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Price ranges out of control?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by RAM, Jul 19, 2000.


  1. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I consider myself pretty up to speed on economic theory (I'm getting my MBA right now), yet still cannot explain, let alone understand one simple concept...

    It used to be that bolt-on neck basses never exceeded certain price ranges and that neck-through basses rarely cost less than their bolt-on counterparts. Because of the labor intensiveness involved and the amount of wood used in neck-through's, it seems to make sense.

    But, recently we've seen an insurgence of high-end AND high-costing bolt-ons...Two examples come to mind: Sadowsky and Lakland. I know there are others, so let's just assume that these two speak for all in that category.

    Why is it, then, that a Sadowsky costs nearly as much as an American Spector? Electronics? I don't buy it. Spector designs his own preamps too. Research and Development? For an all-wood bass? Bull! Fender did it in the '50's! Handmade? My American Spector is ALL handmade! Wood choice? It's not like my Spector is made out of pressboard! All figured maple, and AAAAA, at that! And, IT'S SOLID...NOT A LAMINATED TOP!

    So, what's the explanation? I'm sure that they're wonderful basses, and they get an elitest profile of players with their price range. But, there's no way that it should cost almost as much for these bolt-ons as a high-quality neck-through!
     
  2. Saint

    Saint

    Mar 2, 2000
    DC - USA
    Given your reasoning, it shouldn't cost more for a bolt-on than for a neck through. But here are some possible explanations:

    First, I think many bass players have come to believe that bolt-on basses have their own sound characteristics which may be preferable to the sound of a neck-through in some situations. Therefore, bolt-on basses are not necessarily viewed by consumers as less desirable than neck-throughs, and prices adjust themselves accordingly in the market.

    Second, while you do account for labor, electronics, etc., there is a bit of an apples v. oranges aspect to the question in terms of actual basses. Your Spector is an extremely high quality neck-through bass. But would I choose it over the more pricey, bolt-on Wal Custom? Not if I want the sound and feel of a Wal. Do I feel badly about paying significantly more for my bolt-on Ken Smith than my neck through Ric? Not a bit, since they're completely different basses in both feel and sound.

    Finally, to some degree we bass consumers bear some of the blame, because price is not just related to supply, but also (perhaps mainly) to demand. In other words, the price reflects what the market will bear, not what the product costs to make. Obviously, enough people are willing to buy a $2,000 bolt on to make it worthwhile for Lakeland to sell one --whether or not it costs more than a Fender Jazz to make. So, to the extent we bassists are willing to pay significantly more for a bolt-on Jazz bass copy than for a neck through Spector or even a genuine Jazz bass, we have only ourselves to blame.
     
  3. if people will pay that much, why should they lower prices?, in my opinion its rediculous, but if people still buy them, its only fueling the fire.

    peace

    ------------------
    Keep on thumpin
     
  4. nanook

    nanook

    Feb 9, 2000
    Alaska
    The bolt on necks can be mass produced so it does make sense that, in general, they should be cheaper.

    A custom fitted bolt on neck is much better than a standard factory bolted on neck and will cost more.

    I own and have played both neck through and bolt ons of various types and 99% of the time, the neck through has a better feel and better resonance.

    ------------------
    Famous last words "Quick, grab it behind the head so it can't bite."
     
  5. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by RAM:
    I consider myself pretty up to speed on economic theory (I'm getting my MBA right now), yet still cannot explain, let alone understand one simple concept...

    It used to be that bolt-on neck basses never exceeded certain price ranges and that neck-through basses rarely cost less than their bolt-on counterparts. Because of the labor intensiveness involved and the amount of wood used in neck-through's, it seems to make sense.

    But, recently we've seen an insurgence of high-end AND high-costing bolt-ons...Two examples come to mind: Sadowsky and Lakland. I know there are others, so let's just assume that these two speak for all in that category.

    Why is it, then, that a Sadowsky costs nearly as much as an American Spector? Electronics? I don't buy it. Spector designs his own preamps too. Research and Development? For an all-wood bass? Bull! Fender did it in the '50's! Handmade? My American Spector is ALL handmade! Wood choice? It's not like my Spector is made out of pressboard! All figured maple, and AAAAA, at that! And, IT'S SOLID...NOT A LAMINATED TOP!

    So, what's the explanation? I'm sure that they're wonderful basses, and they get an elitest profile of players with their price range. But, there's no way that it should cost almost as much for these bolt-ons as a high-quality neck-through!
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


    If only it were that simple, RAM [​IMG] This is one of my favorite topics because people think it’s simple when in fact I don’t think it’s simple at all. I’m one of the older players here who witnessed the changes over the last twenty or so years. I still remember a short bassist who bought a long scale Alembic back then who could barely reach the first fret [​IMG] But of course it was worth it, after all, Stanley used one [​IMG] How many have bolt 24+ fret neck throughs and only play up to the 15th fret?

    To get to the bottom of this "mystery" you must first answer a few [​IMG]questions:

    What were the bolt-ons that didn’t exceed the "certain price range"?
    What was the top price range for a bolt-on then?
    How large was the market for neck through basses back then? Now?
    What was the prevalent manufacturing process at that time? Now?
    Does scale of production figure into price?
    Has the cost of manufacturing a neck through decreased?

    There are several more pertinent questions but I’ll get to the kicker, because I think assumption plays a big part in this mystery: What does it actually cost in parts and labor for Roger Sadowsky or Dan Lakin to build a bass? Is the profit margin as out of whack as some seem to think? Unless you have hard figures, you’re assuming. I’m not working on a degree currently but I would think this has to be a huge point in the discussion [​IMG]

    Ever play an MTD? Is it "worth it"? After all, it’s "only" a bolt-on [​IMG] Some people may look at these high priced bolt-ons as "elitist" instruments, I think that if you can appreciate the differences ( and there are definitely differences) they’re worth it. If you can’t, buy whatever works for you. I own a Lakland (bolt-on), a Zon(bolt-on Legacy) and a couple of very old Tobiases (neck throughs)…but I also own Fenders (new and old) , G&L and even a parts bass. Does that make me an elitist.. or just confused? [​IMG]

    The other point I always find very curious is that quite a few people think neck-throughs are inherently better. I could not agree less. By this logic Carvin should be back-ordered and Sadowsky should be out of business [​IMG]Better is extremely personal. At this point the basses I prefer to play are bolt-ons, then to a lesser degree, neck through. I've found some neck throughs to be too refined and contained for my tastes. The bolt-ons I have are not shrinking Violets, they demand a place in the mix. While Spector neck-throughs are very nice instruments they definitely don’t sound or play like Fenders. If you want and like the sound or vibe of a Fender type instrument no amount of AAAAAAAA figured or flame tops is going to make a difference, whether it’s solid or not. I find the "elitist" comment interesting because, to me, an elitist is going to be influenced by "pretty", for me pretty is not an issue [​IMG] You can get a pretty top on a Carvin. And…

    Nanook, neck throughs are mass produced, too. It's been that way for a few years now [​IMG]
     
  6. Another thing to consider with Sadowsky is, he established himself in NYC, as a custom-builder and repairman to the stars. Right off the bat, he worked with high-profile people. Marcus Miller was one of his first clients. When people talk about getting "the Marcus Miller sound," they're talking about the Sadowsky preamp, not his '77 Jazz into which it's built. Marcus himself has said as much. So, Sadowsky is able to command high prices because of his clientele and reputation.
     
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Dave, the fact that he makes a pretty nice bass might figure in there, too [​IMG] He's also a very nice guy and extremely customer oriented, whether you're a big name or not.
     
  8. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Brad Johnson:
    Dave, the fact that he makes a pretty nice bass might figure in there, too [​IMG] He's also a very nice guy and extremely customer oriented, whether you're a big name or not.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    Yeah, Brad, I left that part out, didn't I? [​IMG] I hope someday to have first-hand experience with one of his basses.
    There's no doubt he makes a very nice bass.. but I do think his reputation and clientele plays into why he can charge so much. After all, he's not using any exceptional materials.. swamp ash and figured maple are readily available. And you can give any bass "the Sadowsky sound" for $200 by purchasing his outboard pre-amp.

    [This message has been edited by Dave Siff (edited July 19, 2000).]
     
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    There's more to it than the sound. There's also the playability. When you find the combination of a bass that sounds the way you want AND plays like a dream, that's a keeper. It's up to the player to decide if it's worth it or not. BTW I don't own a Sadowsky. They're waaay too expensive!
    (anyone who knows me knows I'm obviously joking).

    Sadowsky's are priced somewhere between Laklands and MTDs. Makes sense to me [​IMG]
     
  10. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Brad Johnson:
    When you find the combination of a bass that sounds the way you want AND plays like a dream, that's a keeper. It's up to the player to decide if it's worth it or not. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    That, right there, is the answer to RAM's original question. We should end this thread right now! Bravo Brad.

     
  11. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i love when the discussion of price comes up. people are always amazed that i would spend so much money on basses when i tell them that i got my harem for about a grand total of US$25,000 (2 8 strings, 4 7 strings and the 7 string doubleneck). then i mention that classical musicians often spend that much or more on a single professional quality violin or cello.

    puts a different perspective on the whole conversation, huh? [​IMG]

    ------------------
    you wanna see a frustrated guitarist? let a guitarist try to do something useful on one of my basses. _THAT'S_ a frustrated guitarist.
     
  12. RAM: The way I see it, we are both Spector bass fanatics and they happen to be neck through. If neck throughs were priced according to labor, Spectors would cost a grand more. I'll settle for the "bargain" price without complaint thank you!
     
  13. One reason Sadowskys are expensive is simple supply and demand. Roger purposely limits his production to a level where he feels he can ensure that every bass leaving his shop IS a Sadowsky, with everything the name stands for. That includes Roger's incredible customer service. Example...

    When I got my PJ5 I noticed that one of the Hipshot UltraLight tuners had just the SLIGHTEST amount of roughness at one point in its rotation. I figured it would go away, but it didn't. About four months after I got the bass I finally emailed Roger and mentioned it to him. His SAME DAY response was "Oh, sorry! Send me your mailing address and I'll get one right out to you". A few days later it showed up, no charge.

    He didn't question me about it, he didn't make excuses, he simply CORRECTED it. Immediately.

    I asked him about his T-shirts. He said "What size?" ... a few days later, it's on my doorstep. No charge.

    Before I bought my bass I bugged him a lot with questions. He was very patient, explained everything, and was quite concerned that the bass I finally got was the one that was RIGHT for ME. He recommended specific body wood, fingerboard wood, pickup placement, tone controls. I followed his advice and the instrument is EXACTLY what I wanted.

    Sure it cost a bundle. Sure it has a warranty. But IME, most warranty issues are a hassle. They want you to send it back to them. They take a long time. Not Roger. Roger determines what's wrong and corrects it, no bull****, no screwing around.

    I'd buy another one in an instant if I needed another one. I don't, so I won't. ;-)
     
  14. loudfunk

    loudfunk

    Jul 16, 2000
    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by john turner:
    i love when the discussion of price comes up. people are always amazed that i would spend so much money on basses when i tell them that i got my harem for about a grand total of US$25,000 (2 8 strings, 4 7 strings and the 7 string doubleneck). then i mention that classical musicians often spend that much or more on a single professional quality violin or cello.

    puts a different perspective on the whole conversation, huh? [​IMG]

    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    I hear you...a friend of mine has an Amati...nuff said.
    As for instruments...my insurance tial right now is in the same neighborhood...plus amps and studio stuff. I can absolutely relate.

    Ed
    http:/www.geocities.com/~nudeguitars



    ------------------
    Nothing in music is difficult...only unfamiliar.-Ken Werner
     
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I must say that when I saw the title of this thread I was agreeing, but for exactly the opposite reason of what is actually contained in the initial post.

    On Wednesday I was in the Bass Centre in London, getting some set up work done on a bass I just bought there and while waiting I looked around at the basses and prices.

    There has abeen a lot of mention of Spectors on this board and the Bass Centre has quite a few. Now the top basses (NS2, NS5) are priced at £3,000 which is about the same as the Ken Smiths and Modulus basses they have in stock, for example. But also in a different corner, they have Spector basses for £349! This is like a tenth of the price!

    To me this is too low - something is wrong here - the price ranges are out of control! If you're letting a bass be called a Spector, but also letting it be priced so much lower than anything else, it has to be devaluing the whole range or saying something about how you're almost trying to "defraud" your customers.

    What does this say to people who have paid £3,000 for a Spector - you were suckered? I don't know ... as I don't own one, but I think I would have to feel a bit cheated, that somebody can go into the shop and buy a bass for a tenth of the price I paid and say they have a Spector as well.

    At least if I buy a Sadowsky, I know that anybody else is going to have to lay out some serious money and make a big commitment, to have the same "name".
     
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by michaeln:
    Roger purposely limits his production to a level where he feels he can ensure that every bass leaving his shop IS a Sadowsky, with everything the name stands for. That includes Roger's incredible customer service. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I agree with this totally - you are getting a personal commitment to quality, that is worth the money.

    I can give my own example of this. I recently bought a pre-Gibson Tobias and I e-mailed Michael Tobias about it. Within a day he came back with all the details about when and where it was made and answered all my questions about it. Now this gives me the impression that each bass was made **individually** and care and craftsmanship went into the making of this bass and the makers were proud of what they had made - they put their personal seal of quality on the intsrument. And this is worth paying for, whether it's neck-through, bolt-on whatever.

    Oh and this also says what a really great guy Michael Tobias is!
     
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Originally posted by michaeln:
    Roger purposely limits his production to a level where he feels he can ensure that every bass leaving his shop IS a Sadowsky, with everything the name stands for. That includes Roger's incredible customer service.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Originally posted by Bruce
    I agree with this totally - you are getting a personal commitment to quality, that is worth the money.

    I can give my own example of this. I recently bought a pre-Gibson Tobias and I e-mailed Michael Tobias about it. Within a day he came back with all the details about when and where it was made and answered all my questions about it. Now this gives me the impression that each bass was made **individually** and care and craftsmanship went into the making of this bass and the makers were proud of what they had made - they put their personal seal of quality on the intsrument. And this is worth paying for, whether it's neck-through, bolt-on whatever.

    Oh and this also says what a really great guy Michael Tobias is!


    That's a pretty bad example Bruce, in light of your Spector post just prior to this [​IMG]

    Mike is a great guy (check my profile [​IMG]) who makes great basses (check my profile [​IMG]) but Tobiases now cover the same price range as the Spectors you were bothered by. Mike and Stuart are neighbors and have taken a similar approach to the market. Do you feel cheated that you paid xxxxx pounds for your bass and until recently anyone could order a new active, neck through 6 Tobias from MusicYo for less than $600US? What's the difference between this and the Spector example?

    I don't have a problem with this or the fact that you can buy a $4000 MTD or a $700 one. They are two different instruments built at two different price points. Are S-class Mercedes owners annoyed at M-B for making lower priced models?

    By the way, has anyone here taken into consideration where Roger is located, in Manhattan? I'm sure the rent on his shop is no more than a couple of hundred bucks a month [​IMG] Probably another cost he should just eat [​IMG]
     
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    "Do you feel cheated that you paid xxxxx pounds for your bass and until recently anyone could order a new active, neck through 6 Tobias from MusicYo for less than $600US? What's the difference between this and the Spector example?"

    Yes you are right, Brad, thinking about it. It's just that we don't get those "Toby" basses over here in the UK and only the occasional one from the "Pro" range and these are about £800 to £1000 - well over $1,000.

    I think most people are pretty clear, though that Michael Tobias hasn't made a **Tobias** bass since 1990 and that the more recent ones are Gibsons or worse [​IMG]

    I don't think there's such a clear differentiation in the Spector range - all of which are current and associated with the "name", whereas Michael has clearly disassociated himself from the current range and makes his own MTDs - I don't know what Stuart's position is on the cheaper basses?

    I suppose these are all pretty fine distinctions, but maybe this is the real reason why Sadowskys are so expensive - they are the only ones not "tainted" by association?

    However, on my last visit to the Bass Centre, they had a couple of Sadowsky basses for about £2,000, whereas as I mentioned the top Spectors were about £3,000. If you want to compare, I paid £1,700 for my Tobias so I think I got the bargain and that Spectors are both overpriced and underpriced! [​IMG]
     
  19. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    There have been a lot of great postings here, and I thank you all for contributing. One thing (of many) that sticks out in my mind is what someone alluded to as my bass being "cheapened" because I paid thousands for a bass that has a baby brother that may cost only a few hundred.

    The answer to this question, however, is very complex. First of all, my bass is signed by the man himself. Does that mean that his signature alone is worth a few thousand dollars? Not in the ink, but it IS worth it in that I believe firmly that he is AS quality conscious as Roger Sadowsky. Maybe one is a little better quality than the other.

    Aside from that, the only thing that I can truly distinguish the two manufacturers apart from is the amount of labor intensive craftsmanship that goes into each bass. I don't think anyone reading this thread would ever criticize Stuart's work or call it substandard, just as noone would EVER say those things about Roger! Both are EXTREMELY well made instruments. Can we all agree on that?

    Next, both instruments have preamps that were designed by the man himself...Spector has a special preamp. Sadowsky has a special preamp.

    What about the hardware? I can't truly comment on Sadowsky's, though I've heard good things about it. But, Spectors hardware is, again, custom.

    The wood? Not 100% sure here, but I think Sadowsky uses Swamp Ash??? or Alder???? I'm pretty sure those woods are cheaper than maple, though. And, Stuart's American basses are 100% maple. Furthermore, it's easier for Roger to buy a 1/4" top for a bass at a reasonable price than it is for Stuart to buy 2" stock for an entire body. In addition, the amount of solid, quality wood for a neck through simply requires a larger stock than for a bolt-on. I tried building a bass once. This is one thing I learned is just simply true!

    So, it seems to me the "ingredients" and workmanship are either the same in the two instruments, or lean more towards Spector in terms of price. Now...I'm by NO means saying ANYTHING negative about Sadowsky. But, they cost only a couple hundred dollars less.

    The issue here is that prices have become inflated. I understand that there may be more demand for bolt-ons vs. neck thrus. Or vice versa. And, on a supply/demand curve, as demand shifts outward and along the supply curve...price therefore goes up, since this is the dependent variable, dependent upon quantity demanded...etc...I think we intuitively understand this point...

    Some people would shy away from Spector for having $400 basses that attempt to mirror $4000 basses. Okay. Does that make the $4000 basses any worse? Nope. Not a lick. Only diminishes the image. But, who's the image important to? Does the bass SOUND or FEEL different because now the manufacturer extended himself into a new price-point? I think not! It's all self-image. Something that bassists SHOULD stand above.

    What do we always preach to newbies who want to know what the best bass is on the market? How many bests are there? How can I, for example, tell someone that one bass sucks and another is the absolute best? See...the point is, even we get caught up in this image thing. And, it's this IMAGE that drives prices up. The snobbery effect, some call it...

    Back to before...Roger has probably done no more R&D than Stuart. Roger makes a wonderful bass and so does Stuart. In fact, both are at the top of their game! Which one is better? Oh! There's an argument that'll never end! See? The point is that neither bass is actually better. More labor intensive, maybe. More expensive parts, perhaps. More expensive rent? Well, I suppose you COULD argue that. But, what else?

    Only one other point...perhaps Stuart's profitability in Europe and SE Asia help him to keep prices down here.
     
  20. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by RAM:
    both instruments have preamps that were designed by the man himself...Spector has a special preamp. Sadowsky has a special preamp.

    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    Actually, wasn't Sadowsky's circuit designed by Alex Aguilar?
    Anyway, RAM, you got it right at the end, as Brad did above.. "better" is subjective. I played a friend's USA Spector NS-2. Sounded great. Played like butter. Beautifully constructed. TOO HEAVY! I'd never buy one for that reason, despite all the quality materials and workmanship that went into building it. But that's just me. It's all subjective.