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What is quality?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Kwesi, Jul 21, 2012.

  1. I see the word thrown around A LOT and I'm wondering what it means to the rest of the TB crowd. My personal definition of quality means that a bass works and is worry free. Not in the bare minimum sense but in such a way that I can set it up the way I want so it plays and sound how I want it to for as long as I can see myself playing it.

    I see a lot of "Brand x basses are higher quality than brand y basses." but after a certain point is that actually worth mentioning. Does anyone ever see that statement and think to themselves "Hmmm, perhaps I should reconsider my position..."?

    To date, I've ordered three custom basses (the third 3rd is currently being built) and as awesome as they are, I don't particularly see them lasting any longer than, say, a Fender or Ibanez or whatever else have you or less able to get them set up the way I want. Maybe I have low standards or something but quality just seems like a really fuzzy word to me when it comes to basses.
  2. FileBass


    May 9, 2012
    the least problem on playability, the sound, AND... the most important, my preferences :)
    i prefer flat fingerboard, least death note, good concern of fretwork, my preferred preamp, n good clean wood work/wiring.

    like for some brands, tgey always have that death note on the same position on every basses n i hate dat. poor craftmanship thats what i'd say :/ :bag:
  3. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Does what it's meant to do, has no flaws (or only minimal ones), has features or signs of attention to detail that set it apart from lower quality.

    All of which is completely subjective and doesn't really answer the question!
  4. kesh


    Jul 9, 2012
    Brighton, England
    I've set up cheap basses to play wonderfully. I think you pay for quality control. A cheap bass can be high quality if you get lucky.
  5. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Q: What is Quality?

    A: Quality is subjective.

    Is there any agreed upon criteria for determining quality here? No.

    Personally, I'm interested in sound and playability in equal amounts. If an instrument doesn't sound right to me but feels right then I won't use it and if it and if an instrument sounds right to me but doesn't feel right I won't use it. An instrument needs to sound right and feel right for me to use it.
  6. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Banned Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.
    Quality is always subjective, but I find when I am looking at basses it means:

    1. Solid electronics with no cheap feeling knobs and no scratchy or loose pots.
    2. Solid, denser woods that have clean and smooth cuts and laminates.
    3. Great fit, with very little or no gaps at the neck joint on bolt ons and snug but not too snug pickup routes.
    4. Three ply pick guards that are cut smoothly and cleanly.
    5. Brass or bone nuts and heavy or known brand tuners and bridges.
    6. Smooth, well applied finishes with no blow over and no obvious blemishes.

    Phil Crosby in his book "Quality is Free" says quality is delivering what the customer requests, nothing more, nothing less. So, an SX can be a quality bass, and so can a custom Brubaker or Ritter.

    There are many basses out there that are great quality especially given the price point. SX Basses if taken care of will last forever, just like Danelectros from the 50s did and do, and both are considered "budget" basses. Who would have thought Masonite would last longer then I have been alive?

    Quality has less to do with materials and more to do with attention to construction. I have Swatches that are older then my Rolex and will last just as long, but clearly there is a difference in "quality."
  7. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    The difference is you probably won't disintegrate when you get wet. ;)
  8. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
  9. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    The reason why a modestly priced bass can last as long as a very expensive bass is diminishing returns. A very reliable and well put together bass can be made for around $1,500 in America and $700 in Mexico and Indonesia. For about $1,000 more, you can get a very, very nice bass. Beyond that, you are a whole lot of money for very small refinements.
  10. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    qualties are subjective I'd say...Quality isn't.
    Builtquality and quality of components I think are both not subjective.
    Tone is a quality which is...some like honky Jazz basses, some like aggressive stingrays etc.
    Weight is another such subjective thing...
  11. bruce bennett

    bruce bennett Commercial User

    Sep 8, 2009
    Chattanooga TN
    Owner and Luther for Bennett Music Labs
    your definition of "quality" is my definition of "functional"

    Ever ride in a Kia or a Suzuki or a Hundyai? they are very functional automobiles. they work reliabley and cost you very little compared to how well they work.

    But, a Cadillac or a Lincoln is a little something decidedly better, wouldn't you agree?

    what about a Ferrari? a Bugatti or a Lamborghini?

    We all know these are much faster and handle better than those cheaper smaller cars, and that being able to have that incrediable speed ability on tap, is expensive to build.

    The point to these cars, is that they are built for a SPECIFIC set of characteristics. they have been designed for specific reasons to do specifc things.
    there is always a level of "quality" involved in taking on a specific challedge like that.

    Caddys and Lincolns are for luxury and comfort. while Ferrari and Bugatti are all about
    speed and handleing.

    so far, its not been very successful to combine these two "specifics" perfectly, there is always some compromise involved.

    Its really not that much different with instruments, except that the fine points are much more subtle.. and most importantly, individually specific.

    A great player, knows how they play, they understand what about an instrument work with them and what works against them. and when it becomes obvious to them that, in order to go any further in their playing abilities, that they need help altering the instrument to their specific playing needs.

    there is NOTHING wrong with just being "functional". there just IS something different about being "functionally specific".

    so the generic word of "Quality" tends to get thrown around out of context quite a bit. Oh well,

    its a bit like trying to describe a sound to someone.. its almost impossible because its such an abstract concept. one mans "quality" becomes another mans "merely functional".

    as a reasonable example:
    I don't consider myself to be any kind of serious bassist.
    but I can play well enough to hold most playing positions within probably 85% of the bands out there.
    I can tell when an instrument is working against my playing style, and thats an issue on two levels.
    1. my performance as a player.
    2. my comfort level as a performer.

    these are two aspects of my musicianship that i don't wish to compromise with. so
    "quality" becomes a VERY important factor to me as a player.
  12. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    You are right. Either a bass has a tight neck pocket or it does not. It either has good soldering and shielding or it does not. The same goes for the quality of the fret work.
    My point is that given current inflation, quality basses can be mass produced in the USA for about $1,500 and bit less than half that in some other countries like Mexico or Indonesia. For a thousand dollars more, $2,500 in the US and $1,500 in Mexico or Indonesia, a manufacturer can make a truly great bass. Higher prices tend to be more things like fancy top woods or inlays, or reflect very small scales of production.
  13. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    Virginia Beach
    Judging by the responses, I'd say quality is in the details.
  14. OT: Check out "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" - The whole book tries to answer the question: What is quality?

    For me, quality is how well something meets your wants/needs. If exotic woods and italian pickups get you excited, a P bass is a lower quality choice. If you want tough and simple, a P bass is a high quality choice.
  15. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    The definition as "required" by ISO 9001:2008 is the achievement of "Planned" results in meeting a customers "Specifications and Requirements."

    Because ISO is in 74 countries and copied/plagerized as a format by many other quality systems, it is "the" Quality Management System and it works better than all the rest.
  16. wong99


    Jun 6, 2012
    I am not sure about quality being subjective. I would say that it is objective.
    Some materials and components are inherantly better than others, (an alder guitar body is better "quality" than a pine plywood body). Same goes for pickups, tuners, fretwire, fingerboards, nuts, saddles and bridges.
    Then there is the whole issue of craftsmanship of build and design aspects.
    Fit and finish also being an element of quality.
    So I respectfully disagree.
    Quality is NOT subjective at all.
  17. superdick2112

    superdick2112 Mile High Bassist Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2010
    The Centennial State
    Well said, Sir - well said indeed.
    This is exactly why, for me, my USA Spector NS-4 represents the epitome of quality. It's not necessairly about figured woods & designer pickups - it's about having an instrument that is a true extension of your musical voice & persona.

  18. Syco_bass

    Syco_bass Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2008
    Tucson, Arizona
    Custom builder - Arizona Bass Company/Curcio Custom Basses
    I think TRichards pretty much sums it up well, however, I like "light weight" bridges and tuners. As long as they have tight tolerances. (this is where quality can be subjective)

    Inexpensive does not always equal "cheap" and expensive does not always equal "high quality". A lot of the time it's the craftsman that adds the "quality" to an instrument. I've seen parts from China or Indonesia that are as good if not better than US made parts costing more than double.

    For instance, you can purchase high quality parts from Warmoth, USACG, Nordstrand, Hipshot, etc, but in the hands of a novice, you will still get a low quality instrument. Meanwhile you can purchase lower priced parts from say Mighty Mite and put those parts in the hands of a skilled craftsman that has the skills to produce a quality instrument and you will get an instrument that functions and plays better than most off the shelf instruments costing a lot more money.

    Just my 2 cents.
  19. True. Too subjective. Even if we used more objective metrics, we still wouldn't be able to agree on the best bass for metal, if the P/J bass is a real bass, if anything other than a Fender can sit in the mix, etc.

    One can't deny that logic must come into play. Just because a musician can't tell the difference, doesn't mean there isn't a difference. Just because some dude thinks there's a huge difference doesn't mean there really is. Lots of bias.

    Diminishing returns still implies returns. The value of refinements is in the eye of the beholder and possibly cumulative.

    If we were to compare Rob Allen's MB2 to Carvin or Godin, the Rob Allen is immensely more expensive. The difference in tone is probably not terribly different. The fancy top woods really don't offer anything beyond looks. The low B is improved on the Rob Allen. The ergonomics are also substantially better in terms of balance and first position reach. A comfy neck profile doesn't hurt.
  20. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009

    Sure. Which means it is nothing but a salesman term.

    Me? When I go buying a bass I always look for:

    1. Quality

    2. Value

    3. Tone

    Because these can be anything the salesman says they are!

    or I could look for a bass that actually does the job I'm looking for it to do. Nah. No hype in that.

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