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Shen or Upton? Advice is needed...

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by profautovoncoq, Oct 22, 2005.

  1. I've been playing EB for a few years and I'm in my college jazz band, right now, but quite frankly, I can't take not owning an upright any more. I'd love to do orchestral stuff in the future (i once played violin if it means anything).

    I've more or less managed to narrow down my choices between Upton's medio fino models (which I would buy from their website) and Shen's SB100 (which I would buy from Nick Lloyd's website). I'm just hearing nothing but good things about both, which makes deciding even harder. I can't seem to find any of these in NYC, but I'm actually very comfortable with a semi-blind purchase. I can pretty much only afford 2 g's, including a gig bag and maybe a wheel to get me to school.

    I've gone through the newbie links, but nothing satisfies. I was hoping some of you fine folks who've experience either or both could help?
    What's the better bass? Whats the better deal? Know a place in NYC where i can find either? Anything, please...don't let me die.
  2. Hey Man,
    We're all gonna die, but I'll try to help you put it off. I have experience with neither bass, but I have experience living in NYC, and amtrak or metro north trains should get you pretty close to Gary Upton's shop in CT, and then you can play one for yourself, I bet someone in NYC will let you play their Shen for a six pack if you ask.............Peace. Arnold S. Gottlieb
  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Dude, why in the HECK are you buying over the internet when you got some of the world best lutheirs working right where you live?!?!!? You shouldn't be looking at basses over the internet, you should be in the SHOPS and trying that stuff out. I'm sure someone like David Gage should be able to help you out. Who cares about brands when you can go and find a old German bass that's already been aged and been around the block a few times.

    Sorry man, it's just silly to me. I would DIE to be able to shop for a bass in NYC when I was first looking.
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I think the best value for a carved Bass for orchestra in you price range is the Willow Shen. If it costs more than you are willing to spend, alter your budget. It will be worth the difference. If you want to play in an Orchestra you need a fiarly deep sounding Bass. The Willow Shen is a great value for the money.
  5. Thanks for replying guys. I appreciate even acknowledgement.

    Ken- My mistake, I don't only want to play orchestral stuff, I just meant that if one of the two basses I was deciding between was a better compromise between that and jazz, it would tip the scales.

    Arnold - thanks, I will definitely look into heading to Gary Upton's shop.

    Hdiddy - I appreciate the sentiment, and I know you're right, but honestly, I have extremely little time for shopping, and I hate doing it, even in this case. I've been messing around, playing friend's basses, playing the ones on display in a few shops, and I'm not married to brands, but as far as the prices go, the few that have stood out are above what i have/want to spend. I know the risk I run by doing the internet thing, but I'm willing to gamble to a degree. I will however, check out David Gage's shop. Thanks.

    Keep the advice coming friends.
  6. About two years ago my teacher and I auditioned both the Shen SB100 (laminated maodel) and the Upton Bass laminated model. At the time Gary had only one laminated model for about $1400.

    After we played both, we agreed that the Shen was the one to go with, though they were both good instuments at a good price. I eventually bought the hybrid (SB180) and bought the SB100 for my daughter. We both play in orchestras, and I play a little jazz as well.

    You can't really say that one or the other bass is better for jazz or classical. They are both lgood quality, laminated, student level instruments. String choice and set-up would make much more of a difference.

    I don't really think that for that for under $2000, you could go wrong with either one. Remember that I actually played the two before I bought, and I also had both the instruments I bought set up by Jeff Bollbach.
  7. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    I cannot speak about the Shen because I have never played one. I can, however, speak about the Uptons. First of all, I agree with everyone here who has suggested that you go and PLAY the basses. That having been said, you are risking little if you go with the Upton via the internet. It will arrive with a pristine set-up and Gary will stand firmly behind it. I have found all of Gary's instruments to be exceptional values for the $$$.

    From everything I know, Nick Lloyd's reputation is also rather impeccable. I cannot comment further because I simply have no first-hand experience where he is concerned. I leave that to others. Hey, you're only in NYC. As was suggested, why not take the train to CT and find a way to Mystic?
  8. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    If you are in New York, you owe it to yourself to at least visit David Gage and Arnold...I hear that Arnold's assistant has a German ply that is within your budget.
  9. Make time. Even if it delays your purchase by weeks or months. If you rush to buy now, within a year or two the sound you're hearing may outgrow the sound your bass produces and you will be back to square one.

    You are off to a good start here. Double basses, even the mass-produced factory models, are not going to have the consistent sound of other production instruments. Buy a DB by sound rather than brand. Sure, buying a Shen or Upton or (at the risk of starting another lovefest) a New Standard, just about guarantees you will have a excellent instrument but there are other lots of other bass in the sea.

    All the more reason to check out more basses. If you are patient, you will eventually find the sound you want at the price you can pay. Look at this as an investment--the work and time invested now will pay great dividends in the future.
  10. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    I don't think you can go wrong with either a Shen or Upton. I bought an Upton because I lived out in BFE and could not get to a luthier's shop to test any basses out. The basses I found in the city 70 miles away did not have the sound in my head. I took a slight chance by buying from Gary Upton. I would have been out shipping if I had not liked the bass. I purchased because: 1) I could return it if I did not like it and, 2) it came set up saving me a trip to a luthier I had not yet found and saved me $300-$500 for a setup. I needed to have what was provided by Gary Upton. I am sure you can get the same thing from someone else if you look around. I did not have the luxury of being in NYC, the bass mecca of the US. I had to have it all tied up in a neat package. Gary provided well.

  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA

    When shopping for basses, haste usually makes waste. And I think that goes for all the gear you buy for it too. Personally, I've stopped doing the "buy the cheaper now and then buy the better one later" thing. You end up wasting more time and money in the long run. Best is to get the best you can afford for the LONG run, IMO. PROFCOQAUVIN, if you're so hell bent on not shopping and having a bass now, why don't you just rent one? Renting will get you a decent bass immediately until you have better chops and ears and experience for when you're really ready to plunk down some serious cash. That way if you change your mind, you can abandon the bass without it hanging around your neck. Somebody like David Gage will probably rent you a bass and allow you to put that rental money as part of a purchase when the time comes if you decide to stick with it. IMO, it makes no sense to be in a hurry.

    Buddy, if you in a hurry now, just wait til you get the doghouse home. You might be in for a surprise. Getting some chops on that thing takes a long time. :scowl:
  12. If your are going to rent, be sure to do so from a luthier not a music store. All the rentals I've seen fom typicla music stores have been poorly set up.
  13. Thanks everybody. All replies have been taken to heart and mind. Wish me luck.
  14. Mike Carr

    Mike Carr

    Feb 5, 2002
    Hong Kong
    I play jazz on my Shen Willow, it's got a real nice deep tone acousticly but sounds very, very good amplified too. I've got the tried and true Spirocore and Underwood combo on it now and still playing on Sam Shen's original set-up, which is more for classical playing than jazz, but I'm making it work for me. The higher string setting has made my stronger. The bass and I fly home from here in Shanghai to LA this week and I'll be praying that it makes it home in one piece. Sam was able to get a nice flight case for me, so with that and some prayer my bass should be OK. I want to take it to Lisa in LA for a bit of fingerboard dressing, reduction of the scoop, lower nut and add adjustors to the bridge. It should then be perfect for jazz playing, I can allways raise the strings for classical if I want to latter. Really good bass, made by a good man. Sam Shen is a champ. I met his design parteners today, Paul and Jesse. They were here in Shanghai this week for the big trade show expo and to spend some time at Shen's factory. The expo is the Chinese version of the NAMM Show. I saw many Chinese Basses there, all crap, except the ones by Shen! As busy a guy as Sam is, he still made the time, in the middle of this huge trade show to help me. He found a flight case for me, and even drove the case and I home in his van. I doubt very much if he even made a dime on the case deal. He just wanted to make sure that my bass and I were well looked after. Sam makes and sells bunches of basses every month, he's a very busy guy. But he's allways been very kind to me. I'm sure the guys in Romania that make the basses for Upton are nice guys too, but I can personally vouch for Sam Shen. If I had it to do over again, I'd still buy one of Sam's basses!
  15. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
  16. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    The plywood Upton's are made in Europe somewhere.

  17. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Who cares where it's made? Uptons rule! I have yet to play anything better in its price range, and I've played some carved basses that didn't sound as good as a plywood Upton. I've only played one Shen plywood and it wasn't in the best of shape so I can't really make a judgment on their basses, but I can tell you with all certainty that you can't go wrong with an Upton.
  18. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    +1 for Shen Willow. My luthier was blown away by the fact that such a high quality instrument was available at such an affordable price.

    You have to play them yourself though.

    Oh, and I really didn't like the D'Addarios that came with it. A bit harsh for my taste. Obligatos made it come to life for me. Amazing depth of sound.
  19. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I have no experience with his house basses, but I have a little bit with Gary Upton. I am confident he'll do you right with the bass. I am certain that Nick will.

    The thing is, there's no real way to answer your question, because brand is not really that important.

    If you had 10 Shens and 10 Uptons in a room and were asked to pick out the best five basses, there's a pretty good chance that you would end up with at least a couple of each brand. Unless of course, there was something in the design that made you prefer one over the other. Like the neck profile, shoulders, neck set angle or something like that. But that you'll never know until you actually play them.
  20. Thanks everybody. I've basically tried everything i could in the city. This weekend is the trip out to Upton. (Maybe I just have my heart set on one of these, who knows.) Hopefully something out there will scream my name.