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Threshold between GAS and gear improvement

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JC Vallejo, May 6, 2018.

  1. Hey folks!

    I want to read some opinions regarding when do you think that you got a very fine gear but anyway you'll keep trading or buying additional basses?

    What I think is that you can take a $200 bass as a starter, then get a $400 and it's likely to be an improvement in matter of (one or many from the following attributes) sound, comfort, stability, flexibility, tone, sustain, precision crafted, etc. (Let's call them functional attributes to keep in track of what I'm saying). Please note that I'm taking away the beauty or "wow factor". I'm keeping in mind that some of the functional attributes that I mentioned could be subjectives and perceived different depending on who's analyzing/feeling the instrument but I think I made my point.

    From there we could be replacing our $400 bass for a $700 one and then the last one for a $1,200 and go on... But before going to the luxury thousands of buks basses I would ask (from my genuine ignorance) are there any specs on those luxury basses that could not be achievable for a (let's say) $1,200 bass if you swap preamp, pickups and hardware easy to swap? Of course I'm not talking about the look, the finish, the exotic wood... Unless you can tell that those improve the functional attributes that I mentioned.

    I think that depending on what do you play, how deep in technique you are and even how picky you are, you'll have a threshold and from there, a more expensive bass is more like trying to have a more beautiful, unique, breathtaking instrument but hardly getting better functional attributes.

    Am I right? wrong? nuts?

    If you agree in some of this, please feel free to add to your feedback the model of bass that you think that will get you to the threshold where you consider that the functional attributes (playing, sound, etc) won't get any better (or significantly better) and I'm assuming that for some people it means a bass with factory settings and for some other people it means a certain model with certain upgrades.

  2. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018
    The term you are groping for is "diminishing returns."

    At low price points, the jumps (assuming all new gear) will be fairly tangible. As the price climbs, the improvements are less about functionality, and more about tiny improvements in finish, aesthetics, timbre. I'd also say that perceptions of status kick in, though I'm sure others will say that's illusory.

    While everyone has their own threshold, and I'm sure many people have more experience with this than I do: My guess is that with new fretted bass guitars, you start to hit diminishing returns somewhere in the $500 - $800 range.
    MEKer and SJan3 like this.
  3. There's premium brands with bespoke electronics and hardware (Wal, Alembic) and then others that use off the shelf parts. I think for the $4k+ type of pricing I'd want something that sounded different too...
    TrevorR likes this.
  4. Maybe putting it in a different way. Do you own or have you identified a bass that from your perspective would make you say "I don't need something better" in terms of function? I mean it has all you need for get the sound you like, plays like butter, comfortable and well crafted although it doesn't have a fancy name or look? If yes? what is it and what's the average cost if you thought in certain upgrades?

    Ok, let's take a $4K bass. does it really sounds or feels different than a $1K bass? or which part of the performance from the 4 grand bass couldn't be matched by the 1 grand bass? Just want to see if am I missing any performance features non achievable for less pricey bases
  5. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018

    For me, that's the Ibanez SR650, 4 string, $700 list. I don't currently plan any upgrades. I'm sure I could have gone for one level down (SR500), but I preferred the sound and finish of the 650. There are lots of other basses in that price range which work well for people.

    I can't think of a single piece of music that can't be played on the 650, and can be played on a $4000 bass guitar.

    A $4000 bass almost certainly will give a nicer finish, higher-end pickups, more prestige (for those who care about that), beautiful woods and finishes. I can admire the craftsmanship, but I don't need it to be a musician.
    MEKer and SJan3 like this.
  6. Well for example a lot of Fodera basses use EMG electronics which are high quality but available on basses in the sub $1k range. A Wal however has custom made electronics that are only available on their instruments. Are they better sounding? That's totally down to opinion but if you want that Wal sound you gotta buy a Wal. Again, feel is subjective. Is a Lexus a better car than a Toyota? Not necessarily but it'll generally look better and be more comfortable to drive...
  7. IMO it's not like a 650 can't play a thing than you can play on a 4,000 but maybe a 650 could not sound that nice or the playing could not be as comfortable... but maybe a 1,200 and beyond (or a 650 + add-ons ) could be, do maybe that would be the threshold. Does it makes sense?

    Well, automotive world has a key on this example. Although almost every car could take you wherever you want in the city, it's easier to see how the more money you pay turns into performance, comfort, safety, etc... So a Lexus would be roughly a better car than a Toyota on most scenarios. In basses I can think on the functional attributes that improves as the bass gets more technology and better hardware in it, but I think that basses will get a point where it doesn't turns into a technically better instrument. However you mentioned a breakpoint and it's when you pay for a unique feature that indeed affects functional attributes, like custom electronics that will get you an specific and unparalleled sound or getting a custom 11 string bass that you dreamed for playing some stuff that you have in your head... Then getting a custom $4,000 bass would not be GAS but gear improvement?
  8. SJan3


    Dec 8, 2010
    Agreed. $500 threshold seems to get you a very playable and good sounding instrument you can always upgrade pups or hardware as needed and achieve great results. Case in point:
    MIM Precision bass with upgraded pups and bridge. Plays and sounds amazing! It would take many more $$$ to eclipse this instrument.
    MEKer likes this.

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