What's a quality bass vs advertising & gimmicks?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Zeus_Mutation, Jan 13, 2015.

  1. Zeus_Mutation


    Feb 6, 2010
    I want a new bass guitar… a quality bass.

    So, what does that mean actually? I've been looking into a 'different' bass for a couple of years now. I've gone from a crappy P-bass copy, to a few Squire… affinity and standard series.

    After being frustrated with the instruments I used the John Curruthers teach yourself guitar/bass repair to get intimate with my bass and all its parts. What I hate about the Squire Deluxe P-Bass Standard I play with most is the tuners. I know I can buy better tuners, but that money can go to a better overall bass too. Next on the annoyance list, the neck. Not the size so much as its flex.
    I've changed the pickups, pots, and bridge of this squire. It sounds good, but the feel is just okay.

    I've handled about every Fender bass in Guitar Center. Some feel solid and sturdy. I don't feel that with my bass. Ive read many articles on wood and its tonal/musical properties, build techniques, and the sum of its parts. This has me wondering where the truth lie and the rest is a mind screw?

    Is an American Fender really that much better… why? What does Fender have proprietary right over? If we start with the sum of parts can't I buy bodies and necks from companies like USACG, Warmoth, All-Parts, etc. of the same exact quality?

    Same goes for every top shelf manufacturer… What's missing? Do they have special wood piles that are hands down better?

    All that said… will I ever hear notes so significantly better to warrant buying a $1200 plus bass off the shelf?

    I also wonder if liking my bass would make me happier playing it?


  2. SamJ

    SamJ Founder - Fender MIA Club Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    SFO / HNL
    A quality bass? Well, maybe I'm biased but all 5 I own are all high quality at their respective price points!

    Some (heck probably many will disagree) but I'd say you want USA, UK, or maybe Germany (Warwick) for top quality, and maybe Japan and Korea next, with the rest of the world last.

    As far as Fender goes.. there are TOOO many choices and they're in this order

    Custom Shop Master Built > Custom Shop Team Built > American Standard > Mexico > Malaysia > China

    If it were me and I was looking for a GREAT value on a bass.. for about $1400ish you can get a great Music Man Stingray and sometimes on here they go for used for 800-900 (there's one on there now).

    In the end, what is YOUR budget? IF you've got 6-7K to drop, I'd say talk to Stuart Spector and his guys in Woodstock... they make an amazing bass! Or maybe Fender Customshop, or Sadowsky...

    If you're in the sub-$1000 range, see my above advice on Stingray!
  3. Zeus_Mutation


    Feb 6, 2010
    I love the sound of Music Mans… hate the bulk of the body. The music man was so awesome it had me looking at those Fender Deluxe w/humbucker as an alternative. I say Fender for the Jazz Body only. Thats what's I like about them most.
  4. SamJ

    SamJ Founder - Fender MIA Club Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    SFO / HNL
    can't go wrong with a USA Jazz bass.... new strings and a good setup (I like mine very low)...

    $1400 - $1600 (depending on the model) out the door..
    VWbug and Winfred like this.
  5. Burwabit

    Burwabit Likes guitars that tune good and firm feelin women Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2011
    Lubbock, TX
    I try to buy barely used to save a few hundred bucks. Current MIA Jazz basses are fantastic (shameless plug :)). 60's Custom Shop pickups make a big difference.
  6. Antisyzygy


    Dec 8, 2014
    Fender won't make basses any better than a qualified person building one with high quality parts, but chances are the Fender will be cheaper for the same level of quality.

    Cheaper guitars tend to be made of multi-piece and/or thinner bodies. The cuts of wood might be lower quality or they'd use a cheaper wood like basswood (some high end basses use that wood actually). However, some people argue it makes no difference in a solid body guitar and all you need are really good pickups in a bass that has a neck you prefer and can take a good setup.

    You probably will notice that a 1200 dollar bass just plays nicer. The first time I picked up an American made Fender I immediately noticed the thing almost felt like it was playing itself. In terms of overall tone, I don't notice much of a difference between that and some of the Classic Vibe models (my Fender MIA Jazz is like 15 years old and still all stock). They are also very playable basses, much better than the Squier P bass I had 15 years ago that felt like I was just struggling to do anything on.

    IMO if you stick to the 400-600 dollar range you can still get an instrument that is pretty high quality and sounds great. I'd suggest giving Squier a second look, they've come a long way. I wouldn't touch them 10 years ago, but now basses and guitars out of the Classic Vibe series are phenomenal in my experience. The classic bass guitars have been being made for 60 years in some cases so the kinks have been worked out, and China is getting so good at manufacturing things that it's pretty amazing what you can get for your dollar.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
    SamJ likes this.
  7. nerkoids


    Jan 3, 2014
    Classic Vibe and Vintage Modified. They're both winners.
  8. Zeus_Mutation


    Feb 6, 2010
    I have two squires… a PJ and a P. Both work just fine and both feel yucky. I had a Squire Jazz before too… I polished my turd with better pups, bridge, and pots, and added a switch. It just doesn't feel like the more solid basses I've touched at GC. I've been told the importance of trying multiple basses of the same kind to find the best one and that has me wondering about things like Warmoth, I can but their top shelf parts… but, will it compare to a American Standard Fender?
  9. Antisyzygy


    Dec 8, 2014
    What does "more solid" mean? I tried a CVC 60s Jazz bass recently and it was what I'd call "very solid". High mass bridge, solid wood heavy body, smooth fretwork, just put together well. It weighed as much as my American Jazz bass.

    Yes but it's probably going to cost about the same or more. It will also take some time for you to learn how to build something like that, or if you sort-of-know how you might hit a road bump that requires some extra work during which you can make a mistake.

    The last project I did the neck didn't quite fit so it took me an extra 3 hours than I planned for to fix it. I had to sand the neck pocket. I ended up chipping the paint because I was sanding a bit too vigorously. A craftsman with years of experience isn't going to make a mistake like that.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
  10. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    You can certainly buy parts with same or better quality , the question is: Will you do a better job putting them together than an expert luthier? Can you paint the parts as somebody that has been dedicated to this job for several years?
    Quality is no only the components but also the person (s) that do the job.
    Give me the best of the best materiales and I will do a crappy job. Give lower quality materials to somebody that knows what he is doing y you will be surprise of what he is capable to do.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
  11. Zeus_Mutation


    Feb 6, 2010
    I appreciate the insight.

    The parts purchased would already be made… that's why I listed companies such as USAGC, Warmoth, and All-Parts. Not everyone can build or assemble, it's a valid concern… but it doesn't apply to me.
    I was hoping for feedback on products from those reputable companies listed above and how their products compare to a Fender, MM, Yamaha, etc. Guess I could have asked that more clearly to start with, my bad.

    I can choose the specs and design for my own bass if I buy from a company listed above, maybe $1000 w/shipping. If I buy a Fender, unless I spend $2200 for custom shop, it's still a sum of parts… unless someone can share what Fender can do that the other luthiers cannot? Other luthiers being USAGC, Warmoth, etc.
    mel0dic.bassist likes this.
  12. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    I have several basses ranging from a Squier VM Jazz to MIM Jazz & P's, MIA P and Rickenbacker.


    If it feels good in your hands,
    plays nice,
    sounds good,
    electronics work,
    stays in tune,
    neck is in good working order and is attractive to your eye...

    It's a good bass - whether it costs $200 or $2000
    Winfred and inate_hex like this.
  13. inate_hex


    Apr 4, 2010
    Manchester, England
    I occasionally wet the bed.
    If you dont like the bulk of the stingray body you might find the sterling body is better for you. (Not to be confused with the sterling by musicman)
  14. John Freeman

    John Freeman Supporting Member

    Jul 29, 2009
    Happy Valley, PA
    I know what you are saying about quality OP. And the feeling isn't just for basses. Its with everything we touch, eat and drink. Some things just feel or look better than others. What it comes down to is the overall quality of materials being used and standard for putting them together. As far as I'm concerned, the best quality reasonably priced basses are being made by Music Man and Ibanez. As mentioned above, check out the Music Man Sterling. Smaller body than the Stingray and jazz profile neck. For something a little more modern looking, consider Ibanez Premium and Prestige lines. There are some great basses coming out of Japan right now and the quality of them is not disappointing.
  15. Yango

    Yango Inactive

    Apr 14, 2008
    Check out a Musicman Sterling. They're just as solid and well built as the Stingrays are, but it's smaller, lighter, and has the Jazz Bass thin neck profile... and it sounds AMAZING!

  16. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Some need to spend allot to get their sound others little. In the end its up to you and what you want and need. For it doesn't take fancy woods and active basses for me, just give me a decent P bass with flats.
    Can you build a great bass out of parts yourself? Sure! Its not a rocketship and overall a Bass guitar is not a complicated machine at all.
  17. RED J

    RED J Lol

    Jan 23, 2000
    Only your eyes ears and hands can tell.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  18. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Im dumbfounded by this. And not being sarcastic. What is there to "hate" about standard tuners on a bass? And aren't the tuners on a squier the same as on a Fender? Only tuners I ever hated were on an American deluxe P ('97 or '98) I owned, because they clearly sucked. They had play in them and it took like 5 minutes to get the bass in tune. They broke easily also. I know this because the authorized fender repair guy I took the bass to showed me a little drawer full of busted ones.

    Anyhow... What's with tuner hate. What would make replacement tuners any better?
  19. Steven J

    Steven J

    Aug 12, 2014
    I personally have an ESP LTD B-204SMFL and an ESP LTD B-4E. Both are under 600 and play better than some 1k+ guitars.
  20. Steven J

    Steven J

    Aug 12, 2014
    THEY'RE SO UGLY. Like, the stock fender tuners are the ugliest ones I've seen. They perform well, though.

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