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Roma,Eberle from bass on Line or Golihur Bulgarian

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by noelpaz, Jul 6, 2005.

  1. Hi everyone. I have read all the sticky posts and I think with my budget - I am prepared to get one of greene's (Steve Loeb --bassonline) or Bob Golihur's Bulgarian basses. I have a found a local Luthier Heinz Rossner a German craftsman who is now retired from Robertsons (orchestral players probably know of Roberstons fame and I am surprised that they are here in Albuquerque).

    Well back to the luthier my point is that I am aware of setup issues etc and I can communicate with this luthier pretty good, I mean he can usually tell me if how the bass will sound after this work is done or if it is crap. I also know strings are important and I am a Pirastro fan. I have my old BP-100 and pre amp and I just got a realist pickup also.

    I am going back to the upright DB after not having one since 1993. Always played some kind of bass though.

    I will be primarily playing jazz, folk and maybe blue grass. I did a search and have learned some -- but I would like to know opinions of people who might have played them side by side (figure of speech). I had been communicating with both Steve and Bob and Bob has given me a "crude" recording which I though sounded pretty good. However the Roma basses that Steve has seem pretty affordable as well.

    Thanks in advance

  2. It might be hard to find a person who has played the Roma, Eberle, and Kremona-Bulgaria basses. The Kremona-Bulgaria basses are produced in low numbers and are from Bob G. only in the USA, so finding these in shops next to the other more generally available European shop or factory basses is not likely. Also, you would need to compare the completely carved varieties of the basses.

    I've played on an Andreas Wilfer, a few Christophers, and several other basses. Bob's carved basses are in the category (soundwise) of the hybrid Chrises and the A. Wilfers (I have not tried Emanuel Wilfer basses, that is a different shop.) Construction, I think, it is most similar to German basses like the Wilfers, but without the exterior linings. The shop founder was trained in Germany, so this makes sense. My bass is signed on the neckblock by the shop master and came with an "authenticity of hand manufacture" letter from the shop. This might not mean much to some, but you can tell that the actual hands-on makers at the shop take pride in their work and pay attention to details. For instance, the afterlength of the strings was in tune after fitting the bridge. The shop did as much of the set-up as possible on an instrument that must be shipped with the bridge and soundpost removed. After fitting the post and the bridge feet, I'm still playing with the shop set-up trying to figure out if I really need to change anything. It is that good.

    I really am enjoying my Bulgarian Bass, after just two months. It sounds great bowed or plucked. I use it for folk-rock, bluegrass, swing jazz, and some latin jazz as well. According to the leader of my jazz ensemble, it is the only bass in his experience with local players that has the "Ron Carter" type of sound. It came with helicores and they sound pretty good, but I'll probably try some guts on it next, just to see what's possible.

    Bob's streamlined maker-to-customer approach and his emphasis on providing a good sounding, well built instrument at reasonable cost are very successful, in my opinion. Unless you have at least a few times the cost of one of these to spend, I think you will have a difficult time finding a significantly better sounding, better playing double bass.
  3. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Did he mean it as a compliment??
  4. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    Why not see if you can find something similar and similarly priced at Robertson's? Ask them if they guarantee the bass.
    That way if you have a problem they should take care of it free of charge? I'm not sure of their policy, but most shops will give some kind of guarantee if you buy from them including a 100 percent trade in for a better bass down the road.
    Good luck.
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Huh? How is the afterlength in or out of tune? What does this mean? I am confused. :meh:
  6. I talked with the luthier who is fixing my 27 year old ply bass and there was one consideration I forgot - humidity. Albuquerque is 11% humidity, New Jersey and New York 80-90%. So the 1600 + 200 shipping of a Roma bass from Steve Loeb may end up in a cracked bass. I don't know what the humidity in Bulgaria is but I know it is not a desert climate. The lutheir said that the bass could crack in the next 2 months it got here -- I guess I may have to find one locally. Anybody here from a desert climate -- even Denver which is drier who bought a Roma or Bulgarian bass.

    I could go to Roberstons but it is a price point issue at this point. They don't have 3000 Romas anymore and I think now it is 4000 +. Robertsons is not cheap and I am trying to get a good deal,
  7. jstiel

    jstiel Jim Stiel

    Jun 5, 2004
    Lake Orion, MI
  8. Dad Bass

    Dad Bass

    Jun 22, 2005
    New Jersey, USA
    Is there an net address for Ribertson's?
  9. Ha, Ha. I heard that, too. I think he meant the growl, note bloom, and the sustain;- and he did mean it as a compliment. Most of that is the carved part of the sound that he is hearing. The rest of it, I'd lay to the helicores, which are great as metal strings go. I think his former bassist used an old Kay that sounded like thud, and my old Czech ply was no better. Ideally (for the material he likes) I would do better to sound like Slam Stewart. I actually think my bass has more meat in it than some of the Ron Carter stuff I've heard, but other Ron Carter (like on Miles Davis' Sorcerer) tracks are pretty fleshy. I think I could get a good "Mingus" or "Chambers" type of sound out of it also, but I have to wear out these helicores for a while. It's not my favorite sound, but it grows on you a bit, particularly the upper ranges. The bloom and the sustain just go on forever and the arco sound is really sweet. I'm actually having a lot of fun exploring that steel sound. With the depth of my new bass's voice, the sonic possibilities are much less limited than what I was used to with my old plywood bass. As you can probably tell, I'm just totally loving it. It's my first carved DB, you know. :D

    After I installed the bridge the afterlength of the "A" string when bowed was perfectly matching the pitch of the harmonic at the M3rd (C#) position of the same string. This relation held true for the D and G also. The E and B were a little off. Without a Pecanic adjustable TP, you can't make them all perfect. It could be a very unlikely coincidence, but more likely there was some close attention paid to the length of the tail gut at the shop. There were also a couple of light file marks on the saddle so that you could easily get the tail gut positioned properly. If the maker had just put the parts together into a crate, the afterlength pitches would most likely have been random rather than having a specific harmonic relation to the open strings. It's one of those quaint notions about sympathetic constructive resonances. It's very important for the instrument to be perfectly tuned (just intonation) I might add that it is so much easier to hear the correct intonation because when it's right, the instrument just starts singing. After having this instrument for two months I'm thinking plywood tops are such a waste of effort for the serious player. I wish I'd bought this bass two years ago when I first had the notion.
  10. Yeah, that could be touchy with any carved instrument. From what I understand it's more the extreme sudden change that cracks unseasoned wood than a specific continually dry condition. I found two sources that list the relative humidity of Bulgaria's mountain region as 66%. I wouldn't put much into that because most places where there is relative humidity (that's a joke for you New Mexicans) it can vary widely. Here in Atlanta it can be wildly different in one day even, so I'm always holding my breath, but other players here have carved basses so I guess it's just the risk one takes. Maybe get someone to put a bass on lay-away until the winter. The relative humidity of most places takes a huge dive in the cold months. At least that way you could avoid the sudden arrival shock.

    The worst foe of wood is indoor climate control, particularly central forced air heating. This is what results in the extreme sudden changes in conditions usually. Or the indoor/outdoor difference;- like this Monday I left an air conditioned home at 75 degrees and about 35% RH and went out to an outdoor gig that was 90+ degrees at more than 80% RH (almost raining). I knew I was tempting fate when I did it, but I just said a little prayer, played the gig (retuned every ten minutes, too) and so far so good.

    I have had one wooden instrument crack from winter (heater) drying, so I can confirm that you don't have to be in Albuquerque to have a problem like this. It was a Michael Thiele tongue drum made of birdseye maple and honduran rosewood. The drum was about 4 years old before it happened with no problems. Then one winter both woods cracked somewhat, but it hasn't changed the sound. I now have a humidifier that will hopefully prevent similar future events. I've also heard that large fish tanks help stabilize indoor humidity, but you can't take your home humidity out with you to a gig so these are solutions of limited use.

    In any case I think you have a nice carved top bass in your future that will sound great in the clear dry air, once it gets climatized.
  11. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Humidity is such a hassle. Keeping a bass under constant conditions is simply impossible, I've decided. Just try your best to keep things from getting too dry. Whenever I am not playing my bass it goes back in the soft case and sits in a humidified (45%) room. I'm not a genius and I don't have enough time to be any more careful than that. Will the bass crack someday? I guess it's a possibility. But I don't think that's totally avoidable.

    Do NOT use dampits. No, no, no, no, no dampits. Want me to tell you how I really feel about dampits? Haha.

    Oh, and one more thing. Consider spending the extra money to buy the same type of bass from a reputable shop that can set it up well and give you a bag, etc. At least look into it.
  12. Thanks for all your inputs. I think the luthier made a good point but I think it applies to basses made within a couple of years or just recently. Looks like the Roma basses that Steve has had been with him for a while and are more seasoned, dri--er and may actually survive as long as take care of it and ease it in. I have an unused walkin closet and I could just stick it there with a humidifier. What's wrong with dampits?
  13. Properly used they are probably not going to hurt anything, but whether or not they help is debatable and somewhat situational. A classical guitarist friend of mine uses one inside his hard shell case and is really paranoid about leaving the guitar out of the case for extended periods. I don't bug him about it, but I think his behavior is mostly superstitious because he rarely runs his AC or his heat. The dampit is probably grossly inadequate during the winter when he suddenly cranks up the heat and probably does nothing during the summer. But his guitar has no cracks so it must be working? That is classic (or maybe classical guitar) textbook superstition. In a closed hardshell case, a dampit might help just enough. In a closet it will be less effective. In a large room with climate control it will be next to worthless. There just isn't enough water in a dampit to significantly alter the relative humidity in a space the size of a DB. There are literally gallons of water in the air in a room at 50% RH. A dampit, even in a walk-in closet, is a pebble in the grand canyon. The humidifier I have is a rather large affair comparatively and evaporates several quarts in just a few hours. In a heated dry house, it will effectively work in about one room only if replenished continuously.

    One reported (on a previous thread) dampit danger is (too much) moisture in the dampit seeping and dripping into the inside of the instrument and actually doing damage. This is not theoretical, it is a reported problem that results from trying to put enough water in the dampit to prevent it from constantly drying out. Another possible problem is that it is dark in a closet and in an instrument case so mold and mildew growth is not naturally inhibited. The concentration of moisture in the dampit is a fertile territory for these malodorous and destructive flora during periods when the dampit is not really needed. That would be less of a problem in New Mexico.

    I think you have a very good point about the bassesonline Roma basses being seasoned by sitting in a warehouse for a few years, but I don't think this should override all other considerations. As far as point of origin, Bulgaria and Romania are bordering countries and probably have similar RH figures. By the way, the Roma basses were probably built in Rhegin, in the Transylvanian province surrounded by the Carpathians. The local Carpathian tonewood is probably very similar to the tonewood in the neighboring Balkans and the shops in both of these regions have been in the business more than 50 years so both manufacturers are likely carving well seasoned local stock. Also both regions have 4 season years similar to the eastern USA, so the wood has been experiencing seasonal change where ever it was, carved or not.

    I actually explored having one Romanian factory in Rhegin ship me a bass and the cost with shipping for a bass with equivalent wood, size, and finish was within $100 of the cost of my Bulgarian Bass. I chose to deal with Bob G. primarily because I felt it was better to deal with an American importer rather than directly with people who are thousands of miles away if some difficulty should arise and I also found it difficult to get any quality feedback on the Romanian basses specifically. I happened to find one of Bob's customers in Savannah and was able to get a good look-see at his Bulgarian Bass. Your situation is a little different and if the price is similar, you have two good options to get a good carved DB.

    As far as relative humidity in Albuquerque, it is the sudden and drastic changes that are to be avoided and in this case, primarily at and immediately after the time of arrival. If it is dry all the time in Albuquerque, it may be a fine place for any instrument that has time to stabilize slowly. In fact over the long haul that is probably a better place than a location that experiences drastic seasonal differences like Atlanta, the midwest, or northeast. My Thiele drum cracked here, not in Albuquerque. IMO, Tbeers concisely summed up the best practical strategy for those types of locations, which is try to have a happy humidity rest space for the bass to return to after it has been briefly subjected to unavoidable significant changes.

    I think your strategy of "easing the bass in", which ever bass it is, is a good one, but I'd question a dampit as the best device to accomplish that. Effective room humidifiers aren't cost prohibitive. I got mine at a yard sale for $1.
  14. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    Two cents from a longtime Joisey Guy... just to put some reality in the mix, that's not the humidity in most situations in New Jersey, unless you only live here in the summer and don't have air conditioning.

    I live along the coast, barely a mile from the ocean, halfway between Cape May and Atlantic City. Both heat and a/c are forced air throughout my only seventeen year old home.

    My electronic gauge says we're currently at 46% humidity indoors, and it's about 58% outside; it's morning and the A/C hasn't been on too much-- it will run pretty much constantly as the temps rise beyond the current 80 degrees. Yes, the outdoor humidity will rise to 80-100% outdoors on some days and even for a few days, but the hardworking A/C keeps it reasonable.

    The winter season will take its toll on a carved bass (my Juzek is witness) if you don't aggressively humidify. I have three humidifiers around the house, including one that I keep in the "music room" where the door is kept closed. The indoors humidity can drop into the twenties if I don't refill those thirsty little bastards, and I am, as I said, along the coast adjacent to a helluvalot of moisture.

    Keeping the instruments in one closed-off room works very well for me; the relatively small humidifier in there has a built-in humidistat and kicks on only when needed, and it works very well and with little bother. I'm sure N.M. is a challenge, but NJ's seasons keeps us on our toes, too.
  15. I spoke with the luthier again and he said that a sure way to avoid cracks is really as part of the setup is to unglue the top and the bottom and reglue then again, plus using low tension strings maybe even tuning a half step to a full step lower in the first year. In the long run the low humidity in New Mexico is really good for instruments. My classical guitar has progressively increased its volume and widened the dynamic range since I moved here and I had this guitar for 18 years now, but really noticed a dramatic effect in the sound after being here for 2 years. I have been here for 6 years now.

    We don't have AC but we have a swamp cooler but it is not a force central air type and we turn it on only from 3 PM to 7 PM in the summer and that's not everyday. Our house doesn't have central heat that is forced in all rooms. It is heated by one fireplace. We do have winters which are dry and cold. When it is 40% humidity it is considered very wet. It is really dry.
  16. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    It's my understanding that properly assembled carved basses employ a thinner hide glue formula when gluing the top and back. Its purpose is to serve as an organic safety valve so the glue will release under the pressure rather than develop a crack. A great idea that is probably centuries old.

    I sold one of the Bulgarian basses to a guy in Singapore; while I can't find my original web source, I learned that the average humidity year-round is just ridiculous. This page has a narrative that indicates the lowest humidity occurs in February, which averages 76%!! I suspect using antiperspirants is a lost cause.

    Anyway, I advised the buyer that I would expect the bass to swell in such an environment and advised he consult a local luthier for advice, as I would expect any carved bass to have problems if transplanted from a dryer environment. As predicted, the seams all gradually released and were reglued by his luthier, in 6-12 weeks if memory serves.
  17. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    So, say you unglue the top and back, and now they are free to contract. At some point you want to make a bass out of it again so you get ready to glue it back together. But, oops, now the plates don't fit the rib assembly anymore! So you start squeezing and pushing to get things lined up, and to try and even out the overhangs, and presto!; now you are back where you started. You have reintroduced all the tension you were looking to relieve! This practice your luthier describes can only work if you let the top and back shrink while disattached, then glue it back together wherever it lays. Nice concept, but a rib assembly, especially on a new-ish bass, will move all over the place if unattached. When you try to put it back together, the bass will be mishapen and the overhangs will be uneven, and perhaps non-existant in places. A better solution, IMHO, is to gradually lower the humidity of the instrument's environment, and accept the fact that all wooden products will eventually crack in desert environments.
  18. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well, I've certainly tried to use dampits "properly" and still had trouble! Here's what I would do. I'd saturate the dampit, then wring out the excess water. Then, I'd hang it up for 10 minutes or so just to let the moisture collect at the bottom and drip out, if necessary. Then, I'd wring it out again.

    The whole process would take a good 15-20 minutes and this is certainly more effort than many are willing to expend. Here's the kicker-- the thing still dripped a bit inside the bass!!!!!

    I will NEVER, EVER use a dampit again. During the winter here in Connecticut, I have a whole-house humidifer running with forced -air heat. In adddition, I have an evaporative humidifier in the room with the bass. I can keep the humidity above 40% that way.

    Surprisingly, I found that the beginning of the spring posed the biggest problem. This past May we had those crystal-clear mid-70's dry days and the humidity headed for the 30-percent range! Yikes! I had to run two humidifiers to counteract that.

    Watch out for early spring!

  19. Not knowing anything about bass construction. I do not know what to say and I do not know the details of gluing or ungluing tops. The luthier that I've quoted must know what he is saying since he he has lived here for more than 30 years and worked with Robertsons and has been a repair person/luthier all his life (he is maybe 76 to 80 years old) and I may have misunderstood what he is saying. Do you really take the top and back off completely or just open it up some? I've seen 3 Roma basses in town bought within the last 3 years and no cracks -- yet. I am definitely gonna ask how people do it. Price is a important consideration for me - I could buy one already at Robertsons or go to Tucson AZ, but 2000 in savings is a big incentive for me.
  20. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    The fact that your luthier is 70-ish speaks volumes. Popping the top and/or back to "relieve" tension is very old-school, like springing the bass bar. My stance will seem controversial to some, but I stand by what I've said. Slow and steady acclimatizing is the way to go, IMHO.

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