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Which high end 5 string bass to purchase?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Dumpster Funk, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Ah, First-World Problems... :)

    Agree w/ everyone who says (from the info OP's provided) that it sounds like Fodera is the no-brainer answer.
    But just to toss another name into the hat: Consider Elrick.

    I recently had a rather unexpected windfall and found myself in a surprisingly enviable position...I can buy a new bass -- a fairly expensive bass at that -- and yet I definitely don't need a new bass, and am not even really GASsing too hard for a new bass. This allows me the luxury of time and patience and research.

    So I started getting quotes from several of the boutique builders whose instruments I've coveted. To get everything I'm looking for in an instrument
    - Fodera would be >$12,000
    - Alembic would be >$18,000
    - Dingwall would be >$13,000
    - FBass would be >$10,000
    - Pedulla would be >$8,000 (but wouldn't have the 35" scale length I was looking for)
    - and Elrick would be <$5,500

    I did a double-take when I got Rob's quote.
    PsyDocHill likes this.
  2. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Another thought...and this is something I learned during the process of getting a handbuilt bicycle frame custom-made for me:

    After a certain point you realize these are all excellent brands and they're all made to an exceedingly high standard and they all use top-of-the-line parts & construction techniques and they all sound pretty darn good. (And -- arguably -- the differences in sound between any two of these brands is miniscule compared to the difference in sound between any two bassists playing the same instrument.)

    So it comes down to who the builder is: What kind of person are they, what kind of business they run, what sort of character they exhibit, what sort of relationship they develop with their clients.

    All things being equal, you want to buy a bespoke, made-to-measure, custom-for-you, last-bass-I'll-ever-buy instrument from a luthier that you're comfortable giving your money to. You want the whole process of designing and ordering and waiting for and receiving that bass to be positive, encouraging, and inspiring. You don't want to do business with someone who might make you second-guess any decision, or who leaves your questions unanswered, or who does some things you can't understand and isn't completely transparent about how or why they do those things. 10 years from now when you pick that bass up you want to think "I love this bass!" rather than "I love this bass even though it was built by an *******."

    So in addition to playing as many of these instruments as you can, talk to as many of these builders as you can. Figure out who are the guys you want to have a beer with, versus the guys you wouldn't want your sister to date. Let the former build your bass.
    Dumpster Funk and PsyDocHill like this.
  3. FBass BN-5
    jim nolte, Dumpster Funk and Gnal like this.
  4. Davidg

    Davidg Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2009
    Since all the players you mentioned (except Andrew Goache who is a Tobias guy) play Foderas that is your answer.
    (Of course Victor, Richard, Matt, Janek and Anthony all sound different, but that is not really the point).
  5. Davidg

    Davidg Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2009
    Dumpster Funk and Basehead like this.
  6. basspowerOf6


    Jan 11, 2017
    For that price point of $5000 I'd go with something different. Probably a lakland 55-94. I realize this wasn't an option in the OP however these are amazing and you'd still have a grand for a new amp!
  7. Been there, done that. If I was going to spend big money again it would be custom shop time.
  8. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    But which sounds best in your hands?
  9. TUGACANbass


    Sep 15, 2012
    I play bass.
    I have a sadowsky and I'm happy with it. But I'm thinking of Fbass since it's so close to me. Just play as many as you can. I personally think that Fodera is a one trick pony that is to expensive. But this is my opinion.
    MrLenny1 likes this.
  10. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Personally I consider the Sadowsky tone a one-trick thing as well, but some people really like that trick so my opinion doesn't count. Other basses that are sort of one trick are Pedulla, Conklin, Dingwall, and Modulus. Hey, I own two Modulus, a Ken Smith, an Alembic and a Conklin. They all sort of do their own thing and it's totally great on each one. HOWEVER, my go-to basses are G&L L2500. Unfortunately these are under your price point, but no problem. I just own three of them to make up the difference. Think of it as TWO USA G&L L2500 one in fretted and one in fretless as comprising ONE BASS! A super bass in two parts! Yeah, that's it. :) They are clearly NOT anything close to a one trick pony.

    The problem with basses at this level is you need to REALLY figure out what exactly floats your boat and then demand it.
    PsyDocHill likes this.
  11. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Lots of choices nowadays.
    Fodera & Sadowsky have impressed me a lot.
    PAvel is another also.
    Happy hunting.
  12. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    that 1995 Emperor that just got listed here is not a bad idea.
  13. Sweet Willie

    Sweet Willie

    Dec 31, 2014
    Former moderator for now non-active Nordstrand Forum
    If you're not in a hurry, I'd echo what some others have said: if possible, get yourself to a place where you can try more custom basses. Often this will be a large city that has a bass boutique of some sort, or a dealer who deals many boutique instruments.

    Before I ordered my first custom bass, over the course of several months in approximately 2003-04, I played a LOT of basses by a LOT of builders. Between friends in NYC and Chicago, boutique music stores, and individual dealers I fingered basses from Sadowsky, Lull, Fodera, Elrick, Benevente, Stambaugh, Modulus, F Bass, Kinal, Spector, Warwick, Drozd, Marleaux, LeCompte, MTD, Dingwall, Nordstrand, Overwater and more. One of my favorite basses that I played and one of my favorites of all time is a friend's 5-string Fodera. One of my least favorite basses that I played was a Fodera. The Drozd basses I played stood out and get honorable mention. I really liked the F Bass I played, too. By the end of the process, I'd found that the bass that really spoke to me -- felt good, sounded good, didn't want to put it down -- was a Nordstrand NJ4. (Stambaugh came in second.) I ended up ordering a Nordstrand NJ5 (34.5" scale thanks to the positive F Bass and Overwater experiences), and had a really nice interaction with the dealer (Jay Lewis, Blueberry Hill Bass) and with the builder (Carey's great, and I eventually went back for a Nordy vJ4). I still have both basses and still love them.

    My point is not that you should try to track down a Nordstrand (yum!), but rather that I learned a lot about what worked for me and what didn't, and as much as individual instruments from the same builder may vary, I did learn things like whether I liked proprietary preamps or pickups, how the necks were joined to the body, etc. that may have been specific to a particular builder regardless of instrument. And I continued to catalog for myself characteristics of basses that I liked (e.g., scale length, fret size, nut width, neck shape), which made the eventual order easier for me.

    OP: You've got a set of basses that all seem great and all have value for you, so it seems like you already have a good sense of what kinds of things you value, and how those instruments collectively and individually get at that. That said, if possible and if you're not in a hurry, enjoy the journey a bit and see what you can get your hands on. I expect that will prove more useful than our collective comments here. :-}

    Dumpster Funk and ale29 like this.
  14. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    TMARK, Kevdel and Nino Valenti like this.
  15. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Trinity, FL
    i'd ask myself , who am i trying to impress ..?? having had expensive basses in that price range ,... i have learned exactly what it was that i liked most about them ... and now i'll build /tweek /mod my own stuff to taste ...!

    i truly enjoyed my Sadowsky basses ... Alembic was cool ... loved my custom Pedullas ... etc..

    for me , i am prouder of my pieces/parts , self tweeked, Warmoth kinda basses ..!! there Deluxe 5 neck feels better than just about anything i've felt , played ... having an asymmetrical back side ... i have 1 with a 1/4 sawn wenge neck , maccassar ebony , SS frets ... great stuff ... without the boutique markup ..!?

    just my 2 cents ... YMMV
  16. Continuum

    Continuum Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
  17. madbass6

    madbass6 Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    I do not give consent to use any of my photos ! please respect that. thank you.
    For your gender of music I recommend a Ken Smith BSR EG or fodera!
    Or a Sadowsky !!
    Cool wife, You're a lucky man!!
    Dumpster Funk likes this.
  18. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    It's called 'insurance', and WE play that game too, now don't we?
  19. flojob

    flojob Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    Wyn basses are pretty. Never played one though. They look great
  20. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    I've owned/gigged most of the basses mentioned throughout this thread. As others have said, once you get to a certain level, it is about subtle differences and certain tone, ergonomic, or visual goals rather than "quality."

    Since you have a Smith, a Fodera would be a good counterpoint. While Fodera customs have variability in tone depending on what the owner was going for, they tend to be more open than Smiths (which I find to be very focused and a tad compressed). The dual coils are designed to be able to cop the Jazz bass vibe as well as other tones, and the Pope preamp is pretty neutral and flexible. I prefer the EMG PJ setup in Foderas, but I'm somewhat in the minority.

    Once challenge is that $5K isn't going to get you a new one unless you are looking at a 4-string standard - which are ridiculously good basses, but the customs will set you back more.

    Sadowsky is a very different beast, though their Modern is somewhat Smith-like so I wouldn't recommend going that way.

    G&L is a nice bass but isn't in the same league as the other brands. It just isn't. Just like the Ibanez I just picked up - it is a great bass and I'm enjoying it a lot. But it isn't near the same as my Fodera or Smith or Rob Allen (and since it cost $1K, I don't expect it to be). It is a great value though, at least in my hands.

    That is another important factor - your hands. I don't think my Smith sounds much like most of the Smith players I've heard, mostly due to my technique and approach. I'm looking for "pissed off P-bass" rather than the often glassy slap thing many of the gospel guys do. We both dig the bass but for different reasons and get different tones out of it. My YYD still pretty much kills any other bass I bring into the house - to my ears and in my hands. But for someone else, could be a totally different thing...

    Belka, Max Blasto and Dumpster Funk like this.