Romanian Bass ID?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by lowfreqgeek, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Tijeras, NM
    So I picked up a carved Romanian bass off CL tonight for $500. The neck needs to be reset (taking it to Mike Olivola tomorrow morning), but otherwise it was in pretty good condition. It also came with a well-used Mooradian bag (not quite as thick or nice as my newer one, but fully functional), as well as an un-marked French bow that needs a little work, but feels and sounds a little better than my own A. Carvalho Brasil bow. It's a bit longer and thicker toward the frog, so a little weightier, but a little better balanced. The hairs are black, and they seem to bite a little better, yet sound a little warmer than mine. I like it.

    The bass was "tuned up" when I looked at it, but the neck was pulling out of the heel. I plucked a few notes and bowed the open strings (Helicore Orchestrals) and it sounded like it has some potential. I measured the mensur at about 40.5", but the neck isn't properly set, so I can't be too sure. It's a round back, too.

    Anyway, anyone care to tell me what exactly I have here? I'm not expecting a whole lot - I already know it's a Romanian factory bass out of Reghin, but I'd like to get an idea of which factory, possible age, etc. According to the seller (a violin teacher), Robertson and Sons valued it at $3500 after repairs. Maybe, maybe not - whatever... I bought it to give Mike Olivola some extra work, then I'll either keep it if it's really cool, or sell it fairly cheap after Mike has repaired it. Even if I break even in the end, I'll keep the bow and Mike will get some extra work, which is a good thing.

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  2. Looks like a Hora. Flat or round back?

    I had one for a bit. A hora flat back, carved. Nice bass for the bucks. Really nice actually.
    uptonbass likes this.
  3. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    I have repaired a flat back with those same pencilled initials. My bass had a nicer looking label than yours, with spaces for a model and serial number. Unfortunately these were left blank, so there was no info other than made in Reghin Romania.

    You might want to get the saddle replaced if you take it in for some work. Several Romanian basses that I've seen have a "half" saddle, where the saddle is inlaid into the top rather than butted against the bottom block. It's an odd way to do things, and can be fixed without loosening the top.

    You can easily tell if your bass has this by looking at the saddle from the very bottom (ie., by sighting along the endpin). Normally the saddle is one piece that attaches to the block. If you have a half-saddle, you'll see the saddle, a layer of top, then the ribs.

    Nice score for just a little money! It'd be great if anyone could identify that signature.

    Paul (eh_train)
  4. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Tijeras, NM
    Thanks, folks. I just got it over to Michael Olivola and he thinks it might be $200 tops for him to do the work. He judged it to be mid-70's, but wasn't sure. All-in-all, he thought it was excellent bass for the money, with a lot of potential to sound great. We'll see.

    It is a round back. Fairly thick lacquer type finish with a fair bit of checking (much different than the oil varnish on my Shen). Nice straight neck, very good, thick ebony fingerboard.

    Based on my TBDB browsing, I suspect it's a Hora. Doesn't really matter much, though. Just curious.
  5. My carved Romanian flatback looks very similar to yours (and is approximately the same age) but is much more well-worn. My label is very similar to yours. Best guess on mine when I posed a while back was a 'Roma', but I think that was a name given by the importer.

    I love mine, and think you're getting a great deal.

    lowfreqgeek likes this.
  6. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Tijeras, NM
    Just a quick follow up.

    I picked up the bass from my luthier last Friday. It definitely had a very thick, warm, punchy, loud sound with the who-knows-how-worn Helicore Orchestras. So on Saturday I threw on a set of Spiros I had. Holy cow! This thing came to life! It sounds HUGE, it projects, it's crisp and clear, yet each note is thick and feels like it has some weight behind it. The dynamic range is excellent. It sustains and growls (with Spiros...) like mad. At one point, I was hearing rattles that had me a bit worried, until I realized the rattles were coming from my room and NOT the bass. It's loud enough unamplified to rattle the walls in my house.

    The only problem I've encountered is that my luthier set the bass up for pizz, but I'm using the bow as a regular part of my routine - in practice, rehearsal, and performance. I knew the saddle radius for pizz wouldn't work with the bow, so he reshaped it while I waited on Friday. The radius is much more bowable, but the fingerboard radius (which he had also planed for pizz) is off now, so it's going back today for a little touch up. I'm a little bummed about that.

    Next I'll have to figure out amplification for this bass...
    KUNGfuSHERIFF likes this.
  7. Don't be very bummed out. The work you are having done should last for years unless there isn't much board left to finger. :) fwiw, every bass I've owned has been setup with a nice radius for bowing and I mainly pizz. You'll get along just fine. Just give it some time and enjoy! :)
    lowfreqgeek likes this.
  8. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Tijeras, NM
    You're right, it'll be worth the extra time and work. I'm only bummed a little because the work that was done last week to flatten the saddle and board for pizz now has to be undone somewhat to make it playable for arco, meaning excess material has been unnecessarily removed from the board and bridge. I had asked the luthier to do what he thought needed to be done, which he did - for pizz. He's always known me to play jazz, bluegrass, blues, rock, and other pizz-heavy genres, though I'm using the bow regularly now in all those contexts. He assumed I wanted it one way and I actually wanted the opposite. I should have been more clear.

    Fortunately, the board is very thick, so there's plenty of material.
  9. uptonbass

    uptonbass Proprietor, Upton Bass String Instrument Co.

    Oct 8, 2002
    Mystic CT
    Here you go; nearly all the necks I've seen on those instruments do that in one way or another, also the back bracings are let into the rib linings so when things go haywire with long term (un)care (dehydrated) they don't like going back together without quite a bit of work. I'd triage the bass and be careful not to over invest, but that being said you have $500 into it!
  10. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Tijeras, NM

    Thanks! I saw that, but mine is a carved (not laminated) round back and the dimensions are a little different than what is shown on this page:

    It had a split seam around the lower bout, on the top, but that went back together with no problem. It's definitely older and has been played a lot, but it's probably a similar model to this. My luthier, Mike Olivola, thinks it's mid-70's. I picked it up from Mike yesterday after he dressed the board. It sounds fantastic, if not a little bright with Spiros. I may switch to a little darker string, but I want the punch and sustain that the Spiros have. It's definitely one of the more open sounding basses I've played, with a similar sound to the carved Juzeks I've played.

    All in all, for a <$900 investment (including the bass, repairs, complete setup/dressing, a bag, and a really comfortable French bow), I couldn't be happier. My Shen SB200 is a fine bass, but this one definitely has the edge in terms of tone and projection.