Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Plywood Wilfer

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jmain, Sep 9, 2005.


  1. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    I been searching incessantly for information on plywood Wilfers. In particular, the ones that are for sale at bassesonline (Ideal Music = "Greene"). I've emailed Steve and others who have purchased Eberles and Romas. Those folks have nothing but good things to say about those instruments. What I haven't come across is someone who has purchased a plywood Wilfer; whether from Ideal or elsewhere.

    I've read posts regarding the carved models and the geneology thanks to some very knowledgeable folks here. Just wondering about the tone and quality of the Wilfer plys. I haven't been able to play a lot of DBs; a few unknown carved, a hybrid, and a few plys. Not any shops here in East LA (East Lower Alabama: Tallahassee, FL), and it would be a bit of a roadtrip to try and drag a teacher.


    What kind of tone should I expect from the Wilfer ply? Is there a big difference in tone between the Wilfers and Eberles (both ply)? Looking for a more old-school, dark tone, with lots of bottom; not too modern. (Can you say New Standard Cleveland?...But outside my price range right now.) Mostly jazz, bluegrass/folk, and Christian comtemporary (if applicable) Mostly pizz, but like to learn arco.
    Need to make a common sense decision. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. jstiel

    jstiel Jim Stiel

    Jun 5, 2004
    Lake Orion, MI
    I bought one from Steve about a year ago. I've played BG for many more years than I'd care to admit to (ok, about 40). I've only been playing double bass for a couple of years so I'm not an expert and haven't sampled as many instruments as most of the people around here.

    I think its a very nice bass. Oil varnish, nice hardware and ebony trim. Those more knowledgable then I think it's nicely made. The wood has a nice grain with a carved look to it. I wouldn't call it a dark tone, more towards the brighter end of the spectrum. Quite typical for a ply I think. Some of this is probably due to the Jazzers I have on it. I play jazz pizz almost exclusively and I like the sound of it and get a nice growl and lots of sustain with a low set up. Much more a modern sound than old school.

    I do think its a nicer bass than the Eberle. I prefer the varnish to the heavier glossy finish on the Eberle and I like the outside linings as opposed to the flush linings on the Eberle. The finish on the Eberles is kind of opaque and doesn't show a lot of grain. I have a friend who has an Eberle and its sound never struck me as being dark.

    Steve was a pleasure to deal with and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him. You will need to take it in for a good set up. You will get a rough setup but the FB will not have been dressed, the nut will need some work and I would highly recommend adjusters

    It shouldn't be hard to get some information on these. Just search this forum for "plywood Wilfer", "Wilfer" etc.

    Although I haven't had the pleasure of playing a New Standard Cleveland, I would expect the Standard is a better instrument. How much better I can't tell you. However, I think the Wilfer is a very nice bass and a good buy for what Steve is selling them for. I am very happy with mine. However, if you're looking for dark and warm, you might be better off with a carved rather than a ply or at least go for some different strings.
     
  3. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    Thanks for the reply. You're one of the guys I was looking for, because I did realized from research that you had one. Unfortunately it's not in my budget to take a trip to NYC to compare the Eberle and the Wilfer plys. Steve has been great answering even my pedestrian questions.

    Since I'm a DB newbie, (BG for a while, but you've got me beat on that :) ), I don't want to go full tilt right out the gate. Maybe with different strings (obligatos, permanants, dominants,...) I'd get closer to what I'm wanting to hear, and it'll do me just right. I can be saving money while I practice. If I get good enough, then I'll upgrade later.

    In the meantime, I'm leaning towards the Wilfer over the Eberle. I could get a Shen (played a hybrid) or Chrissy for about the same, but really like the gamba shape.
     
  4. philly

    philly

    Nov 20, 2004
    nyc
    Just a thought. If you're trying to make a common sense decision, the shape of the bass really should be of no consequence to you especially given the parameters you've laid out. You should be looking for the most playable best sounding bass for the money period. Also keep in mind that although the people at Ideal are great, you will have to spend some money to get those basses playable. Fingerboard dressing, adjusters, nut work, etc are not free so figure that in. If you bought a shen hybrid from a shop and it came with the strings you want, fully set up, it might very well prove to be a cheaper option, or at least a better value. Just my two cents.

    P.S. Don't forget Upton Bass. They back their products well above and beyond the call of duty and they plywoods are great. I live in NYC, and played the wilfers and eberles and ended up with an Upton laminate and am very happy with it(i'm also ecstatic with the service).
     
  5. azflyman

    azflyman

    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    Amen!

    az
     
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    The Wilfers are well-made, though the laminates are stiff. Same for the Eberles. The result should be a punchy sound, but not a lot of bottom. Having worked on both, my main peeve is that the neck joints tend to be iffy. You can probably coax more bottom with heavy strings, a carefully-positioned soundpost, and a light tailpiece.
     
  7. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Also keep in mind that although the people at Ideal are great, you will have to spend some money to get those basses playable. Fingerboard dressing, adjusters, nut work, etc are not free so figure that in. If you bought a shen hybrid from a shop and it came with the strings you want, fully set up,

    Not playable?
    No I would strongly disagree with that statement. The basses ARE playable from me when you get them and anyone here who bought from me will attest to that however, there's a set up and then there's a set up and I'm pretty clear about that on my web site. I would never represent that what I offer with a $750 Romanian bass or a $950 German bass is the same set up you'd get from David Gage for $500 - however consider the prices I'm selling the basses for. Also, aside from real ebony fittings - tailpiece, fingerboard etc., all the basses come with a new set of strings of your choice within the price category of helicores or hybrids. But even if you wanted one of the more expensive gut type strings .. then I'd just charge the difference. I'd sure be very impressed if anyone else offered the much more expensive strings as part of the package unless they made up the difference in the price of the bass. I also offer adjusters but its an extra at my cost.

    Its unfair to compare an operation that's in business to make a profit and rightfully so, to someone like me who's simply liquidating an enormous inventory - at $750 for a bass you can be absolutely sure I'm making zero profit. I'm merely trying to break even while cleaning out a 10,000 SF NYC warehouse that I rent. Everyone who lives near NYC or knows the real estate situation here can imagine what I'm paying every month. And everyone in the NYC area who knows me or my family, especially anyone who's been up to Ideal Music in the last few years knows what the situation is.

    I have three standing offers from three well known parties - national chain, luthier, and wholesaler each wanting to buy a minimum of 100 basses. I've sat with two of these offers for many months without making any decisions. If I agreed, then I know that my $750 bass will become at least $1295 - $1500 and that would be the end for the father who contacts me about his high school son who's been renting some god awful hunk of junk but doesn't have much to spend, or the bluegrass player that has only been dreaming of owning a decent carved bass for a decade, or the student about to go off to music school and can't believe they could own a carved bass for under 2k that isn't one of the Chinese made things that only resembles a bass ... it would all end.

    I would also like to see my mom stay busy working as she begins to enter her mid eighties - I hope someone does it for me if that's what I wanted to do when I'm at that age. If I "unload" everything, everything will change. I keep thinking that I can always sell everything off when the time comes but for now everyone seems to come out a winner. Bottom line is I'm in a very unique place and it would be unfair to the dealers to compare me to them. I highly doubt Upton or anyone else can sell a European bass for $750 ... not a new one, with new strings, all ebony fittings. No dealer can do that because they'd lose money trying. It's just not fair to even think they could, considering what they have to pay for a decent bass to begin with. How many dealers can buy a few hundred basses at a time ? My dad would have an entire factory working exclusively for him for months at a time. And we aren't competing anyway, since when I'm done, I'm really finished and I can go back to my previous life, while the dealers will still be there. I've always understood that what I'm doing might cause some bad feelings, but I think most understand - many knew my dad, some even worked for my dad so they know that at some point it will end. My dad was just a maniac buyer who probably thought he'd live forever so he bought accordingly. He never bought four or five of anything - he preferred things in the hundreds or even thousands ergo the inventory he left. If people think the bass inventory is pretty large, its tiny compared to the cellos, violas and violins. The cellos in particular are not only factory made instruments but many of them are from the well known German makers like Stohr, Roth or Semmlinger etc. Anyway, that's all I wanted to say except Upton is a damn good dealer and I'd feel absolutely confident buying anything from them . . . they're just really good and they care about their customers. But the comparison between me and them is like comparing apples and oranges ...
     
  8. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    It was late and I had just got back from a 3-hour practice for a 9/11 concert, so I left a few things out. I do prefer the gamba shape. If two instruments sounded the same, I'd pick the gamba. I'm not crazy about the 3-tone 'burst on my Lakland JoBo5, but it sure do sound sweet. :) I need a "go-anywhere" type of instrument that is good quality and good sounding. Looks are an added bonus.

    Thanks for the input. You echo what a lot of folks have said; don't think I've read of one unhappy Upton customer. Unfortunately for me, this is still an "at a distance" purchase, so depending on the particular issue, it would probably be better to fix an issues locally (if possible).

    Thanks for your input Arnold. So noted. This is useful and what I have gleaned from past posts. Heavier strings, soundpost adjustment, and light tailpiece to get more bottom. This sounds do-able for my stage of development.

    Greene: Didn't mean for you to have to defend yourself or what you're doing in any way. I'm one of those guys that is tickled over the prospect of having a decent plywood at a great price. I probably should have left out your name, and just asked about the bass. Sorry for that.

    I've been dreaming of owning a decent bass for years. (and been dreaming of learning to play it, but that's another story) I'm also one of those unfortunate suckas who traded a 1/4 carved bass for one of those BSOs aka Cremonas. I also had a more recent instance where a higher quality, yet more delicate, bass suffered some repairable issues that were repairable (not locally); but left me even more disconcerted. So, I am a little sketched-out, and just wanted some more opinions from some folks here at TB. The info is even more useful for someone like me who is a little further off the "beaten path".
     
  9. azflyman

    azflyman

    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    I would have to agree with greene there, my bass was not $750 for sure but I had special circumstances. One of the reasons I purchased an Upton was because I lived in the middle of nowhere at the time. I had to drive 1.5 hrs just to get to the freight terminal to pick the bass up and a luthier was twice that distance. My setup had to be done before the bass arrived. I think what greene offers is a killer deal but is was not right for me.

    az
     
  10. Aleph5

    Aleph5

    Feb 24, 2004
    Tennessee
    Speaking of apples and oranges, I think that applies to comparing an Eberle and a Wilfer. Even from Ideal there's more than a 2:1 price difference. An oiled finish is certainly a huge part of that. The grain on my Eberle is pretty nice and it's a very decent bass IMO. But the shiny poly-whatever finish doesn't compare cosmetically and probably limits tone. It sounds OK and even has good sustain, but the overtones are like the sound of cardboard compared to my Cleveland. 'Course it costs 1/4-1/2 as much too.
     
  11. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Apples and oranges indeed .. aside from the large price difference. A factory bass and a bass from a maker are two very different things.
     
  12. philly

    philly

    Nov 20, 2004
    nyc
    greene,

    Sorry to have come off sounding like I was criticizing your operation. Just giving my opinion on the basses I played. All I was saying was that they needed additional setup, over and above what you provide, to maximize thier playablility. And that that will cost more money, so as someone giving advice to a fellow newbie I feel that it's fair to say he should figure that into the trsansaction.

    Just as an example, for 1600 bucks from upton you get a full and careful setup to your specs with six month guarantee on setup work on a very good laminate with ebony fingerbaord adjusters and obligatos. And guys who are equipped to stand by their product and instrument from a luthiers perspective. That in my opinion is worth something for guys like us, but it doesn't neccesarily tip the balance in their favor. That's a dicision only the buyer can make. I'm just offering info I feel might be helpful.

    That is not at all to say that your instruments aren't a great value or that you are somehow not reputable. In fact it is my impression that you are very honest and sincere, and that your basses are a great opportunity for many people. And, of course your mother is a rare find NYC, an old school small business person who is a pleasure to deal with. I only wish you the best with your business.
     
  13. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    Philly, since I am a newbie, I appreciate the heads-up. I realize it will cost extra to get an adjustable bridge and do any specific, final set-up down the road I may feel necessary. I do need to factor all of this into the final cost.

    I see that the price has gone up twice on the Upton Hawkes lam in the last 6 months; not to say it isn't worth more than the current price. I am a bit curious to know if this is a trend or other, peripheral causal factor. Forgive me if I ask too many questions, but "times is hard, lightning boy"; and money's tight.
     
  14. If it makes a difference, 3/4 ply Chrissies are available in violin, gamba, or busetto shape. I'm pretty sure Brent Norton at Norton Customs in Detroit can get all of them; probably Mark Rubin at Violins, Etc. in Austin as well.
     
  15. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    Forgot you could get the Chrissy ply in gamba shape. Seems to be quality by all accounts I've read.

    I guess my other concern is laying out around 2 grand and then feeling like I need to upgrade in a couple years. But then again, I shouldn't have a big problem selling a decent ply to someone who will be in my current position. Then again, better to start playing sooner than later...as long as it's a decent instrument.

    It'll be good when I can get to playing...whatever it ends up being.
     
  16. TCraine

    TCraine

    Mar 2, 2006
    I know this is an older and well discussed thread, but wanted to put my 2 cents in about how great my dealings with Steve were.

    I had lost my Engelhardt in Katrina. It was used, and I did not have alot of money in it.

    I looked locally for a shop that was open to buy a new bass from...none open except big box music stores.

    After an extensive search of the internet, I found Steve's site www.bassesonline.com

    Through several emails, and phone conversations with Steve, I decided to buy a Roma 393 Hybrid from him.

    After I spoke with him about my situation, he took extra effort to find me something within my price range $1500.00, not alot I know but what I had available.

    I wanted to buy locally, and put my hands on what I was buying, but just could not do that at the time I was ready to buy, since no shops that I could find were open here in New Orleans.

    Steve treated me as if I had walked into the shop up there in New York, and helped me to get my hands back on a very nice bass.

    Just wanted to state that not every internet purchase is a nightmare.

    Regards,

    Thom