That Awkward Moment When You Realize The Cheap Bass Sounds Better Than the Expe

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BigOkie, Jul 7, 2013.

  1. BigOkie


    Nov 28, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    I purchased a Peavey Zodiac DE bass from my local music store three weeks ago. DE stands for David Ellefson, it's a signature model. I suppose that this makes the claim that this is indeed the best bass for metal, but I wouldn't know of such things!

    I paid $400 for it. It's still new, but the model was last made in 2010 so it could be at least three years old. It came with a canvas shopping bag. Calling it a gig bag is an insult to gig bags; although the big embroidered scorpion may be highly attractive to someone (Ellefson's zodiac sign is Scorpio).

    When I tried it out in the store I was attracted to it because of the Seymour Duncan P/J pickup configuration. I love my Carvin LB75 for its looks and playability, but lately I have been unhappy with what I would call the "thinness" of the tone. So I've been shopping.

    Overall, I love the tone and playability of this bass. The neck is thin and feels just right in width to me. Cosmetically, I would have preferred a maple fingerboard instead of the rosewood, but I imagine that would be more expensive to manufacture in Asia.

    The black color and the chrome pickguard are attractive, but a little too flashy for my tastes. The nut is plastic. The bridge is a straightforward, solid design, but I suspect it is a cheaper cast metal. Fit and finish are good. Overall, for the price it is a solid instrument. I would rather have a better bridge, nut, and perhaps tuners, but then we would have been buying a $1200 bass.

    The tone is pretty versatile. I am loving the Seymour Duncan pickups. You can get everything from a fat, round Motown sound to an aggressive tone with plenty of mids and highs. BTW, I am using DR Sunbeams for strings and a Mesa Walkabout amp. This is the sound I wish my Carvin had in terms of punch and presence.

    I think my next target will be capturing this kind of tone in a five string. Maybe new pickups to replace the Bartolinis on my Carvin. Any suggestions would be welcome.
  2. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    I personally like my Squier CV Jazz better than my MIA Fender P bass. It definitely happens lol.
  3. jasper383


    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    My Gretsch Jet Bass and my Allen Woody Epiphone stand up to anything else I have ever owned, imo.
  4. lowsideonacurve


    Feb 24, 2011
    I was playing my MIM Jazz Deluxe today, and decided to try my Squier CV Jazz, it pretty much stomped my MIM.
  5. eqvolvorama

    eqvolvorama Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2000
    Arlington, Virginia
    My Ibanez RKB is pretty much the best sounding bass I own. I think so and people who listen with no knowledge of headstock status agree. $300.
  6. BigOkie


    Nov 28, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    A rational person would start asking why so many of us spend the huge dollars on boutique-style basses. I suppose by the time you added the choices I would make differently in hardware and finish and added American labor costs we would likely be pushing $2000 for a bass in this configuration.
  7. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    While I agree there is a lot of listening with eyes that goes on - myself included - I can't say I have ever thought my cheaper basses sound better than my expensive ones. Different maybe, but not better. And while I have had nice playing cheaper basses, none have felt better than my Roscoes.
  8. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Carvin construction and finish is fine. Plenty of people like their electronics as well. In your case, I'd continue shopping, but only for electronics. I think more people ought to spend time with a soldering iron and screwdrivers- they'd find out that a bass is the sum of its parts and not to be judged as a whole instrument unless you love it immediately and continue to love it throughout your ownership of it.

    If you like what's in the Peavey, why not try to put that into your Carvin if it's J + J (AFAIK, you'd have to forego the P but if you're interested in a P sound, Carvin isn't your kind of pickup anyhow) and have the benefit of a better build all told?
  9. nirvanafan13


    Apr 14, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I recently decided I wanted a Jazz bass for my stable, which, at the time, consisted of an MTD USA 635, Warwick Fortress I Fretless, and a Fender MIA Standard P-Bass (in a killer translucent orange finish that I love!)

    I went shopping at the local Guitar Center. They have more Jazz basses than anything, so I got to play everything from Squier Vintage Modified's ($280 brand new) to Fender Standard Jazz, Deluxe Jazz (old and new models, around $2,000-ish) to custom shop 70's re-issues (closer to $3,500).

    I wanted to get the one I was most happy with, and I didn't consider price. If I fell in love with a Custom Shop I'd save my pennies and get it.

    I got the $280 Vintage Modified. It blew away every other bass there (there was about 20, probably 16 of them Fenders, 10 of those Americans). I now play it almost as much as my MTD.

    Case in point: if it feels right, and sounds right (especially in the mix), go with it. If it just doesn't do it for you, pass it by!

    Congrats with the cheap find, by the way!
  10. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    To be fair, my Squier Jazz might give my MIA Fender a run for its money, but my EBMM StingRay or Modulus Q5 not so much :D

    Still, there are fantastic budget instruments out there that I would proudly play if I had no other option. But since I do I definitely won't shy away from some of the more expensive brands :)
  11. Gintaras


    Dec 11, 2004
    Kent Island, Md.
    Last year I bought a beatup 92 Peavey Fury. Fixed it up and put on a badass bridge that was laying around. Thou the stock pickup was really nice I still went and replaced it with a Bill Lawrence P. This is the bass that I play most of the time.
  12. BigOkie


    Nov 28, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    I understand what you mean. When I play my Carvin I love the feel and the "solidity" of the tone, un-amplified. Maybe that sounds stupid, but I think you all know what I mean. That's what makes me think replacing the pickups would be a good choice. I know Bartolini is a "name" pickup, but I have no really liked them since I bought the guitar, used, five years ago. They have no punch, even in active mode (though that is an improvement). The pickups are a Jazz type in the neck position and a Music Man type in the bridge. They are configured to be switchable between different modes that I can't really figure out except that they appear to be single coil and humbucker and single/humbucker or something like that. Anyway, I have been thinking of replacing them with some Seymour Duncans or Nordstrands.
  13. kdogg


    Nov 13, 2005
    Before you replace those barts, you might want to consider replacing the Carvin preamp. There are a lot of great options out there, almost all of them an improvement over the stock pre.
  14. jmooda


    Apr 3, 2012
    My MIA sub ray plays as good as an EBMM.
  15. solderjunkie


    Jan 27, 2008
    Nashville TN
    Try the Bartolini pups with passive wiring. Every Bartolini I've played has been thick and powerful, but only when wired passive. All it will cost is a couple of 250K pots and a couple of hours of your time.
  16. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    My MII SUB Ray5 plays as good as an EBMM.
  17. That's because your MIA sub ray IS an EBMM. It's a classic stingray before there was such a thing. For those who don't know this secret yet... ;-)
  18. BigOkie


    Nov 28, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    Great feedback, everyone! I really appreciate it. The suggestion to try replacing the preamp on the Carvin sounds like a pragmatic approach not requiring a lot of cash.
  19. Showdown


    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Many years ago (late 90s) I played a couple of Fender Js, one MIA and one MIM, in a music store through the same amp. The MIM sounded better to my ears. Guess which one I bought? I played the heck out of that bass for several years until my back couldn't take it anymore (11 lbs.).