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Question about "expensive" basses.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Mazinger, Jan 2, 2003.

  1. Mazinger

    Mazinger Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2002
    First off, I'm not trying to bash any brand here. I'm just asking for opinion from people who have experiences with these basses.

    I guess I'll start off with the price range. Around $2000US and UP and especially "custom made/hand made" basses.

    Is there any reason why these basses would be worth that much more than a good quality mass produced bass that was built right (no flaws...as perfect as it can be built)?

    Of course I'm only comparing the sound and build quality and not the time and material or other cost that is added on to the final price.

    I've only played various "mass produced" basses in stores and am curious about the justification for paying the extra $$ for these basses.
  2. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    GENERALLY, you get better workmanship and materials, which translates into better feel, playability, action, sound, appearance, etc.

    Remember that as the price goes up, you generally get less and less additional quality for each dollar. That doesn't mean that the extra $$$$$$ isn't worth it - it just might not be worth it to YOU.
  3. Zon Bass

    Zon Bass

    Jan 20, 2002
    Dallas, TX
    While a production bass with little or no flaws may sound and play as good as say a $2000 bass, they don't happen very often. With a more expensive bass you are much more likely to get a great bass because much more care is taken in quality control.

    I mean, if a neck is a little warped, or a fret isn't properly dressed, a luthier is going to notice it, while a machine won't.
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
  5. Mazinger

    Mazinger Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2002
    Thanks for the quick replies.

    Don't get me wrong I know the manufacturing process is a big factor in the final cost.

    I guess it just comes down to what I would feel the instrument is worth to me.

    There's only so much one can do to a bass.

    For example, could you tell the difference between a top of the line Fender P over a Sadowsky if there were no name on the headstock?
  6. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    One big factor to me (since you mentioned custom/hand-made) is that you can get exactly what you want.

    Is it worth the extra $ to you to have input in every aspect of design of your bass? Again, it's up to you.

    It is to me.

    Of course, that means doing your homework and knowing as much as you can about the design elements.
  7. Interesting topic.

    I believe that there is a point of 'diminishing returns' or a cost-effective price range. If one is to spend 'x' dollars for an instrument, spending '3x' isn't necessarily going to yield an instrument that is three times better. It will likely be only marginally better, or just different. I think this number 'x' would vary widely among bass players and be a reflection of their disposable income, or their willingness to go into debt.

    Regarding used basses, I would value 'x' at $1500. In other words, for my taste and value, an example would be a used Pedulla. If I were given a $10,000 "go buy a bass" voucher, I'd spend the $1500 on the secondhand Pedulla, be as pleased as possible, and use the overage for something more valuable to me. Spending more$ on a more expensive instrument would not, in any way, be worth the offset to me. Now, to someone else, their opinion could be "$9,000 Brand X rules and makes the Pedulla sound and feel like a yard sale boat paddle" may question my sanity in conserving, rather than spending.

    To each his own.

    Then again, the first time I drove a new BMW, I was ready to make a very expensive decision based on a feeling of hysterical elation.

    :confused: :D

  8. No.

    What I've found here in TB is that the high cost of an instrument cannot be justified to many people's satisfaction; but the question gets asked repeatedly. I have decided that the best answer in these instances is "no". A $5000 Fodera bass is not better than ten Peavey Millenium basses. But I chose the Fodera anyway. What do you want me to do?
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well that is a particular mind set - I have seen people do all sort of things with basses and don't believe that there is only so much you can do.

    If you have a very limited view of what is possible then it probably isn't worth spending much on a bass.

    My view has been changed many times - so seeing Michael Manring recently did this and I think anybody seeing him play wouldn't think "There's only so much one can do to a bass." ;)

    As a PS, I think you have to bear in mind that Bass Guitars are fairly sturdy and relatively cheap - a professional Double Bass player could be looking at $40,000, £50,000 or several hundred thousand for an instrument !!
  10. Mazinger

    Mazinger Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2002
    "There's only so much one can do to a bass."

    I meant it in a building point of view and not the actual playing of a bass. At least that's what I think you're saying. :)
  11. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Yes, and to varying degrees.

    IME, the biggest issue with the Fenders, etc. of the world is consistency. If you searched the world over and played, say, 100 Fenders, you'd find a few that blew you away. If you played 100 Sadowsky basses, I'd guess 95 of them would.

    It all depends on what you do and why you do it and what your means are.

    I don't want to sound arrogant in any way, but $1,500-$2,000 for me, a reasonably successful, soon-to-be middle aged adult, isn't really that much money. Twenty years ago, I'd have been lucky to scrape up $150.

    That being said I never found a 5-string that played and sounded the way I wanted it to until I was willing to drop $1,600 for it used.

    If I played only four string, I'd never spend near that much.

    You are getting something for your money when you get into the $1500-2000 range. At what dollar amount that stops being true, I am not exactly sure.
  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    From a building POV I don't think we've hit the wall yet. I believe there are more ideas to be realized out there. The different brands I deal with continue to prove that to be right.
  13. But.... I think this statement may explain why people sometimes spend the big salad on an instrument:

    "There is no end to what a bass can do to you"

    Pick up an exceptionally fine playing, fine sounding instrument, and try *not* to get excited...

    When we, as human beings, get "the hots" for a car, a bass, a girl, a drug, you name it...

    People will go to great lengths, and spend big chedda to satisfy the craving.


  14. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    I have 2 MTD's and Heir (Korea) and a 435 (hand built american). I can feel the facets on the back of the 435 that can only be made my a hand carved neck. I can hear every nuance in the 435(good and bad) and it serves to make me a better player. The detail and intricacies of the sound are unmatched than in the mass produced bass. It is not only the American MTD, I have a 23 year old Pedulla fretless that does the same thing. You can feel where Michael Pedually put his hands on the neck and decided to "shave a little more off". I used to say about my Fodera that I only might have owned the bass but the art will always remain with Vinnie and Joey.

    The next question is: "is it worth it". I used to run an art gallery. Often times people woould ask me if a certain piece of artwork was really worth the price. My answer was always "if it is to you".

    Playing bass is the way that I make my living. I want the best tool to express my art - no questions asked. Cost is secondary.

    If you think a hand made bass is expensive, my car mechanic spend 7k on a toolbox, with no tools in it. It is all a matter of perspective

    ialma likes this.
  15. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    Man.. That put a tear in my eyes.. I couldn't have said it better myself
  16. LarryJ

    LarryJ banned

    Dec 12, 1999
    Encino, CA (LA)
    Most high-end hand-builts-Sadowsky, Smith, MTD,
    Bebensee, Roscoe, Lull, Celinder, (et al) are in fact bargains!! How so? Just like when I make say
    $150 for a gig-some might say, "Sweet for a night of playing MUSIC! and thrilling the ladies"- But-factor in my woodshed, I make about .05/hour-
    So it is with custom-work-probably extrapolated to a bargain, because the skills & years of experience of a Ken Smith, Mike Tobias, Ken Bebensee, et al- Priceless to do what they do- a factory with CNC and high Q/C can't do it.
    So-You or I can kick-butt on a cheap-ass bass-I have done so-but including pride of ownership and the craftsmanship in a high-end or custom one-off-
    YES-well worth it, and there is a difference.
  17. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    i respectfully disagree....a $5000 Fodera is indeed BETTER than 10 or even a hundred Peavey's (or Fender ort Warwick etc etc) to me anyways its like comparing a Porsche to a horse and buggy

    is one Porsche better than 10 horse and buggies...the horse and buggy will take you somewhere...is a 747 Jet better than an Amtrack train? etc etc

    in terms of the first question: a $2000 bass isn't necessarily better than the basses at the $1000 level or below, quality varies...

    however once you get into the $3500 range of a Fodera or Sadowsky, you are talking a WORLD of difference in terms of quality of craftsmanship, playability, varieties of tone and just plain overall QUALITY

    just my opinions
  18. As you probably know, I am no stranger to the high end of the low end. I currently have one Fodera, one MTD, a Lakland, and other assorted fun instruments to play. My response of "no" to the question of "Is it really worth it?" has to do with my experience at message boards; where, whenever such a question is asked, the discussion typically turns into one of "justify your purchasing choices". I for one am weary of attempting to explain what one may get for what seems like an exorbitant amount of money and feel that it is in the interest of goodwill to let people feel good about having inexpensive, factory-made stuff. Much of that stuff is quite good; and I can see why it would appear to be wasteful to drop thousands on what amounts to a bunch of nice wood, metal, and plastic. Obviously, though, I recognise the value in doing so and will continue to do so as long as I am blessed with the ability to do it. I'm simply not convinced that any form of explanation will satisfy some people.

    Thus, my answer to "Is it worth it?" remains "No".
  19. A USA made neck thorugh Spector may not be four times as good as a Korean one, but then again, you can only play one bass at a time. Is one US made Spector more useful than 4 Korean ones? I think so, because I can only play one bass at once and would have no use for four of them. But some people might prefer the variety of having several decent basses.
  20. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    My main bass is one of the early MIJ J basses - it's a Squier model, no less. When I picked it up in a store sometime back in the 80's, I wasn't planning to buy a bass. The thing just felt really, really right. I played the three or so American J basses in the store and none were even close at over double the price, so I had no choice but to take it home. I soon upgraded pickups, hardware and the like, which I'd recommend for a bass like this, but I still spent less than the cost of an American Jazz.

    I recently went shopping for a $2k-$3k bass and came home empty handed. I didn't find anything that felt substantially better than my good old Squier, even some boutique J-copies. I picked up only one instrument (can't remember what it was) that had a neck that felt like I could spend that kind of dough on it. It was a freakish frankenstein of exotic woods though, and was just plain hideously ugly. I can't help but feel that the whole exotic woods thing is often more about status and exclusivity than about magical feel and tone.

    I felt especially vindicated when, a couple of weeks after my little shopping expedition, I ran across the following on Marcus Miller's website (Marcus' main instrument is the first 70's J bass he ever owned, btw)...

    Begin quote-------------------
    My opinion is that the features that make most of those really expensive basses so expensive (beautiful wood, longer sustain, a thousand pickup settings) are pretty useless when it comes down to holding down a groove. As a matter of fact, I've had my drummer plead with me to throw all my sound check basses away (I'm always bringing a new bass to sound check to try out. Most of them cost upwards of $2500. Most of them sound like science projects. A couple are good for a particular song, usually one that requires a thinner sound).

    I imagine that one day I'll own a nice handmade bass - my little shopping trip by no means covered all of the brand names that are spoken highly of on Talkbass. But I know it will be the one that, like my Squier, will speak to me and say, "you're taking me home!" Until then, I've got much renewed affection for my cheap old POS Squier ;)

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