Which affordable but solid 4 string?

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TTBZTTBZ Frets: 1087
edited October 16 in Bass
So I met up with some old band mates for a jam tonight and now it looks like I’m playing bass in a stoner meets post-rock sort of instrumental band, despite not actually owning a bass guitar at present.

Looking for something as cheap as possible (as in under £200, preferably lower) that’ll be solid enough in tone and tuning stability for rehearsals and recording. I like slim necks with narrow nut/string spacing. I had a Squier P-Bass and the chunky wide neck gave me hand cramps. Switched to a Jaguar bass which felt great but I didn’t like the short scale tone - all my recordings just sounded a bit limp with it. Would I be better off with a Squier Affinity Jazz?

I also like the look of Sterling Sub Ray 4, however the one I borrowed for tonight’s practice was a Sub Ray 5 and it seemed a bit dull and characterless in tone compared to a P.

Are the Harley Benton jazz basses worth a look or in this price range might as well stick to Squier?
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  • Dull? What strings did the Stingray have? They’re anything but dull if you turn up the treble knob, though I haven’t tried the Sterling Sub Ray.

    Sounds to me like you’d enjoy playing a Jazz neck. A used Vintage Modified Jazz might be in budget.

    If you really want a P you could get one and change the neck for a J neck. I’m not aware of a cheap P with J neck but they do exist in the Mexican range, possibly the PJ special?
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 1087
    It could have been the amp I used tonight or maybe I just needed to mess with the settings more! 

    I do like the P Bass tone but hated the feel of the neck. P body with a J neck might work.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 42987
    I do prefer the sound of a P-Bass to a Jazz as well. You could look for a Squier Mark Hoppus, which is a Jazz with a P pickup, but they’re rare and probably still over your budget.

    But P-Bass necks vary enormously - everything from half a tree down to not much bigger than a Jazz, even among Fender and Squier models, and even more so among copies.

    You can get a perfectly decent P-Bass copy for under £100 second hand if you shop around, they’re so simple there’s almost nothing to really worry about, even the electrics are usually tolerable. I nearly bought a Westfield one for £75 a few years ago, it just felt and sounded great... I probably should have bought it, but it was a very unattractive shade of pink :(. You do have to try a lot to find a really great one though.

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  • ROOGROOG Frets: 426
    edited October 17
    Hi @TTBZ, I was looking for much the same and managed to find an 'Eva Gardner' Squire Bass lurking in a corner of my local Guitar shop. It has a Jazz neck with a P Bass pickup arrangement. Probably not the last word in Bass'es but it works for me.  

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=150&v=jGkb3y-lSdM

    Sorry about the whaffly video, its easier than posting a picture!

     

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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 5433
    Dull? What strings did the Stingray have? They’re anything but dull if you turn up the treble knob, though I haven’t tried the Sterling Sub Ray.

    Sounds to me like you’d enjoy playing a Jazz neck. A used Vintage Modified Jazz might be in budget.

    If you really want a P you could get one and change the neck for a J neck. I’m not aware of a cheap P with J neck but they do exist in the Mexican range, possibly the PJ special?
    The old Squier P Bass Special that was made in Indonesia had a Jazz neck.  Also had a Jazz bridge pickup if want a bit more versatility.

    There is one on Reverb:


    Although that is more than they used to cost new!  They are good basses though.

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    TTBZ said:
    Sterling Sub
    In current Ernie Ball Music Man nomenclature, Sterling-by-Musicman and S.U.B. are two separate brands with two different price structures and two different quality levels.

    I haven’t tried the Sterling Sub Ray.
    I have.

    They are usually playable straight out of the box. The string spacing is Jazz narrow. The weak points are the cheap bridge and electronics. On the five string, ensure that the tension on the B string is firm rather than floppy.

    turn up the treble knob.
    The Powersound pickup and no-name budget active EQ are not as good as the Sterling-By-Musicman series, let alone the American stuff.

    A used Vintage Modified Jazz might be in budget.
    In the nicest possible way, I hope not. (I have one listed in Basses £.) Where you might land a bargain is with the full scale Squier Jaguar Bass (PJ and H versions exist) or the unfashionable Dimension Bass. 

    On the latter, the "humbucker" is actually two Jazz Bass single coils under a big, ugly plastic cover. The Jag H pickup is more like a Stingray design in a soapbar format. Consequently, the pickup cavity of both these designs will accommodate an EMG-35 series pickup. (Other brands are available.)
    Be seeing you.
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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 5433
    Doesn't sound like an old school precision though.

    I did think about taking the active electronics out of mine then I found a 32" mid 80's Japanese Squier P Bass.
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 1087
    So I guess the best thing is to just go to a few shops and play a load then! Didn’t realise there was such variation in P-Bass necks. I liked the feel of the Jag body but felt really neck heavy even on the short scale.  

    Side note, this was the first time I’ve properly played bass in a live band and I loved it. I think it suits my personality more, sitting in the back holding down the fort rather than leading on guitar got to use my DbA Fuzz War clone as well which sounds huge and filthy on bass!
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 1087
    What’s 32” like for downtuning etc? My 30” Jag was useless for anything other than standard with the string gauge it comes with. We’re currently only in drop d but that might change.
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  • MarihinoMarihino Frets: 0
    edited October 17
    Last year I bought a new SX jazz for £180 in my local shop. It's a very pretty bass (sage green, chrome covers and everything) with super stable quartersawn neck and sounds just as good as my Am Std jazz. It came with horrible fretwork though that for the time being I conquered by putting flats on and raising the action.

    I've also got a Vintage (brand) P style on a layaway in cash converters for under £200 total. It's a pro instrument, and I own American, Japanese, German and vintage gear. Better than the SX in that it actually has very good fretwork and high quality hardware. 
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  • TTBZ said:
    What’s 32” like for downtuning etc? My 30” Jag was useless for anything other than standard with the string gauge it comes with. We’re currently only in drop d but that might change.

    If you might go lower then I'd go 34" over 32" personally.  I feel like 34" is the ideal choice from E down to C. Unless you specifically want 32” I think most guitarists can adapt to play 34”.  I feel like B and lower is where you’d think about longer scale.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    TTBZ said:
    got to use my DbA Fuzz War clone as well which sounds huge and filthy on bass!
    CAUTION: If you will be making extensive use of overdrive or fuzz, you will be best advised to play an instrument with noise-cancelling pickups.

    Traditional Jazz Bass pickup pairs only approach full hum-cancellation when their volume settings are equal. 

    J-type bass guitars in your price bracket are unlikely to have dual coil noise-cancelling pickups as standard. 

    For dual pickup basses with narrow string spacing, consider the Epiphone Thunderbird and Ibanez SR/SRX range.

    Be seeing you.
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  • BadnotesBadnotes Frets: 26
    Take a look at the ibanez tmb100, if you can get on with the look of it. I have one and it's an excellent bass for the money. 
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  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    edited October 18
    A PJ is probably going to give you what you're looking for more than anything else. The neck pickup on a jazz bass isn't going to get near enough to a P bass sound if that's what you like. 

    Ibanez Talman basses are around £170 new. Excellent value and well put together. 

    Yamaha BB basses are excellent, and used you'll definitely get one under £200. I think the new BB234s are around £260 new. The previous versions are the 424 and 414, and are anywhere from £150 to £200 used, so if looked after properly they hold on to their value well. 

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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 1087
    edited October 18
    In a stroke of luck a mate who no longer plays has lent me his Squier P-bass for as long as I want/til he wants it back so I’ve got this for the time being. Now I’ve just got to learn how to play the bloody thing

    I suspect I’ll still end up wanting something with a J style neck though. That BB234 looks really cool actually.
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  • TTBZTTBZ Frets: 1087
    edited October 18
    Turns out it’s an Affinity PJ, not sure I’d the necks are different on these but feels way better than I remember the one on my old P was. Gonna try out one of those Yamahas if I can though, love the look of them.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    Being aimed at young/student players, the Squier Affinity P-Bass has neck dimensions very similar to the Affinity J-Bass.

    The Yamaha RBX series string spacing will be wider than the Squier Affinity. The lower budget end of the Yamaha Attitude Bass range is slightly wider again AND significantly deeper. Try before you buy.
    Be seeing you.
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  • MattBansheeMattBanshee Frets: 1041
    TTBZ said:
    Turns out it’s an Affinity PJ, not sure I’d the necks are different on these but feels way better than I remember the one on my old P was. Gonna try out one of those Yamahas if I can though, love the look of them.
    Typically, Fender PJ basses have Jazz necks on Precision bodies.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    edited October 19
    Typically, Fender PJ basses have Jazz necks on Precision bodies.
    There is certainly a fair bit of variation.

    The neck on my 2014 Squier VM Precision Special is a compromise width and profile. The Chris Aiken signature model is the correct width but "early Sixties shallow". 


    Back on topic, the Squier Affinity P Bass is a fine place from which to start. In the longer term, a few upgrades could turn it into a keeper. 


    Be seeing you.
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 3285
    edited December 2
    I might be depping for a band on bass soon (gigs are already booked) so reading this with interest. I have a Samick Fairlane at home but fancy something a bit meatier. I was looking at the Sub Ray 4 earlier, I think it looks/sounds great for the money but being a guitarist I don't know much about budget bass options.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    DiscoStu said:
    I was looking at the Sub Ray 4 
    The Indonesian-made S.U.B. Ray4 was one of those no-brainer choices, playable straight out of the box. (Like the original spec Squier VM Jazz Bass from the same factory.) In the longer term, some of its parts might benefit from upgrading but not immediately.

    Regrettably, in an attempt to keep the price down, the S.U.B. Ray4 is now made in China. The ones I have seen and handled are inferior to the Indonesian ones.

    Buy used.

    DiscoStu said:
    Samick Fairlane
    Which exact variant? You might be able to get what you need by upgrading its pickup(s), controls and bridge. The overall build quality will be roughly equivalent to the old S.U.B.

    Be seeing you.
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  • DiscoStu said:
    I might be depping for a band on bass soon (gigs are already booked) so reading this with interest. I have a Samick Fairlane at home but fancy something a bit meatier. I was looking at the Sub Ray 4 earlier, I think it looks/sounds great for the money but being a guitarist I don't know much about budget bass options.
    What's your budget? I might be looking to move on my Ibanez SR500 4-string as I'm perilously close to pulling the trigger on a 5-string version. Would be willing to sell for £300. 

    https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/ibanez-sr500-soundgear-4-string-bass-brown-mahogany
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 3285
    edited December 2
    DiscoStu said:
    I was looking at the Sub Ray 4 
    The Indonesian-made S.U.B. Ray4 was one of those no-brainer choices, playable straight out of the box. (Like the original spec Squier VM Jazz Bass from the same factory.) In the longer term, some of its parts might benefit from upgrading but not immediately.

    Regrettably, in an attempt to keep the price down, the S.U.B. Ray4 is now made in China. The ones I have seen and handled are inferior to the Indonesian ones.

    Buy used.

    DiscoStu said:
    Samick Fairlane
    Which exact variant? You might be able to get what you need by upgrading its pickup(s), controls and bridge. The overall build quality will be roughly equivalent to the old S.U.B.


    Mine's the FN-4V. Really nice bit of kit but maybe just a bit tame for the grunge/punk thing I might be getting involved with. I won't be changing anything until I know that it's a band I'm going to continue with.

    Here's my Fairlane (stock pic), can you get meatier pickups for this style?

    https://media.mydukkan.com/image/29270/Samick.SamickGregBennettFairlaneFN429270.jpg

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    What you have there is regular Jazz Bass type circuit - passive single coil pickups, controlled by individual volume pots and a master treble roll off tone control. 

    It is possible to directly retrofit pickups of higher output, pickups that are noise-cancelling, active pickups (louder and noise-cancelling) and/or active EQ controls for increased tonal variety.

    During your prospective band’s probational period, you can probably extract beefier sounds from the Fairlane by means of a compressor pedal or rack.
    Be seeing you.
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 3285
    edited December 2
    Cheers @Funkfingers. I've been looking at the SD Quarter Pound set tonight, maybe worth upgrading to anyway, regardless of how/if this band thing goes.
    I've got Zoom B3 which I've been playing around with tonight, it sounds pretty decent with the Muff settings on, it's just when I switch them off that the dry tone sounds weak and floppy.
    I really need to get my head round multifx cos a lot of the solutions are probably in there. Same goes for my G3X for guitar.

    That Ray 4 does look tasty though!
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  • steamabacussteamabacus Frets: 957
    DiscoStu said:
    I might be depping for a band on bass soon (gigs are already booked) so reading this with interest. I have a Samick Fairlane at home but fancy something a bit meatier. I was looking at the Sub Ray 4 earlier, I think it looks/sounds great for the money but being a guitarist I don't know much about budget bass options.
    A friend has a Sub and it's a good bass. It did require a replacement of the circuit board though after the active cicuit shorted and burned the board.

    He recently bought a cheap Harley Benton Musicman-style bass (around £150) for his busking band and said he thinks it's better than the Sub. I did a bit of fettling of the Harley Benton last week (didn't need much, just a tweak of the truss rod and some filing/rounding of the fingerboard/fret ends for feel. It was pretty good 'out of the box') and it's a decent bass.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    DiscoStu said:
    I've been looking at the SD Quarter Pound set tonight, maybe worth upgrading to anyway, regardless of how/if this band thing goes.
    Your money, your decision. 

    I confess that I am not the greatest fan of SD QP pickups for any instrument. 
    Be seeing you.
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 3285
    DiscoStu said:
    I've been looking at the SD Quarter Pound set tonight, maybe worth upgrading to anyway, regardless of how/if this band thing goes.
    Your money, your decision. 

    I confess that I am not the greatest fan of SD QP pickups for any instrument. 
    What would you suggest?
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5355
    I suggest that you begin by measuring the length of the plastic cover of each pickup. This will determine which replacement pickups can fit the routs without modification.
    Be seeing you.
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