Comparing a $100 bass to a $10,000 bass


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/19/comparing-a-100-bass-to-a-10.html


#2

Foderas are incredibly overpriced due to insanely inflated demand, and they’re sort of a doctor / lawyer class instrument now (as in, you need to be a doctor or lawyer to afford one, and don’t forget the 2 year wait list on your own custom). That said, they’re incredibly well-made instruments, both in physical construction and electronics. I get the point that, for the most part, the 10k instrument is for most ears indistinguishable to the $700 Fender (and I would recommend a number of $600-$1500 instruments for a serious, working musician, even if they had 10k to burn). However, to my ear, the Fodera tone is quite nice. At about 1:30-1:50 is when the Fodera really shines: he’s doing very similar techniques across all 3 instruments, but on the Fodera the intonation is incredibly clear. But, for serious musician work nobody in the audience will know or care unless you’re Victor Wooten or Richard Bona :smiley: And anyways, there are seriously awesome basses to be had in the 2-3k range that are hand-made, customizable, and have top of the line electronics. Then again, there are also 10k basses like this:
http://www.alembic.com/info/fc_ootw.html


#3

I could be imagining it but i think the $10k one has a slightly richer sound to it, but for the most part they all sounded pretty close


#4

What a great player! I loved it.

When I first took lessons, I had bought a guitar that was made in Mexico. I asked my teacher if he thought it was a decent choice and in retrospect, his advice was pretty solid. He told me that it was good and it would be a loooong time before I’m being held back by my instrument. He was right and I still have that guitar which is now 21 years old.

I’d like to hear from the guy in the video what he thought of the different instruments? Were the frets on the cheap guitar decently finished? Did it hold it’s tune? What does the $10k bass have that the others don’t?


#5

Okay…

  1. Good little jam piece, but really not effective for the concept. I was expecting more of a side-by-side comparison than an extended solo, all mixed together. The drums made the difference murkier.

  2. That said, I could hear the difference, but I actually know what I’m listening to. He didn’t actually explain the difference in sound- The $100 bass is grittier- The more expensive pickups are smoother and have less hum, feedback, and general noise. They also capture a wider profile, so the low notes sound deeper and the high notes fuller. The cheap pickups are a little like listening through a tiny speaker.

  3. Much of the cost difference between these is mostly due to materials and craftsmanship.

As general rule, a guitar under $250 is probably crap- Made from the cheapest materials in a Chinese factory by assembly line workers who may just as well be making radios or sneakers. The cheapie you buy in a music store will be a little better than the one from Walmart or something.

A good, solid instrument made in a factory, but by people trained to really work with the product they make, will cost anywhere from $400-$1500- Though it is entirely possible to find something on the low end of that which is fully comparable to another instrument on the higher end. Most of the difference is going to be in slightly better materials, finish detail, and how much care the final setup / quality control people put into it.

Once you’re over $2500, you’re into “handmade by a real craftsman” territory, and there are so many variables it’s kind of hard to give a nutshell version.

Of course, that’s for new, off-the-rack guitars. Vintage, used, and custom instruments are each their own thing.

There’s also the problem I keep seeing (LOOKING AT YOU GIBSON) with a lot of manufacturers- Taylor and Paul Reed Smith come to mind- Where they build their reputation on luthier made instruments, then switch over to factory made stuff without dropping their prices- They’re still very high quality instruments, but I can’t bring myself to pay $3500 for something CNC cut on an assembly line using the same stuff the next factory over is using to make $500 versions that are almost as good.


#6

To be fair, there is probably quite a lot of difference in the feel and playability of the bass rather than just the sound. $10,000 still seems a bit overpriced though.


#7

To my ear, the Fender and Fodera have distinct sounds difficult to compare. The latter has a thicker, smoother sound, while the Fender emphasizes high mids without loss of tone. I wouldn’t chase anyone out of the recording studio for bringing either of these because they’re both rich enough in tone to be useful.

That P-Bass copy has zero thickness to its tone. No bottom end. Nothing. Layer other instruments over this one, and the bass would be lost. My guess is at that price, it’ll have long-term stability issues and quicker neck-wear too.

Being a musician, adults often ask me for advice when they want to learn or relearn guitar or bass. I usually tell them to expect to pay in the neighborhood of $500-700, and an instrument below that is likely to be more frustrating than enjoyable even if you aren’t experienced enough to know why. If you know what you’re looking for, you can find that mind-blowing $100 pawnshop guitar after years of searching. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, expect to pay or you’ll end up with a lemon.


#8

The video seemed more of a way for this guy to show off his skills than to really give a nuanced profile of each bass. If someone wanted to be really particular they could show the differences in sound using some software, showing where the strengths and deficits there are in each instrument. Would’ve also been good to have thoughts on how well they hold their tune, where they will wear out first, etc.

I’m not a musician so a lot of this is lost on me though :B


#9

A good, solid instrument made in a factory, but by people trained to really work with the product they make, will cost anywhere from $400-$1500

I think that’s a little out of date. Improved automation has done a lot to increase quality in cheap guitars. The difference at the low end is largely around lack of quality control. If you buy a $750 guitar online, you are pretty much guaranteed to get what you think you’re going to get. If you spend $250, the odds shift a little bit but not as much as they used to.


#10

For bass, as far as I’m concerned, as long as it has good intonation up the neck and doesn’t buzz anywhere, a cheapo Teisco or Squier is fine, since I roll off most of the treble anyway. I suppose if your style requires lots of treble and mids then a fancy bass with some kind of on-board parametric EQ is what you need. Like this ridiculous looking setup:


#11

The Fender is the one, of those three. “The best is the enemy of good enough”- Mikhail Kalashnikov.


#12

This was the first thing I noticed. There was too much stuff in the background. Drum beats, what sounded like another backing bass, etc. Also, it sounded produced and edited together after the fact. If we were doing this for real, I’d expect to hear the same short snippet on the three different basses under the same recording conditions, with no backing track and no post production.

You say that, but under these conditions, I couldn’t notice the differences as well as I might have been able to otherwise. If I was watching the video and really paying attention, I could tell, but if I was just grooving along with this in the background, I might think, “hmm, something’s different here”, and that’s only because I know what to listen for. I think this video was designed to minimize the differences, and make the listener lose focus and stop paying attention. Under the conditions I explained above, the differences would be clear as night and day.

That being said, nobody needs a $10000 bass unless they’re Bill “Buddha” Dickens or any other insanely technical bassist. A cheap instrument will sound cheap under most conditions, but any fool can make a $10000 bass sound like a $100 bass.

Also, as many of you noted, there are huge tactile differences between the three instruments that don’t really come out when listening to them.


#13

To borrow a distinction from writing, the software analysis seems like a complicated way for telling us what each bass might sound like… rather than just playing them over a beat and showing us. Aside from playing it yourself, I can’t imagine a better way to compare instruments than hearing them in context.


#14

My first guitar, which I still have, was a cheap acoustic guitar with horrible action. It is completely unplayable without proper technique. It was extremely frustrating to have to learn on that instrument. I would have much preferred to have an electric that I could learn the chord shapes on without having to strangle the living Christ out of it just to get a tone out.


#15

Well it’s one thing to tell someone there’s a difference, that an instrument will have better highs, versus actually showing you the soundwave and show you that indeed it has a richer sound. This is similar to high end headphones, a lot of audiophiles have no way of knowing if some headphones truly have a better richer sound or if its their bias getting in the way. Having solid numbers or data to compare against helps. You don’t really have to get super technical about it, a quick glance and a short explanation on the differences is all you need.


#16

This was the first thing I noticed. There was too much stuff in the background. Drum beats, what sounded like another backing bass, etc. Also, it sounded produced and edited together after the fact. If we were doing this for real, I’d expect to hear the same short snippet on the three different basses under the same recording conditions, with no backing track and no post production.

I couldn’t disagree more. This is a real-world test and replicates an environment that the instrument is likely to be heard. If the difference between two instruments priced two orders of magnitude apart is that small, it’s a pretty damned interesting result.


#17

It’s dishonest though. You can produce the crap out of a $100 instrument and bury it under some other stuff, and get a not jarringly dissimilar sound to a $1000 instrument recorded under completely different conditions. To me, this video looks like it was recorded specifically to gloss over the differences rather than bring them out. If it were me, I’d want to know what those differences are exactly, and what brings them out.


#18

Late to the party but I’ll back up the position that this is pointless masturbation. We have no idea what he’s playing through or if he’s playing through the same set up with each bass. And like every other You Tube video, ever, he’s playing over an over produced backtrack stuffed full of distraction and clutter.

Bass + Amp + Mic would have made this have any point to it.


#19

If the “real world” means running a MIDI into your laptop and turning a back track up to 11 (on youtube) then he nailed it. This replicates absolutely nothing about about the environment in which an instrument like this needs operate or what will be asked of it.


#20

I find that certain instruments have their own crap/quality breakpoints.

For example, most ululeles over 100 bucks will be pretty playable for most beginners.

Electric guitars seem to break at around the 250 mark.

Basses in my experience are the most forgiving (I find that lots of the tone comes from whatever comes after the instrument cable); 175 for a bass will probably be fine.

My general advice for people is to figure out what the cheapest price points are in a market and then go up one or two levels. Once you figure out the differences between a cheap instrument and a good instrument are, maybe that’s the time to drop a bit more cash and upgrade.

Also, ETA manufacturing techniques have never been better. I’ll pick up a mass produced guitar from China every once in a while (usually squire or Epiphone) and am pretty happy with their quality.

Like, my Epiphone banjo is amazeballs and only cost 300 CAD.