When (beginner, intermediate, advanced, ...) can one truly appreciate a high-end bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JPK_DK, Sep 5, 2020.

  1. Do you mean when can I appreciate an expensive bass? The short answer is today. However, superb sounding and playing basses can be had for little money these days. More important that you learn to set it up perfectly, choose quality strings, replace pickups to personal taste. That is my high end. Oh yes, learn to evaluate instruments and buy used.
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  2. Tall-Fir


    Jun 13, 2016
    I played bass a bit as a youngster along with guitar. As an older adult I owned a standard Fender P bass, but it became very heavy for me. I traded it toward a very nice, light, G&L LB-100. Although I am still a beginning bass player, do I deserve this bass? Well, maybe yes and maybe no, but at least it feels really much better in my hands playing it and I can appreciate that. And I’m not sure whether a G&L is considered a boutique or even as good as a Fender P is supposed to be. I sure like it when I play it though, and that’s good enough for me no matter what I payed for it. Would I appreciate and notice the quality and nuances of a really high end bass? Probably not, but I don’t think I need a super high end bass for my enjoyment and where I am at playing bass at this time. Most new LB-100s are much more expensive than mine, which I traded for used.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  3. Bartrinsic

    Bartrinsic Supporting Member

    Jan 6, 2018
    San Diego
    Wow, this is a very agreeable thread with a few consistent themes. I guess we don't always wildly disagree.
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  4. equill


    Nov 25, 2010
    I'd say... the point at which you notice the differences.
    You might catch onto some of them in days, while others may elude you forever.

    Then there's the question of what difference the differences make.

    Does my playing sound any better on a custom-made boutique bass than it does on a low-end production-line model? No. I sound like me, no matter what instrument I'm holding.
    Do I appreciate the differences in workmanship? You'd better believe it.

    My favourite guitar is the second-cheapest in my collection, and it both looks and feels that way. When I put a brass slide on its strings, it rasps like barbed wire over crushed glass... and that's exactly the sound I want from it.
    Another in my collection cost five times as much, and will never have you wondering whether it stashed a switchblade in its case, because it just sounds and feels too refined.

    My point is that appreciating the differences doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to want the master-built one every time. It does mean that you'll have a better idea of why you prefer this one over that one.
    And if that means you know why you prefer the cheaper one, so much the better for your bank account.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  5. equill


    Nov 25, 2010
    Strongly agree.

    In photography, I bought better gear than I was (and am) a photographer. Not because I thought I'd take better photos, but because it took away any excuses: the gear just couldn't be the limiting factor. If a photo didn't turn out the way I'd hoped, there was only one place to look for the reason.
    Same deal here, I think.
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  6. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    This is a tricky question. When my ex and I were doing lessons, we would tell our beginning students to buy a high-quality entry level instrument. The main issue here is that beginners don't need to be fighting against a poorly made instrument while they are also trying to learn and dealing with things like sore fingers, calluses and stiff wrists. They won't be experienced enough to know that they are also fighting against an instrument that doesn't intonate well and can't be set up comfortably or stay in tune. So, yes, beginners or their parents should not go out there and just buy the cheapest piece of crap for fear that the kid will not stay with it, because a cheap piece of crap is a self-fulfilling prophecy and the kid will not stick with it if the instrument cannot do the basic things they need to succeed initially.

    That being said, it doesn't need to be a huge investment. Most instruments you can buy these days in the $200 - $300 price range are going to be good enough, especially if you buy new. Used is more of a crap shoot, because a lot of older instruments were poorly made.

    I'd say if a kid (or an adult) manages to get six months worth of regular learning in, they are committed, and at that point it might be time to look for something nicer.

    There does come a point of diminishing returns. I just bought a $700 bass from Sire and in many respects it's every bit as playable as my main player, which sold new for three times that money. And I don't own any instruments that are seriously expensive. I'm sure that if I played some of the boutique instruments in the $5000 range I would feel a quality difference, but I don't think I'm the player those instruments probably deserve. I'm fine with what I have, and it's fine for me.

    If you're seriously good, you're going to know when the hardware is holding you back. Play lots of instruments and get a feel for what you can gain for the extra money. There's no specific point at which you deserve something better but when you play a lot you start to know where the weaknesses are in your gear.
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  7. ... and while I understand his motivation, I always hate to think an instrument of that quality may end up in the closet because someone buys it but doesn't take to music.

    Whenever my friends or co-workers ask me how much they should spend on an instrument - I always point them in the direction of a well made mid level Squier or Epiphone ($250 to $450cad range), usually closer to the lower end of that range.

    When I was first starting out - I got an Ibanez TR50 as my first bass (still have and love it). My much more well off friend got a PRS guitar to start, I am not sure how much it exactly cost at the time but it was over a thousand. Guess who stuck with music?

    Because - you either take to music or you don't, it requires work especially at the outset and that can put some people off. Buy an instrument that is going to feel good but not break the bank and see if you stick with it through the early stages.

    So for the most part I don't really think a super high end or vintage instrument is a good idea to start with - even if you have the means, it saddens me to think of all the high end gear sitting in a closet not getting used because a potential hobby never developed into a passion.
    JPK_DK, mattj1stc and equill like this.
  8. The funny thing is that even some of those boutique features like rolled freboard edges are being automated and churned out of third world factories these days. In a blind test, there are very few American Fenders in the 2 grand or less category that I'd take off the shelf over a 600 dollar Sire M5, at least in term of neck feel. The rolled fretboard edges/satin finish/ebony necks on those genuinely would feel at home on a bass that costs 3-4 times more, IMO.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  9. Drifter8230


    Sep 4, 2020
    I feel that when a player can appreciate and understand why quality craftsmanship makes a difference for a bass, it is time to upgrade. In other words, a player has a specific "voice" or playing technique in mind and begins to understand the different qualities between bass makers.

    For example, a pro plays in a rock and roll cover band, and believes a Fender Jazz or P will deliver the voice for the job. Or, a player really digs hard rock or metal and researches the best bass for their voice. I think when players are experienced and understand exactly what it is that will satisfy their needs, they can appreciate a high end instrument.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  10. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Sorry, I broke the cardinal rule. No pic, no ceiling fan...

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  11. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    Played my Japanese Fender PJS for 20 years before I got my first Zon. I can appreciate both sides of this fence. If you're playing in a band and just holding down the low end, a $10,000 bass is most definitely overkill. But, if you want to play a bunch of fancy solo stuff, and you won the lottery (or you lurk the TB classifieds), there ain't nothing like it. The main difference is the playability. Fenders play like.... Fenders, my Zon plays like a Ferrari. I don't need a Ferrari to go get groceries. Do you? Maybe.
    imabuddha, JPK_DK and equill like this.
  12. darkinners


    Oct 4, 2006
    Yes I agree, budget bass has come a long way. If this post were made from 20 or 30 years ago. I'd say stay away from beginner/budget bass. Those were horrible, some you can't even properly intonate or volume pot makes scratchy noise after 3 days of playing. Even beginners can notice the difference between the sub $500 and sub $1500 bass.

    I don't own Sire bass but I did tried my friend's I gotta agree with what you say, the bass build quality itself easily smash the bass cost 3x or 4x more than Sire. I didn't really like the preamp (a bit noisy and do not like the cut/boost frequency they choose) but those are very easy to replace and cost you probably only $150 more.
    JPK_DK and DuluthDank like this.
  13. equill


    Nov 25, 2010
    I'm hardly a fan-aficionado, but that looks really nice!

    Err.... weight? :)
    DigitalMan likes this.
  14. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    I don't know what this is all about but I approve. Nice fan.
    DigitalMan likes this.
  15. legalbass


    Jul 2, 2020
    If you can afford it and you really want it, buy it.

    To me, that's 99% of the equation. It's your money; you put the time and effort into earning it, so spend or don't spend as you see fit.

    If you're going to drop any kind of real money on an instrument, however, whether new or used, do all you can to make sure it's what you really want and what really works for you. Play an example of an already-existing instrument (if you're buying something made-to-order) or if you're buying something used, see if you can't set up a time and place to play it before buying. Maybe even ask the seller to set it up with relief/action that suits your preference if they are willing to do so.

    As long as you're being smart and thinking things all the way through, living within your means etc., go for it.
    JPK_DK and equill like this.
  16. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    Begginer apreciates bass with proper setup.
    Intermediate apreciates high-end.
    Advanced needs high-end bass.
    JPK_DK, Justinian and legalbass like this.
  17. Tall-Fir


    Jun 13, 2016
    Fun posts by DigitalMan!! Thank you.
    DigitalMan likes this.
  18. Bartrinsic

    Bartrinsic Supporting Member

    Jan 6, 2018
    San Diego
    What's the radius of the blade curvature? What's the weight? Is it for sale?
  19. TheSeagoats


    May 21, 2015
    When I was first starting out I only had a Rogue bass. One day I was at a music store and tried a Rickenbacker 4003 and it was clear how much better it was, despite me still barely knowing the notes on the fretboard. I could appreciate it, it was comfortable and sounded great and it left me really wanting one for a long time afterward. That being said, I do think beginners should start on a solid budget instrument because there's no reason to start out with a $5,000 bass just to find out that they're not actually going to stick with the instrument. These days (thirteen years after touching that first Rick) I much prefer a somewhat modded cheap instrument over a nice instrument, if it's stolen or broken or something it's far less of an impact on my bank account to replace it.
    Roger W, JPK_DK and legalbass like this.
  20. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Progressive radius. Chambered blades so deceptively light, but still needs a reinforced ceiling box. This is my #1 fan right now, but I do have a 5 blade western style in the family room that I would be willing to part with. PM me if interested.

    (don’t actually PM me)
    imabuddha, Roger W, Justinian and 2 others like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jul 28, 2021

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