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What is really separating all these jazz basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jnevi9nr, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. jnevi9nr


    Aug 17, 2009
    Washington, DC
    All these manufacturers are producing basses with jazz pickups. what is really separating all these different manufactuers. Im looking for real answers. I also dont want price to be a factor here. Im talking about getting a bass from each of these companies, what are each of these companies really offering over the others? I understand that price pays a part slightly that a company can spend more time on a product and cut down on their profit margin to make sure there are no issues (basically more QC than a mass produced instrument).

    What really is separating a Fodera type jazz bass from a Fender Jazz Bass? Or any of these other companies? Electronics? Pickups? Are these different electronics and pickups really changing the bass or could i in theory get a fender bass, put in fodera pickups and electronics and it would sound like a fodera? please, no stupid responses. I would like this to be an educated discussion with real insights. thank you.

  2. Materials used? Type/amount of labor involved? Preamps? Where they were built? Name on the headstock (brand reputation)?

    Those are the ones I can think of.
  3. Jerry Callo

    Jerry Callo Banned

    May 23, 2011
    Well, I owned a Fodera and felt it didn't have a unique sound at all.

    Alembic pu's are like no other. If that's the sound you like, you'll need to use them.

    Personally, I don't think boutique or custom built basses sound any better than a good stock instrument. It's all snob appeal.
  4. Infidelity

    Infidelity Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2010
    Melbourne, FL
    IMO electronics..
  5. jnevi9nr


    Aug 17, 2009
    Washington, DC
    thanks for the response. so materials used, is one company really getting better materials like woods over another? or are you talking about work tools? which I would assume would be equal across the companies.

    labor - again, some are mass produced, so its hard to argue mass produced vs. by hand - but are the by hand basses really that much better produced that it would justify that mark up. in the big picture, i am looking at differences, so what are they doing by hand that big picture wise is changing the bass over mass produced ones?

    preamps - which most of us can get second hand, so thats out.

    where they were bulit - so the bass really change if it was built in asia vs. germany, vs. mexico vs. us? or are the labor rates just lower in certain countries and therefore they can offer the bass cheaper if built in countries with cheaper labor?

    ahh- brand name - which really comes down to reputation, but I will add on endorsement power. endorsements add on the price to an instrument, but really dont add anything to the instrument. but is brand name in itself really changing a fender jazz bass to another jazz bass. i would argue that this is an intangible and means nothing at all.

    how about all you folks that prefer 60 and 70s vintage fender jazz basses? why? were the woods better back then? what is it about them? has the woods aged in 40 years and feel better than current woods?
  6. jnevi9nr


    Aug 17, 2009
    Washington, DC
    right, so i can get a mike pope preamp and put it in my fender, done. $10,000 fodera bass' preamp into a $300 bass.

    pickups? are there any pickups out there, like alembic that you cant get in the second hand market?
  7. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    All kind of stuff...

    to a novice, a Squier Affinity will look just like a Sadowsky NYC - but there is no comparison between the two. Just like cars. Materials, workmanship, precision, fit & finish, even engineering is a factor (many high-end builders have done real honest-to-God engineering on their electronics & hardware - Zon and Modulus have done the same on their necks!).

    What drives me nuts isn't that there is a ton of different companies doing J basses - it's that FENDER does a ton of J basses - so if you tell someone " I have a Fender Jazz Bass" it's almost completely meaningless information.
  8. jnevi9nr


    Aug 17, 2009
    Washington, DC
    i also want to say I am not bashing fodera at all, it just seems they are the most expensive, so I want to use them for comparison sake vs. the cheapest - the $300 fenders.

    i believe you actually can buy the alembic pickups after market. they are expensive, but cheaper than a whole bass. so really i am hearing a lot of "electronics and pickups" and not a lot about what separates the actual basses, which I thought would be the case.

    snob appeal? interesting. so the whole "i am rich enough to buy an expensive bass, so its better" sort of like apple's ipods, iphones, ipads? thats what I equate fodera to, apple. is that accurate? apple and google are the top valued "brand names", sort of like fodera around here i think.
  9. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Snob appeal is part; That's why folks buy BMW's and Mercedes Benzs - to show up folks around them. But the fact that these are better items (basses as well as cars) than say a Kia should be self-evident.
  10. jnevi9nr


    Aug 17, 2009
    Washington, DC
    ok, so I will agree that certain materials cost more than others. but I would also argue that fender can make a bass with any materials that anyone can, that I know of.

    electronics - yes, i agree this is the real difference so far based on the input. but is that really it?

    hardware- dont most of them outsource that to companies, like bridges and tuners and stuff? or am I wrong or are you talking about something else? Maybe some companies like Warwick make their own bridges. But are these bridges really the difference between why you buy a Warwick vs. Fender? Their motto is "the sound of wood". I would argue that its more about the wood they are using, the heavier wood, that others arent using. but how about the other companies?
  11. lburton2

    lburton2 Les Is More

    May 15, 2008
    Detroit, MI
    Vintage basses appeal not just for snob appeal, but if you believe anything in the resonance from the body/neck of the guitar translating into the pickup, that's the difference in vintage. Aged wood is supposedly supposed to sound different. This is understandable, considering that aged acoustic guitars (solid top) can sound massively greater than the new counterparts.

    It's not just the location's (country's) labor rates that effect the instrument. I work in a music store and have heard from Reps personally how changing from one factory in japan to another has a huge difference in consistency, qc and overall quality of the product.

    Materials - The quality of the wood, the materials they use for the nut, bridge, tuning machines and even potentiometers are going to translate a lot into the longevity of the instrument.

    The real answer to the real question? Subtleties.

    Components and Craftsmanship encompass a lot of the differences.. But at some point, as the same price points company to company the real differences are the style of J they make. Do they wire their own pups? Do they do Neck-Thru designs? Do they make their bridges in house like Alembic, or do they use Gotoh, Bibicz etc. What finish options do they have? and of course.. "Does a bass role model of yours play one?"

    These are the differences.

    Than again.. I know a lot of guitarists that argue that "Bass just goes "Thump-Thump" anyways...." lol
  12. Jerry Callo

    Jerry Callo Banned

    May 23, 2011
    I don't think it's a fair comparison to say a Sadowsky is to Fender what a BMW is to a Ford. I do think that's what the manufacturers want you to think though. I see it more as a Ford with fancy hubcaps and a real expensive paint job.

    They're electric basses. They're not pianos or violins. There comes a point where all the exotic woods and hand crafting etc, doesn't make much of a difference. And I've been at this quite a while thank you. I know lots of guys who go though the stage of upgrading, just to come back to a basic instrument.

    I had a Pope pre amp and didn't care for it. It was loud, but the tone wasn't to my liking.

    So basically, if you want what those extras offer...great. But make sure it's what you really want. Too many guys think a high price tag will assure their satisfaction. Not so.
  13. I've had literally dozens of bass over the years, including a 64 Jazz. The one I have now is a Roadworn Jazz, and I picked it simply because it was setup absolutely perfectly for my tastes. It is the most comfortable, easiest to play bass I have ever had in my life. It also sounds as good as any of them ( although I used to have a TRB5 that was about as good). I dont give a rats about the roadworn finish, its the other things that are great.
    Bottom line... I have played Alembics, Sadowskys, Lakland, Wal, etc and this Fender beats them all IMO.
  14. I was just listing differences, not saying whether any of those differences were worth more money.

    Materials used: Sometimes this refers to the quality of wood, other times just what type of wood. Fender only uses Alder and Ash for their regular P and Jazz basses (right?), but some of those companies use more "exotic" woods.

    Labor: Some places use CNCs, some places most of the work is done by hand. Is one better than another? Up to the buyer, really. Also, the person behind the building of the bass matters also. People trust the builders at Sadowsky or the Fender Custom Shop guys more than some group of Chinese CNC operators.

    Location: Some people will pay more for a bass made in the US, regardless of quality.

    Preamps: Sure, there are after-market preamps, but some companies have proprietary preamps in their basses and have that as one of their selling points.

    Brand name won't change anything in and of itself, but it will change people's perception of the product.
  15. lburton2

    lburton2 Les Is More

    May 15, 2008
    Detroit, MI
    +1. Took the letters right out of my fingers
  16. jnevi9nr


    Aug 17, 2009
    Washington, DC
    you can buy a $40 setup of any bass and have it set up how you want perfectly, right?

    sounds like its more about the weight and ergonomics of the bass, more so than the sound. but it might be what feels most like home to you. what you are used to. fender feels normal because its what most people have played. but its not normal, there is no normal feel in theory. but everyone is going to have a bass that feels best because thats what best is, the best of what you have tried. i can give you a new bass tomorrow that I created that might beat the fender one. but unlikely, the longer you play it, the more "at home" it feels, just ask marcus miller why he still plays his 77 fender.
  17. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I'll use my Nash Jazz as an example. It's the little things that add up. If I play unplugged, my Nash sounds better than my Fender Jazz. I believe it's the nitro finish, but there could be other variables. He cuts a nut perfectly, angled down toward the posts. Plus the nut depth is spot on. (I play fretless). The neck is fast as lightning. The next point is not a little thing, but the best thing about the bass is the Lollar pups. They suit my style perfectly, not to mention the band gets a big smile on their faces when I pull the Nash out of its case. As a side note, with a light relic, it doesn't bother me a bit to hit a cymbal with the headstock, or feel a button from my shirt hit the back of the body.
  18. jnevi9nr


    Aug 17, 2009
    Washington, DC
    lets start from the bottom up

    brand name - agree with you. and its ashamed that its that way.

    preamps - agree. i would argue that companies shouldnt sell their preamps and pickups separately, but are doing so due to market conditions. could be wrong.

    location - its too bad that people think this. i certainly will not let that be a factor in my decision.

    labor - lets use your example - Sadowsky vs. Fender Custom Shop. i mean, really is there a difference. would you (not you specifically) really knew if one of the builders from sadoswky went to fender and worked for them. would it really change the output of the bass if one of those that works at sadowsky went to work at fender? now maybe sadowsky vs. fender mass produced ones, we can make an argument there is a difference, but is the bass quality and sound really worth that kind of markup? does the bass really sound THAT much better? maybe.

    materials - yes, the ones I wanted to discuss. so there we have it. fender doesnt use exotic woods like fodera or others. they choose not to because they must feel that the exotic woods dont enhance the sound to justify the cost OR their business model is for low cost, mass produced basses and therefore, cant justify using exotic woods. so maybe we should break out this discussion into exotic woods vs. your typical ash, alder wood basses. lets do that first.

    what is really separating the ash and alder bass makers from each other?

    because if you say that fodera is using an exotic wood that fender doesnt use and therefore that exotic wood is the reason the price is so expensive and the sound is better, etc., than that solves that part of the equation.
  19. Syco_bass

    Syco_bass Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2008
    Tucson, Arizona
    Custom builder - Arizona Bass Company/Curcio Custom Basses
    IMHO what sets apart a great bass from a "good" bass are these things:

    1. Electronics - some, even Fender, save hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year, using electronic parts that have wide tolerances. Ever wonder why one Fender bass sounds different than another exact same model?
    2. materials - yes some manufacturers are actually buying better wood. Maple is Maple, but not all Maple has been cured and kiln dried the same. - some manufacturers are actually using green, undried wood. Drying takes time and time is money and greener wood sounds dead.
    3. Fit and finish. - some manufacturers do not take the time to make sure that neck joints, hardware, etc. fit well. Some are even sloppy. Also, most manufacturers do not do "finish" work on the necks. Meaning the fret ends are not finished well or even seated correctly and no work has been done to the fret board. How it comes off the CNC is how you get it with virtually no finish sanding at all. Frets that are not seated correctly lead to dead spots as well.

    Now, even with the best parts, you can still end up with a POS. With that said, what sets a great bass apart from an exceptional bass is a skilled craftsman. In the right hands, IMO, even a "good" bass can become an "exceptional" bass. Ever pick up a used Fender (M.I. anywhere) and when you pick it up you know that it was "the" bass? It was just "that" nice. My guess is that somewhere down the line a well trained and skilled luthier had their hands on it.

    That's what sets apart the great from the not so great in my opinion.
  20. i don't think you can point to any one particular thing and say that's what makes them different. with the possible exception of the pickups, no single factor is important enough to bass tone to make that big of a difference. it's a combination of all the small variations, which add up to create a unique sound for each company's version of the model. and in some instances, it's the instruments' shortcomings that help to define the tone. for example, fender stock pickups aren't technically as advanced as some of the stuff made by high end electronics companies, but they have a particular sound that is pleasing to the ear which people love.

    once you get to around the $800 price point and beyond, you're basically paying for what you prefer, not what's actually better. i mean is a $10,000 custom shop bass built better than a $1000 fender P? for the most part, yes of course. but there are tons of players who would prefer the simple fender P regardless of the "quality", so that's what they choose to play. for example, don't you think tony levin could probably afford something "better" than a stock stingray or bongo? safe to say he could. but he chooses the stingray because he prefers it. on the flip side, victor wooten likes his foderas and most likely won't be switching to fender any time soon.

    so ya, tons of things affect tone and some basses really are "better" than others, but in the end it comes down to what you like best.

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