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Thoma bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by JimmyM, May 8, 2005.


  1. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Hey, at my gig in New Jersey this past Friday, I got to try out a Mathias Thoma double bass. I have no idea what model it was, but the guy who rented it said it was a carved top bass. It also looked like a carved one-piece back, too, so I'm thinking it was an MT-1. I see on the net that they are like $2850 new. This one was far from new...lots of finish checking, and the strings felt like they were original issue (I have no idea what kind but the windings by the tailpiece were blue with black striped thread and different colors at the peghead, which leads me to believe they were Pirastros, maybe). I have to tell you...I was more impressed by my Upton Jazz/Bluegrass, which is plywood and about $1300 cheaper. I have heard that a carved bass always beats a plywood bass. So why didn't I dig this one? Is it not a very good bass? Or am I just dumb?

    :meh:
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Dead strings and a bad setup -- which it sounds like where that one was by your description -- would explain a lot. :)
     
  3. I agree with Ray. My experience with my first bass (plywood Czech) was that it sounded just terrible until I put some new strings on. Then I moved the soundpost a bit and that improved it a little also. I put some cheapy Red Labels on and even those made an enormous difference over whatever dead ones were on there. After I broke one of those, I upgraded to Helicore Hybrids, which was another quantum leap. I just got one of Bob G.'s Bulgarian carved basses and WOW. It has Helicore Orchestras, so it is easy to compare to my old ply with the Hybrids which are pretty similar. My old ply sounds alright, but there is just so much rich tone in a carved instrument that is in the wood that I don't think you will ever hear in a ply. It would have to be a very poor carved instrument to have inferior tone to a plywood, IMHO, setup and strings being equal of course. The most important thing is to have a carved top. I've heard some hybrid Christophers that were quite impressive in both tone and volume.

    I think the Mathias Thoma basses are Romanian in origin. There is a company I found called Hora in Rhegin, Romania that will ship basses to the US to retail customers. The cost savings would be comparable to Bob G.'s Bulgarian basses, but I preferred doing business with Bob because of his long standing reputation here in the USA. Also, the shop in Kazanlak, Bulgaria is smaller and the basses are all hand made. At some point I'll do a full review of my new bass which is the larger (43" string) 5-string model, but suffice it to say for the moment that this is a gorgeous instrument with a very full sound and tonal range. Most of the other lower priced imported basses come with lower quality stock strings, so you can depend on restringing them unless you get them from a shop that does that already.

    It would be interesting to hear that bass you tried with better strings and a luthier set-up. There are so many things that can make or break the way a bass sounds. I've found this to be true with all stringed instruments from my old Harmony Classical guitar all the way up to my new carved bass.
     
  4. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Ray, what did u think of that carved Thoma bass of mine that you played ? I think it was from the mid 70's...
     
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The Little Fiddle? That was a cute little bass, and sounded pretty good. I recall that it seemed a little tight / asleep like it needed some heavy playing for a few weeks. I'd've snagged it myself if I'd had the money at the time.
     
  6. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    yeah, that was the one, I agree with your assesment. I eventually sold it to a girl in a high school orchestra.
     
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    OK, so the general assessment is that I am dumb. I can live with that...I AM a newbie, after all. :crying:

    Well if I ever decide to get a carved bass, I won't let my experience with the Thoma in Jersey color my opinion of them. Still, isn't that awfully cheap for a carved bass? I was under the impression you'd have to pay $5000 or more for one of quality.
     
  8. I don't think you are dumb. You heard a bass sounding bad and took note of the manufacturer.

    The prices of imported instruments from former Soviet states are startlingly low. Most of the time the quality is not bad, but it is variable. Romanian factories supply instruments to Zeller in the UK and the instruments are sold here as M. Thoma and Florea Carpathia and other names also. There are or were some threads about Romanian basses a while back. Romania is one of those central European countries that still has old growth spruce, so the materials are usually very good and can be had locally. If you order a bass factory direct you save a great deal of money, but sacrifice the convenience of trying out several instruments, professional set-up, etc. That's how they can price the MT-1 so competitively. It's probably not bad for the price.
     
  9. Fritz1

    Fritz1

    Jun 10, 2007
    Agree. A bad set up and dead strings can make a 200 year old masterpiece sound like crap. Similarly, not matter what you do to a POS, it is going to sound like crap. My MT-1 was set up in NYC by a reputable house (I forget who), but the tone is so velvety it makes people roll their eyes and go "Oh yeah!". The quality of the materials is important. I've read lots of comments regarding workmanship and can say that in 13 years (7 of which involved lots of travel to gigs), mine looks and plays like it did when new.
     
  10. Bill Enloe

    Bill Enloe

    Apr 24, 2016
    Bay Area
    The Mathias Thoma basses that I have seen are in fact carved, and they are built like tanks. My daughter had a 1/2 size from her school. There the Tank Like build comes in handy as it makes them indestructible, and it builds up the student muscles as the lug them around until they get a standard Bass.

    The Bass shop had a 7/8 Thoma which was a monster. It had the same orange finish and the same construction on a larger scale. It could make a nice sound because of the long strings, and the shop owner had likely put some decent used strings on it.

    The Upton and similar Basses are constructed from a pressed laminate board. I suppose you can call it plywood, but it's not. Most arch top guitars are built the same way. For guitars, it actually allows them to get the top pretty thin and you can get a nice resonate sound. The Godin 5th Avenue Acoustic is an example of such an instrument in the guitar world.