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What is the best bluegrass double bass for under $2500?

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by JC Pat, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. JC Pat

    JC Pat

    Sep 6, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    I am looking to buy a double bass that will be used primarily for bluegrass
    and country music. I would be playing outside and traveling with the bass so I was thinking a fully laminated bass might be the way to go (not to mention cheaper). I am hoping to keep the price under $2500 and was wondering if anyone had any good suggestions about the best bluegrass
    bass in this price range. Also does anyone know of any good places to buy double basses in the NYC area?
  2. Brad Maestas

    Brad Maestas Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2003
    Oakland, CA
    New Standard Cleveland?
    I've seen some used ones in the $2500 range.

    I'm eying the New Standard La Scala Hybrid model right now as a replacement for my current DB but I hear great things about the Cleveland model as well, particularly its "puff." It sounds like it would make a great bluegrass or country bass. I want more of a focused tone and a smaller body size (and I'm a sucker for violin corners) so the La Scala is my cup of tea but I have seriously considered the Cleveland as well.

    I have played a few examples of both shapes and both the hybrid and fully laminated varieties, mainly from private owners. I'm sure folks will chime in with several of the good shops in the city apart from David Gage. I just can't think of them right now. The New Standard shop is not far away (Brewster, NY) and I'm thinking of venturing there to try out some more in the near future.
  3. Howdy
    My opinion is if you want the old vintage bluegrass sound try to find you a good old KAY bass with the deep thump to "er"
    Just my opinion!!!!

  4. JC,
    I left a response to this thread on the first page of the Bass(DB) page.
  5. speedster


    Aug 19, 2005
    Ontario Canada
    Might I suggest you skip a step and go directly to an Eminence EUB if your travelling alot and playing outside. They sound great plugged into a system with virtually no feedback and they record well, they sound good playing in a jam or practice through a good amp (GK MB150 or similar).

    You can throw it over your shoulder and go......

    Here's a link to our web page with some sound bites recorded on a pocket digital recorder at a festival we played at. You can hear the Eminence bass pretty good and sounds pretty good.

    For around 2500 bucks..... you can have the best of both worlds. I use a little inverter/battery pack to power the amp when no electricity is around....

  6. riverbum


    Feb 14, 2008
    tallassee, al
    go with a kay. it's the only bass for bluegrass. everything else is just a pretender. i know i'm old school, but electrics just don't have a soul like a good vintage instrument. a good vintage is also a good investment and you don't have to carry an amp around.

    if you plan to play bluegrass it's almost a must have. i play stage shows every weekend but the real fun is jamming under a shade tree and they can go on for hours and hours. hard to find power to plug in and i would hate to know my batteries went dead just when the jam got good

    if you are playing country then i suggest an electric because it's mostly rock music these days.

    now an EUB would be great for practice because it dosen't make any noise. my kays get the neighbors complaining if it gets late.

    now i know i biased toward kay basses but shop around and play everything you can get your hands on and see what you like best. it's your money and make sure you are happy with your purchase. a good friend of mine plays with audie blalock and he uses the EUB when travelling long distance for storage purposes. he has the nicest A/S and kay basses you will ever play but the EUB is more practical.

    good luck...
    gallcox likes this.
  7. speedster


    Aug 19, 2005
    Ontario Canada
    Hate to burst your bubble there riverbum but quite frankly there are lots of great bass's out there. The old German & Chek plywood bass's sound as good or in alot of cases better than the Kay's.

    As for the EUB's if ya haven't tried an Eminence then I suggest you do so it just might change your mind on what they can sound like.

    I hauled around a 3/4 German Grunert acoustic for years along with my GK amp and associated cords etc. Dealt with the crap sound guys would give you on stage and the feedback that is common with the big bass's. It was a major task and a pain in the butt not to mention the SUV I needed to haul it around up here in the Winter Snow.

    The Eminence fits in the back seat of the car, throw it over my shoulder to carry very much like a large mandolin or fiddle and tote the amp along in a little wheeled cart.

    I can get myself through doors, upstairs etc all in one trip, when your walking to the stage from the RV at festival it is soooooo much better.

    That is why I suggested skipping a step, my Acoustic sits in the corner gathering dust and has for 3 years. Never will sell it but I can't remember the last time I played it.

    The other bonus with the Eminence is in a jam when 3 or 4 guitar players show up, I lean over and turn up the amp rather than ripping my fingers off.

  8. riverbum


    Feb 14, 2008
    tallassee, al
    that's ok speedster. you didn't bust my bubble. i respect what you play but if you are going to make the argument of size then get a fender mustang bass. it's much smaller than your EUB. and an electric will never give a true acoustic sound. it's still an electric bass.

    when you get 4 guitars in a jam it is no good anyway. but if that does happen my basses will still blast through. even my old czech flatback but it's not durable enough for the elements.

    my piont is if you are going to play an electric bass then why not a telecaster or a les paul? and why not an electric fiddle and a keyboard with banjo effects? to me there is no difference. bluegrass should be acoustic.

    i never have a problem with carrying my bass or with the sound. i don't play through a bass amp. i go through a condenser mic into the pa. none of our instruments are plugged in. i think it's worth the extra effort to give bluegrass the authentic sound it deserves.
  9. It doesn't have to be a Kay or any particular make. And the idea of hauling a $2,500 instrument around is extreme. I'll bet you can find your bass for less. The whole thing is a crapshoot, just like with any instrument. Some $2.000 basses suck and some $300 opportunities shouldn't be missed. I got my 1950's Czech upright at a flea market for $600 about 15 years ago. It has payed for itself time and time again. It has gone to over a hundred festivals and countless jams in all sorts of weather. It's been shoved into the back of the car too many times to count. Sounds great. Starting to look kind of beat up, but it has never failed me. It's been OK on stage as long as the sound pros were good. I started carrying a pickup and eventually changed over to a mic. I have my GK amp just in case. Mostly though, the best times and best playing at festivals is nowhere near the stage. It's the jams. All night long or in scorching sun. Rainy nights in cobbled tents and or on the beach breathing salty sea air.

    Play lots of basses. I don't think there's just one make or model to look for. Get one. Get it set up the way you want it. Go out and play it.
  10. speedster


    Aug 19, 2005
    Ontario Canada
    Agreed boomboom your right.... been there done that to all the above. But my main focus is stage stuff now, don't go to many jams anymore don't have the time like I used too nor do I enjoy jams as much as I used to when younger.

    Riverbum you really don't know what your talking about in regard to some EUB's as they sound every bit as good or better than a bunch of Acoustic Uprights. Sorry those are the facts.

    There in lies the reason for not playing an electric bass such as you are stating.

    Listen to the sound bites of the Eminence at a recent festival that I attached to our webpage and I'llbet you will agree that it sounds nothing like an electric bass. Also have a 42" scale not 35" and no frets and regular upright strings and same neck, pickup etc etc.....

    That is the point !

    But hey everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I've just got old enough I don't need the hastles anymore and quite frankly the Eminence almost plays itself.

    Don't knock if ya ain't tried it !

    Way to many bluegrass bass players are playing one now in the touring full time bands to argue it's potential, flexibility and sound qualities !
  11. riverbum


    Feb 14, 2008
    tallassee, al
    sorry speedster. there is a difference. now you may like the electric sound better. i don't. i have played a few and i was not impressed. neither are the people i play with. it's still nothing more than an electric bass. the only thing that gives it a so called "acoustic sound" is the electronics. it's funny how some always compare them to the real thing. i never hear anyone saying my bass sounds as good as an EUB. that's not the sound they want.

    one more thing. i think the guy was asking for opinions on a double bass and not an EUB.

    i bet this ain't the first thread on this subject. lol
  12. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    I would recommend calling up Jerry Fretwell for a price on a new Engelhardt. You can get a very nice, very sturdy Bluegrass bass with a great setup for alot less than $2500 from him and he is great to deal with. He also has many nice old Kays in stock for $2500+.

  13. If you are in New York City grab a 950.00 Eberle German ply from Ideal Music.Check out www.bassesonline.com...same company. Do a search here on TalkBass for Eberle and read the comments from people who have bought them. I would take it to a good luthier to upgrade the bridge and soundpost but you will have a fine bass for not a whole lot of money.
    And the Speedster is right. There are many basses from Europe and other places that sound much better than Kays.I have owned two very good Kays in the past but my old King and new Eberle sound much better. And Kings, American-Standards, Epiphones, Gretsch..all sound bigger and fuller than Kays. Prices for Kays are crazy. They were designed and made for students. They were good for what they were designed for. And pay no attention to people who say the Kay defined the sound of bluegrass bass. Some of Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe recordings were either made or overdubbed with very good carved basses.
    I am not putting Kays down. But their value today and their sound needs to be put into perspective.
  14. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    If it wasn't for a Kay Bass, what the hell would Ralph Stanley have sat on backstage at the Newport Folk Festival!? :D
    james condino likes this.
  15. sXeMike


    Jan 22, 2007
    Scottsville, Va
  16. Maybe for you...and that's fine. But tell that to some of the best bluegrass bass players today who are using plywood American-Standards, Juzeks, New Clevelands, Upton, Shen, Eberle's and other carved bass brands.
    With most bands, the players are using great sounding Martins, Gibsons, etc. Somewhere along the line the Kays and Englehardts need to be upgraded to improve the sound of the band too.
    Tone matters. Today's music is recorded better than back in the 50's and sound systems are much more sophisticated. We could debate the effect of a pickup on any bass but even the pickups are improving to reflect what the bass can produce.
    Its nice to have an old Kay and in many situations its probably all you need. But saying it's the "standard for bluegrass" is no longer applicable in my view.
    I have never regretted the improvement in sound I am getting now. I could not go back.
  17. sXeMike


    Jan 22, 2007
    Scottsville, Va
    I'm basing this on the festivals that I have been to. 9 out of 10 basses that you see are either Kay or Englehardt.

    fyi...personally, I'm not a big fan of Kays or engles. I have a 56 m1 and a 54 h10.(doesn't really count) THe 56 is loud but I think it's lacking a lot in tone.(the blue paint probably doesn't help) My King(new KDB) has 100 times better tone than most of the Kays I've played/heard.
    The few old Kings that I've played were great and I would take one over a Kay.
  18. AlanBartram

    AlanBartram Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    D’Addario endorser
    JC Pat, Looks like what you should take from this converstion is that there is no single correct answer. Your best bet would be to play as many basses as you can get your hands on and choose the one that works for you, regardless of brand.
    dkimbrobass likes this.
  19. Mike: Thanks for clarifying. I would agree about the number of Kay basses at festivals.
    I had a 1952 Swingmaster S-8 that was in beautiful shape. I put the best bridge on it I could find (Despiau) and lots of very expensive strings ...and some cheap ones too. For a Kay it was pretty good. Then I fixed up an old 1949 C-1 and it ended up sounding better to my ears than the Swingmaster.
    Then I got my 1938 King and I realized what I had been missing. First of all the regular sized neck, as opposed to the thin Kay neck, was much easier to play for me but it was the full and focussed sound that turned me around. The Eberle was not too great at first but after some tweaking has turned into a fine sounding instrument, rivalling the King. It has about 90 per cent of what my King can produce in tone and about the same volume.
    Each one of these basses needed a different combination of strings to bring out its best sound (volume, tone and resonance) in addition to some serious sound post tweaking. So my comparisons are based on the sound of the bass after I felt I had it set up as well as it could be done. In addition, each players hand strength makes a big difference in how the bass responds.

    JC Pat. Not trying to hijack your thread here but maybe this stuff will help in your decision.
  20. riverbum


    Feb 14, 2008
    tallassee, al
    my opinion is a good plywood is the way to go. i have carved and plywood basses. i no longer drag my old czech around in the very humid elements down here. i spent most of my time tuning it. my kays almost never have to be tuned and they give great tone and volume. i do sacrafice a little tone but i think it has an authentic sound. i don't have anything against a king a/s or carved bases. i'm just not into the electric instruments. you can still pick up a good kay for $1500-$2500 range all day.

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