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Shen vs. Christopher, My Experience

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by MostlyBass, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Just wanted to share...
    I see lots of posts asking about buying plywood basses and entering the wonderful world of double basses.

    As a long time bassist and public school orchestra teacher, I've seen A LOT of instruments.

    This morning I was tuning basses and remembered one of the reasons I DON'T like Christopher basses - the bridge wood is inferior and soft.

    Feel free to hit me up with questions! Between undergrad and grad school in music and teaching in several different district I've seen many basses.

    Here's a shot of the bass racks at one school I teach at:

    Here's a quality bridge on a 1/2 Shen:

    And the Christopher bridge:
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Interesting. Any other specific reasons?
  3. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Does Christopher really use Teller bridges on new instruments? Teller quality can be up and down. I've gotten some nicer examples recently from a german source.
    Sorry, I misread the original caption on the 1/2 size Shen bridge. I don't think that either company uses Teller bridges as original equipment. A good many dealers replace the supplied bridges for both brands when doing the initial setup.
  4. My main question is whether the bridge was shipped with the bass from the shop overseas?

    From what I've seen so far, many imported instruments are shipped to the U.S. with the basics-- body, neck, fingerboard, and scroll. From what I've been able to gather so far, it appears to me like the hardware and other parts, like the tuners, tailpiece, endpin, and bridge, are specified and fitted by the seller.
  5. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Either way it's something to be aware of.
  6. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    The dealer definitely gets the credit for that Shen bridge upgrade. We ship a basic bridge, and they tend to work well if you harden them up a little with your preferred method. But they won't blow your hair back. We ship no bridge at all with 300 level instruments on up. I'll guesstimate that maybe 20% of our dealers don't take the bridge when they order.
  7. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Thanks for the information!
  8. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    The construction of the Shen is also much better. The Christopher is much more prone to chipping.
  9. fatpanda


    Feb 20, 2014
    I'd be interested in learning both pros and cons of the brands, instead of comparing a clearly upgraded Teller bridge with a standard bridge. Apples to apples :)

    How do young students feel about the playability and sound? I know Christopher basses are designed by a former Juilliard professional bassist with those two factors in mind, not sure about Shen though.

    Chipping seems trivial when the picture shows school instruments most likely handled by young kids. Maybe the Christopher chips easier because it is played more? ;)
  10. mindwell

    mindwell Supporting Member

    Aug 17, 2006
    Wichita, KS
    Acoustic USA endorser
    Dude, you joined today, have no info on your profile that would give a sense of your experience with the upright bass, but have a total of four posts, three of which pimp Christopher basses. What's that about?
    rockelye likes this.
  11. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    My experience in renting hybrids, first a Chris and then a Shen, was that the Shen was a much better instrument.

    Not a factor in "better" but definitely a factor in not wanting to own a Christopher was the weird thick ultra-shiny finish. It looks like something a manufacturer of cheap furniture would put on. I think all the Shen basses have a normal penetrating type finish rather than the plasticky looking stuff. I would also guess the thick plastic applique would be more prone to chipping.
  12. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Turf3 describes the finish well.
  13. cultrvultr

    cultrvultr Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2008
    Oakland, California
    I did the same - rented a Christopher and then bought a Shen.
  14. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Whether one is better or not, judging a bass solely by the quality of the bridge is kinda lame - esp at the price point we're talking about.

    And as John pointed out, many luthiers upgrade the bridge prior to selling them, much less the players themselves doing it. The Chrissy I once owned nearly got a new bridge because the bass foot didn't sit correctly over the bass bar and needed to be wider between the feet.

    Granted, I do agree that on average, the Shen quality seems to be better than the Christophers, but one should keep in mind that no two basses are alike and that some have the magic that others don't. Hearing is believing.
  15. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    I would agree that basing an evaluation of an instrument on one factor, such as the bridge may not be very helpful. However, it is just one of several factors that contribute to its inferior quality.

    -Poor quality bridge
    -Cheap finish that is easily chipped
    -Thin nasal sound
    -Fingerboard radius too large / flat

    As a public school orchestra teacher of almost twenty years, I've seen A LOT of basses. My current district alone has around 2 dozen basses with more than one Shen and Christopher as well as several other entry level plywood instruments such as Kay and Englehardt (from a wide range of years). We had a Franz Hoffmann but it was so bad I shipped it back to Shar. We had a 1/8 size Meisel that was unplayable and replaced it with a Shen.