What makes one bass better than another

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by acmeseed, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. Hello,

    I often read a post by someone that mentions that they have played many of the same bass, but one stands above the others. I am wondering if you could share your thoughts on what makes one unit of let's say 20 Jazz basses better.

    I am new to the bass guitar, I played for about 10 years on and off when I was in high school and into my 20s, but back then if the bass had 4 strings it was good, strings were changed when they broke ;~)

    After that I got away from bass and picked up the guitar, but did not play regularly for years. I have 2 children that I would like to get exposed to music and would like to get back into it and would like to gain as much knowledge about the instrument as I can.

    I will greatly appreciate your feedback.
  2. Kraken


    Jun 19, 2001
    Aylesbury, England
    generally it is all about individual taste and opinion.

    there are others who will argue otherwise, but to do it they will be using their tastes and opinions.

    it is no more difficult than that.
  3. better, how? Better for metal?
  4. Factors such as materials (woods used), weight, fit and finish, hardware, etc. can all make a big impact in the overall impression a bass gives a player.

    However, in my opinion, the biggest factor is in how the bass is set up. If the frets are even and level, the action/intonation is adjusted right, and the pickups are adjusted for string balance, then a bass can have an 'edge' that sets it apart from similar basses.
  5. Greevus


    Apr 15, 2009
    Man, I thought this question was silly at first, but it's really a great one. It is definitely an "opinion/preference" thing. But it can be an intangible thing like when people refer to mojo or something. My first bass was an Ibanez Blazer and now I play 5 of them. I love them all, but there is one that just has the right feel. It seems the neck is thinner, but when I compare they seem the same practically. Maybe it's broken in more. It sits on my body better and just plays easier in the end.
  6. Rumblefisher

    Rumblefisher Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    Astoria, NY
    if you like it or not. :D

    Nah, see above posts.
  7. I am thinking better than another bass of the same make and model for a given type of music.
  8. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    The cuts of wood are never going to have identical structure
  9. I hear you, I have a MIM Telecaster that plays like a dream, I will never get rid of it.

    I guess I am thinking about the lines of, if you take 2 identical Fender Jazz Bass and have it setup the same way by a professional technician, would one feel or play better than the other.

    In the end I agree, I guess it is a question subjected to taste.
  10. Easy. If one of them says "MusicMan StingRay on the headstock, and the other doesn't, then the first one is better.

    You're welcome.
  11. Catbuster


    Aug 25, 2010
    Louisville, KY.
    If you like the way it feels and sunds, buy that single bass. Looks don't matter
  12. You'll find that there are so many variables that make a bass good and another not as good. IME, I prefer playability knowing that tone can be changed simply by tweaking a few knobs or switches. Some others may value tone over playability. In the end, try out a few basses. There will be a few things that stand out about each one. Determine which one is more important to you and VOILA! You have found what makes one bass better than the next.
  13. I would say that "better", although subjective, can be more easily appraised if viewed through a framework. I suggest that with weighing up or ranking basses, especially if similar, they be looked through 5 different perspectives.

    1 - Sound: Which one sounds "better". Mainly PU type/quality/placement, EQ/tone settings, sound versatility (i.e. different settings), and to a lessor extent the materials, wood, neck type, shape. With 20 jazzes, PU placement/type is going to be a smaller issue than passive vs active, and other material based values are going to take more importance in this comparison than say, a jazz VS a stingray.

    2 - Playability. Does it have the type of neck you like. Spacing, thickness, radius, finish. Does it need a thumb rest. Whats the weight of the bass. Does it have neck dive? Some jazzes may have slightly different necks than others, and this difference may make one speak to you over another.

    3 - Construction. How good quality is the bass. Will it last. Are the tuning pegs accurate and smooth. Is the bridge of reasonable quality. Are the solders well done. Are the frets smooth and well-set. This would be the main difference between jazzes MIJ vs MIM vs MIA, and also a big one with different time periods.

    4 - Looks. Finish, neck wood, wood types (arguable more important for looks than sound), shape, visual condition. This is probably the main one that will disqualify a lot of basses in the buying process. If you are a metalhead who can only be seen with solid black basses you are going to automatically disqualify sunburst/tort PG basses. Affects people more than they let on (and I think thats okay).

    (5) - Residual. Everything else that doesn't directly have to do with the bass itself (can be easily changed for minimal cost) but will indirectly the perception of the "betterness" of the bass. Brand reputation. Brand CS. What type of strings are on it. The action and setup of it. The amp you demo it on.
  14. conqr


    Feb 16, 2009
    20 basses off the same mass production batch still constitutes 20 individual necks, bodies and fret jobs etc. By the time you go shopping they'll also have strings in varying condition. When you really think about it the variables can really add up.
  15. DBTOYS


    Sep 22, 2009
    Bend Oregon
    I Agree

  16. spufman


    Feb 7, 2005
    Central CT
    My favorite basses can sound like I want them to sound (most basses can sound like me, for better or worse), have a design that sits comfortably with my body, have really fine quality woods, will take my preferred setup and hold it without constant tweaking, and give a visual impression of 'me'. Value retention is a bonus as well, in case I change my mind!
  17. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    ME!!! YOU!!! THEM!!!
  18. shadow_FIX


    Feb 23, 2010
    I lol'ed.

    And agreed.

  19. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I typed out a semi-lengthy response, but, by the time I finished and previewed it, found that most of what I had to say had been addressed already.

    I can tell you this: Say I play a Model X Fender Jazz bass at Megabox Music. Say I like it -- maybe even enough to buy it. Now say there are four more on the wall. I'm not walking out with one until I've played all five.

    Trying this with various instruments (not just basses), I usually feel *some* difference between the various examples. Sometimes it's enough to point me to a particular one, sometimes not. Sometimes, it's like BAM! This is the one! and playing the others just confirms it. Sometimes, I'll notice little differences, but one doesn't stick out as better (in these cases, if I A/B them too long, I start to lose the ability to meaningfully discern between them).

    I've noticed this more with acoustic instruments, but then I have more experience with those. I've never picked up two bows that felt EXACTLY the same (though some were close).

    I agree that setup can make a huge difference, whatever instrument you get.
  20. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Nice looking neck on that Music Man. Nice view behind it! I would be jealous if...

    Okay, I'm a little jealous.


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