New unique custom SC..who to build it? Nordstrand? Fodera? Benavente?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Yamarc, Oct 21, 2003.

  1. Yamarc

    Yamarc Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2002
    Northville, MI
    I want a 4 or 5 string Anthony Jackson inspired SC. I will change a few small details but want to keep the arched top, hollow body, single pup routed right to the output jack. BUT, who should I get to build it? I don't know if I have the money to drop on a Fodera...I am hearing great things from Carey Nordstrand and Chris Benavente. Which would you guys choose and why?
    The other guys are definetly cheaper than Fodera, but can they produce the same quality of bass? (playability, craftsmanship, tone, etc.) Some of you guys have owned both, let me know the best route before I drop the big bucks. Thanks, Marc
  2. I don't think quality will be an issue with any of these builders, as they all build high end instruments with extreme attention to detail. I think your best bet would be to send them an email and explain some of the details about the bass you have came up with. They will let you know what they think about it and you can go from there.
  3. fivestringdan

    fivestringdan Supporting Member

    Dec 4, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    Oh man, I hear it comin'.
  4. Lackey


    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    IF I had the money, I'd go Nordstrand.

    Fodera's are too expensive..

    I don't like Benevante's single cut design very much..

    And from what I've heard, Carey builds his instruments as perfect as possible. People are screaming about "jewel like","responsive" and "uber low action"; thats exactly what I like.
  5. niomosy


    Nov 9, 2002
    I'm not a huge fan of the Nordstrand SC design but since you've got a shape that you're already looking at, the current designs of these builders might not matter.

    Going the Fodera route will almost certainly cost you more. If possible, I'd suggest trying all of them out to see which builder you prefer. You're dropping a large amount of cash on this. It might as well be as close to what you're dreaming of as possible.
  6. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    You live close to Eshenbaugh.
  7. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer, Builder

    I agree totally, atleast find out what your looking at in cost from everyone and even Fodera.
  8. Yamarc

    Yamarc Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2002
    Northville, MI
    I've done just that. Benavente and Nordstrand are about 2-3K cheaper than Fodera. That is why I am confused about where the extra money is going...if it is mostly to tone, it may be worth it to me.
  9. GooseYArd

    GooseYArd Guest

    May 15, 2003
    I have not had an opportunity to play a Benavente, but I did recently receive a Nordstrand 6 string bass similar to what you're describing.

    I study with a fellow who has an older Fodera AJ6, and having played that bass regularly, I can confirm that at least Carey Nordstrand (and probably many of the other well known new builders in this "new wave of bass luthiery"), are able to build instruments of comparable comlpexity and quality at significantly lower prices and shorter waiting times, with no tradeoffs other than perhaps a perceived element of risk at commissioning an instrument from a builder who is not well known, or a little loss of status in having a less recognizable brand. Also, these guys are under so much scrutiny by folks in this community, many of whom have done a lot of sampling, that you'd hear concerns straight away.

    Aside from their exceptional quality, in terms of both design and construction, I think that the unusual demand around the NYC area has driven the costs (in time and money) of Fodera instruments up. So unless a person is religious about a brand, conservative about the risks, or just not attracted to anyone elses designs, I think you can get the quality you're after without sharing the burden of the demand.

    On the other hand, if there's a particular kind of instrument that really appeals to you, and one builder is consistently turning out that type of instrument, there is a degree of risk in commissioning another builder, with his own unique design ideology, to build you a clone of another instrument that is less available. It might work out spectacularly, but if your resources are limited it might make more sense to build the right bass once at twice the price than to have the wrong one built first. So my rule of thumb would be, choose the guy who's designs you love, because it will be natural for him to build an instrument you like.

    I had always liked the Fodera Imperial design, and assumed that was what I would get. A few years later I saw the Benevente, and they seemed like a great deal, although I still liked the aesthetics of the Imperial a little more. A year or so after that, I saw the Nordstrand, thought it looked very odd at first, then kept looking at the pictures for a couple of months, had it grow on me, then saw one in person and knew I had made up my mind.

    Another side benefit of choosing the up-and-comer is that
    it's a little easier for you to interact personally with the builder, and it's been fun seeing how the builder adjusted to the surge in demand for his work. On the other hand, a company like Fodera is still around because of their success at scaling their production processes to meet demand. Working with the small guy, the likelihood of delays and complications rises, which can be a big additional worry if you're unsure of the quality of the finished product anyway.

    All that being said, I am really blown away by my instrument from a smaller custom builder. I think if I hadn't had an oppurtunity to play something like an AJ6, there might still be some mystique surrounding 8 or 10 thousand dollar instruments, and that can lead to disappointed wondering about what you might have gotten. Among the stuff I was compelled to customize on my bass (I mostly chose not to muck around with the design, and just deferred to the builder for most of the critical dimensions and choices) are a few things, some woods and electronics idea, stolen from the AJ bass, but even with those you wouldn't confuse the sound with it.
  10. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    The extra money is going to the supply/demand factor, name recognition, advertising, overhead, staff, experience. Be careful about what you order - make sure you order woods that sound good, not just look good. Allow the builder to make decisions for you based on your sonic and playability issues. Don't get too involved in the intricacies of the design. Good luthiers KNOW their craft, rely on that. That being said, you really need to see, feel, and play an example of each builder (if you can). You might want also to check out the work of John Maghini (MBasses). He builds a really nice instrument (ah! More choices)


  11. superphat


    Sep 30, 2001
    i would go with JP's plume.


    sorry, no real life experience wisdom to impart, but that's the bass i'm gonna order within the next few months...
  12. Ari


    Dec 6, 2001
    Great bass if you ask me... or you may just ask HMan! :cool:

    If I had to order a new singlecut I would definitely go JP!!

    Oh wait that's what I did :D
  13. Yamarc

    Yamarc Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2002
    Northville, MI
    I think I am leaning toward Nordstrand, I am waiting on a different singlecut design though...I really prefer an "Imperial" or "Beez Elite" singlecut design as opposed to the common "Emperor" design that most builders use. I guess I like a shorter upper horn! The Nordie seems to be the best for the money...
    Gooseyard- Are you still lovin' your bass or what? How would you describe it's tone and what is it's best feature? Thanks again guys, Marc
  14. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Is he going to be making a different SC design? That would be great IMO. I still personally think the Imperial design (both standard and "garrison") is the best SC design in existence.

    I just have a soft spot for SC's in general. :)
  15. GooseYArd

    GooseYArd Guest

    May 15, 2003

    I dig it. The only change I've made is to lower the action- it arrived moderately low, about the same as my old bass. At the same action height, you notice the increased string tension a little. The beauty is that it seems that the angle of deflection in the string is lower as scale increases, meaning the likelihood of rattles in the low register is lower. In practice, I was able to drop all the saddles as low as they'd go (adjusted for radius) and I still can't get it to rattle. Nordstrand does a hell of a fret job, if nothing else :) Also the neck hasn't gone anywhere despite the change of coasts, it's pretty burly.

    I'm going to have my pickup cover replaced with a radiused one at some point I can bear to be without it, I kick myself in the ass for not having done that in the beginning.

    Tone wise, I find myself going more and more toward the piezos (these are from RMC), although I like a pretty healthy dose of the mag pickup in there. I haven't messed with the internal blend pot on the preamp so I don't know exactly how the two are balanced when the blend pot is centered, but assuming they're split evenly there, I like about a 60-40 mix of piezos vs. mag. I don't know how I got along without these things, and now I see why a lot of upright guys go to so much trouble with blenders and what not to mix the two. Also I don't miss the tone controls at all, I've got my little external preamp set flat anyway, I think it sounds perfect just as it is.

    If you haven't gotten to see one of these NSC basses, you ought to try to work it out before you rule out the design. In pictures, I initially thought the forward "hump" looked too big at first, but in person, the entire instrument is so compact that the pictures seem exaggerated. It also feels really nice.
  16. GooseYArd

    GooseYArd Guest

    May 15, 2003
    I realized I forgot to actually answer your questions :)

    The best features of this instrument are clearly it's construction and playability. There are no whiz bang space age materials or high tech construction techniques, it's just a clever, meticulous and seemingly endlessly patient man applying traditional woodworking and finishing technique (and his own ingenuity) with excellent wood and parts to produce a magnificent instrument. You could replace the bridge, machines, electronics, whatever and it would still be a really top notch tool for making music.

    Tone-wise, well, how to say it. I think about 90% of what people say about tone is a kind of confused rationalization of humps or dips in equalization combined with the natural timbre of the instrument. The way this bass works out, you've got the piezos producing what is a pretty neutral representation of the sound of the bass (if you put your ear against your unplugged bass and pluck, that's pretty close to how these piezos sound, pretty much like an acoustic bass guitar), and the magnetic pickup basically becomes a midrange boost device, the more of it you add, the more the thing sounds like a regular electric bass. Rather than try and explain it, I will just make some sound samples tonight.
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings

    If it were me I'd make plans on getting my hands on as many examples as possible. If that means driving a bit so be it. In the long run it'll be worth it.

    Prioritize the instrument you want built. For some looks are key. For me tone and playability are at the top of the list. That could mean not using the most exotic woods.

    Of the three you've listed I only have experience with Foderas. They don't all knock me out but when you get the right one... wow! I still haven't heard anything that resembles mine.

    I'm sure the same is true of Nordstrand and Benavente and a handful of other builders. Now all you have to do is brainstorm with the builder to figure out how to realize your dream bass. Good luck.
  18. Yamarc

    Yamarc Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2002
    Northville, MI
    Can't wait to hear those clips. Does anybpdy have any pics of them holding or wearing their singlecut basses? I think this gives a much better perspective than the isolated pictures, it seems to put the basses in an appropriate scale. Thanks, Marc
  19. hippiesandwich


    Aug 29, 2003
    San Jose
    Affiliated with Looperlative Audio Products
    Presenting Mr. Ed Freidland:

    no strap even!
  20. EBMatt


    Nov 21, 2003
    Springfield, MA
    Hey you should really check out *FBB basses*. The guy makes custom 4 string neck thrus starting at $1350 and 5's at $1450. SC style is a $100 upgrade. Check it out man.

    I have a 6 string with a buckeye top, spanish cedar body wings, Nordstrand pickups w/ wood covers, bart. 3 band preamp with 3 way mid switch, pale mun ebony fretboard and a ton of other options. Total price for my custom - $2,320.00.