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I am really hesitant to buy a $350 bass online for fear of the intonation or something like that being unacceptable. The model that I want to buy is currently not available in stores otherwise I would test it out in a store. Am I being too judgmental? From my experience these lower priced instruments go through relaxed quality control.

I once bought a $300 Fender acoustic guitar (w/ case) and the intonation was HORRIBLE!

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dvdhawk Wed, 05/17/2017 - 21:35

I've bought several basses and electric guitars online and been perfectly happy with them. If it's a good-quality, solid-body bass, you can always adjust the intonation yourself. If you're not confident doing neck adjustments yourself, you might want to leave that to a professional. But if the action is good, intonation can be done by just about anybody with a tuner and a screwdriver.

I'd be more concerned about the electronics in a bass. Changing out the pick-ups on a bass is a much bigger project (and a lot more expensive) than swapping guitar pickups. I bought (and subsequently sold) a bass locally that was lovely to look at, had good action, but to get a good low tone out of it you had to max-out the bass knob, scoop out most of the mids, and roll off some treble. I'd much rather have a bass that sounds good with all the tone controls centered, so I've got room to adjust. I would have never bought it by itself, but it was part of a nice package deal that included a good USA Fender 5-string J-Bass, and a nice little Tele. Replacing the pick-ups was going to be an expensive gamble, so I sold it and was glad to see it go.

Acoustics are a whole different topic, I'd definitely want to hear it and play it before I bought it. For the last acoustic I bought, I went to a well-stocked music store and played about 40-50 before I found the one I was going to bring home.

Last year I bought 2 G&L basses on eBay. Both of them are great, UPS bunged one of them up a little bit in shipping, but I decided to keep it because it still sounds fantastic. I've had good luck online with basses, Strats, Teles, 335s - to name a few.

DonnyThompson Thu, 05/18/2017 - 03:14

If you are buying new, most online stores offer pretty fair terms for returning their stuff - exceptions being software - the rub to this is that you might end up sending your choices back several times. Which would kinda be a PITA.
if buying used from eBay, I think that you can pay a few bucks extra for a "guarantee" insurance, that if you don't like it you can send it back for a refund. Sone sellers offer this too.
But again, you'd have to ship it back.
Have you considered looking at pawn shops? There are lots of decent deals there. Often, the seller just wants what's due on the account, the loan amount covered or just a little profit on top of what the original customer owed before they decided to not go get their items back.
I'm not hinting that you'd get a 60's Goldtop LP for a hundred bucks - those shop owners aren't stupid - but you may end up with a bass guitar that would be worth far more than what you end up paying. Plus... you could play it first. ;)
It may end up needing some work; intonation, action, etc., but you could buy play a brand new guitar at a retail store that also needed adjustment.
GC has lots of guitars, but I've only ever played one right off the wall that played decently. (FWIW it was a Taylor acoustic)
Any other time I tried guitars there, I always felt they would need custom/personal set ups anyway; for how I like a guitar to feel and play.

As a final note - I love privately owned music stores, places where they know your name, and who know that you know what instruments and accessories are really worth... and I'd much rather deal with places like these - but they have all but disappeared here in this area, taken over by the big national chains, and the few of these small private stores that do remain can't compete, so they now specialize in either pianos or band instruments.

IMHO of course ;)

paulears Thu, 05/18/2017 - 06:01

Like Donny says - if you can put with returns, and the faff - then it's no real problem. Would I drive 30 miles to play it rather than post? Yes. How about 100 miles? Not so sure, 200 miles plus - post every time. However, I've found that phoning them really works. Yo tell them that you only want it if they check the action and intonation, because unless it's right, you don't want it. Even Thomann, a huge german on-line store will get one of their guys to unbox something, check it, tweak it and then repackage if you ask - because they don't like returns either! If you ask - they'll get somebody who knows to play it before dispatch. That's all I do, and never ben disappointed yet.

dvdhawk Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:21

I've heard it suggested that all the big box stores (music, building supplies, etc.) are full of "not quite 100% A-Stock" merchandise. Things might pass QC, but not represent the manufacturere's best work. It's something makes sense, when the buyer for the big box store squeezes the manufacturer for lower prices, something's got to give beyond quantity pricing.

DonnyThompson, post: 450330, member: 46114 wrote: GC has lots of guitars, but I've only ever played one right off the wall that played decently.

Not to mention the thousand others that came in before you straight from their job at the slaughterhouse to dazzled everyone with their rendition of Enter Sandman - with unwashed hands, and drooling all over the strings. A good electric bass or electric guitar sounds 'alive' even before you plug it in - if it's got grungy strings on it, it's a lot less apparent.

I've set foot in a GC maybe half a dozen times, I would NOT be disappointed if I never did again.

DonnyThompson Thu, 05/18/2017 - 15:12

Dr_Willie_OBGYN, post: 450355, member: 25832 wrote: This has me thinking. Maybe Guitar Center is trying to unload lemons on the wall.

Well, generally what I've seen at GC, at least the one near me on the west side of Cleveland, is that the higher up on the wall the guitar is hung, the higher the price it has.
I've noticed that they keep cheaper priced guitars hung lower - and even on guitar stands in the floor. Usually they'll be Mexican Fenders within reach, for those people that Dave mentioned ... guys who aren't buying anything but just wanna kill some time on their lunch break, scratching out painful renditions of Enter Sandman and Gimme Three Steps.
( I'm not knocking Mexican Fenders BTW. I've played some Mexican Strats and Teles that play and sound better than USA models).
The guitars that are hung higher and that require a staff member to get it down for you are models like $3000 LP's, custom shop stuff from Fender, Rick 12's, and expensive boutique models.
That doesn't necessarily mean that those model hung higher up will play any better though.
Last year I played an American Tele, priced around a grand, and it was terrible. It was neck-heavy, thin sounding and the intonation was way out. On a whim, I played a Mexican Tele and it sounded and felt great.
FWIW I didn't by either. Several months later I bought a G&L ASat Tele, and I love it.

pcrecord Thu, 05/18/2017 - 17:13

I wish you get a nice instrument!
Even if I'm a drummer, would never buy without trying it first and if I find one that sound good I want this one, not a new in the box in the bassment of the store. ;)

It's funny I read your thread today because I went to a pawn shop today and found a nice washburn (old but it sounded good). It needed a bit of love (strap older had rust and the bridge was a bit waved due to humidity)
I went home and got my prestine state Tanglewood to try an exchange (with added money).. I said to the guy the truth, I simply look for another sound. He started to look for pricing and a nice (not) lady came and proceeded to demonstrate my guitar was defective and she didn't wanted to buy it... I said the truth again, my guitar is better than any of yours in the store, so I would be leaving with your best one and leaving you your next best one.. he he he..
She said the other guitars were buy mistakes on there part. I just left... almost ran off !! ;)