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Thompson vs. Kay M1?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by rjz, Apr 30, 2010.

  1. I have a Thompson on order from String Emporium, but it's still on the slow boat from China. Today a 1962 Kay M1 popped up on the local Craigslist, at an asking price of $2000. I haven't contacted the seller yet to ask questions, but presuming that the Kay's in good shape, which would be the better choice, in your humble opinions?

  2. And no fair scooping me on the Kay, 'kay?
  3. rusag2


    Oct 22, 2009
    Los Angeles
    All other things being equal....whichever bass sounds and plays the best.

    Course, the Kay will have more MoJo and probably a better resale....but that's only "probably." Also, in the near term (say 5 or 10 years) the kay will have more repari costs.

    But, like I said...."all other things being equal"....
  4. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I've got a Kay from the same year, though it is in considerably worse cosmetic shape. I've never played a Thompson, but I have played a couple of new Shen plywood models during my recent bass shopping anabasis. The newer basses sound just as good as my Kay.

    The Kay design had some odd characteristics. It has a fairly skinny neck, low overstand, and a low bridge. A lot of people say that a thicker neck is actually more comfortable to play due to enforcing a better hand shape. And a bass with more neck projection would be easier to get around in the upper registers, as well as providing better clearance for the bow.

    The Kay also has some interesting mechanical issues. The neck is dovetailed into the neck block, rather than the more conventional straight mortise. I don't know if it's related or not, but my Kay, and others that I have seen, have required repairs to the neck joint and / or neck block. In addition, my Kay had a detached bass bar. There's a thread right now in "setup and repair" about Kay bass bars.

    So I would say that at a bare minimum, you have to bring along a mirror and bright light to inspect the inside of the bass for the intactness of the bass bar, and make sure the neck is on there good and tight. Also, play it up and down every string to make sure that there are no buzzes that might indicate the need to have the fingerboard re-dressed. All of these things can be fixed, but you should read some recent threads about the anguish of getting an inexpensive bass and then discovering that it needs expensive repairs.

    I don't mean to frighten you, as this is standard advice for checking out any bass. On the other hand, after getting my Kay into playable condition, it has served me for almost three decades.
  5. So it might cost ya to set up the Kay.... as opposed to a set up Thompson...
    You decide....
  6. Thanks for the advice. I went and checked it out, and it seems like it's in pretty good shape. This owner says he's had it for 28 years, and that he hasn't done anything to it, not even changed the strings. Which might account for the underwhelming projection--probably it would be fine after a good setup.

    I see what you mean about the skinny neck. I'm sure I would get used to it, but it did feel strange.

    If it didn't already cost more than what the Thompson will be with a setup and accessories, I'd be very tempted.
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    IMO, IMO, FWIW, my $0.02, you don't want to get used to that skinny neck. For many players, it inhibits formation of the left-hand "claw" and can lead to large amounts of left-hand fatigue.
  8. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    why not look at a Strunal I've had my hybrid 5/20 for five years and it's still doing great with no issues


    Mar 4, 2008
    Larisa, Greece
    The new generation of Strunals are good instruments. They have been improved in many aspects, with more resonant and better graduated top plates, very good ebony fingerboards and ergonomically designed necks. The best hybrid is the newly designed 5/27 model, which features new Tineo laminate ribs and back.All Strunals though need a thorough set up, which can make each particular instrument to deliver its full potential.
    I'll have one of them in my bench after some days since a fellow double bassist ordered it directly from Strunal and kindly asked me to lay hands on.I'll send you pictures, details and my personal review.
  10. brother21


    Dec 26, 2008
    Don't forget your new Thompson might need to be set-up too? Factory basses aren't perfect, as said before the Kay will cost more in maintenance, 2000 bucks for a Kay is way much in price.
  11. Steve of String Emporium does the setup himself, so that'll be taken care of.
  12. Setup -I brought this up in the purchasing process and was told that the bass would be set-up to my liking prior to shipment. Indeed I was satisfied but not being very experienced I was interested what a more seasoned bassist might think. I took my Thompson to rehearsal on Monday and the first bass said my bass was very easy to play and he complemented the set up. Which one do you have on order?
  13. That's good to hear. I'd read other positive testimonials on here, which I hate to mention lest I stir up that hornets' nest again.

    I've ordered the basic laminated Thompson in blond. I'll be using it outdoors in summer, so I figure a hybrid would be a bad idea.

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