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Try Before You Buy!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by LeonD, May 3, 2001.


  1. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    With all the talk about buying basses, I wanted to tell of something that happened to me recently.

    After 9 years of playing the same Stingray 4, it was time for a new bass. I'm starting to get into chord playing so I knew I wanted either a five string with a high C or a six string.

    Living relatively close to NYC, I planned a two day pilgrimage of bass testing. I ended up testing seven basses the first day in two different stores and ten basses the second day in two other stores. All the basses but one were $2,000 or more.

    What did I find?

    1. Any of the basses played by themselves sounded great. By themselves, differences were general. When comparing back to back, the differences were greater.

    2. Other Stingrays I played, didn't sound as good as mine. I felt this was because mine had nine years of aging to improve the sound or I'm just more comfortable with mine.

    3. I tried a used bass from a highly respected company. I 've never cared for any of their basses before but this one blew me away. I'm thinking that it's the fact that this one had some playing time and was broken it. Good basses get better with age.

    4. Early on, I realized this was going to be tough; they all sounded great. I decided to look for the standout; the one who's sound was a step above all the others. At the final store, the owner put seven basses around me and said have fun. It took 45 minutes to get the seven down to two. It took 90 minutes to get the two down to one.

    So, what's my point. I've read all the specs and drooled over all the photos. I was prepared to buy a bass on specs and looks. But it wasn't until I played the basses (and played them back to back) that the differences became apparent. The bass I bought was one that I wouldn't have even considered until I played it.

    If you buy via the mail, make sure there is a trial period. And use an open mind. Sometimes, when we want something, our mind makes it sound better than it really is.

    Good Luck,
    LeonD
     
  2. Welcome to Talkbass Leon. Now, the suspense is killing me. What bass did you buy?! :)
     
  3. Excellent story and moral, Leon. It's true, someone might be "Jazz Bass brainwashed" or just set on spending no less than $1,000.00 on a new bass, but, just as you can't judge a person by their face alone, you really can't judge a bass by specs alone, or price or the fact that it's made by a certain manufacturer. Just like no one else can cook as good as your own mother, know what I mean?

    Mike J.
     
  4. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    All expensive shiny basses are wonderful until you have the cash ready to buy it and you find all kinds of problems. You have just experienced it.

    BTW what was your ideal bass and what did you actually buy? We want to know (well Stingray5 and me do!)
     
  5. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    Not only do I want to know what you bought, I want to know what you compared it to.

    I know not to buy something w/out trying it, but sometimes me & other talkbassers want an opinion on a paticular bass.

    For example if I wanted to buy a new bass I wasen't familiar with I'd ask for an opinion. If 10 people on the board said don't buy Brand X because of a particular problem, I would even consider buying it. If there were alot of positive feedback on the bass, then I would go the next step & play the heck out of it. I'd bring a few of my basses (as I hope you did) & compare. If it didn't match up to my basses, I'd pass it up.

    Oh BTW, good luck & congrats w/your new bass. :)

    Hey I just looked @ your profile. Is your new bass the '00 F Bass BN5?
     
  6. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    I didn't put the names of the basses at first because I wanted to get the point across that each bass is different for each person.

    That said, the basses I tried were (in no particular order): Stingray 5 with piezo, Stingray fretless, Spector, Zon, Modulus, F Bass, F Bass fretless, Lakland 5, Lakland Hollowbody, Roscoe, MTD, Fodera, Ken Smith, Modulus, Elrick, Peavey Cirrus, Tobias, Alembic, Rob Allen and Kinal.

    Each bass was very good. I was looking for the bass that stood out.

    Three stood out.

    The MTD was wonderful. I never found one that I liked till this one. It was used and my take was that it improved with age. I just sounded different from all the rest. Very versatile but still unique. One thing against it was the original owner had a few block inlays in the neck. I'm not sure why; I thought it took away from the beauty of the bass. This was in the next to last store. One more store to go.

    The final store is where I tried most of the high end basses. And where it came down to a Ken Smith and an F Bass.

    The Ken Smith with the very first six string Black Tiger they made. It was serial number 01; very cool. Most of the Ken Smith's I've played had a very good, unique mid sound. This one was different. I'd describe this one like a grand piano. For the chord work I wanted to do, it was perfect. However, when I tried to get the Fender type sound, it wasn't there. Close maybe, but not quite.

    The F Bass got very close to the grand piano Ken Smith. I mean very close. Then it turned around and did a perfect Fender.

    Both stood out from everything else. The store had both for a while and was offering great deals. The Black Tiger was going for $2,500 (it was originally a demo, then refurbished at the factory. To me, it looked like brand new.). The new F Bass (with $700 in options) was even less than that.

    It literally took an hour and a half to decide. I finally went with the F Bass.

    1. The electronics are the best. Vol, vol, tone in passive mode. Pull up the tone knob, and the active preamp kicks in; three band, boost only. Although even in active mode, the passive tone knob is still active. So, dial in that active hi fi sound and back off the passive tone to dial down the brightness. On top of that, pull up the second vol knob and the humbucker pickups become single coils. All the settings sound good and are usable. And passive mode will work without a battery.

    The electronics are so transparent, with the eq flat, you can not tell the difference between active and passive mode. All you hear is the bass (the instrument itself). I felt a lot of the high end basses sounded too electronic; not enough character of the bass itself came through. (This last part ended up being the most important and what led me to the F Bass; it could go from the hi fi sound to the down and dirty Fender).

    2. F Bass is very light and balanced perfectly. Ken Smith was heavier and didn't balance as well.

    3. Ken Smith guarantees their bass for one year. What's up with that? F Bass says if something is wrong because of what they did or the materials they used, they'll fix it. Forever!

    4. They both looked very cool but in a different way. I felt the F Bass was a little rarer (I like that). It has the black finish with the grain in white showing through (bunny bass has pictures of a similar instrument).

    I tried to be very objective. I went into this wanting the Ken Smith and not even knowing about F Basses. But like I said, they are all wonderful instrument. If in a year from now, if that Ken Smith is still around, I may have to do this all over again.

    LeonD

    P.S. If you have specific questions about any of the basses I tried, feel free to ask.
     
  7. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk

    Apr 14, 2001
    Pennsylvania
    That's great feedback. There's nothing better than a guarantee like that. I was not aware. I just purchased a new bass and having read this might have altered my decision.

    I'm curious. It seems that all the collectors hear 'generally' equip themselves with similar equipment. By that I mean they stay loyal to the same brand of axe and sacrifice variety. I can't see the point. Anyway, are you comfortable with the different feel from your Stingray-4? Other than the extra string that is. Or is it a major adjustment?
     
  8. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    hey leonD

    thanks for the great review - so many people come around and offer a review along the lines of "i played xxx and it sucked". it's good to see some thought and effort into presenting the information.

    good luck with your new bass.
     
  9. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    leonD,

    I was very impressed by your thoroughness!:) It's rare that I ever see or hear of someone sitting down with so many basses and giving each one a fair shot like that!

    A sentiment I'd like to add to is the try before you buy it...I once bought a bass, a not-so-cheap one. I loved it. I played it for a year and a half. But, as I loved it, there was something not quite right about it. I couldn't figure it out. Maybe it was the pickups...maybe the 35" scale (even with my large hands, I prefer 34")...I didn't know. But, one thing was for certain...

    At shows, I had a really fun time showing off my boutique quality bass. Occasionally people would ask me what it was. But the problem still nagged at me: the E and A strings had a fullness that lacked in the D and G strings. Those problems weren't noticeable when played solo. But, in a band setting, the problem was all too apparent.

    My point is that while it's super-important to try basses in the store, you also should try to get an idea of how they sound live. If I'd have done so initially, I may have never traded that bass in for my Spector.

    leonD: welcome to Talkbass! I look forward to reading more from you;)
     
  10. DarkMazda

    DarkMazda

    Jun 3, 2000
    NJ
    Congrats and enjoy your new toy :D

    DM
     
  11. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    ZuluFunk:

    I agree about collectors. Why would you want a whole bunch of basses that give incrementally different sound where as you can get different basses with completely different sounds.

    Regarding the Stingray, I always felt it had a comfortably, large neck. The F Bass is wider and while not as thick as the Stingray, it is thicker than a lot of other five strings (certainly thicker than the Ken Smith). Now when I go back and forth, it makes the Stingray seem small. Or, to put it another way, the feel I had going between my Stingray and guitar is now what it feels like going between the F Bass and Stingray. The guitar now is just off the page. I need to get rid of my girly instruments and just play manly ones :)

    RAM:

    Great point about playing live. The instrument needs to have the sound in whatever environment you're going to play it in. It it's only by yourself in you basement, than live doesn't matter. But good think we all don't just play solo in our basements.

    Also, it's good to see you got rid of it and found a bass you like. I think a lot of people get so mentally attached to a instrument (especially if it's an expensive one) that they just can't get rid of it. Even if they don't like it.

    All: Thanks for the welcome. This is a cool place to hang around!

    LeonD
     
  12. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    Congrats on the new bass. Always nice to hear opinions based on experience on basses as opposed to "Brand X sucks & Brand Y is the best!!!!".

    Welcome to TB :)

    I looked @ your post & didn't see if you got a fretted, fretless or # of strings. I might of missed it, since I just woke up.
     
  13. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    The purpose of getting this bass was to play chords so I wanted something with a high C. Ideally, I would have gone with a six but all I found were fives. The deal was so good, I couldn't say no.

    I did try one of their fretless basses. If it wasn't for the whole chord thing, I'd probably have the fretless. It's actually a completely different bass; different materials and construction. I haven't heard another fretless that compares.

    LeonD
     
  14. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Nice description in words Leon, How about a pic of the bass as I have no idea what an F bass is.
     
  15. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Another vote of support Leon. Welcome to Talkbass. So often, as JT said, we get people who won't provide good, thorough, detailed descriptions of their experience. This is the kind of thread that is very valuable for someone buying a new bass. I'm sure you've made a significant contribution to someone who's in the market for a bass. Thanks again!
     
  16. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Chris, while this is not my exact bass, mine is just like it (same color and fretboard). This one is on Bunny Bass.

    The latest ones don't have the two stringers in the neck and there are six control knobs instead of five and a toggle switch.

    Attention to detail on the bass is awesome. The pickup covers and control cover on the back are made from the same wood as the body and they match the grain on the top and back. The control knobs are turned from hardwood.

    If you get a chance to try one out, you should. It's really a unique instrument.

    LeonD
     
  17. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    Here's also a picture of the entire bass.

    LeonD
     
  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    F basses are very nice. Never seen one in the flesh.

    A red Alain Caron model finished the way that black one is(nice bass, Leon!:)) would probably be the only fretless that I would take over my Sonus Custom 5.
     
  19. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Now that thing is just TOO bitchen!
     
  20. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk

    Apr 14, 2001
    Pennsylvania
    Beautiful Bass. I never saw one before, have I heard one?