Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Two for two

I’ve spent far too much time at Guitar Center in the last few days, and too much time at UPS in the last week or two. I’m in the middle of a long bass guitar arbitrage situation that will eventually end up dropping two (or three) basses and netting another two.

First was the massive pedalboard sell-off.  I use a Zoom B3 multi-effect for everything and love it, so the idea of having a pedalboard and a bunch of effects pedals was silly, and it sat in the closet for the most part. I listed everything on talkbass, and sold them off, one-by-one.

My goal was to part out my main bass, a Fender Jazz I built from parts, selling off the aftermarket bits and putting back on the stock parts, which I kept, until I eventually could dump the bone-stock version. I took off the hipshot detuner, and I also took out a set of EMG pickups that were in an old starter bass, and those went.  That’s about a dozen trips to the PO total, although I did chunk a few together.  The Jazz bass still has a high-mass bridge, very nice Nordstrand pickups, and an Audere preamp.  Those will go in a bit.

I then scored the pieces to my next Jazz bass build. A guy on talkbass sold me a Road Worn 50s-reissue Precision bass neck, in maple. And I scored a 60s-reissue Road Worn Jazz body in Fiesta Red on eBay.  Put together, they will make a very light, very vintage-looking bass with lots of fake mojo.  The Road Worn thing is sort of a gimmick; they relic off some of the paint, and age the hardware with some acid so it looks all rusty. It’s like buying pre-ripped jeans, which is sort of silly. But the secret of the Road Worn is that they use real nitro paint, like the old days, and not the super-thick, super-glossy stuff that doesn’t kill spotted owls or whatever. And they kiln-dry the wood longer, so it’s got the light weight and deep sound of an old bass.  And you get the shape and controls and contours of the old stuff.  So those parts are in the mail, and I may have pictures later in the week there.

On Friday, I rewired the Ibanez that gave up its EMG pickups, and brought it and my Schecter to Guitar Center for a trade-in.  This took forever.  They are nice enough there, but they’re always understaffed and overworked and doing nine things at once, so it’s a wait.

I didn’t feel much remorse about the Ibanez, even though it was my daily driver for about a year, and it’s a nice lightweight bass and looks decent enough.  The neck is thin and fast, but not perfect, with lots of fret sprout and some unevenness.  The Schecter I was more conflicted about.  It’s a very nice-looking bass, mahogany wood with a satin black finish. It’s well-balanced, a very smooth neck-through that feels great, and it looks awesome. It’s a 35″ scale, and has a great sounding B-string for a 5-stringer.  But it’s got a thin neck with narrow spacing, and I just couldn’t deal with it.  It wasn’t getting played. So, time to go.

I ended up swapping the two, and ordering a Warwick. They didn’t stock them, and it got back-ordered.  I really wanted one, but I didn’t want to wait a month (or two, or three) and was dead-set on either getting something in-store, or at least something GC had in-hand. So I went back the next day to cancel the order, and play everything in the store a second time, and maybe pick something out.

A general bulleted list of everything I argued about mentally while they were taking hours to do my paperwork:

  • I played a couple of the Epiphone Toby basses and their necks were surprisingly smooth for a $200 bass.  But they were $200 basses, so light they felt cheap.  And I didn’t need another dual single-coil bass, if I had a Jazz.  And that missing-puzzle-piece thing in the headstock is weird.
  • I tried a few higher-end Ibanez basses. They were okay, but the Ibanez SR/GSR line is plagued by the problem that all of the basses look and feel functionally identical, with slight increments in workmanship and electronics. A GSR-500 is not 2.5 times as good as a GSR-200. It’s like if Toyota built nothing but Corollas with more and more options as you paid more.
  • Squier basses are coming very close to Fender basses in quality. I played a Jaguar from each and they felt very close to the same. But a Jag is a Jazz with a weird body. I played a standard Precision, and it was a standard Precision. Sort of boring to me.
  • The SBMM SUB is a damn decent feeling $300 bass.  If they had one with a rosewood fingerboard, I probably would have done that.
  • The EBMM Stingray is a damn nice bass. (Explanation: Sterling by Music Man is a company that licenses the design of the Ernie Ball Music Man basses and makes them in Indonesia.) The EBMM version has a perfect neck, very fat and wide and a strange satin feel to it that’s just incredible.  The cheapest one was about $1400.  So, no.
  • Spent a lot of time on a Gibson EB-0.  I don’t like their stuff (I also played a Thunderbird, which, aside from having a book by the same name, I was not into) but this thing was sweet. It was all mahogany with a cherry satin finish, but weighed almost nothing. It had a really responsive, thumpy neck that I liked.  But, it was a short-scale 30″, had this dumb anniversary inlay at the 12th fret, and was a little above my price point.  I really hemmed and hawed over this one, though.
  • Played a couple of Yamahas and they were shit. Very fret-buzzy.  It could have been the setup. There are probably some nice Yamahas, but that’s like saying that I’m sure International Harvester could build a nice car.
  • I played a Jackson with a nice neck, but it had that swoopy inline headstock with a giant logo that looked as 1980s as Yngwie Malmsteen eating a McDLT.

I ended up doing a compromise on the EBMM/SBMM front. Sterling makes a RAY34 which is sort of the high end of the low end line, and has an active EQ and pickup voiced to be close to the old-school Stingrays. I found a used one in aqua blue with a rosewood fingerboard in a store in New Jersey, so that’s on its way out here.

So, down to just one bass in the house temporarily. Lots of UPS watching this week. Hope this long gear thread didn’t bore you too much.