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Zeller / Bass Hunting In England

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by velvetkevorkian, Aug 29, 2004.

  1. okay kids, a local luthier recommended zeller basses to me in the kinda
    £1000ish area (about $2000 these days for you transatlantic types) as a step up from the orange plywood things ( i currently play a school wood/plywood 60s mess). in particular, i think i'm looking at the 1405 model (4/4 size, all solid wood). so if anyone out there has any kinda recommendations/comments/insults/whatever i would love to hear 'em.
    cheers in advance
  2. Kat_Mia

    Kat_Mia Guest

    May 7, 2004
    Dorset, UK
    See my post titled 'New Bass!' I've just brought a Zeller. £1000 sounds about right for 4/4 size solid wood. I brought mine for £900 and it's 3/4 size solid wood but I haggled (is that the right word?) the price down from £1500. It's now insured for up to £3000 including travelling abroad because that's whatit would cost me to get a new one. How old would it be? new? Or a few years? Lots of years? Mine is 3 yo so not a bad price considering it was brought new and it's only been played a couple of times (guy I brought it off was also a pianist and he concentrated on that more). It makes a gorgeous sound. I play with horsehair and nylon bows and I find the nylon makes the bass sing more as it creates more friction! Keep us up to date on how you get on!
  3. Laurence U.

    Laurence U.

    Oct 25, 2003
    The first bass that I actually owned (as opposed to borrowing from local county) was a Zeller bass. It was laminated but with a solid top ( i seem to remember, could be wrong). It was, to be honest, absolutely awful. It wasn't at all helped by having ridiculously high action, rendering it effectively unplayable, but the actual quality of the instrument was incredibly poor. I finally was able to upgrade it to a new instrument, and it transformed my playing beyond recognition! Just my opinion though, a good set up may help a lot...
  4. ok, it costs £1044 brand new (excluding delivery :meh: )from djmmusic.com. o think i'm gonna have to see if i can track one down to try out...anyone in the glasgow area own one? oh well.
    cheers lads and ladettes
  5. One has to wonder if all of these "Zeller" basses are made the same way in the same place. Can someone take a peak inside the left f hole and see where these diverse basses are actually built? If I'm on the right track, the carved ones may be coming from a different source than the ply hybrids, or perhaps the good top wood and better construction is reserved for the all-carved ones. The inside labels might tell the tale. My hunch is that Zeller is just a rezeller, er reseller, perhaps using more than one zupplier.

    The way you talk about that nylon "hair", Kat, makes me curious to actually try this stuff....
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm afraid I must agree - I went to Footes in Golden Square Soho and they always have a few Zeller basses and I really didn't like them - didn't like the sound at all. So I tried one and could get nothing out of it - then listened while a good bass player played one and it sounded horrible compared with basses I have heard at workshops/classes/gigs etc.

    In fact - that's why I bought an EUB, as straight after that I went to the Bass Centre, tried several NS basses and decided I liked the sound much better!! :)

    The problem in the UK seems to be that if you want a reasonably priced DB - it's a Zeller or nothing - so after 18 months of trying to buy one - I gave up!! :(
  7. Kat_Mia

    Kat_Mia Guest

    May 7, 2004
    Dorset, UK
    I agree Bruce, the UK is pretty pants for basses isn't it? I'd love so much to have an EUB but mum said no as it's not suitable as I play lots and lots of classical, LOL!

    I love my nylon bow SS. My teacher even said it sounded just a fraction better but....it may all depend on personal tatse or what bass you play on or how you play. I play 'French' ie, not German with a not German bow. I have never played with a German stlye bow, well, once and I hated it, so I don't know whether nylon would be the same? :(
  8. Kat_Mia

    Kat_Mia Guest

    May 7, 2004
    Dorset, UK
    I've had a look inside and my bass says (hang on got to look again because I can't rememeber :eyebrow: ):

    Made in the workshop of

    Andreas Zeller


    For Stentor Music Co. LTD.

    Would take and upload piccies but I can't because I'm on the netowrk computer and need to put the pictures on the other computer which is logged off! :(
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Maybe the Zeller basses are aimed squarely at Classical Students and are good for this purpose - I must say that I was only thinking of Jazz Pizz and have never really used a bow, so am definitely not qualified to talk about this. I saw and tried, quite a few nice DBs at Jazz Summerschool - including the 5-string Paul Bryant that sounded great in all situations - amped and unamped!! But again, considering it very much as a Jazz instrument.

    After that, I'm afraid I've been spoiled - but don't have the £3-5,000 necessary now!! I bought my EUB on interest-free credit and am never likley to have spare thousand of pounds just lying about for basses - in fact my car's probably not worth as much as that!! :D
  10. Kat_Mia

    Kat_Mia Guest

    May 7, 2004
    Dorset, UK
    My old UB was more of a jazz bass, I think, and it had a bit more twang to it than my one that I have now does. It sounded good and sang well but when I played pizz in any orchestral music it just sounded like I was trying to make it jazzy when I wasn't. A friend once played Woody (old bass) in a jazz band and he does a lot of twanging etc and said it was a very nice bass to twang on.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well....."twang" doesn't sound that desirable to me,....

    But we may be thinking of different sounds!! ;)
  12. Kat_Mia

    Kat_Mia Guest

    May 7, 2004
    Dorset, UK
    Twang as in Jazz sound. I like the word twang.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    "Twang" to me, is Duane Eddy on Guitar - hopefully no Jazz DBers sound like that!! ;)
  14. Kat_Mia

    Kat_Mia Guest

    May 7, 2004
    Dorset, UK
    Don't know who he is *ducks and hides away to avoid all things thrown towards me* so I can't comment!
  15. Well, there goes that theory .... Guess I can't make any decisions about Hora bassed on Zeller. The specs are still suspiciously similar after a close comparison and for all we know, more than one Romanian workshop could be putting the ebony trim at the neck join. Hmmm. Well thanks for looking into it, Kat and Fetch.

    One thing I'm definitely noticing here is the subjectivity of the sound evaluation due to personal preferences and uses. I pluck and bow and currently use helicore hybrids, which I'm not real impressed with, but they might sound fine on a better bass. I do use a German bow with horse hair, but I don't remember saying so (perhaps in another thread). I think the hair takes about two weeks of hard playing to know if it is working well and sometimes my bass sounds wonderful with the bow and other days I can't get anything I like from it. I'm beginning to wonder if it is the ever changing Atlanta weather (if you can even call it weather, more like fluctuating poison levels!)

    My DB is the lowest end Czech bass you can get (all plywood, no ebony), it says Lidl, made in Luby, but the model #50-1 is currently a Strunal model number and those are also made in Luby, Czechoslavakia. My bass is maybe 10-11 years old and dimensions are somewhat different from the current Strunal 50-1. It seems to suffer most bowed or plucked at the low end fundamentals. That was the case also before the Helicores with Supersensitve Red Label strings. Gauge may also come into that picture and all sorts of other adjustments.

    It sounds like you UK folks have either Contrabasse shop basses or student models with not much in between that is dependable. I guess the idea is to separate the serious players from the pack quickly. Not much different here in USA, but there is the appearance of more to choose from and plenty of Chinese basses of various quality levels. I was hoping that someone could offer some info about a Hora bass. They seemed to have reasonable prices for entry level carved basses, but it's tough to find one you can pin down, even though the factory in Reghin is huge and quite modern. In appearande, the Hora's look identical to the Zellers. :confused:
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's certainly the feeling I have and this was dpressing me for about 18 months. I have thought of two other options - so Howard K found a place that was renting basses of all types, with an option to buy.

    The other thing is to have a bass built by a reputable builder - like Paul Bryant - so I mentioned elsewhere how a bass player I know in Brighton has had a 5-string made by Paul Bryant.

    If I was organised (and solvent) I would have paid Paul Bryant a deposit and ordered one of his cheaper options. Unfortunately, my finances are never that good and I'm too impatient to pay out money and not have an instrument for 6 months to a year! :meh:

    I know it makes sense but I just haven't got round to it - too many other things going on that demanded my money - roof caving in, sinks cracking, holidays with my girdfriend etc. etc. ;)

    To me - a lot of student level basses like the Zellers, look exactly the same as every other make/model - especially going on photos, I can see virtually no difference between them - although seeing them in 'the flesh' and playing them, may well throw up big differences - as I have heard vastly different tones from DB students at workshops/jams etc. (Although that may be the relative experience/inexperience of the players!! ;) )

    Having played BG for 25 years, I find the DB-buying experience incredibly frustrating - so I can research and identify the clearly-defined strengths/weaknesses/characteristics of a vast range of BGs at all prices - can try dozens and compare how they play and sound - be entirely confident I have the right instrument for what I want to do!!

    But with DB it seems to be exactly the opposite - nobody can tell me the strengths/weaknesses/characteristics of particular makes/models - I can't get to try any, that are available to buy and am completely in
    the dark about whether a bass that becomes available is worth buying or is a "lemon"!!

    So it seems to be like Kierkegaard's "Leap of Faith!" - just jump without looking!!

    I'm afraid I'm still an agnostic!! ;)
  17. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Right. Completely accurate. Spot on.

    The electric bass (like its predecessor the electric guitar) was designed from the ground up to be built in factories. The goal was to make a product which went beyond "consistent" all the way to "fungible." Variation is bad. You should be able to try one P-bass and find out whether you like every other P-bass. The entire notion of one person working in a shop custom-building unique electric guitars is so contrary to the economic model of the instrument as to make it almost economically unfeasible.

    In contrast, better double-basses are built in small or one-person shops where craft-workers seek to maximize the particular advantages of particular instruments.

    I've said all along here that plywood basses ARE fungible. (No doubt there are rare exceptions that prove the rule). But a thoughtful setup is a critical component of your experience -- no less with plywood than with carved. You could play two identical "Grackle Brand" plys and find them quite different based on setup and string choice.

    Punch line: Don't buy a bass you can't try unless a) you are ready to take a gamble and b) you have a luthier to set it up for you. Or unless you can return it if you don't like it.
  18. I don't know if my bass constitutes the "middle ground" - it was £2000 retail and setup cost me £500 - but I've been very happy with it. I bought it new and the setup price included the first "review" after 3 months when I had the action lowered and the sound post adjusted free of charge. It might seem like a lot of money to a youngster or a beginner, but I consider it value for money because I've ended up with an excellent instrument.

    It's a fully-carved 3/4 bass with a gamba shape - really sloping shoulders - that make the higher registers easy to reach. The top is spruce and the back and ribs are maple. The fingerboard is ebony and the tailpiece that my luthier fitted is a red-brown boxwood. I had it set up for pizz playing with Spirocore Weich strings and it really sings with loads of sustain. It's Chinese-made, and I was told the importer hand picks them.

    Here in the UK the distributor is a company called The Sound Post http://www.thesoundpost.co.uk/bass.htm The model I have is the Westbury.

    This is a wholesaler so you'll have to follow links to your local retailer. They really should advertise themselves better. I'm sure they'd grab a better share of the market if people knew about these basses. I posted on Talkbass asking if anyone had come across these and got the grand total of zero replies!
  19. My bass has the same label as Kat's. Its a flatback (back made from 4 peices) all wood 3/4 and quite a nice one as my luthier said. The top has nice straight grain, mostly close but with even streaks of wide grain further out. Again quite nice. The top is on the thick side though as I'm told these are.

    On close examination, I think their quality control on the lower end basses ain't too hot. I could list a couple of things I'm not too hot on - the fingerboard bevel was made a shade too wide, the nut cut was just silly, there is 1" section where a C bout isn't a perfect fit with the back where the cross brace meets the bout - you can see light through the 'varnish' or whatever gloop its unfashoinably shiny finish is - nitro, polyeurethane you tell me. Its not a problem and I've had it looked at, with the recomendation to just leave it. I didn't notice it for near 18 months.

    But it sounds ok and is getting better - don't want to open an old debate but yep, some of that is me getting better. I had a top quality soundpost, bridge and what my luthier siad were superfelxibles put on it. They were actually Spiro Weichs. Made it sound a bit like a fretless at first. I now use the nice and cheap Superflexibles because they are darker, bow more easily and give a sound I'm happy with. Set-up is bowing height - more than people here recomend but I talked to another luthier who sets a lot of basses up and he said it wasn't too high as far as orchestral playing anyway (not that i do any orch playing).

    A new bass lower end with new strings is probably not going to sound too hot no matter who plays it - although I have to say, when I got my bass with a top set-up I was amazed at teh sound and could'nt stop playing it, albeit the sound was VERY bright. As a sax player said when she first heard me with it - b***y hell, you ain't gonna get away with no dodgy intonation with that. Sandard set-up on these things can be mediocre.

    The sound I'm getting now is darker and richer. I have thought about mods such as an MPM tailpeice and cord but I'm in no rush. At my height just short of 5'11" I find it a nice fit and play standing with the bass vertical with two end-pin notches exposed, and use a pern. (horsehair) French bow and Pops rosin if anyone wants to compare notes. Affraid I've no facility for soundclips or pics at the moment.

    I know a couple of local semi-pro jazzers with these basses. One has his action on the floor and uses a Shadow (underwood type) pickup and I'm not keen on the sound - scratchy - but he uses no buffer-preamp into an old combo that appears to have been made for BG.

    The other guy uses what I think is a Zeta pickup into a fishman pre-amp into a GK MB150 and sounds great. I use an SD Systems HCL 100 DB mic into an AI Contra.

    I know other local pros use these basses when they are gigging outside and don't want to risk their pride and joy getting broke.

    At the time I bought it, I wasn't confident I knew what elements I wanted in my bass sound. Also, whilst I think I should have spent more, I couldn't afford it and whilst I think I might be outgrowing it, teacher who should know thinks it sounds good. I always think get the best instrument you can, but these are not like woodwind - ie - cheap instruments can be very hard to play in tune unless you get a lucky one - at least you can a should give every bass a good set-up. Whether it follows that your efforts to make a Zeller sound like a Panormo will give you immaculate technique I would'nt like to comment at this stage.

    So good luck with your bass Kat!

  20. Thanks for pointing those out again Doug. They looked like a better option than many. I didn't see any dealers in USA. So here I go again. The Sound Post is a UK distributor/wholesaler? Do you have any idea where these basses are made? I'm guessing that they are not made in the UK? Have a peek. :meh: