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New Fender setup woes


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I recently purchased an American Original 60s P bass in Surf Green with Tort guard. After a set up by Graeme Mennie at Kinellar guitars the bass is just brilliant. 

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I have a theory...

My theory stems from an experience in the store of a big music chain.  I picked up a bass I was interested in and the action was unplayable, I asked the assistant if I could have an allen keys to drop the saddles.  That wasn't happening, manager stepped in etc; nope you are not adjusting the bass till you've paid for it.  I had a discussion about all of the ins/outs and that if I broke it adjusting it after I'd bought it, then it was coming back to them any way.  I left sans bass.  In that discussion it was pointed out that they had a technician who (after I bought the bass) could, 'for a fee' set the bass up.  :/

Call me cynical but do basses go out set up like dogs so that guys in shops can make a bit extra?

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I think it often depends how long they’re kept in storage outside of the factory, how the warehouse maintains temp/ humidity and how they’re transported in between. 
Back when I was in the mi trade we typically found the brand new models factory fresh (ie new US deluxe fenders) were usually better setup than the typical stock (US standards) which had been sitting in a warehouse for goodness knows how long. 
Anything that arrived in the winter from the US was always in a state and needed a thorough overhaul pretty much regardless of who we ordered it from. 

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Makes sense!! My Warmoth roasted maple neck - supposedly super-stable - had shrunk in transit. Only about 0.5mm but it made a difference with the frets. Thanks to John at The Bass Gallery for sorting that out!!

 

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It's a weird one isn't it? You'd have thought that when selling basses the 10-15 minutes it would take a competant luthier to set them up would be worth the money in terms of "wow that feels great - I'll take it!". Took me a while going into Wunjo on Denmark Street to realise they didn't set up anything, not even the 2K vintage basses and would set them up for you as part of the sale. It's hard to play a bass up the neck for playability and not wince if the intonation is off, or just stop playing because the action is out of control.

There must be other factors coming into play, like show room conditions, bolshie luthiers etc, but it seems quite common to have the instrument set up bespoke after sale instead.

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On 16/05/2021 at 10:00, warwickhunt said:

I have a theory...

My theory stems from an experience in the store of a big music chain.  I picked up a bass I was interested in and the action was unplayable, I asked the assistant if I could have an allen keys to drop the saddles.  That wasn't happening, manager stepped in etc; nope you are not adjusting the bass till you've paid for it.  I had a discussion about all of the ins/outs and that if I broke it adjusting it after I'd bought it, then it was coming back to them any way.  I left sans bass.  In that discussion it was pointed out that they had a technician who (after I bought the bass) could, 'for a fee' set the bass up.  :/

Call me cynical but do basses go out set up like dogs so that guys in shops can make a bit extra?

Any reputable dealer would offer a full basic set up as part of the service. Obviously a 'custom' set up, new strings etc would cost extra but the bass should be fit for purpose. Not surprised you left without the bass!!

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16 minutes ago, Leftfret said:

Any reputable dealer would offer a full basic set up as part of the service. Obviously a 'custom' set up, new strings etc would cost extra but the bass should be fit for purpose. Not surprised you left without the bass!!

This wasn't a back street guitar shop, it was a 'National' UK company.  The bass was unplayable and all I wanted to do (and explained in great detail) was to drop the bridge screws to make it playable.  "Buy the bass THEN you can do what you want" was the thrust of the sales pitch.  :(  

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On 16/05/2021 at 10:00, warwickhunt said:

I have a theory...

My theory stems from an experience in the store of a big music chain.  I picked up a bass I was interested in and the action was unplayable, I asked the assistant if I could have an allen keys to drop the saddles.  That wasn't happening, manager stepped in etc; nope you are not adjusting the bass till you've paid for it.  I had a discussion about all of the ins/outs and that if I broke it adjusting it after I'd bought it, then it was coming back to them any way.  I left sans bass.  In that discussion it was pointed out that they had a technician who (after I bought the bass) could, 'for a fee' set the bass up.  :/

Call me cynical but do basses go out set up like dogs so that guys in shops can make a bit extra?

My local music store, Absolute music set up their demo gear before it goes on display (or sometimes ot a label saying  "just in, not yet set up by our technicians"). They also set it up free of charge unless you ask them not to. I cannot say how well instruments ordered online are dispatched.

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Hi Nick @Old Horse Murphy
Sorry to be late in spotting this thread. Firstly, it's such a huge shame you had that bad experience, I suppose I can understand a bass being slightly out of kilter if it has been in transit - they must get chucked around a bit in ports,  handling depots, lorries etc - but for it to be way out, and it sounds like the truss rod hadn't been checked at the factory. Which, as others have said, is not acceptable for an instrument from their expensive range.

It mystifies me that a retailer would not at least perform a basic check on certain things before dispatch to a customer. I'm sure a car sales showroom would check whether a brand new car at least started, before letting a customer test-drive it, surely?

Anyhow, all that aside - in the end it has worked out well for you, as you've got a cracking looking bass there mate :) it's a stunner!
Also, you got to play it before buying, and made sure it was comfortable to play, and was able to be set up nicely.... and that the truss rod works! ;)
As for PMT Cardiff - I've always had good experiences there, and found the staff to be really helpful. It's a shame their manager, Mike recently took early retirement, but I think he recommended the new manager to the role.

I'm sure they usually at least give their guitars the once over, as anything I've tried there was pretty much set-up OK or maybe needed just a little tweak.
I had mentioned to the staff that one bass I tried in the shop had a bit of a high action, and it was sorted next time I was in there.

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On 14/05/2021 at 22:44, Old Horse Murphy said:

So anyway, from the ridiculous to the sublime....

The first P Bass was packed off from whence it came and the very next day I had a meeting in Cardiff and happened (ahem) to find myself arriving about an hour early, so a visit to PMT was in order. 

PMT isn't usually my first port of call, especially for online orders but I've always found the guys in Bristol particularly accommodating and have been on tot eh Cardiff store a few times. I always find the store a bit lacking in the Bass department but I knew they had another American Professional in stock in my favoured colour scheme. 

After playing on it for five minutes I really really liked it but was still very wary given the issues with the first bass. Fortunately, Gavin who was looking after me was game enough to see if the truss rod would adjust properly and was then kind enough to let me adjust the saddles to get closer to the sort of action I prefer. After 15 minutes or so of fettling I fell in love with it and decided it was coming home with me. 

I love  the colour (Mystic Surf Green), I love the neck and the dark rosewood fingerboard and it plays beautifully. What's more, it's very light too. It couldn't be more different to the first one I tried and really is in my opinion a vast step up from some of the more recent US Fenders over the last 10 years or so. 

My thanks to PMT too and especially Gavin who really went the extra mile for me. 
 

 

E3DFB787-919C-4394-A472-D4BA8837A8CA.jpeg

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That's beautiful!!

I suppose "Mystic Surf Green" is a more marketable name than "Metallic sage" 😂

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On 15/05/2021 at 10:17, DarkHeart said:

I took a Vintera Jazz in on a trade with a snapped rod last year, bass itself was immaculate so I guess it must have had similar issues as the op`s P but the previous owner wasn`t as gentle!

Interesting! I bought a Vintera Jazz from PMT last year to replace a 20 year old Jazz that was nicked from my car. It arrived in the original, unopened Fender box, so PMT have presumably just received it then shipped it right away - I did have to wait a few weeks for stock. I'd assumed that a £900 bass would have a basic factory setup. It was without a doubt, the worst set up bass I've ever bought. In particular, the truss rod was WAAAY off, like no tension in it all. You need to take of the neck to adjust it, so it was a proper pain to resolve - I easily had it off half a dozen times trying to resolve. I can see why someone could get impatient and overdo it! 

Now it's set up, it's a great bass and gets plenty of use. 

I'd owned three Fenders before, and they were always set up well - though these were bought in person, so I guess the shops must be to thank.

I've bought new Harely Benton basses in the past that at least arrived in playable condition. Likewise, I have a Lakland that arrived very well set up. There's no reason why Fender can't get their act together.

George

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On 16/05/2021 at 10:00, warwickhunt said:

I have a theory...

My theory stems from an experience in the store of a big music chain.  I picked up a bass I was interested in and the action was unplayable, I asked the assistant if I could have an allen keys to drop the saddles.  That wasn't happening, manager stepped in etc; nope you are not adjusting the bass till you've paid for it.  I had a discussion about all of the ins/outs and that if I broke it adjusting it after I'd bought it, then it was coming back to them any way.  I left sans bass.  In that discussion it was pointed out that they had a technician who (after I bought the bass) could, 'for a fee' set the bass up.  :/

Call me cynical but do basses go out set up like dogs so that guys in shops can make a bit extra?

I'm pretty certain, that basses are sent out like dogs dinners, as manufacturers don't want to spend the cash employing someone to set up every bass. They will assume the setup would never be right for the potential buyer, who will get it done themselves. And yes, I'd imagine a lot of stores would rather you pay them £50+ extra to do what they should be doing in their "Showroom". And don't get me started on paying extra for high end cab covers or even gig bags on expensive items😂

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When I bought a modestly priced bass built in Yamaha's Indonesian factory, it was pretty much playable out of the box. A month later I took it to be set up. The tech said, there are things that need doing but you wont see any dramatic changes, and added that that is exactly what he would expect of a Yamaha. 

Around that time I tried a few other Indonesian basses, also not set up by the shop. I think they all would have been made by Cort (Ibanez, Squier) They were all harder work to play, and the Squier Jazz was in such a state that the 1st fret didn't actually work. (Still haven't worked out what would have been wrong with that.)

Yamahas approach seems a happy medium to me, at least providing a usable instrument if the retailer isnt doing any set up.

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I get why a store might not let you tweak the set up in store. If it were my store ans someone asked, I'd say no as I don't know that you know what you're doing but I would offer to do it on your behalf. Outright flat rufusing that and the offer to do it isn't on. Then saying if you buy it we'll charge you more, ha ha. Glad you walked out without it, their loss. 

My local store will offer a free setup providing the bass isn't the cheapest of the cheap. And even then if you say something specific about that setup they'll change that for you there and then or before you collect it free. 

I got a Fender 60th Jazz bass and the setup on that was pretty good. It wasn't ultra low or fast but decent enough that I didn't have to take the neck off the adjust it. I agree temperature, time, humidity etc... all play a part in how it arrives in store. I get why not every one is set up in a store either, I mean if you have 100 guitars and each takes on average 30 mins or so to setup that's a long time. That's also only for the ones you have up, replacing what you sell adds to that time. 

Don't get me wrong though, I do know Fender do miss on their QC. I had an Aerodyne where the fret edges wer super sharp. Could have been shrinkage (oo er). There was also a Nate bass that the neck plate seemed to have been put on when the paint wasn't fully dry as there were ripples like thick paint had squeezed out under preasure. I don;t think Fender are the only guilty party but they are certainly one of the most famous brands and as such will come under fire for this sort of thing. 

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On 24/05/2021 at 23:19, warwickhunt said:

This wasn't a back street guitar shop, it was a 'National' UK company.  The bass was unplayable and all I wanted to do (and explained in great detail) was to drop the bridge screws to make it playable.  "Buy the bass THEN you can do what you want" was the thrust of the sales pitch.  :(  

In my - limited - experience shop staff would have got the key and tweaked the bridge, retuned the bass and made sure you could play it. I believe that's called 'service'!!! Sounds like you were very unlucky.

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On 25/05/2021 at 13:40, Chienmortbb said:

My local music store, Absolute music set up their demo gear before it goes on display (or sometimes ot a label saying  "just in, not yet set up by our technicians"). They also set it up free of charge unless you ask them not to. I cannot say how well instruments ordered online are dispatched.

Always been very impressed with the advice and service I have had from Absolute Music in Bournmouth and GAK in Brighton. Tend to stick to independents whenever possible.

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57 minutes ago, Leftfret said:

In my - limited - experience shop staff would have got the key and tweaked the bridge, retuned the bass and made sure you could play it. I believe that's called 'service'!!! Sounds like you were very unlucky.

I agree that is what they should have done.  However, when a manager steps in and says 'No!' it isn't just a fickle assistant wanting to slope off for a cuppa.  TBH at the time I was a mature guy and they'd have known that I wasn't just goofing about or not knowing what I was doing around an instrument.  Their loss at the end of the day.  :/

 

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It's like taking a new Ford out for a test drive, returning it and telling them it's not handling well because there's 10psi in the tyres, and them asking you for a deposit to pump the tyres up...they'd be out of business by the end of the month...

Not that I've ever bought a new car. Or a new Fender, come to that... 🙁🙂

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On 14/05/2021 at 22:44, Old Horse Murphy said:

E3DFB787-919C-4394-A472-D4BA8837A8CA.jpeg

 

It's always the way, isn't it? Within 24 hours of me parping on elsewhere on here about how I don't like painted basses, this is the second one I've seen which makes me think I've spoken wayyyy too soon... 😐

Oh, and that board is fantastic, too...

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15 minutes ago, Muzz said:

It's like taking a new Ford out for a test drive, returning it and telling them it's not handling well because there's 10psi in the tyres, and them asking you for a deposit to pump the tyres up...they'd be out of business by the end of the month...

Not that I've ever bought a new car. Or a new Fender, come to that... 🙁🙂

Ha, ha... only bought two new Fords - fleet cars - first one's engine nearly seized - thermostat stuck as engine hadn't been degreased by the dealer - still had a Spanish cigarillo packet under the bonnet. Second one's gear leaver went through the floor when you engaged reverse - missing retaining clip on the gearbox!! New Fender Precision - see back in this thread for all the faults!!! 'Pre-loved' every time for cars and basses!!

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It can go the other way, of course.

I had a chance during a business trip to the US to try out a range of different basses in a number of music shops (both large and small). I happened on a s/h Ricky 4003. The set up was OK - not ideal, but fine without any need to "fix" anything before I got it home. After a thorough in-store noodle, I took the bass to the very helpful sales assistant to finalise a deal. It was already cheap by European standards. The sales assistant goes through this whole spiel about how great these instruments are, and that he's a bass player too. He plays it just to show me, just in case - being European - that I hadn't registered his words. The conversation went something like : Assistant: "Oh, that action is way too high. I'll fix that for you while you wait". Me: "It's really OK for me actually". Assistant: "Are you kidding me? It'll only take a second".

Fast forward to the big "snap" sound, when the truss rod snapped as he went at it like a gorilla!

Assistant: "I guess you'll not be taking this one after all". Me: "You got that right!

Maybe I dodged a bullet that day.

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You could change the pickguard to black like I did on my metallic silver Player Series. I’ve also added a HiMass bridge to it as well 

Funny thing my new £200 backup bass Yamaha TRBX174 came set up very well just needed better strings and action dropped 1mm and slight truss rod tweak so QC can work 

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Posted (edited)

I recently bought a Fender Original 60s Precision in Surf Green from PMT (Initially ordered a LPB but Fender were pushing the delivery out until 2022 and almost beyond within the 2 months of placing the order!)

It arrived, I have the Stew Mac heel access truss adjustment tool so didn’t need to remove the neck to adjust, slapped some new flats on and switched the scratchplate over and in about 20 minutes had it playing beautifully. 
 

There are so many factors between it leaving the hands of the person setting up (factory temperature, shipping conditions, shop conditions, how the setup applied differs from the buyer’s preferences etc etc).
 

One HUGE issue that people don’t even consider is that managers in these shops are often non-musician managers. Where I used to work, we often hired young, cheap part-timers who were flexible and in the days when senior staff were off during the week they would receive new instruments and either put them from box to shop floor, or attempt “setups” before putting instruments on the shop floor which (inevitably) played terribly (particularly because having a bass player who knows what a nice bass plays like AND can set one up well is rare!). It’s easy to see how poor setups can creep on to the shop floor if the retailer has a lack of experience or a decent technician. 
 

I think it’s always difficult to point the finger at the manufacturer and claim it’s an “issue” because ultimately the buck stops with the store. They should be giving all instruments a once over and making sure they apply some expertise to counteract the changes the instrument is forced to go through during shipping etc.

 

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Edited by skej21
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Back in 2018 I bought an Fender Elite Precision, from Guitar Guitar. It was in a sealed box, straight from the factory. 

When I removed it from the box the setup was fine and because of the little Musicman like truss rod wheel, at the end of the neck, the action was really simple to adjust.

I'll get me coat......

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