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Disappointing experiance with new basses.

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29 minutes ago, Bassfinger said:

The OPs observations are all well and good, but set up is subjective.  The type of strings used, the amount of permissible fret buzz, and action are all individual choices.  If the shop had set them all up to suit  me then the OP would likely find it indifferent at best, and vice versa.

First thing I do on any new bass, and guitar prior to that, is bin the strings and fit my own favoured variety.  That immediately throws any existing set up straight out the window, so what the big deal?

It's like bicycles of any real value come with cheap saddles and pedals, or even no pedals at all, because they know the first thing the rider will do is fit their own favoured pedal system and seat.  If customers, be they cyclists or bassists, all performed with exactly the same ability, had exactly the same tastes, and exactly the same hands and bodies then a universal set up prior to sale would be super smashing lovely.  Unfortunately they don't, so it's pointless.  

Hugely disagree.

The basses in question have potential, but they were so poorly 'set up' (or whatever better use of words there are) that the bass didn't shine to anywhere near close to its potential and just played like a dog.

I will not buy a bass brand new where I don't know (to at least some degree) what it is capable of. A: its foolish as you're essentially buying blind and B: to me it shows the shop has no real care over their trade.

Yes, of course set ups are subjective, but playing a bowed neck, a rattley fretboard, with dying batteries, crackly pots, biting strings, bad intonation etc etc are not subjective. 

The comparison to a car is quite apt, would you buy a car with four flat tyres, iffy breaks and a cracked windscreen? Doubtful.

Set ups are subjective, but there is a degree of 'set up' that will show case a bass's best side to 90% of punters, having £1500+ basses hanging from a wall that play like a piece of Far Eastern tripe does no one any favours.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Chris2112 said:

One of the issues with shops dealing in any sort of volume of instruments is that their margins probably don't account for fine tuning or even basic setup in some cases. Added to that, they often don't have staff who know how to make a decent job of a setup. Sometimes you get a decent setup out of the box and the bass will play nicely, sometimes it's crap. 

My job requires a huge learning curve, even if you have the core skills my employer would look for, you wouldn't be able to use our bespoke systems or have any idea whatsoever on how to achieve what is required, it takes learning and training. Something that you would gain on the job.

This shop had a good number of employees rattling around the shop, they are employed by a music shop, they should have at least a basic understanding of how to set up and demonstrate an instrument in order to make a sale. If they don't, then they should absolutely be trained to do so. If the shop hired them and just left them to it then that's their massive downfall, they should train their staff to do the set ups and put them to work doing them. 

If you were an employer would you rather your staff mill around the store like lost children, or have them do something that actively helps the business and assists with pushing sales? 

Edited by binky_bass
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6 hours ago, Maude said:

I don't know, I've never paid for a set up. It's one of the simplist things in the world to do so I'd never pay someone, hence why I said, "or whatever it costs". 

I always do mine, after all, no one knows what works for me other than me, but I'd expect to walk out of shop paying ticket price with a bass that is set up as close as possible to my liking. Ive not brought a bass from a shop for a few years, but those i have (and none have been expensive basses) ive always been offered a free set up before leaving. 

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1 hour ago, odysseus said:

I got a new Dingwall 5 string from Bass Direct just over a year ago - set up was perfect for me and the thing was perfectly in tune straight out of the box. Mucho respect to BD!

Just purchased a brand new Spector Euro LX sight-unseen from BD: Setup absolutely perfect out of the box upon arrival. Kudos!

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Posted (edited)

I've heard BD and The Gallery do set everything up to a high standard, the way it should be! The Bass Centre did too from memory. And if the tiny little Guitar Shop (String Salon) down at Barleylands in Ye Olde Billericay can manage to set up all their reasonably cheap stock, then this currently unnamed shop with high end gear definitely should too! 

In my humble opinion of course. 😁

Edited by binky_bass
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Posted (edited)
36 minutes ago, binky_bass said:

Hugely disagree.

The basses in question have potential, but they were so poorly 'set up' (or whatever better use of words there are) that the bass didn't shine to anywhere near close to its potential and just played like a dog.

I will not buy a bass brand new where I don't know (to at least some degree) what it is capable of. A: its foolish as you're essentially buying blind and B: to me it shows the shop has no real care over their trade.

Yes, of course set ups are subjective, but playing a bowed neck, a rattley fretboard, with dying batteries, crackly pots, biting strings, bad intonation etc etc are not subjective. 

The comparison to a car is quite apt, would you buy a car with four flat tyres, iffy breaks and a cracked windscreen? Doubtful.

Set ups are subjective, but there is a degree of 'set up' that will show case a bass's best side to 90% of punters, having £1500+ basses hanging from a wall that play like a piece of Far Eastern tripe does no one any favours.

That's your opinion, fair play.  However, with my big hands and long fingers the set up I personally favour would probably bring similar disdain were you to try one of my basses.

If they set a bass up that just happened to suit you and sold it in store, then itd need setting up differently to suit me without any doubt.

Do you always keep the standard strings? The monent you change them you're into setting it up yet again, the extent of fiddling required depending on the type of strings employed. Intonation will require setting up the moment different strings go on, so there's little point me demanding a shop set that up to perfection for me (u less they also fitted my strings too).

How do you respond to these two points above re set up?

Unlike inflating car tyres to the recommended pressures, setting up a stringed instrument is not a universal proposition.  Everyone's needs, tastes and requirements differ. Stuff like noisy pots is cheap componentry, and nothing to do with the set up.  Contact cleaner might help, but it won't make a poor quality pot a top quality one - that's hardly the shops fault, or within their reasonable ability to correct.

Edited by Bassfinger

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Set up is subjective, absolutely agree. However, there is a 'rough set up' that I believe would accommodate a very large proportion of people to at least give them an opportunity to play the bass without it feeling awful. We all like different things, but the majority out there prefer a low/medium low action with no fret buzz and no pitching strings, something that doesn't actually put the bass out of tune when you press down on the string in the same way a bend does.

The last bass I bought from a shop was a Dean Edge, some time in the 17th century. No idea what the strings were! If I had strings I absolutely lived by, then yes, I'd probably change them too, but that doesn't mean I'd be happy buying a bass that was so poorly 'set up' I couldn't tell it from a 2x4 with an elastic band wrapped around it. 

Your ideal set up sounds quite far from what the average person would prefer, so for you a 'general store set up' may make a bass as bad for you as these basses were for me, but we're talking in a general manner, not a super bespoke 'exactly what I personally want' manner. 

If someone who has never played bass before fancied buying a really nice bass to start out with (it happens!) they'd most likely be out right off by the set up that Ibanez had. 

Even if they offered a set up upon purchase, you have no real gauge to judge the bass properly with how it was when I played it. A basic general set up should be mandatory before they hang a bass/guitar on the wall. 

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3 hours ago, binky_bass said:

My job requires a huge learning curve, even if you have the core skills my employer would look for, you wouldn't be able to use our bespoke systems or have any idea whatsoever on how to achieve what is required, it takes learning and training. Something that you would gain on the job.

This shop had a good number of employees rattling around the shop, they are employed by a music shop, they should have at least a basic understanding of how to set up and demonstrate an instrument in order to make a sale. If they don't, then they should absolutely be trained to do so. If the shop hired them and just left them to it then that's their massive downfall, they should train their staff to do the set ups and put them to work doing them. 

If you were an employer would you rather your staff mill around the store like lost children, or have them do something that actively helps the business and assists with pushing sales? 

Good call, and the staff themselves could benefit by doing set-ups out of hours for customers, so shop wins by better sales, customers win by getting well set up instruments, staff learn skills that can earn them out of hours cash. 

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3 hours ago, binky_bass said:

And if the tiny little Guitar Shop (String Salon) down at Barleylands in Ye Olde Billericay can manage to set up all their reasonably cheap stock, then this currently unnamed shop with high end gear definitely should too!

You, Sir, have made me curious about the tiny little Guitar Shop, I shall be visiting tomorrow.

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Posted (edited)

That's an annoying experience. 

My experience with new bassss is very different.

Ive bought 7 Musicman basses new over the years. These have come via 4 different dealers, one from Scotland, and one collected straight from the distributor. They were all factory ordered and sight unseen. 

Of those five came straight out of the shipping box and all seven were set up perfectly well from the factory to play. I tweaked some of them marginally to suit.

I was very pleased with all of them and prefer in some respects buying a new instrument - there's a parallel with a brand new car for me.

I suppose if a bass is kept in a shop window (which I have seen happen many times) it's likely it will be subject to environmemtal conditions which might screw up the set up. Similarly something that has been on a shop wall or out on a stand in a shop for many months may have similar issues. 

However the same can be true of a used Bass guitar - the only (marginally) unplayable bass I've ever encountered in a shop was a vintage Bass which had such a ski ramp in the neck a number of frets didn't work - however I was told by the shop owner it could easily be fixed ........... which begged the question why they hadn't bothered to and expected a customer to find out 😯

Edited by drTStingray
Ever more inane auto correct

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I rarely visit instrument shops, large or small, Andertons is OK but once a year is enough.

Moving to my singular experience, quite a few years back I was asked to help out selecting Telecaster for a mate's kid (it was reward for good exam results), had to be new and had to have a guarantee.  Against my better judgement, we schlepped off to Dawsons Music in Reading.

The place was staffed by a bunch of dead-behind-the-eyes teenagers whose sole remit was to try and push Epiphones or pointy trash onto us.  While mate and kid were looking, I sauntered off to some dark corner to check whatever new basses they had in stock.

Pretty much everything I picked up was unplayable, worst of the bunch being one of the Gibson Grabber reissues; horrible front bow on the neck and I swear the action midway was about 3/4" off the board, dead strings, didn't intonate.

I did question to myself at the time how it could even have left the factory this way, or why Dawsons wouldn't at least have given the instrument a once over, but all they're doing is just moving stock and it's just an SKU; I could well have buying a drill in B&Q as far as the business was concerned.

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I tend to buy used instruments, on the basis that anything which is going to go awry with them will have by the time I come along.

On the occasions I do try a new one in a shop (maybe when I'm looking at a pedal or amp, not just for the instrument itself) I've never been able to play it as I would my own.

I've often thought that if I were to go to a shop to buy new I would also take along my tool kit and offer to do a free setup for them...

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Once I learned to set up instruments for myself, going to shops became a frustrating and fruitless task as they are never, ever set up to my tastes and usually put me off whatever it was I was looking at. I haven’t tried a bass in a shop in over ten years, I would guess. The last one was the early 50’s P bass reissue with action you fly a pigeon through.

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13 hours ago, White Cloud said:

Just purchased a brand new Spector Euro LX sight-unseen from BD: Setup absolutely perfect out of the box upon arrival. Kudos!

 

Spector QC is second to none... and then Barnes & Mullins do their own checks... and I expect Bass Direct did the once over too. Enjoy your new bass and welcome to the 'club' :)

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13 hours ago, Bassfinger said:

That's your opinion, fair play.  However, with my big hands and long fingers the set up I personally favour would probably bring similar disdain were you to try one of my basses.

If they set a bass up that just happened to suit you and sold it in store, then itd need setting up differently to suit me without any doubt.

Do you always keep the standard strings? The monent you change them you're into setting it up yet again, the extent of fiddling required depending on the type of strings employed. Intonation will require setting up the moment different strings go on, so there's little point me demanding a shop set that up to perfection for me (u less they also fitted my strings too).

How do you respond to these two points above re set up?

Unlike inflating car tyres to the recommended pressures, setting up a stringed instrument is not a universal proposition.  Everyone's needs, tastes and requirements differ. Stuff like noisy pots is cheap componentry, and nothing to do with the set up.  Contact cleaner might help, but it won't make a poor quality pot a top quality one - that's hardly the shops fault, or within their reasonable ability to correct.

I'd reiterate the point that no-one's asking for their own perfect nirvana on setup: by the point tastes get that exacting, the skills to set it up that way will probably have been developed. The issue is badly intonated (and there's a universal, despite later adjustments if strings are being changed by the buyer), neglected instruments that haven't had any sort of attention given to them: the G-string choking because the plastic cover had wrinkled up? Strings buzzing so much they were on the point of choking? One of them had a £900 price tag...if shanking £900 out of a punter doesn't justify ten minutes to set the thing up to be generally playable, then the staff/shop aren't doing their job, and won't get my business.

Ever bought a secondhand car from a dealer that was filthy? A mini valet takes longer to do than setting up an instrument to be generally playable...

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Finding this an interesting discussion given that my own preference is for instruments to be brand new and untouched since leaving the factory.

If at all possible I’ll buy from somewhere that has sufficient warehouse capacity to send me one that hasn’t been fiddled with in the shop, and for anything where that doesn’t apply I’ll special order it and ask the shop not to even break the tape - just ‘shift the SKU’. It’s an approach that hasn’t failed me yet.

Aside from the dirty pleasure I get from taking a new thing out of its packaging, I much prefer to see something in its original state and, if it’s a bad one, just send it back and get a good one sent; I don’t want to find out too late that it’s a bad one that’s been skilfully dressed up to look like a good one to get it out of the door.

That’s just what works for me, of course - it wouldn’t do for us all to be the same. Even if retailers started working on their shop floor stock as suggested here, I can’t see them heading off to the warehouse to crack open all the boxed stock, so I reckon I’ll be ok 🙂 

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No matter how expensive a bass is, the first thing I will do post purchase is change the strings and set the instrument to my own specifications. 

'This sounds great but the action is a bit high and the intonation is a bit off' is not a deal breaker, provided that the string saddles are not already at their lowest possible position and there is sufficient space to actually intonate the instrument properly. Floorshop 'dings' and cosmetic wear and tear on a new bass doesn't turn me off either provided it doesn't affect playability, though I will seek a discount if I buy it. 

However, outside of bass my guitar of choice is a Gibson Les Paul, so I am used to trying out expensive instruments with completely uneven set ups...

If the set up of an in-stock bass is really bad, then I have to pretty much rule it out  if I am unsure as to whether the bass is even capable of being set up the way I would like it. If I am paying £2000 plus on an instrument I would actually ask the shop if they could reduce the action a bit if the set up is just incredibly bad or spongy (it takes about one minute to this). If doing that reveals massive amounts of fret buzz then it is perhaps a sign of more issues.

Being in Scotland my only 'big' chain store in reach is Guitar Guitar. I can't say I have encountered too many absolute dogs as in my opinion most of the 'premium' basses have at worst a 'decent' set up in the Glasgow store. 


 

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, binky_bass said:

Set ups are subjective, but there is a degree of 'set up' that will show case a bass's best side to 90% of punters, having £1500+ basses hanging from a wall that play like a piece of Far Eastern tripe does no one any favours.

From looking through this thread, I think it's fair to suggest that everyone has a different threshold of "setupness" below which they would start to have doubts about the instrument. At the very least, I think there's a border you cross between

"hmm, that's not how I like it, but I can fix that",

and,

"does this just need a little tweak, or is there a fundamental flaw in this guitar?"

And I guess that border will shift depending on how much confidence and experience you have in adjusting necks, bridges, nuts, etc, as well as the price tag on the instrument. I'm happy to adjust nut slots and bridge saddles, for example, but much more reticent to play around with the truss rod more than I absolutely have to: I'd find it much harder to judge whether a bowed neck could be fixed, and that might put me off. Though I might be more inclined to risk it for a £200 bass than a £2000 bass - so I can see why the examples you tried might have come as more of a shock!

Edited by EliasMooseblaster

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16 hours ago, binky_bass said:

Set up is subjective, absolutely agree. However, there is a 'rough set up' that I believe would accommodate a very large proportion of people to at least give them an opportunity to play the bass without it feeling awful. We all like different things, but the majority out there prefer a low/medium low action with no fret buzz and no pitching strings, something that doesn't actually put the bass out of tune when you press down on the string in the same way a bend does.

The last bass I bought from a shop was a Dean Edge, some time in the 17th century. No idea what the strings were! If I had strings I absolutely lived by, then yes, I'd probably change them too, but that doesn't mean I'd be happy buying a bass that was so poorly 'set up' I couldn't tell it from a 2x4 with an elastic band wrapped around it. 

Your ideal set up sounds quite far from what the average person would prefer, so for you a 'general store set up' may make a bass as bad for you as these basses were for me, but we're talking in a general manner, not a super bespoke 'exactly what I personally want' manner. 

If someone who has never played bass before fancied buying a really nice bass to start out with (it happens!) they'd most likely be out right off by the set up that Ibanez had. 

Even if they offered a set up upon purchase, you have no real gauge to judge the bass properly with how it was when I played it. A basic general set up should be mandatory before they hang a bass/guitar on the wall. 

I'm with you on this Binky.

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The OP raises two points

the first, that the set up should be good, is, IMHO, indisputable.  It doesn't make any business sense to have a poor set up on more expensive basses - if anything the shop should be having better set ups as the price increases, to persuade the punters that paying the extra money will get them a better to play bass. (as an aside, some years ago an Aunt of mine went round her local TV showroom and re-tuned all of the cheaper TVs, it being a common sales tactic to set the cheaper models with slightly worse pictures to make the more expensive ones look much better than they were).  If one potential buyer either buys a cheaper bass because that plays just as well, or leaves the shop because the expensive bass they wanted felt dreadful, then the seller has completely failed at their job.  And given that musicians typically start on cheaper instruments and work their way up the price range, getting a reputation for selling instruments at every price that are easily playable can only be a very good thing for the shop

The fact that many of us can and will do our own set up, and know that a high action isn't forever, doesn't mean that the shop can get away without doing the basics.  I would suggest that the OP shares their experience with the owners

The second point is around the quality of the instruments themselves.  Difficult to comment without seeing the instruments themselves, and very surprised to see a comment about poor quality on a Dingwall, although it did occur to me that they might be a little shopworn.

But as a generalisation I'd say that, compared with the market twenty or thirty years ago, the difference in quality between the bottom and top end of the market isn't that huge - certainly I would expect a "starter" bass to have a decently playable neck.  Hardware and timber might account for a price difference, possibly a little more attention to detail, but I'm not sure I'd expect a £1400 bass to be worlds apart from a £500 bass

 

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Although let's not forget that a £1400 bass these days (let's say a US Fender) isn't miles away from what a £700 bass (let's say a US Fender) was a few years ago...as for a £3400 Rickenbacker 4003, if it's any different in terms of actual quality (leaving aside the fact that I got a dog) from the £1600 Rickenbacker 4003 I bought 5 years ago, I'd be very surprised...

Completely agree about the bottom end, though: there are very few honkers sub-£500: very inexpensive and relatively high quality Chinese and Indonesian production has meant the days of the really really ropey plywood 'starter' instrument have pretty much gone...

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I've taken a selection of small allen keys with me to shops before now, so at least i can sneakily address any dreadfully low action i encounter and get a clearer idea of the bass's abilities.

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20 hours ago, binky_bass said:

I've heard BD and The Gallery do set everything up to a high standard, the way it should be! The Bass Centre did too from memory....

The couple of times I bought a bass from the Wapping Bass Centre the guys there did a running set up of the ones I was trying to tweak to my tastes!

But that shop was pretty special

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17 hours ago, Frank Blank said:

You, Sir, have made me curious about the tiny little Guitar Shop, I shall be visiting tomorrow.

Me too!

My brother lives in Billericay and we visit regularly.

I had no idea that there was a music shop in the vicinity.

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They're a decent little outfit, always friendly and always willing to help. I had a 36" 7 string bass and they opened a fresh set of Ernie Ball strings just to see if they could reach from saddle to nut, which they didn't! But they didn't have to open a set up like that to help out. Also very handy for odds and sods like the occasional knob, switch or bridge pin. Very useful for me when I buy shoddy guitars from Gumtree with half the bits missing to fix up and eBay on! 😂

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