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Went shopping for an acoustic . . .

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BartmanPDX, Apr 23, 2005.

  1. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    I've got a birthday coming up, and I thought I might be able to talk the wife into getting me a new axe (since my DJ5 is on backorder forever). I'm kind of interested in acoustic basses, since I thought it might be fun to have one for playing while I watch TV, or while my daughter (toddler) is asleep in the next room, or in the backyard, etc. Plus, it might offer a whole new tone experience.

    So I went down to a local music store that had a few I was interested in. Here's what I found:

    1) Godin A-5 fretted, 5-string, on sale for $850. I loved the look and feel -- the neck was amazingly comfortable and fast. It felt instantly familiar. No dead spots, great fretboard setup, action was just the way I like it. It nearly played itself. I was surprised to find that the B-string was GREAT. Tight, focused, and with a nice thick bottom. Tone (amplified) was great -- different from a regular electric, but highly addictive. The Baggs electronics really sing through an amp. Me likey!!! :D The major downside, though, was that it wasn't that great unplugged. It had a decent tone, but I kept wanting to plug it back in. Since the main purpose of getting this bass (for MY needs/desires) is to play it unplugged, this is a MAJOR disadvantage. Still, I might have to go back and play it again. :p

    2) A Tacoma Thunderchief 4-string. ($950) Definitely had a more "acoustic" feel to the neck. Where the neck on the Godin felt like a jazz bass-type, the neck on the Tacoma reminded me more of my Guild acoustic guitar. A little bit tougher to play than the Godin, and not as fast. Still, great action, no dead spots I could find, and very comfortable, despite the much larger body. Plugged in, it was much quieter than the Godin; predictably, I liked it less, most likely due to the lower volume. It's possible the battery on the Fishman preamp on the Tacoma was weak, or that the setup wasn't right; I didn't really investigate. However, the unplugged tone was incredible. It filled the room with an outstanding tone. Unplugged, the Tacoma beat the Godin hands down, no contest. Plugged in, I'd go with the Godin.

    Now I just have to convince the wife that I've been extra good. :D :hyper:

    Tomorrow, I'm hoping to drive down to another store to check out an Olympia, which is the foreign (Korean??) version of the Thunderchief. While I'm sure it won't be as nice as the Tacoma, I'm going to try to keep an open mind, since I'm WAYYYY more likely to talk the wife into letting me get the Olympia, which is less than half as much as the Tacoma.

    The one question I have is: The Olympia comes in two models: One with a Fishman pickup, and one with a Baggs Miratone pickup, that sells for about $80 more. Has anyone heard both models, and can anyone tell me what the difference is between the Fishman and Baggs electronics?
  2. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I've always been a huge fan of the Tacoma's. They're excellent basses, sound great and they PROJECT!
  3. superfly


    Aug 4, 2004
    I'm curious about the Godin. I want to go check one out locally. How does a finger player play one of these without a thumbrest or any pickup to anchor ones' thumb on?
  4. Rest your thumb on the low B string like most guys that play a 5-string :)

    Seriously though, I just press my thumb against the body of my acoustic if I need something to pivot on. Usually I don't even anchor it at all, even on my electric.
  5. Coutts_is_god

    Coutts_is_god Guest

    Dec 29, 2003
    Windsor, Ont, Canada
    Strangely I really like playing and Epiphone Viola acoustic style. It sounds so good unplugged and with a pick. I think it might be the pick that gives it its acoustic value. Long story short I didn't buy and I'm still searching for my dream bass.
  6. Check your PM
  7. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I have the Olympia with the Fishman and have played the Baggs version. I rate the Baggs pickup as "pretty good" and the Fishman as "intolerable". I'm currently looking for a replacement for the Fishman (anyone have any ideas?) I do love it a lot though. It's really nice for playing around the house and sounds really good with LaBella black tapewounds.

    When I was going for an acoustic, I was in the same place as you. I liked the straight Tacoma but the Olympa was really close to it in terms of unplugged sound and feel. I could tell it was a little better, but it wasn't several hundred dollars better. The only reason to actually get the Tacoma over the Olympia IMO is if you want something other than a fretted four.
  8. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    Well, I drove down to play an Olympia today. I also returned to the first store and played the Tacoma while the Olympia was fresh in my mind, and to check out the pickup issue. It turned out the pickup problem I'd experienced with the Tacoma was a "user error." The bass sounds great, though I'd still give a slight edge to the Godin in terms of "plugged-in" sound.

    Here's what I experienced:
    1) The Olympia is a nice bass. It looks and feels very similar to the Tacoma. Electronics appeared to be the same (at least the preamp was -- it was impossible to tell about the pickup). At around $400, it's a great deal. However, it's no Tacoma. The Tacoma had a better finish and neck feel, and it projected WAYYY better, no doubt due to the solid spruce top. The Tacoma can be played alongside an acoustic guitar and not be drowned out. That's not quite the case with the Olympia. Is the Tacoma worth $500-600 more??? I guess it depends on how serious you are about ABGs, and what your budget is. Would I rather have the Tacoma? Oh, yes (drools like Homer Simpson). However, given that I'm about to get a new Lakland DJ5, I doubt I can rationalize the cost right now, so I probably won't be able to get the Tacoma. For the money, the Olympia is a good deal.

    2) I also played a Michael Kelly. In many ways, it played and felt very similar to the Olympia (except for the neck binding). I could do without the neck inlay and quilted top. It projected about the same as the Olympia -- nice, but it didn't sing like the Tacoma. However, it's available in an affordable 5-string, which the Olympia is not, and that's intriguing.

    3) Finally, I played a Martin. I've always been in awe of Martin acoustic guitars, so I was curious to try one of their acoustic basses. I tried both a mahogany acoustic/electric, and a spruce acoustic. The spruce sounded good, but didn't project like the Tacoma. Neck feel was solid, and the whole bass oozed quality, as had the Tacoma. The mahogany one was a little too mellow for my tastes. Sure, it was as rich as Swiss dark chocolate, but it was pricey, and a little too laid-back for me tonally.

    All in all, a good day spent playing, but I'm still undecided as to which route I should go. Ideally, I'd like a 5-string Tacoma Thunderchief, but I think financial and spousal reality will preclude that option. I guess I'll probably end up with a Olympia or a Kelly 5-string. I should go see if I can find one of the solid-top Kelly 5 strings anywhere before I pull the trigger, as it's possible a solid top Kelly might project more than the quilted laminate one I played did.
  9. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    FWIW I bought the first Tacoma Thunderchief I ever saw for sale. It came with a gig bag, I had to wait months for case availability. I was so impressed with it when I picked it up that I bought it the next day. I have not regretted it for a minute, it is one of my all time favorite axes. Mine has the Fishman Prefix Plus, if you're looking at the TChief with the Baggs EQ, you should know that it is a feedback monster on live gigs. The Fishamn equipped ThunderChief is more expensive, but worth it IMO, I've played both.

    Whatever you get you'll be happy I predict. ABGs are just fun to have.

    I don't know what your circle of friends/family is up to with informal acoustic jams, but I will tell you I absolutely love the fact that I can just pull out the big Chief and keep up with my brother's acoustic guitar for just hang-around playing.

    It's also cool to be part of the Thunderchief Nation on Talkbass!
  10. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    I picked up a thunderchief used. Couldn't be happier.
  11. ztpbassman


    Apr 11, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    As far as I'm concerned, the Martin was the only choice. I bought a B-M several years ago, and it has blown everyone away, plugged or unplugged, I've ever worked with since. It, however, will not let you play really loud without feedback. Other than that, unplugged, with 2 guitars, or with acoustic piano, I've been able to be heard,and what's more, have real tone
  12. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    maybe a good deal on ebay for a thunderchief?

    The thunderchiefs and the B1s are the only really sweet ABGs, unless you want to pick up an old Kramer Ferrington. Which I did, and which I love.

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