What makes an expensive bass expensive?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TinyE, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. TinyE


    Jan 31, 2013
    I've always had somewhat cheap basses. Different types of Fenders and Peaveys. I've played a stingray, but never any high dollar stuff.

    I see basses go for upwards of $6k on this site. I can't imagine its a wood that isn't used by anyone else, and nowadays I'm going to guess that any electronics can be cloned close enough to sound similar. Finishes are pretty easy with veneers. So what drives up the cost?

    I can imagine an argument might be that hand made will always be better quality, but that isn't always true. I'm just curious. Being a dad, I have this bad habit of putting my extra dough aside for the kid, so I can pretty confidently say I'll never get to play one.

    I'm not trying to start any brand war, I'm sincerely wondering what I'm missing. What do they feel like? Play like? Sound like? How do you test drive one of these boutiques before you buy? I only see the usual stuff at our music stores. The closest I can get, I know a guy with a 6 string Warwick thumb. But even that is a little lower brow than some of the nice looking basses I've seen on here.
  2. avvie


    Oct 12, 2010
    Maui, HI
    I've always owned cheapies also. I just can't see risking a $1000 - and - up piece of furniture on a gig environment. OTOH I played with a guitarist who plays a $12K-plus vintage Les Paul everywhere and for everything rain or shine because he just likes the tone and feel...and he owns like 20 guitars to choose from.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    A lot of it is meticulous attention to detail, use of higher and more fancy and expensive grades of wood, plus being able to order it any way that suits your tastes rather than having to adapt to stock dimensions. Personally, I feel the same as you and don't like to spend that kind of money on basses, either, but I totally get why some get expensive ones.
    eJake likes this.
  4. object47

    object47 fuzz addict

    Apr 27, 2013
    Los Angeles
    The price.

  5. Rafael


    Feb 4, 2008
    There is hardly a such thing as a "hand made bass" but many factors go into more expensive axes: As you said, it starts with the wood. CHeap bass, cheap wood, usually cheap tone. My main bass is solid birds eye maple. Just the raw wood cost for my Boogie Bodies Bass is more than a cheapo Fender bass. And exotic woods are harder to work than the poplar under the cheap lacquer finish of $200 basses.

    Then you've got the hardware: [email protected] tuning machines are, well, [email protected] A piece of tin for a tailpiece will hold the strings, but the hunk of brass on my Boogie contributes to the tone. Then you've got electronics: Cheap pickups or quality iron. Pots that last a couple of months or sealed units like mine that are over thirty years old and still going strong.

    Put all that together with the other care that goes into a quality instrument and you've got real money, then factor in the fact that Fender can afford to earn $20 per unit when they sell millions of Squiers compared to semi-hand made axes that ship in the dozens or hundred per year and add in the dealer overhead as well and you find out quickly why a quality instrument costs real money.

    In the end it's like the argument between a Ferrari and a Camry: They both get you from point A to point B, but obviously they do it in a different style. Un-amplified, you can pick up my Boogie Bodies Bass and play it and notice RIGHT away that it has a tone NEVER to be duplicated by a mass-produced bass. Plug it in turn it up and there is no mistaking its sound. I've had people borrow it for recording because it sounds so good and unique. That's not to say my $1000 Godin with active pickups isn't a great axe as well, but blindfolded ANYBODY can hear the superior tone and character of the Boogie.
  6. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    lol,.. what's a "Boogie Bodies Bass"?!!:confused:
  7. SactoBass

    SactoBass A retired civil engineer who likes all-tube amps! Supporting Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    Lake Havasu City, AZ
    Pacojas: I was wondering the same thing! :meh:
  8. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    lol mesa boogie bass?


    the most expensive i've owned is a kensmith bsr5ms ... it feels amazing! i had to sell it cause it was too nice, and too much for someone like me.

    the most expensive bass i currently own is a warwick vampyre ltd ... and although i really love that bass, i can say that it is expensive because of the wood and the neck construction, i am not sure if its hardware is any better than an MIA Fender.

    i also have an MIA Fender pbass, and to be honest, i like the hardware in it more than i like the warwick's.
  9. the name on the headstock

  10. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    Boogie Bodies was an electric guitar parts supplier many years ago, much like Warmoth is today.
  11. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    All kinds of things can make a bass expensive. The most obvious are high quality components and attention to detail. Other factors include things like the exchange rate of currency between two countries (the price of German Warwicks or the disappearance of budget Japanese basses,) the cost of labor, or the expense of the shop location (Fodera and Sadowsky.)
  12. wednesdayagain


    Sep 28, 2012
    First thing I think of is labour costs.
  13. ModuMan

    ModuMan How many is too many? Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2007
    Bristol, CT #19
    It doesn't mean anything until you play one. And then it only means something to *you*... or not.

    For example, when I shopped around for my first "bought new" bass, I was in NYC and I tried every bass in Manny's, Rudy's and whatever was next to Manny's. Every bass! I ended up with a Music Man SR5. The only bass I liked better cost $3k and that was out of my budget.

    I did the same thing in Minneapolis (Knut Koupee, if anyone remembers that place) and ended up swooning over a Tobias. Until I looked the price tag. $5k. But it spoke to me, it was the best bass I had ever played.

    I put it back. Kind of wish I hadn't.
  14. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    i don't know about you, but i must try one! infact, a sound clip from Rafael would suffice for now. :D
  15. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Fender can load a machine with a dozen blanks of whatever wood comes by the dozens, push a button and bada-bing out comes a dozen necks or bodies ready for final sanding and finishing.

    ...not that there's anything wrong with that.

    An expensive bass uses carefully selected woods from the beginning and are painstakingly crafted by hand by one or a few people in a shop to meticulous standards.

    The amount of work that goes in, vs. the relative quality that comes out dictate the price.
  16. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    • Cost of parts
    • Cost of labour
    • Cost of marketing
    • Cost of shipping
    • Cost of tools
    • Cost of premises
    • Taxes
    • Desired target market
    • Profit margin
  17. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    I See a lot of people mentioning the cost of materials, labor, location and other things, but I don't see much about the amount of work that goes into building something. What about the time/effort/materials used in the development of an instrument? That stuff wasn't donated. The amount of work after rough shaping of a piece of wood can be a real eye-opener, especially when someone has no idea what is required to build an instrument. Setup from scratch the first time is different from being handed a completed instrument by a customer.

    As an example, I just received a NOS neck for my SD Curlee bass. It's easy to see where machines were used, where things were done by hand and before it's done, it will take a good amount of work to make it fit the body because the tenon is longer than the old models and wider than the pocket in the body, which makes it possible to fit it snugly, rather than being sloppy. The pickup routing and wire passages haven't been done and it will need to be finished. setup, hardware installed and tweaked- it's not like buying an aftermarket neck and slapping it on a finished body.
  18. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    That's pretty much the long and short of it.
    Quality isn't necessarily it.
  19. Dragan


    Oct 5, 2009
    aha. try Celinder. you should know why they are expensive.
  20. For me, it is totally about the customization and the materials. As previously mentioned, you may be able to hand select all the components - the wood used in the build, the finish, the electronics, even the neck size and shape can be carved to your hand - and the fact is - this bass will be built just for you, with all the options you desire. You are only limited by your imagination. I have a lot of fun watching the build and seeing the photos as the bass is created. If you choose the right builder not only can the bass be an awesome player, which really fits you and reflects your personality - but it can also be a one-of-a-kind work of art.

    Why buy a suit off the rack when you can afford to have one tailor made for you?

    Same concept to me, but you have to pay the piper for their usually awesome hard work.