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Where do the 'toys' end and the 'real' bass guitars begin?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TTNewbie, Oct 14, 2019.

  1. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019

    Looking to pick up a Bass for my music room but I don't know much about them. I've learnt the hard way over the years that there is usually a magic point with most instruments where they go from being lumps of wood/metal that look like an instrument and become actual instruments. Cheap instruments can be really off putting.

    I'm based in the UK and usually shop at Andertons in Guildford. I'll ask the guys there of course when I go to buy but I'm living a fair way away atm and would like to get a ballpark idea of what I want.

    Any further detail on other sweet spots further up the price/equipment range would be good, or any other advice at all. I was thinking of getting a small Fender Rumble for practice, any advice on that?

    Budget is really variable £500-£2000 for the rig, I don't want to vanity buy, but I want something that is going to scream 'play me' not 'wash hands after you touch'.


  2. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Nowadays you'd be hard-pressed to find something completely unplayable. Especially at big stores like Andertons. QC is getting better, to the point where you might not need to spend big bucks for a decent instrument. This goes for nearly all brands, Squier, Ibanez, Cort, you name it. Pick what feels comfortable - but maybe you already have a sound you're looking for. That may help us narrow it down.

    As for the Rumbles, I only hear good things about them. Should be a good choice, what kind of power do you need? Practice only, small jams, ballrooms? That might affect your choice of model.
  3. Welcome to TalkBass! What kind of music are you into? Does that factor into what you want or are you looking for a basic well rounded bass?

    The Fender Rumble is great for practice. The player series basses are very nice and priced well. Also look into Yamaha TRBX304, Ibanez SR300E, Sterling (by Musicman), Rockbass Streamer (by Warwick), Sire V3. These brands also offer more expensive, better quality instruments if your budget allows.

    Honesty, it depends what you want/need from it that will determine if it is a "toy" or a "tool".
  4. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019

    Thanks for responding. Yeah really tough, normally I have a good handle on what I need and want, but somehow knowledge about Basses seems to have passed me by. If you take acoustic guitars (or violins), I have played cheap ones and at £300 it is playable, but you really need to be getting to at least a decent solid top before the sound starts to gain quality, and a cheap, thick, lacquered neck is like playing a sticky lamp post. I could probably play a stump with a nailed on rusty E string, but it doesn't mean I'd want to...

    Bass guitars might not be so sensitive to materials, tech and setup nuance but I am sure there must be grades of improvement, but I am not sure what the factors are even? I don't have a sound profile preference at the moment, so something versatile would be good. Ultimately more likely to be rock/modern rather than say jazz.

    Thanks, amps are something I have more experience with as I have guitar, keyboard, v-drum amps etc, so I have a better grasp on what is good and where not to scrimp and I suspect on hearing them I'll pick out what I like.

    I just suspect I couldn't pick a decent bass from a POS atm, but maybe when I hear them it will resolve, I have a good musical ear in general so maybe I'm worrying about nothing.

    jamro217 likes this.
  5. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019
    Well rounded is probably a good start, I play everything from classical to metal, once I nail what I am enjoying playing I will probably get something more specific and spend more.

    I like the look of the Rockbass Streamers but there seems to be mixed reviews, if Ibanez Basses are as good as the guitars that's probably a fair place to start. Haven't looked at Sire so far, but mainly because it isn't a name I am familier with, I will have a look.

    Thanks, for getting back...
    Pizza1988 likes this.
  6. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    Bass amps really should be purchased from a standpoint of "what do I need" and then go one step bigger/more power. Bass amps don't produce tonal benefits from being pushed to their limits like guitar amps do. You may only need a Rumble 40 or 100 for your music room, but the Rumble 200 or 500 have plenty of power to stay clean and relevant at most band situations, yet small enough to not overtake a practice room. They also resale for better $$ if that becomes a thing.

    The line for 'real' basses that can inspire (and don't often leave one wanting to mod it from the jump) usually start in the middle to upper 3 figures. For Fenders, it starts with the Players Series (or Squier Classic Vibes/Vintage Modified (certainly with a jack and maybe pot upgrade), the MIM Deluxe and Vinteras are also really cool. Usually, a P or J bass makes for a good, catch-all bass.

    Of course, if you prefer non Fender, check out Ibanez Soundgear SR400 and up, Sterling Rays (not SUBs), G&L Tributes, Schecters, etc... Your personal preferences will come into play and don't sweat the decision. If you like the bass, you will play it more, therefore it's a good choice.
    Sav'nBass, MobileHolmes, dmt and 3 others like this.
  7. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town. Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    This is very true. As long as you stick with known brands you're almost guaranteed to get a solid playing instrument at almost any price point.

    I'm assuming that you are a guitar player, so you might like the feel of the slim neck and lighter weight on an Ibanez Soundgear series instrument. Nicely featured Soundgears of the 500 series and above will blow you away.

    On the other hand if you want something that screams classic bass, and would look great in your music room, a Fender or Fender style bass would be a good bet. The "Jazz" basses have a slim neck that again, a guitarist might prefer. An American Fender Jazz is a great standard in look and tone.

    All that said, with the budget you mention, the world is your oyster, so you really owe it to yourself to take your time, get out there and play as many as you can and familiarize yourself with the tone and feel of the various brands.

    Enjoy the journey and if possible make sure to at least play a Fender, Ibanez, LTD and Yamaha in the 500-1000 GBP range. If possible trying a Musicman, Warwick (outstanding bargains used) and a Sire (a fantastic Jazz clone) would really round out your experience.
    djaxup and TTNewbie like this.
  8. 5tring


    Sep 16, 2018
    I have a Streamer STD, which was the precursor to the RB streamer. Great instrument, I think a lot of the bad reviews were associated with early models which (mine included) had poor electronics (low output due to weird choice of volume pots being the main issue). I suspect the newer models have dealt with this. I urge you to at least try one if you can.
    BarfanyShart, HolmeBass and TTNewbie like this.
  9. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    If you get richer as you get older, as most of us do, the answer....changes. What was once a great instrument, if you get one that's even better, moves down a notch or two.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
    Mike Whitfield and TTNewbie like this.
  10. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019
    @bigtone23 I agree on the amp front I had my eye on the 40, I'm not going to gig with it and my music room is 'cozy' sized and very full already (and my neighbours are tolerant, but not inhuman).

    @Eilif Yes mainly guitar, drums and keyboard (also violin - I'm getting better). I'll look at as many as I can, but having not played before I guess I will just have to feel my way forward. I'll go to Andertons and try a bunch, I actually suspect something will 'speak' to me, but it is good to get this advice on the nuances between brands etc.

    Is there anything I should definately avoid? What are the signs of a bad example (action, loose pegs, buzzing, rattles)?

    Thanks guys for spending the time to help!
    two fingers likes this.
  11. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    I'd suggest you take a look at a G&L L2000 (or L2500 if you want a 5-string). They are pretty affordable (although, in fairness I have no idea what your local market us like..) and the tribute (Asian made) series is well made.

    They are really versatile sounding basses. Don't be intimidated by the non-typical controls, they're pretty intuitive and it's easy to dial in a wide range of sounds from warm and old-school to aggressive and modern.

    I picked up a tribute l2500 as a backup bass and have been continually impressed by its playability and its tone. It holds its own compared to my other basses which are WAY more expensive.
  12. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I can't help it ... but IMO the toy ends and the bass begins at the player's fingers. A good bassist can make just about any decent bass sound good, and a poor bassist can make even the most awesome, expensive bass sound like pooh.
    J-Mags, jamro217, davidprice and 24 others like this.
  13. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019
    Yeah this is where I am (I'm lucky enough to have some very nice instruments...), and hence the articles on 'best beginner bass guitars' feels like it's pitched a bit low. Also I am musically astute so issues with things like intonation, brightness, depth, resonance, timbre etc are probably going to grate on my ears where an absolute beginner probably won't care or notice.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  14. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019
    Lol agree, so no problem, let's assume I am probably destined for somewhere in the middle of those two extremes and having something that flatters my 5 thumbed hands would be nice...
  15. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019
    I'll give them a look for sure, Andertons stock them and I looked at the L-2000, probably going to stick to a 4 string, at least to start.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  16. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019
    Thanks, yes it is definitely at the top of my current list. I heard it being played on a few reviews and really liked the sound, but it is so hard to tell on review videos as the sound is often not representative. Good to hear on the build quality, in the Acoustic guitar world the Chinese made variants are usually awful, but I am keeping an open mind...
  17. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town. Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Rattles, buzzes and loose parts are definitely a bad thing. Play up the neck and see if you get buzzing. Unfortunately, some flaws are not obvious to someone without much bass experience.

    As you are looking at spending a considerable amount, whatever you buy I recommend purchasing from somewhere with a good return policy. Then the absolute first thing should be to take it to a competent tech (not at that shop) to have it completely inspected and setup. A setup is always in order for a good instrument but as well as getting it in the best possible playing shape and a good tech will be able to tell you if there's anything fatally wrong with it.

    Best of luck in your search.
    packhowitzer and HolmeBass like this.
  18. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Ha! Well, you don't need an expensive bass until you know EXACTLY what you're looking for in a bass (and that takes time). As well as my Fender MIA's I picked up a used Squier Jaguar (long scale) for 85USD. Cosmetically perfect, electronically perfect. Did a complete set up on it, restrung with flats. I bought it to bring to open mics and such where I'd be OK to let anyone use it and not worry about damage (me or the other guy!). To be honest, it surprised me how well it played and sounded, and surprised others, too.

    And about Chinese acoustic guitars ... There are several companies making GREAT acoustics in China. Just this week Bourgeios Guitars (a VERY upscale American builder) announced a plan to partner with Eastman Strings (the best of the Chinese builders, I have one that sits with my Martins, Breedloves and Guilds). I'm sure they wouldn't have done that if they weren't sure of the quality. Country of origin doesn't matter if the quality is there.
  19. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    this is exactly how 'snobbery' gets started. :D

    FWIW: all of my bass instrument purchases in the last decade have been "beginner instruments." i wouldn't call them "toys" but they were built as entry-level re: price. they all had usable/functional hardware and electronics. i changed-out what i didn't like about the metal pieces and i ended up with instruments built for me. pretty cool if you like to tinker. and it definitely saves you money if you'd rather be a snob from that angle --- something to think about!

    good luck finding "the first" :D

  20. TTNewbie


    Oct 12, 2019
    Always the best advice, I normally always buy from the same shop (maybe not for things like strings, reeds, sticks etc). I live nearly 100 miles from there these days but it is worth the journey. Trust is a big thing for me, and I have never had a bad experience there. I like their advice, it always feels more focused on what is right and not just sales for sales sake.

    Rattles are always bad, I'll check on the buzz. hopefully its the same as a guitar, no buzz until you want buzz...

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