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two bass guitars… which one to buy?

August 18, 2014

If you’d like to learn a LOT about bass guitars, amps, and more, please read my post entitled, “a bass guitar buyer’s guide for beginners: instruments, amps, accessories, etc.” It’s one of my most popular posts, and is about the length of a short book on instruments.. over 31,000 words. This post will be shorter.

I’m struggling quite a bit, trying to choose a bass. My budget is small. I want to spend no more than $300 on an instrument, and would prefer to spend less than that.

I’ve been going to a music store where I am a loyal customer, 4 days this week, or something like that. I’ve narrowed my choice down to two basses.

One costs $179. It is a 4 string bass, a Yamaha TRBX174 with an Old Violin Sunburst finish. (I’d post links to the two basses so you can see and read about them, but I’m currently not able to post links on wordpress posts.. some glitch I don’t understand).

It’s a simple design. Agathis wood body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard. Pretty standard for a cheap bass. One Precision-style pickup, one Jazz style pickup, which are passive pickups with passive electronics. A volume control for each pickup and a tone control.

Durable and sturdy. Nice finish. Great tone.

Heavier than I’d like.. that’s the main reason I’m not in a hurry to buy it. I like very light basses. This one is not light. Because of the weight, I’d feel it necessary to buy an expensive 3″ wide leather strap  (costing over $50.. maybe over $60) to distribute the weight better on my shoulder than a 2″ strap made of vinyl or cotton would. Even then, my shoulder would get somewhat sore. Can I put up with this? Do I want to?

Also, the fret wires are thick and that makes playing uncomfortable. Lots of cheap basses have thick fret wires that are too high. Bummer.

The other bass I am considering is a 5 string Ibanez GSR205SM, costing $299.99. The “sm” stands for “spalted maple” it’s a cut of wood with distinctive, very noticeable grain. The body of the bass is not maple, it’s mahogany. The spalted maple is a thin layer put on top to look cool. The neck, like the Yamaha.. maple with rosewood fretboard.

Passive pickups. They look like humbuckers. (I explain all this stuff in my buyer’s guide post). A volume control for each pickup, a tone control.. that’s all good. Also.. a boost knob. Not good.

I don’t like the boost knob, the so-called PHAT II EQ, and the active electronics to power it, which require a 9V battery be installed in back of the bass. The knob makes the bass a lot louder, through an amp, and if used improperly, can blow out an amp’s speaker.

This is a gimmicky feature that I have found only on basses costing $300 or less. I have no need for a boost switch. Much better, if having 4 knobs, to have a volume control, a pickup blend knob, a bass eq, and a treble eq. But oh well. Basses with those features tend to cost more.

Even though the Ibanez has 5 strings instead of 4, it is a little lighter than the Yamaha. It feels less durable. It has somewhat worse tone, but still sounds alright. Chunky fret wires, but not as uncomfortable as on the Yamaha. Still, if this bass were as heavy as the Yamaha, I’d go for the Yamaha. Since this bass is fairly light, I’ll probably be fine buying a cheap to mid-priced 2″ strap (around $30 at most).

I want to make a decision by Tuesday. Over a week ago, I put a used Ibanez bass (made in 1986) on layaway. I paid for it, but there’s a pawn shop hold on it until the 26th (Tuesday). A pawn shop hold is a legal thing.. used instruments can’t be sold until after a month or so after they’ve been brought it. The police need to make sure the instruments are not stolen.

The bass I put on layaway is more comfortable to play than either of the two basses I’ve already mentioned, but the tone is pretty much terrible. The price is great.. $174, and a case is included. Major deal, especially considering the bass was made in Japan, not in Indonesia, where most basses are made these days.

But I can’t stand the tone (and when the bass eq is turned up more than a little, the speaker in the practice amp I was using at the store started making unpleasant noises.. not good at all), and that is why I am trying to make a decision about which bass to buy instead of the one I’ve got on layaway.

I’ll head down to the music store after breakfast. It is 12:26 am now.. Monday morning.. although it’s still Sunday night for me. I’ll be asleep in two hours or so.. wake up, eat, head over.. and maybe make a decision. It’s very very frustrating trying to figure out what to do.

If I don’t make a decision by Tuesday, I’ll just get a refund for the old Ibanez. I’d rather not do that though. I’d rather use the money I paid for that one to go toward the purchase of another.

But which one?

Maybe I’ll just get a refund and buy a good pair of athletic shoes, or some clothes at a thrift store and have money left over.

But if I do that, I’ll be shopping for a bass within a month.. better to deal with this now..

Right?

—————

Edit 9/3/14. I purchased the 5-string. I’ve had it for several weeks. I like it very much. For more information about that instrument, read my post entitled, “the bass!”

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