"The Germans & Italians Versus Asia"

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by powermans, Feb 25, 2003.

  1. Over the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to have played and listened to a couple of different professional players perform on their
    DB's.One was a 85 year old German Bass and the other an Italian Bass (age not known) however certainly showing signs of age!

    I should state at this point that I have an "Ernst Keller" bass... I have been informed that this bass comes out of either China or Korea!!! Still to find out the answer to this one. And about 5-6 years old.

    Due to my finincial situation at the time of purchase, I realised that for my $2500.00 (Aussie) that I was buying a Bottom Line Bass and, that I could not expect a lot from this Box! With this in mind, I spent dollars on the best strings I could afford and in turn purchased the best transducers I could to help to create some kind of reasonable sound from my Asian Box!

    Over these past 6 Years, along with my GK400 RB and my Asian DB, with K&K , and Fishman , and Underwood , I am VERY HAPPY with my sound. Also, I find that when I simply grab the bass and use it as an Acoustic Instrument that the sound is Rich and Strong.

    Now back to the German Bass.... it cost this player
    $12000 Aussie 10 years ago. When I plucked the first note (Acoustic) on this instrument I found the tone / volume and general sound from the bass to be VERY ordinary! I enquired about his strings , they were Corelli's ....been on 2 years. He had an Underwood on and, when amplified the sound was crap!
    He tried out my bass and was struck by the volume and tone acoustically and when amplified on HIS amp he immediately offered to swap his bass for mine. ( I declined the offer).

    A week later I had a similiar experience with another player and his Italian Bass. I won't go into details but, once again a VERY ORDINARY sound from the instrument. This guy paid just under $15000. Aussie for his DB. I gotta tell you I wouldn't given him $150.00 for it!

    I realise that there are duds in every aspect of buying....whether Cars / Houses or even Double Basses. Maybe , through ME striving for a GREAT sound on my heap of ****! has caused my ear to reach for a higher standard!


  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    How disappointing, I thought we were going to be talking about the Axis of Evil and different countries postion on war with Iraq!! ;)
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    In Basses[DB], Bruce? you should know better... ;)
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I just take whatever appears at the top of New Posts since last log in!! ;)

    Tony Blair's not been too complimentary about Germany lately!!
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Small price to pay IMO ;)

    [don't worry guys, I'll shut up now]
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just remember - Big Brother is watching. :)
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Is that what you call George Bush these days? !!!;)
  8. I think this says it all... I feel the same about my basses, both of which are of Chinese origin. I love the sound I get from them - what else matters?


    - Wil
  9. When I went to the shop (Quinlan & Fabish, Burr Ridge, IL) to pick out my Christopher, they happened to have a top-line Pollmann there at the time.

    Compared to the $2,000 hybrid Christophers, the $25,000 Pollmann sounded like there was a wet blanket thrown over it.

    Go figure.
  10. How old was the pollman? The difference in my mind is the possibility. Yes, a nice carved bass is going to need a lot of hours of love to sound good. But at the end of the day, after someone has put in that 10 years, 4 or 5 hours a day of practice (preferably with good intonation) that bass is going to open up and become magic. I'm not saying that Christophers aren't good instruments for the money. I looked at a hybrid (carved top and ply back and sides) that sounded great. I'm just not convinced that it'll ever get that unbelievable tone a nicer (and usually more expensive) instrument will get. That being said, I've heard some not very nice things about the pollmans (green wood, crappy factory setups - luthier said Christopher did a better job, etc)
  11. I'm not sure how old it was, but the Pollmann was a working instrument that had been in the shop for repair. It was one of their fully detailed Busetto models complete with lion's-head scroll. I played it for about 15 minutes total.

    I'm not trying to knock Pollmann instruments -- I'm sure that most of them are outstanding (though I've heard the green-wood rumors, too). Perhaps if I'd played it for a while longer, it would have 'revealed itself' to me.

    Most of all, I'm glad that there was a top-line instrument as a reference point for me to compare to the Christophers in terms of sound and workmanship.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    There are a lot of factors to consider, but I think it's safe to say that FOGHORN hit the nail on the head with, "If the bass doesnt have the sound you want right now (in some version) it ain't never gonna have that sound. The sound you're gonna get in ten years (or whatever) is the older richer version of what it sounds like right now. That "magic" has to be there in some form the first time you play the bass." The one thing I've noticed when bass shopping is that price means very little when I relate it to the sound I'm after. A lot of the basses I hated the sound of the most had pricetags in the 20-50K range, whereas the one I ended up buying had a "list" price of 6K on it, although I got it much cheaper.

    In my case, there was also the issue of "orchestra basses" versus "pizz basses"....or perhaps "orch setups" versus "pizz setups"? I noticed that most of the most highly coveted "orchestra" basses sounded like @$$ played pizz, with no stones whatsoever to the sound no matter what I tried. But then somebody walks in and plays the same bass arco, and it sings like all getout. I think both of my teacher's basses - a French, and an Italian, both VERY expensive - sound terrible for jazz pizz.

    Bottom line is, there's a lot of voodoo involved in buying a bass, and it's all very PERSONAL voodoo...kind of like choosing a mate - if you don't make the right choice, you'll regret it like hell later when you're stuck with a compromise of your own making and you keep seeing Mrs. Right walking by on the street. Better to follow your heart the first time around.
  13. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny

    The Pollmann factory never used green woods. They have an aged wood supply that would make any maker drool. They do have a tendency to crack but it is more a combination of the voyage across the pond, too thin on the top, and too strong a joint between the top and ribs.
  14. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Tis true. The principal in our orchestra has a 7/8 bass that was made out of roughed-out pieces found at the Pollmann shop dating back to the mid-19th century. It had never been put together (they found pieces for 3 basses I believe), and they were finished at the Cincinnati shop in the 70's.

    This bass sounds huge and sweet both arco and pizz.

  15. This is the heart of the matter. I've owned alot of basses, each bought as either arco or pizz. Out of a dozen, only two went both ways, one very good, but only one excellent. Before I accept dismissals of expensive basses, I want to know something about the intended use of the bass and also the player. There's no way I can make any orchestra bass sound as good as John Feeney, Lou Paer, or a thousand other great players.
  16. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    I played a lot of basses at the NAMM show last January, Korean, Chinese, German, Romanian, and the chinese and Korean basses were very good, of course they have some lower level instruments that just suck, I played about 8 Wilfer basses, and two of them were exceptional, but I also played a Romanian bass that was exceptional, and the new Paesolds are very good, for some reason I didn't like the Christopher basses as much as I thought I would, people talk so much about 'em, but I wasn't impressed in any way. I guess that my point is even though a price tag can tell you some things about an instrument it's actually the lst thing I keep in mind these days. BTW the other day I played a 1951 Kay, and it sounded unbelievable, and I don't really like Kays but that bass had the most amazing sound, if you heard it on a recording ypu would never think it was a plywood bass.;)
  17. It would appear that in the last 12 hours since I posted this thread,it has sparked a possible new war within regions of the bass clef!

    I had to chuckle at the opening comments, I didn't think to much at the time about the current world situation ! Greeting to the C.I.A. on the side.

    Yes THANKS Wil for the vote of confidence , I agree that it's what our individual EARS hear that really matter. And it was great to hear a lot of you feel the same as I do regarding our $2500 + Boxes.

    Ed,"Build A Bridge" , Don't get to carried away with the heading I gave this thread..... It was only intended to catch a few fish.... and it appeared to work. I have NO PROBLEM with German or Italian Basses and, I imagine that proberly 95% or more are great instruments.As I said in my closing comments
    " There are DUDS in houses/ cars and even Double Basses" I WASN'T MAKING A BLANKET STATEMENT"
    However, Did agree with your views on giving a bass 10 years to work it in .....crap! If it don't sound good from the start....keep looking!

    Lastly, I wonder how many of the GREAT PLAYERS out there use $2-3000 basses instead of the 30-50K+ basses....ANYONE KNOW????

    Cheers :D
  18. MOWERPANTS: I do, but hey, I did not say I´m a great player.

    Anyhow, I currently play a Korean bass which just sounds and plays very nice to me.
    I have recently got an old German Bass ( doesn´t have any label left ), which could be spotted to Mittenwald, say late 1800´s, no one has not 100% confirmed the age, though. It´s a very nice bass, strong and very well made. Anyhow, right now it is in a contidition where the Korean is far superior to it, what comes to playability and sound I´m able to get out of it.

    The German would need a new sound post, a new bridge, fingerboard planing ( or replacing ), neck straightening and refitting ( it´s about half an inch angled ), new strings and a proper set up. In addition to this, the peg box is cracked and needs instant repair. Takes a lot hours, and also a lot of working hours of mine to finance it. Also the top and ribs have very old Major Repairs, and even though the sun doesn´t shine through them, each one has to be checked.

    Some day I will get all this done, and Im sure it will
    sound just great ( ´cause it does even now ), but what will I REALLY get for all that work and money?
    Thus far I can´t tell...


    PS. Don´t even mention it, it´s not for sale...
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    C.I.A. is your name for Chris Fitzgerald?! ;)

    You may have annoyed the Czechs as well - I hear there is a resurgence of craftsmanship in this area?
  20. The one I'm sure of, I've already mentioned. Michael Moore uses a Christopher. He once had a Kay that he used on long tours with Benny Goodman. He sold it to Sean Smith, who uses it today. He told me that Chambers and LaFaro both have recorded on plywoods. I was told that Eddie Gomez recorded an entire album on a plywood, of which he has several.