Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by tommy154578, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. tommy154578


    Jul 14, 2003
    I’m looking for an introductory URB so I’ve been doing some research basically on Engelhardts and Christopher but I can’t get why prices are so different in similar models. I guess on line stores don’t take in set up, acceptable strings, and such but is it possible that a set-up could be worth 1K??!! in a $2,000 URB ??!!! I need some help with this one for I’m just starting playing DB and I don’t want to pay for sth that’s not worth. Could there be another reason why prices are so different? Thanks a lot.

  2. Tommy

    I bought a used Engelhardt EM1 (it was like new) After I got it I put new strings in it (approx $100), Bought an adjustable bridge (approx $70) and had a luthier plane the fret board, lower the nut, and fit the bridge. (Approx $300) Bob Gollihur (all Hail) will sell you a new EM1 for around $1200 delivered. Then you will spend around the above amounts for set up and you should have a good playing bass. If you are patient the bridge fitting could be done by you, bob has instructions.

    A couple of things I am going to do yet are replace the tail piece wire, put a new end pin in and sand the neck and re-oil it. To pay someone for those jobs would be another $150 -200 depending on parts.

    Hope this helps

    BTW- I have bought a few things from Bob and recomend him. He is well thought of around here.

    Edited for spelling
  3. Hey Tom,
    Have you thought about finding a Teacher first and both of you shop together. A DB Teacher will know what you need and help in that area. Teacher`s also know people that may have a Bass to sell. My Teacher is in the process of selling the Bass I learned on at the momment. Either way, you NEED a Teacher ;)

  4. tommy154578


    Jul 14, 2003
    Thank you all for the info. Although I don’t have a teacher right now I have smn who will help me out, so I’m not all alone. Anyway, the point is prices still seem to me too different between shops ‘cause as Keith says, new strings, etc, etc might sum up 500$ or 600$ but I’ve happened to find differences of 1K or more. For example, the price difference between an online shop and, say, Hammond A. is $990 for the Engelhardt S1 or $1,200 for a Christopher 300 between another online shop and Bass Churh. So, if a proper set up can be done for much less than that 1K or so, I think the deal is to buy the DB in an online shop and then take it to your local luthier (I’m talking about other models than Engelhardts ‘cause it seems Bob G. is the one, every body agree on that).
    Am I wrong? (I think I am) Why?

  5. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Tommy-What online shops are you referring to? I know HA and the Bass Church but I would like to see exactly what you are comparing them to.
  6. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Definately stay away from any bass with an intact cherry.
  7. Tommy;

    Are you in the Puget sound area? I took my bass to a luthier in the SeaTac area and can give you his name if you are interested.

    He can also get different basses, so he should stand behind them. (I didn't pursue this with him so I don't know all the details but you could talk with him about what he can do)

    There is also a shop in the Seattle area that handles Christopher's called Guitar Emporium. They are pretty well set up. I think HA handles Christopher also. I havn't tried negotiating with them but you should be able to swing a deal if you show them some other options.

    Have you been to the Bass Church? What is your impression if you have. They seemed more on the high end by their website, and you can't just drop in, so I have never gone there.

  8. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    I'm a little confused about all the "set-up" work that "must" be done to every bass that's ever been sold. The impression I get from the posts I've read is that every bass maker gets it wrong, and it takes a local luthier to "correct" all the mistakes they make. So far I've learned that all basses are made with a nut that's too high, a pine bridge carved from a shipping pallet, a mop-handle endpin, baling-twine strings, a rubber band to hold the tailpiece on, and a piece of ebony that was beaten into the general shape of a fingerboard with a dull axe and a logging chain - all brought to a beautiful shine by a 1/4" thick layer of whatever floor wax is abundant in the area of manufacture.

    So here's my question - does it make sense for a new DB'er - like myself - to get all this work done as soon as I open the box, or would it be wiser to play the bass, until I learn more about my particular tastes and habits - and what actually needs to be repaired? Understand - I'm not talking about a gig with the Moscow Philharmonic, just a lot of practice and some back-yard jamming.

    I hear the same sorts of comments from friends that have recently bought cars. You know, "a Chevy is OK (if you can't afford a BMW), but not until you replace those factory tires, put on a new exhaust, trade out the floor mats and hang some fuzzy-dice from the mirror."

    Would some of you luthiers help put it into perspective for us rookies? Does all this work have to be done from the box, or can we plan to play the bass and make upgrades as our skills - and gig opportunities - improve?
  9. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Man, that's some funny stuff!
    GOOFY'NOFF first paragraph should be emblazoned across the forehead of TB...

    To answer a bit of your question: learning to play bass on a factory setup is a horrible idea. Many schoolchildren across this great land of ours do it every year, and lots of these chillun' quit and play something else. Like guitar. Any everybody knows what that leads to...

    RIGHT, anyway, there are little extras that the new URBassist doesn't need. But basic, PROFESSIONAL setup is generally over-advertised by online suppliers. (Bass shops that sell online aren't in this category, usually :p ) We have all seen basses purchased under this guise, only to have lumpy fingerboards and bridges that were fit by a blind monkey. Find a shop within driving distance and start this relationship. You certainly can't ship the bass back to some address, some where, when you have a gig in two hours and your soundpost falls down, the fingerboard comes unglued, a string breaks, and your pickup farts out.

    Here's some neccesities:

    1)real strings- i.e Spirocores, Helicores, *maybe* Super Sensitives if you are living on welfare

    2)dressed fingerboard/nut- this is just a simple law of physics here. "I fought the law, and the law wone..." Playable string height=playable fingerboard/nut.

    3)bridge- adjusters aren't required, but a quarter cut, properly fitted maple bridge is. I have yet to see an Englehardt bridge that wasn't worth toothpicks. Sooner or later you will want to/need to fuss with the string heights yourself; adjusters make that a reality for you.

    4)endpin- well, that's a borderline item. Most factory pins cause trouble after a 6-12 months of use.

    5)tailwire- ah, yes, the Ever Popular Tailwire. how could something so small be so debated? I tell customers that "if the bass is on the bench, get this changed" It's not the beginning of the end if you have a stiff coat-hanger wire down there, but it's an inexpensive part to change out.

    As you play and get better, young Jedi, the little extras will come to you. The secret is in the basics. Just use the force, along with proper left/right hand technique.
  10. Nicklessloyd is correct. Welcome to the DarkSide...The Force is strong

  11. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    Thank you, Nicklevoid, for the education. I shall renew my search for a luthier. Now, what do you know about Chevys?

  12. I think it is important to differentiate between instruments made by craftsmen and factories. Most entry level basses are mass produced with quantity being the priority over quality. Consequently, tolerances are going to be fairly high as compared to someone like St. Nicolloydlas, Jefe Bollbach, or Ahnold S.

    Also, changing strings can affect the playablilty of a bass. My Swingmaster was set up for Spirocore strings and when I switched to Obligatos, I had to have the fingerboard replaned to allow for more string vibration. The depth of the slots on the nut might also need work depending on strings.
  13. tommy154578


    Jul 14, 2003
    When I mentioned on line shops I was talking about , for example, Woodwind & Brasswind, Music 123 or the String Bass Shop (which I guess it's not an online shop but it has very low prices).
    I must say that Douglas’s comment seemed to me a very reasonable explanation and I think I’ll stick to it.
    I’ve never been to Bass Church, and I don’t have references either, so if anyone knows sth about it…
    I’m new to all this forum stuff and I’m very happy I’m a member now. There’s SO MUCH to learn and it only takes a couple of clicks!!

  14. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    While what Nickel said is right as rain as usual, I don’t think he actually answered the original query which was why the 1k diff in price. Here’s my take- Let’s say you can buy a certain ply for a thousand bucks wholesale. Now I could take that bass out of the box and with an hours worth of work set it up to be basically playable. Better yet, I could pay a ne’er-do-well 8 bucks an hour to do it in two hours. Put a price tag on it for $1499, do some volume and you’ve got a business. Now at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got a guy like Nick with big league chops that will put in 500-800 bucks worth of work into the bass to get it right. And it’s not just more time put into the bass, it’s the ability and judgment to do what others can’t. Now should he just turn it over to you for the wholesale price+the work? No, he’s got to make something on the deal and that’s going to up the price. Plus someone has to stand behind the instrument. If a luthier sells a hybrid, and a month later it comes back with a crack in the top, he’s going to have to fix it. That could be a major drag if he only made two hundred on the deal to begin with. Of course not everyone charging top dollar is doing top dollar work. I guess the trick there is having them be well recommended by someone you trust or just witnessing their work.
  15. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Arnold has a sign in his shop declaring his hourly rates. They go up if you want to watch, and they go way up if you expect him to converse with you while he works.
    Makes sense to me.
  16. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    Seen in a small town car shop:

    Labor rate:
    $10 if you watch.
    $15 if you tried to fix it yourself first.

    Tommy, the luthier relationship can't be stressed enough. Something that online dealers tend to glance over is this great necessity. The exception would be a properly trained and reputable luthier who is also dealing online, and then only if he/she can deal with difficulties from a distance via your local luthier.

    Can you imagine that if all players were to buy online, there would be no luthiers in business, and the world of music would take a serious turn for the worse. In many good luthiers' shops, you will see pics from esteemed players, with statements gushing their love and appreciation for their luthier. There's a lesson to be learned there.

    Find a good luthier, ply him with liquor, make him love you. :)

    Price-wise, few bass dealers will skin you, and if you think you're hearing an unfair price, ask him or her why.

    It would also help the board members help you find a good luthier if you put your location in your profile. Where are ya?

  17. tommy154578


    Jul 14, 2003
    Thanks John for your piece of advise. I'm living in Manhattan at the moment.
  18. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I'll chime in only because I have been through exactly what is being discussed here.

    I bought and ES9 from Music123 for around $1400 shipped. At the time, that was the very best price I could find and, right or wrong, at the time, price was driving the deal for me.

    The bass was brought by a freight truck to my driveway. Labels showed it was drop-shipped straight from Engelhardt.

    Anyway, out of the box, the LaBella strings on it were like a delicate blend of tow cables and welding rods. The bridge has the string height at the end of the board at just above an inch.

    I immediately replaced the strings. ($120) That made it so I could at least make some form of noise come out of it.

    After reading all I could find here at TB about string heights, I used my stationary sander at home to reshape, slightly thin and overall lower the existing Engelhardt bridge. Working slowly, I got the strings where I wanted them.

    My teacher moved the sound post/shaped the ends for a more clear sound. It was fairly unfocused at first. Although the post fell when I did the bridge, so I can't be absolutely certain I put it exactly where Engelhardt had it.

    After about a 3-week honeymoon, I took the bass to a locally-respected luthier recommended by my teacher for a once over and board plane. His comments were:

    1. The bridge work I did was not bad, but the bass would sound better with a better piece of wood. It was still too thick in his opinion, but thinning that grade of wood wasn't advised.

    2. The nut was fine.

    3. With the open string height, pizz-only, max volume set up I was wanting, there was no need to plane the board. It was fine. If I want to get more intricate as I progress, come see him.

    4. A flexible tailgut wasn't going to do wonders for an Engelhardt, but it may make it louder and more importantly safer. (I took the all-hail BG approach and did the home depot, do-it-yourself wire tailgut)

    5. When asked about the endpin, his comments were limited to " I have these, installed, they cost XXX." I'm not sure of what sort of critique that was.

    I have since replaced the endpin with a much nicer one. The original one worked fine for the year I used it and didn't buzz or rattle. (granted I always played it at the highest setting) I just thought the design was bad. It was too much work to get it in the right notch and it was too short.

    The luthiers that offer factory basses with set up work also often sand the laquer from the neck and apply an oil protectant. I haven't priced this service nor have I considered attempting it myself. I would guess with care and patience, I could do it.

    So, you can decide for yourself how much of the work you need done and what you are willing to try yourself. But, this does illustrate why the "luthiered-up" basses cost significantly more. Somewhere on the Hammond-Ashley site, they used to have a fairly-detailed list of all the work they do it factory basses. Having ALL of these services done by an experienced professional would obviously be a significant expense.

  19. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    Well Tommy based on your location, I'd point you to two of the board regulars here, Jeff Bollbach and Arnold Schnitzer. Jeff doesn't stock much, but orders what you need and is known for good honest service. Arnold I believe stocks at least one of the models you're looking at. Both do top-notch set-up work and are widely respected. If you browse their sites you'll get a good feel for who they are, as well as some usefull info and insights. Here's the contact info:

    Jeff Bollbach in Freeport
    (516) 867-1395

    AES Fine Instruments in Brewster
    Arnold Schnitzer

    And if you don't mind a 90 mile drive up 95 to Branford, David Mix is building up a pretty good inventory in your price range as well. His number is (203) 488-7368.

    There are many other fine luthiers in the NY area, I'm just not recalling any others that stock basses. I'm sure some other folks here may have a recommendation or two as well.

    It's not really bass shopping I guess, more like bass hunting.:) G/L!
  20. tommy154578


    Jul 14, 2003
    Thanks Chas, what happened to you is sth to take into account. As you said, it depends on how much work you are willing to try yourself. I guess I don't want to learn that kind of things with my new URB.