and I was worried about the amp having enough oomph and the bass being able to cut through. The rig worked great, especially in the third set when the guitarist asked me to crank the amp’s bass knob a bit. This Kay is just flat out perfect for blues (and I think the tube preamp in the Ampeg helps a lot).

    For me, this bass is a good value when I weigh the pros (plays easy; looks great; light; lots of different tones; inexpensive; old school vibe; cool case) against the cons (Chinese mass production – loose jack; pickup off-center; tuner crooked; not the highest quality parts).

    With an upgrade or two (jack; bridge), this might just be the last EB I buy for quite awhile … unless I get the sunburst model, too....
    stevenrue likes this.
  2. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    more pics
  3. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    last two
  4. Nice review and quite a unique looking bass. Congratulations on the purchase.
  5. emblymouse

    emblymouse exempt Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2006
    Hey, thanks Jumpcat. I just discovered this bass two nights ago while looking up info on old Kays. I could not find any reviews anywhere, your rundown is great.
    I'm with you on the Blonde, a must. Too bad about the sloppy details, they are all so easily avoided and really hurt an otherwise decent instrument by your description. This bass has been bumped up a couple notches on my list.
  6. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    I read somewhere years ago that Larry Taylor (I think) used these old Kay electrics for some stuff, and he's about the baddest blues player around, in my world.

    I had sold EVERYTHING (upright Swingmaster; CS 55 Pbass, GK head and Acme 2x10) and was borrowing my drummer's bass and amp when I realized I'm a bass player with no gear.

    I saw this online and pulled the trigger, which is unusual for me. I don't buy new or without playing an axe. Hell, I did the same thing the next day with the Ampeg amp. I got lucky because this rig sounds phenomenal for blues and it left me with cash to survive for awhile.

    There is an NS Cleveland upright in my future, but until then, this is the ticket.
  7. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Looks good to me, albeit a little pricey (but I like cheap, used stuff...). My old Ampeg reissue had the same dots and they were a pain to see on stage unless you were under a yellow light. You get used to it though.
  8. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    I just grabbed a bottle of my wife's lightest finger nail polish and put a dab on each of the dot markers on the side of the neck. And I tightened the input jack nut.

    I've been playing this thing off and on all day, and I gotta say that I'm diggin' it more and more. I can't imagine what one of Fritz's high-end models is like.
  9. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    Well, now that I've had a few weeks to gig with this bass, I felt obligated to post again and state that I think this is one of the hippest axes out there.

    I cannot believe how easy it is to get a multitude of tones out of it. For the blues, it's just flat out remarkable (especially through the Ampeg BA115T).

    I hated selling my Custom Shop 55 P, but I almost get the feeling that was meant to be. The Kay is just a blast to play.

    The ONLY negative I've noticed is that it is just a tad neck heavy, probably due to the massive Kelvinator logo on the headstock. But it looks way too hip to remove. And once you're playing, the imbalance is not noticed (only when the bass is just hanging on the strap and you're not holding it).

    My bandmates are digging my sound big time, and I don't know if I've ever owned a bass that got so many compliments from the people listening and watching us perform.

    A part of me wants to keep this Kay reissue as my little secret, but it just deserves to be recognized. I hope bassists won't be snobs and look at this Musician's Friend instrument as anything less than a SERIOUS working tool.

    And check this out -- MF sent me a $75 certificate after I bought it from them, and I used that to pull the trigger on a fine El Dorado vintage-style strap.

    I don't know anything about MF's return policy because this is really the only time I've ever used them, but if they have any type of generous return policy, it would be worth it to try one of these Kays for yourself.
  10. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I've played at least 5 originals Howling wolf style ones, including a crazy clean one that belonged to Leland Sklar, via a good friend who plays and collects them religiously.

    The old ones are simply one of the nicest, warmest and richest sounding basses I've played. If these Ris are close then they are certainly worth the money. The originals usually need some work to get them set up right, and have upright-like necks; very strange at first and I imagine requiring a bit of getting used to.

    To the OP: have you ever played an old one to compare?
  11. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    I played an old one at a guitar show in Detroit many years ago, but I don't remember any details about it -- other than the neck was bowed.

    The neck on this reissue is nothing like an upright. It's incredibly thin; thinner than a Jazz, I believe.

    If I had the dough (and I don't!), I'd buy a sunburst one and do the Jaco trick and turn it into a fretless. THAT would be clean.
  12. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    ...when Kim Wilson hit Oahu about 15 yrs. back, The Mole was on bass and used one of these the entire night, sounding typically great.

    Congrat's on your new baby.
  13. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    Ironically, Kim lives about 45 minutes northeast of me and plays once in awhile with my drummer's brother, Doug Deming. Kim is THE man on harp (but my guy, Michael May, ain't too far behind).
  14. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009

    Thx for the review. Good call on the Blonde too. ;)
  15. basslinejam


    Mar 21, 2005
    New York City
    Bumping this up to see if anyone else wants to share their experience with this very interesting (to me) bass

  16. looks great. how much do originals go for?
  17. basslinejam


    Mar 21, 2005
    New York City
    If you've got one what do you think?
  18. I don't have one, but I want one. Certainly a cool bass with a vintage vibe.
  19. johnp352


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Rick Turner, GK
    I had an original one for a long time. I bought it for pretty cheap, and had been looking for one for 10 years!

    there were problems..

    The frets were in very bad shape (and were nothing to write home about to begin with), and "my luthier" at the time, Hugh McFarland (who I introduced to Lakin and you might know the rest) and I decided to pull them and fill the slots..the fretboard was a good piece of rosewood..very thick.. making this into a lined fretless was a good idea. Hugh carved a new bridge too..the Kay "stick" bridge was all but unusable..NOT a good design. The pu was cool, a great sounding thing. We called it "the iceberg" because it was huge..a below the surface monster. As the poopiee tuners were bent and or missing, we replaced them too.

    All you bass collecting capitalists out there are probably shaking your pointed heads at this point, wondering why I would "destroy" a "classic" like this..but as I play bass for a living, and consider instruments as something to be used, not looked at, these mods/improvements made the Kay ..usable. having said that..the finish on the bass was the original..but as the bass had been badly abused over the years, the finish was literally flaking off..put it in your lap to play, and brush off the paint flakes bad..so..down to the wood we go..and underneath..though it was veneer..tiger striped maple. beautiful ...

    I used this bass on quite a few "blues" sessions, and it was always my favorite around the house bass. dire financial straits a few years back forced me to let it go.

    One of the things you grasshoppers need to understand about Kay instruments in general is that they were pretty cheap, (price wise, not quality wise), compared to Fenders or JA forbid, Gibsons..and they were made in Chicago..like Harmony guitars as well. Because working musicians, especially working musicians playing "class b" places (taverns) didn't make the Big Bux$$ (but gee, we do now, huh?)..they played cheaper brands..Kay, harmony, teisco, etc. As you might know too, it didn't matter, because they KNEW HOW TO PLAY.

    I am going to geetar barn usa to see if I can play one of the reissues..will report back if I do.
  20. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    Anybody else played one of these? Just curious to see other opinions on the Kay.

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