What makes certain basses expensive?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Karenc, Jul 11, 2013.

  1. Karenc


    Jul 7, 2013
    Greetings. I have been reading a number of topics here, and have observed that a number of people mention $700.00 as a price point between the elite and anything under seems to be cheaper or trash.
    I get the point.
    But in my arena I don't understand really what makes one better or worse if one puts the very best pickups, tuning keys, etc. therein. I absolutely do know that even in the same brand and model, every single guitar/bass will sound different, simply because it is different wood, and it will sound different just because of the variation, tighter grains, looser grains, weight of wood, etc. etc.
    But I would like to know why the price point?
    What is so special about the $700 and above price?
    Is it generally the parts that are put on it and the going rate to have these parts? What are the favored parts?
    Or, are we strictly talking about the finishing and woods? Solid exotic wood bodies?
    I am not versed on basses so I am curious what makes a cheaper bass really worse than a more expensive one...let's say if they have the same good parts.
    I have no idea what pickups are the best, in a bass.
    But I do know pickup/humbucker preferences for electric guitars for most players.
    I would appreciate being straightened out on this matter.
    Thank you.
  2. TomCHunley


    Jun 12, 2011
    Bowling Green, KY
    I practice a lot but still suck.
    One factor is supply and demand. If a bass (or any item) is popular and scarce, it will cost more.
  3. Klonk


    Apr 28, 2011
    As has been discussed at length here, it boils down to the overall quality of any bass from that brand. High-end basses use better parts, it plays better, sounds better, less problems down the road.

    What many people say about MIM vs MIA Fenders: you can find MIMs that rival a MIA bass, but you have to search longer for it. Most MIAs are really good quality, some MIMs are too. Chances of you getting a lemon is higher with MIM, statistically.

    My 2 cents.
  4. HeavyJazz

    HeavyJazz Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2013
    Central Virginia
    And 'where' they are made. Taxes are incredibly high in CA, IL and NY for example compared to TX or VA.
  5. Some high end expensive basses don't play better or sound better. Some also have lots of problems down the road.

    It is a question you cant really answer properly too many opinions. There is a threshold however of better made parts that cost a certain amount. $700 basses and up generally have better hardware etc, but as lots of people have found out they can get the TONE THEY WANT out of a cheaper instrument.

    For me personally i want the most amount of tonal versatility possible on my instrument to help facilitate me :)
  6. Also hand made... means lots of man hours .... from a skilled craftsman who needs to make enough $ per hour to live.

    Also on custom basses wood choices can increase the cost A LOT
  7. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    What makes a Porsche more expensive than a Chevy? Why is a custom made chopper from West Coast Choppers more expensive than a Yamaha?
    Because one of them is hand made and the other is made in an assembly plant from batches of pre-fab parts. Expensive instruments are usually made by either one person or a small group in a small shop. Not only does the craftsmanship excel but so does the quality of the parts used. To quote Frank Zappa, " Is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?"
  8. BoomBoomOGTL

    BoomBoomOGTL Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2012
    York SC
    1 word. "QUALITY"

    quality of materials
    quality of workmanship
    quality of QC process
    quality of pride in the manufacturer for that product
  9. SoLongJake

    SoLongJake Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2007
    Des Moines, Iowa
    Age plays into the price as well.
  10. boamedt


    Jul 2, 2008
    Santa Rosa, Ca
    people are willing to pay that much
  11. Karenc


    Jul 7, 2013
    What brand of pickups do bass players typically favor and desire and long for?
    Also, do bass players swap out pickups and upgrade as a normal process of upgrading their bass guitar?
  12. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    OP, that's actually a good question, especially these days when many of the cheapest instruments are actually very good. When I first laid hands on a bass in the late 70's, there was cheap no-name crap, pro-quality stuff like Fender/Gibson, and high-end stuff like Alembic. With no real knowledge or money bias I gravitated to the high-end stuff. My first real bass purchase was an Alembic that I got for cheap because it was snapped in two (!) and repaired (very well). It just felt better to me than the 70's Fenders, which felt cheap and clumsy to me. I was able to play more easily and cleanly on the Alembic (and later on a Tobias that I lusted for but never could afford).

    The good:
    It played like a dream. The sound was super-responsive, and the tone controls were incredibly versatile. It stayed in tune for months at a time no matter what the weather (Chicago has crazy temperature and humidity swings). I would literally need to tune it only when I put new strings on. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could make that bass hum or buzz. Every note sustained equally and felt balanced. Construction-wise, it was impeccable. There were no gaps anywhere, the woods, electronics and hardware were obviously put together by expert craftsmen, the ebony on the fingerboard was to-die-for gorgeous, the fretwork was killer (and stayed killer for years).

    The bad:
    To tell the truth, I expended a lot of effort trying to make the Alembic sound like a Fender (although I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time). I ended up putting a Bartolini P pickup between the two existing pickups (I was young and stupid). Although it was a great bass and sounded good in any context, it didn't have the dirt and grunt that makes for those classic and authentic tones you hear on so many records.

    Why am I ranting about this? Because I'm old and my mind wanders. But also, to give a little perspective. The Alembic (new) would cost much more than a Fender. A late 70's Fender, which some of us considered overpriced assembly-line crap at the time. It was worth the extra money, because of the exotic woods, custom electronics, solid brass machined hardware, and expert workmanship. But... That didn't and doesn't mean that you would like the sound better.

    I personally strongly prefer the feel of a nicely designed hand-made modern instrument, but I love the sound of a vintage Fender (plus a great low B string ). For me, I've only found one cheapo bass I ever really loved, and that was an ugly, beat-up unlabeled Epiphone prototype owned by a friend. Amazing, one-of-a-kind, cheap and incredible sounding. I wish I liked cheaper basses more, but I always gravitate to more expensive ones because they feel better to me. I don't really like the ergonomics of most Fenders, even when they are well set up.

    Given all that, sound and feel are very personal, so if you are lucky enough to love the sound of cheap basses, then the more expensive ones are not worth the extra money TO YOU.

    There are many excellent pickups available these days. One of the current favorites is Nordstrand. In the 70's I was a big fan of Bartolini. There is also Fender, EMG, Fralin, Delano, ... The list goes on. There is no standard, and again it's a pretty personal thing.

    I have swapped pickups on quite a few basses, as have a lot of other players. It seems to be quite common on low-end basses especially. On "better" instruments I would not call it an upgrade, but rather fine-tuning the tone of the instrument.
  13. exltd001


    Sep 12, 2012
    Certainly Cost of production can be a factor, but when deciding what the selling price. But generally they can go for a price point. if they go for the right pricing they can sell alot even though their margine is low, they can make a lot of money. If they don't sell many they have to have a very large Margine to make it worth while. Generally you can pay alot for "Pretty" but that doesn't mean it is going to sound or play good.
    BUT just because a guitar is expensive doesn't make it a better guitar. SX is a perfect example of a company that sells very nice guitars at very low prices are are better playing and sounding than some guitars that sell for for 5-10 times as much, but are SX guitars flawless? Manytimes No. But SX sells **** LOADS of guitars. But their quality controll where it counts is very good (things that are meaning full for playing and hearing) You can spend lots of money on a Flawless beautiful guitar that really isn't very good sounding or playing.
  14. T-MOST


    Dec 10, 2004
    NJ via NYC
    Production time
    Amount of hand building
  15. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Regarding the bold print....I think the $700 is highly subjective. There is no single balance point where everything above is great and everything below good to marginal. More of a sliding scale. You are MORE LIKELY to get a really nice instrument if you spend (IMO) $1,200 or more for a new well set up instrument, although there are some gems at lower prices and turds at higher prices.

    Even though this may be true and a strong consideration for how a manufacturer prices product, it should not be important to the customer in assessing value unless where it is manufactured has a significant impact on quality and/or content. I hold up Lakland / Skyline as an example. Not a lot of difference, in my experience, in build quality, material content between the two, making Skyline an exceptional value.


  16. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Last week I played a $4500 bass. It was incredible.
    Everything about it made it worth $4500.
    Would I pay that? No.
    LeFay basses, check them out.
  17. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    to me below 1000$ it has a lot to be desired, of course the quality will vary from basses to basses and from manufacturer but still too many basses are difficult to have the action low, have a good sound without putting more money into it and too often with the fender brand you need to schims because they aren't able to make the neck joint correctly.

    then you have the 1000$ through 3000$ that are still mass produced instrument but with better construction methode, better componant, better sound, easier to set the action like you want etc.

    then 3000$ + are costum shop for the most part where you can have whatever you want and it will play so well you won't beleive it.
  18. Hype.
  19. Dr Improbable

    Dr Improbable

    Apr 15, 2013
    Isn't $700 still import-land these days? Play everything, purchase what makes your heart thrill with the anticipation of playing. But keep a P Bass around. 50% of BLs will ask if you have one...
  20. Right_Butterscotch64


    Oct 18, 2012
    You won't be able to understand until you realize that wood affects the tone so much less than you think. How tight the wood grain is? That's like asking an Olympic runner why his shoelaces make him run faster.

    Once you plug that guitar in, whatever wood it's made out of becomes very negligible.

    Look on this forum and look up the squier vm and cv series. All below 700$ and almost always get great reviews.