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Vintage bass VS new bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BlackburstJBP, Nov 4, 2005.

  1. I,m just curious about something.I see the vintage giutars bringing top dollar and it just got me thinking.Are these old bass guitars really better than good quality new ones,or is it just a nastalgic thing? My other hobby is musclecars Which are also nastalgic and collectable.Playability and sound wise are the old guitars superior?? Everybodys opinion welcome here :cool: :bassist:
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    There's a fair amount of people who believe vintage pieces are always better. There are people who believe new pieces are always better. And there's people who believe a good bass is a good bass no matter when it was made. I'm in the third category.
  3. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    There are two things driving the vintage market: demand and supply. The demand is as strong as ever but old basses are getting fewer and fewer. That will inevitably drive up prices. The solution is to get other vintage basses besides Fender. I have a really nice Guild Pilot from the late 1980's. It has a nice two piece body that is either ash or maple, it has nice EMG P+J pickups, and it has a sweet maple neck. The quality of this bass is excellent. If I had to buy a knew US or quality Korean or Japanese bass with the same set up, I would have been out $1,000-1,300, that would be the price of a new Skyline of MIA Fender. I got the Pilot around 1/3 the price I mentioned. I think that Yamaha, for instance is a good make to checkout for quality vintage basses. The old BB basses were extremely well made and very durable. The same can said for all the old USA made Peaveys, they are maybe the king of all underrated basses. Unless a person is a vintage collector, I strongly recommend tracking down older basses from the 1970's and 1980's if you want a broken in bass with a good feel and wood that has been able to dry out and breathe.
  4. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    Take away supply, and demand.
    To me old basses in good condition, play and sound better.
    Older high quality wood.
    Wood dries with aging, becomes lighter more resanent.
    Finish ages, becomes porous, better sound.
    Pickups age, become mellower.
    Neck breaks in feels smoother, plays faster.
    These are wood instraments, time makes them feel and sound better.
  5. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    There's alot of truth in that statement. What a think you get in a new bass, just like cars is better technology. If you are buying a high-end bass, new you are getting a better "engineered" instrument. In most cases, better fretwork, definitely better electronics and overall better quality. That being said, nothing can beat the mojo of an old instrument.

    In the 70's and thru mid 80's there were few options for "good" basses. You had to spend over $1000 in 80's money to get something good. Nowadays, you can get a really good instrument for $1k and you have more choices without going off the deep end.

    I love vintage autos as well, but disc brakes at all four corners and ant-lock brakes weren't an option for most cars in the 70's... kinda like active preamps are to basses today ;)
  6. infectus-alex


    Oct 17, 2005
    I agree with Pickebass... the reason we think off all the classic basses as great (Fender, rickenbacker, musicman etc...) as great is cos they were all grounbreaking at the time... so why would you choose an instrument thats already a bit outdated?

    A personal opinion i know.... and there is always a place for a vintage bass in your collection.... but IMO not as your only bass...
  7. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    My reasons are the same as what Mojo-man said.
    Also I believe a great bass is a great bass no matter when it was made, but if that great bass is 20+yrs old, I'd rather pay the $$ for a tried and true vet. Broke-in or worn-in feels better in my hands.

    The reasons are endless, not necessarily older was built better, no way. People are nostalgic, they want what they had in their younger days, or what their idol played back in the day. Other people want the first of it's kind, or an instrument that was built under the inventors ownership. Same holds true for muscle cars like 64-1/2 to 68 mustangs, or 67-68 camaros (first of it's kind).
  8. So here I am at GC the other day. returing a rockinroller hand cart which had chinsy wheels for $97. anyway....

    saw a 5 string MM there, and wanted to try the narrow MM neck ( I liked it ) as well as hear a 5 string MM to compare my 55-01 to.

    A sales guy ( and bass player apparently ) finally spies me and comes over. We're chit chatting and he finally says, " Oh you should see the 71 P bass we just brought it". He comes back, $2799 on the tag, whoa. He plugs into the SVT810 and whoa. Nice fat ballzy sound. REALLY NICE. We both comment how that old 71 blows away most all the axes hanging over our heads.

    I realizedwhy so many companies like Sadowsky, Lakland, etc have sprouted up over the last 15 years to provide us SOMETHING akin to that old 71.

    Also told him I was eventually very disappointed in my 75 J bass, it didnt really have it ( or so my 17 yr old mind thought) and went and bought a 1980 new Peavy T40. The J was supposed to be my ultimate bass ( I was a 17 year old playing out weekly). The "new" bass blew the "old" Fender away.

    Life is always so black and white, eh?
  9. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    I can assure you that the Steinberger designs made in the 80s are far more advanced than most (not all) new electric basses these days.
  10. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Too bad "advanced" can't be supplemented with "good looking". :D ;)
  11. Fawkes007


    Sep 13, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    Short answer: No. In the vintage market, the playability seems to run second to the overall "collectability" of the instrument. Old is good, don't get me wrong (look at the violin or vintage wine markets, and there is nothing more magical then playing an old Gibson or Fender that has "it"), but it doesn't mean better all the time. Especially with electric instruments, where most of the sound comes from the electronics and hopefully the neck isn't bowed beyond repair.

    In the '70's, everyone longed for the pre-CBS days and the word "crap" was used to describe the '70's era instruments (which is part of the reason why my first real bass was a StingRay - it, to me, was a much better instrument in every aspect). Now look at the prices they are commanding! The quality control was awful and varied from one Fender to another so much that you had to play several in order to find a good one. The same holds true today (with the exception of the Custom Shop pieces, which are absolutely lovely). That is the problem with mass production; the more you make, the more the quality suffers. Our friends Ken Smith and Mike Pedulla's instruments are so consistent across the board that they are worth every penny you shell out for them (Ken and Mike, if you are reading this, yes I am aiming for an endorsement deal).

    So, is older better? No. It's all in what pleases you. I wouldn't give you a nickel for a '77 Fender, but I'd give you $2300 for a near mint '77 StingRay (or close to $3k for a new Pedulla MVP four string in vintage cherry if Mike doesn't give me that endorsement).
  12. bassjam

    bassjam Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2004
    Lakland Basses, G&L Basses, Genzler Amplification

  13. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    Just to add.
    I also believe that a new Sadowski, or Mill Lull, for example.
    Will sound and play better in 20 years.
  14. Fawkes007


    Sep 13, 2005
    SF Bay Area

    Ooooo! I played a used Mike Lull at G Guitars in New Haven, CT the other day. Very nice. Great sound, super light, great balance. Trad sunburst with a birdseye neck and board...nice vintage look and feel. Great store, too. Makes me hate GC all the more.
  15. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    No, most of the sound doesn't come from the pickups, although pickup manufacturers have done a good job trying to convince everyone that it does. If that were the case, then changing pickups could make a Gibson EB-0 sound like an Alembic Series I, and we all know that's not the case.
  16. Fawkes007


    Sep 13, 2005
    SF Bay Area

    I don't buy that at all. If that were the case, the pickup replacement business wouldn't exist. I forget the guy's name, but one of the guys at Fender who designed pickups in the "old days" said you could take their pickups and put them in cement and they would sound the same. That's an example to the other extreme, I grant you. Now, if you want to get down to physics, pickups "pick up" the vibration of the string. I would imagine that they also pick up the sound of the vibrating string resonating through the wood as well. Makes sense, right? However, IMHO, based on 30 years of playing, MOST of the sound is due to the electronics.
  17. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY

    Jimmy's been stating this opinion as fact over and over.
  18. abngourmet

    abngourmet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2004
    It's not about better or worse, IMHO. It's about what one is looking for tone, feel, and looks-wise. I have several instruments which can be considered "vintage," and I bought them for a number of reasons. First, I'd either owned them previously and wanted another one. Second, I'd tried the more modern versions and didn't like what I heard/felt (Rick 4003s come to mind, as do the newer Stingrays). Finally, they felt and sounded good to me. If it's what you're looking for, no price is too much provided you have the ability to pay it.

    Yes, the 70's Fenders' quality is, to be charitable, hit or miss at best. However, they have a vibe that I've yet to see in a newer Fender. I don't know why this is, but that's been my experience. Same with the Rickenbackers and Musicmans. The newer models are fine instruments, but they just don't have what I remember them having from way back when (and yes, I'm dating myself here!).

    Example: I've got an '05 Jazz Deluxe, USA. Fine instrument, and remarkable build quality, plays well and sounds good. However, it just doesn't have the depth of tone my '73 has, even with the versatility of the active electronics. Doesn't make it better or worse, just different, and sometimes different is what I'm looking for. I felt it was worth the price for the way it felt, played, and sounded, so I bought it.

    Collectors will always pay top dollar for things considered to be collectable. In terms of basses, the Pre-CBS Fenders, Rickenbackers with checkerboard binding and toaster pickups, '64 T Birds, etc. will probably always command a top price. In many cases, these instruments are the first of their kind (T Bird - reverse body; Jazz, thin neck; Rick, cresting wave shape, very distinctive sound), so they are more collectable for that reason.

    I think what makes a Fender or Gibson more collectable than, say, an Alembic or Fodera is name recognition. Fenders and Gibsons are infinitely more recognizable to the average person since they are mass produced; Alembics and Foderas aren't, nor do they have the advertising that Fenders and Gibsons do (and hence, less visibility). This is particularly true of Alembics - they do no artist endorsements of any type, and never have. None of this makes an Alembic, Fodera, MTD, etc. less playable but it does make them less collectable IMHO. I mean, you can pick up an Alembic Epic for about a grand, but a 70's era Jazz Bass will run you $2K or more in some places, even though the Alembic is superior in terms of craftsmanship, quality control, and components.

    Again, I don't think there is better or worse, only those instruments which have what a particular player is looking for. That, in the end, is what makes a "vintage" instrument worth the price, IMHO.

  19. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    IMHO it's completely nostalgia, or preconceived notions. The average pre CBS Fender is a dog compared to a random new Lull, Smith, MTD etc... That doesn't mean you might not prefer and actually play better on an old instrument if that appeals to you.

    Look at the musclecars, a clean '70 Hemi Cuda in stock trim is way more expensive and collectable than a new Vette. The Vette will stomp the Cuda in performance, reliability, mpg or any tech/perfomance spec but if you asked me which one I want to go cruising in I'm picking the Cuda :) Simply because I like it more.

    But in the bass world I want the Vette ;)
  20. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Wood does not become lighter if it was properly dried and finishes do not become porous. Can you demonstrate either of your 2 statements in any way?

    What is a cool vintage instrument and what is a dog is guided by fashion and there are many examples showing this, notably the post CBS Fenders which have spanned the full range between loser and cool based on trends.