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The General Difference Between High and Low End By Manufacturer

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by James Collins, Mar 23, 2019.

  1. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    There is another thread going on asking what manufacturers are most similar between High and Low end. I am a bit interested in what those differences actually are. People who know Lakland, Fender, G&L, Ibanez, etc better than I do might be able to answer in a similar format to this. It might help people to decide on a purchase--save up an extra $1000 or buy the cheaper model. I often wonder what I'm getting from different manufacturers for the different prices. Sometimes the difference is hard to see like the different bridge on a Warwick Masterbuilt that is made of a different material, but looks the same.

    This example will be for Warwick Masterbuilt (Custom Shop), Warwick German Pro Series (Teambuilt), and Rockbass. Prices are for new basses in 2019 and based on my experience seeing them online. You may find some better or worse deals than these prices.

    Warwick Rockbass:
    Manufactured in: China
    Available Models: Idolmaker, Infinity, Streamer, Corvette, Fortress, Vampyre, Starbass, Triumph Lite
    Price: $600-1200
    Neck Joint: Mostly Bolt On. Streamer has a NT version. Starbass is set neck.
    Neck Wood: Maple with Ekanga Veneers (Ekanga just makes a black stripe)
    Body Wood: Most commonly Ash or Alder for Solid body. Also Maple Laminate for Starbass.
    Fingerboard Wood: Wenge (older models were Rosewood), Ebony on Fretless models
    Frets: Nickel Silver Jumbo Extra High
    Tuning Pegs: Standard Warwick Machine Heads
    Nut: Adjustable Tedur Nut
    Bridge: 2 piece alloy Warwick Bridge
    Strap Buttons: Warwick Security Locks (Similar to Dunlops)
    Pickups: MEC pickups
    Electronics: Non-MEC pots and active EQ
    Standard Installed Strings: Warwick Red Label Strings

    Warwick German Pro Series:
    Manufactured in: Germany
    Available Models: Thumb BO, Idolmaker, Corvette, Streamer, Star Bass
    Price: $1200-3000
    Neck Joint: Mostly Bolt On. Streamer has a NT version. Starbass is set neck.
    Neck Wood: Ovangkol and Maple with Ekanga Veneers
    Body Wood: Depends on the make but includes Mahogany Idolmaker, Ovangkol Thumb, Bubinga or Ash Corvette, Cherry or Ash Streamer, Maple Laminate Star Bass.
    Fingerboard Wood: Wenge. Tigerstripe Ebony on Fretless models.
    Frets: Nickel Silver Jumbo Extra High
    Tuning Pegs: Standard Warwick Machine Heads
    Nut: Adjustable Tedur Nut
    Bridge: 2 piece alloy Warwick Bridge
    Strap Buttons: Warwick Security Locks (Similar to Dunlops)
    Pickups: MEC pickups
    Electronics: MEC pots and active EQ
    Standard Installed Strings: Warwick Black Label Strings
    Bag: Rockbag Gig Bag
    Upgrades from Rockbass: Option of Thumb Bass BO, Exotic body woods on some models, Ovangkol neck woods on some models, German electronics, higher quality strings, Manufactured in Germany, Bag included.

    Warwick Masterbuilt:
    Manufactured in: Germany
    Available Models: Thumb BO and NT, Dolphin Pro I, Katana NT, Vampyre NT, Idolmaker, Infinity, Streamer Stage, Corvette, Fortress, Vampyre, Starbass, Triumph
    Price: $3500-6000 for standard models and up for custom orders.
    Neck Joint: Many NT models. Idolmaker, Thumb BO, Streamer CV, Streamer LX, and Corvette are BO. Starbass is Set Neck.
    Neck Wood: Most commonly Wenge, though many options are available including custom orders. There are different "standards" based on model.
    Body Wood: Varies highly by model and can be customized. Classic woods include Bubinga, Ovangkol, Figured Maple, Afzelia, Mahogany.
    Fingerboard Wood: Wenge or Tigerstripe Ebony are most common. Can be custom ordered.
    Frets: Bronze Jumbo Extra High
    Tuning Pegs: Warwick Machine Heads with Wooden knobs
    Nut: Adjustable Brass Nut
    Bridge: 2 piece solid brass Warwick Bridge
    Strap Buttons: Warwick Security Locks (Similar to Dunlops)
    Pickups: MEC pickups
    Electronics: MEC pots and active EQ
    Standard Installed Strings: Warwick EMP Coated Strings
    Extras: Truss rod cover is wooden. Back cover is wooden with a USB charger for the active electronics. Metal Covers on pickups. Custom finishing options available.
    Bag: Handmade Genuine Leather Bag
    Upgrades from GPS: Additional models include Thumb NT, Dolphin, Katana NT, Vampyre NT, Infinity Semi Hollow Body, Corvette NT, Triumph. Several include NT construction not previously available. Necks are most commonly Wenge, though many options exist. Many new exotic body woods available on different models or by custom order. Bronze Frets. Wooden knobs on tuning machines, truss rod cover, and back plate. Rechargeable battery for active electronics. Brass nut. Brass Bridge. Upgraded strings. Leather gig bag.
  2. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Constant state of flux
    If you are “wondering” what you are getting with the cheaper models, get the cheaper model...if you can’t tell the difference, it’s not worth it.
    Element Zero and Whippet like this.
  3. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Not exactly what I meant. I'm not buying any of these--so your advice is not helpful. I thought it would be interesting to know what the difference is between certain models. When I don't play a particular brand, the models tend to all just look the same. Just curiosity.
  4. Those threads get it wrong IMO. Obviously everything is different. Woods are different species or at least from different sources. Fretwork is different. Hardware is different. Electronics are different, even if it's the same circuit the components are cheaper (usual tolerance (5%) vs tighter tolerance). PUP may be different.
    Rather than try to compare the cost effective models to originals trying to measure the distance in between them, I think it's better to answer these two questions :
    1- Is it a good bass ?
    2- Does it feature the original model DNA ?
    If you answer yes to both of these questions then you may consider buying the cost effective model. Wether it's worth spending the extra $ on original models is entirely up to you.
    TAZ and Relayer71 like this.
  5. Here's my $0.02 concerning the Warwicks. I own a Streamer Stage II 5 string which has been my main bass for 20 years and last year I purchased a Streamer NT Rockbass fretless. It's obviously hard to compare the two in certain respects (i.e. fretwork, string action) but in other aspects I can give an opinion. The stock preamp and pickups were very comparable between the two. The MEC electronics on the RB are quiet and punchy. Most of the time people switch out the electronics on a bass anyway so I see that as a draw. The hardware seems to be the same but the woods are strikingly different. How that applies to the sound is up for debate (and has started many a heated discussion on this forum). The RB neck feels great and the clear finish on it is top notch as well. The basses coming out of Asia/Indonesia are light years better than what they were even 10 years ago. Its hard to say that parts coming off a CNC machine are any better or worse just because they come from a different country. With the German basses you obviously get premium woods and there's a anal retentive German making the instrument but it would be hard to justify the $$$ to buy the top of the line bass instead of the RB unless you just WANT it, which is so often the case. IMHO the German bass has something more to it though, more mojo and tone, but the RB is no slouch. If you think you will be happy with the RB version of a certain instrument they are a good value and most likely there will be no play-ability issues. To be fair the neck on my first SSII twisted and Warwick replaced the bass after only a year so just because it was German made didn't make it perfect. Wood is organic after all. The build quality is VERY good on the RB and I would say it's on par with the German made SSII.
  6. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    The main difference is in social value.
    Nez4, Gothic, MateoG78 and 2 others like this.
  7. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    The big difference is in the labour cost mostly. There will be some better woods in the German made instruments for sure and the electronics may be of better quality.

    I notice the Streamer from China has a "flat" body construction, the German one is curved not that that's a deal breaker by any means.

    Like anything else when you opt for premium product the law of diminishing returns applies. Can you justify the cost? Well, I've had some premium instruments for 30 or more years and all I've ever done is change batteries and strings. With some of the others things like pots, machine heads, preamps etc. had to be replaced due to failure. Considering the cost though I think they lasted a reasonable time.

    I have a Squier Jazz that I use a lot, I installed EMG pickups in that and also my USA Fender Jazz, both alder body, rosewood fingerboard. The USA Jazz is heavier and it does have a livelier sound. Given that everything else is the same I put it down to the wood being a better grade in the USA made Jazz.

    On the up side the entry level instruments have come a long way and you can reliably do a gig with one if it's set up well.
  8. The German built should have better quality control. My ABG RockBass Alien Deluxe 6 from the China factory has a number of frets sticking out both sides.
  9. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Supporting Member

    Tangent -

    :) I'm a German, in Germany, and I build parts basses. Does me being German add value to these basses? Can I slap a "in Deutschland gebaut" decal on it and charge an extra €50? o_O

    - Tangent ends

    Edited to indicate tongue in cheek. :)
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2019
    Green Knight, Jeff Scott, BAG and 4 others like this.
  10. No offense intended. I live in Alabama so products from my home state are often assembled with duct tape and feature a redneck saying "That'll get 'er done".
  11. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Supporting Member

    LOL! None taken. :) I understand the stereotype completely. Germany is a beautiful country. Too bad it's full of Germans. o_O
    Jeff Scott, Nez4, TylerJ and 2 others like this.
  12. dramatwist


    Sep 27, 2019
    I've owned a couple. Warwicks suck.
  13. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I regularly play with folks that play classical instruments that cost more then the car they drove to the gig on (and it's not a cheap car). From that perspective, what I see when I see multiple iterations of similar bass guitars made under a single brand name is:

    That one is made in the USA and has everything they could throw at it to make it marginally better. It's pretty cheap.

    That one is made somewhere else, and has a few things that sacrifice the performance a bit, but they are made differently to save cost. It's even cheaper.

    That one is made in China, and they've done everything they can to make it low cost, but still make it look and sound kinda like the others, It's really cheap.

    In the grand perspective, most any bass made today by a reputable name is a decent instrument. When compared with classical, hand made instruments, they're all cheap. We have it really good - almost none of us have instruments that you can say are bad, and (hopefully) none of us had to sell a kidney to get it.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Hey! I've been to Germany a lot, and I have a very different perspective. They're wonderful people; anyone that apologizes to you (in English) that their English is not very good (while you're in their country) is not only nice, they're bending over backwards to be nice. I have had that experience in Germany more times than I can remember.

    And yes, they make nice things, and tend to pay a lot of attention to the details when doing so. I can't see how that is a bad thing.
    12BitSlab likes this.
  15. They’re certainly not for everyone but they don’t “suck”, they’re quality basses.
    SteveCS and dramatwist like this.
  16. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2013
    In my experience the difference can be felt, not so much described. It takes more than an afternoon in a guitar store to know how an instrument is going to respond to seasonal changes and extreme setup differences. Sadly cost of the instrument has little to do with this. I think that the higher end stuff just has less chance of being a dud.

    I like to get the best stuff possible so I don’t have to wonder if the “insert country of origin” version is the best. Years of losing my ass in trades to end up with marginally better equipment has taught me this. Buy once, cry once.
    fishdreams and SC Bassboy like this.
  17. If a lower line instrument is TOO good, it will cut into sales for higher end offerings. Japanese Fenders got awfully nice for awhile. So they disappeared. Ernie Ball had a lower line of Stingrays. Too nice, so they changed em. Epiphone made Gibsons better than Gibson for a bit, so Gibson bought em. I own a custom G&L M2500. The tributes G&L offer now are damn close.

    I've played Warwicks off and on for a lotta years. Started before they offered their earliest Bolt on models, and have played em from all levels of their production. The earliest bolt ons, at the time they were introduced, were seen as a lower line. The Thumb and Streamer Bolt models, as well as the first Fortress and Corvette models, were far less expensive than the German NT models, and when Dana B Goods started distributing them, they had necks and bodies shipped here and assembled. I've played em all. I had a few high end duds, and an early Rockbass Corvette 5 fretless with the bent plate bridge, ash body and ebonol board was one of the best fretless basses I've played from ANY company. High end or low end. And I play a 1990 Stage I 5 fretless today. It isn't as good tonally, but feel is a whole other matter.

    The basses from Fender that go for thousands today were originally 250 bucks. And thot of as low end, affordable basses. I think any bass made today, from Squier to Schecter are better made than any old Fender bass. And I still think each bass should be judged on its own merit, without comparisons. Bakithi Kumalo played a $100 Washburn fretless on a whole lotta hugely produced Paul Simon discs. He created a sound with that instrument. Geddy's Jazz cost him $200. And any $200 Squier today is better built than that bass. So, it is very hard to say what is worth what. And just because an instrument is less expensive, doesn't make it cheap.
  18. gigetto


    Sep 25, 2019
    From the time of greek menestrello's and their cetra's there were two kind of instruments
    Fu**^^g instruments not playable and not melodical
    Good Instruments affordable, playable and not cheap...for sure

    More than two thousand of years it's the same, manifacturers, instruments are different but there are only two kind of instruments, good and melodics and not good. and the price is for consequences...

    Let's try a Squier JJ and a JJ Custom Shop....or a Yamaha and a Yamaha Japan....
  19. I feel like this one of those "all things being equal, __________" (it's never equal, BTW).

    Also, high end builds don't use shortcuts when it comes to part manufacture or assembly. Other factors are simply features, like neck radius, pickup type, scale length, fret type, etc. Basically, if you don't know what radius helps you play, it doesn't matter (until it does...then you know what you want).
  20. walking Bass

    walking Bass Supporting Member

    May 24, 2005
    Northern California
    I can't comment on Warwicks, but the Sadowsky lines are differentiated in how much you can customize. If you want special woods, matching headstocks, black or gold hardware, you move up to their more expensive models.

    Ken Smith used to outsource some builds to Japan and from what I can tell they really have the same quality, custom look and feel as the American made Smiths, although I believe they didn't make neck-through models. I believe they came too close in quality while too different in price for Smith to keep them in production. When I bought my Burner 5, I couldn't tell them apart and they didn't disclose country of manufacture, so I bought the Japanese model. Unfortunately the resell value is quite a bit less.

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