Buying Used

bass-neck.jpg So you saw that bass of your dreams on eBay/Craigslist/local newspaper, and costs much less than new. There may even be some pictures, and everything looks good. Should you buy it? Short answer: probably. Buying used can be a great way to get that instrument you’ve wanted that is slightly out of your budget new, or just a way to get the one you want cheaper, but of course there are things to look out for.

Let’s start with eBay- it is an extremely popular way to buy/sell instruments. There are a few ways to buy on eBay, such as bidding, “Buy It Now” (BIN), or “best offer”; all of which have their advantages. But first thing’s first, you have to read the description and look at the pictures to figure out if you really want it. Also do some homework on the seller; click through their feedback and see if they sell guitars/basses frequently. Have they had any neutral/negative feedback due to slow shipping or bad packaging? You will probably not get to see the instrument in person before you buy it, so ask the seller questions. Ask them to email you more pictures. How recently has it been set up? Does it have new strings or should you plan on shelling out another $20-30 for new ones? Are the frets worn? While the buyer can’t flat out lie to you in the description (you can file a complaint, which can lead to the seller’s account being frozen by eBay), it is your responsibility to find out as much as possible before handing out your hard earned money.

Craigslist and your local paper can be great, too. There is not the variety of a world-wide market such as eBay, but there are plenty of deals to be had. The seller is usually local, so you can see it before you buy it. You still want to ask those crucial questions; you can’t tell everything by looking. Sometimes you can talk them down on the price, just depends on your negotiating skills. If you are uncomfortable meeting a seller at their house ask them to meet you in public somewhere. Take a friend with you if you want, just use your good judgement. 99% of the time the seller is just trying to make some money, not rob/kill you.

Pawn shops can offer deals, but this is where “buyer beware” really comes into play. Just about every pawn shop I’ve ever seen has instruments, but they may or may not be stolen. Also, the shop keeper probably doesn’t know much about the instrument, so if you ask “is the neck maple or mahagony” the guy will probably say “I dunno, some guy brought that in a few days ago”. This can work to your advantage sometimes, though. Maybe they have an American Fender, but they don’t know anything about instruments and have it priced as an import. The bass could have modifications that make it worth much more, but they have it priced as if it were stock. I actually bought my first bass at a pawn shop- a Washburn 5-string. I probably overpaid a little, which was my fault, but I was very happy with it.

The bottom line is use your good judgement. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are scammers out there, but most people out there are just honest folks trying to sell their beloved guitar/bass to pay the bills.

Rock Band Gets A Bass

madcatzfenderbass.jpg Mad Catz has released a replica Fender Precision Bass controller for Rock Band 2. Personally, I am terrible at Guitar Hero/Rock Band and would rather play a real guitar/bass, but to each their own. The Mad Catz bass guitar is larger and longer than a standard Rock Band guitar, and it features a split strum bar, which is meant to encourage fingerpicking with two fingers. That is pretty cool, but it’s $80 and it’s not even wireless. It is pretty well made and looks cool, but 80 bucks is a lot of money.

Bass Multi Effects Pedals: Boss vs Line 6 vs DigiTech

Multi Effects are cool. They are a lot of fun to play around with, and you can use them for computer recording. There are pretty much three catagories: really cheap crappy ones that aren’t worth the money, mid-level units that are often pretty good, and really expensive units that are “studio quality”. Today we are talking mid-level, between $150-$220 brand new. And the candidates are:
me20b.jpgBoss ME-20B

The ME-20B’s metal body and intuitive design make it a popular choice for gigging or for jamming in the bedroom. It is probably the most solidly built of the three, but it is also the most expensive at $220. Many say it has the best sound quality of the three also, but it has minor setbacks. There are three pedals that make for easy layering on the fly, but this also means you can’t use two effects from the same group at the same time (ex: no phaser and flanger together). If you can live with this, then this is an excellent pedal.
floorpod.jpgLine 6 Bass Floor Pod
The Bass Floor Pod’s bread and butter is helping you find a tone to color your amp, or for DI recording. It lacks the versitility of the ME-20B, and is notorious for its delay when changing between presets, making it difficult to use in a live situation. Some say the sound quality is a step down from the Boss, but there are good tones available if you can find them. At $200, it is $20 cheaper than the ME-20B, but if you already have 200 bucks, I’m sure you can find 20 more.
bp200.jpgDigiTech BP200
As the cheapest of the three units, the DigiTech brings up another issue: value. It is hard to compare an Accord to a Corvette. Ok, that is a stretch, but the BP200 is only $150, $70 less than the Boss. It doesn’t sound quite as good note for note with the Boss, but no one really expects it to. In its favor, it doesn’t suffer from the Boss’s combining effects issue, as you can use up to 11 at once. That is pretty cool, but who uses 11 effects at once anyways? The BP200 is the only one of the three that has a drum machine; more features, less money= good idea. If you are on a budget, this is the way to go.

So which one wins??
That is up to you. How much money do you want to spend? Are you going to gig with it, record with it, just jam at home with it? Do you want to combine lots of effects?
I recommend you try them all yourself if you can before buying, but personally:
If you want the best tone: Boss ME-20B
the best for gigs: Boss ME-20B
the most layered effects: DigiTech BP200
the best value: DigiTech BP200
the easiest to use: Line 6 Floor Pod
Overall: gotta go with the Boss ME-20B

The Great Debate

Tubes or solid state? They both have their advantages and disadvantages, so which one should you go with? And yes, there definitely is a difference.

Solid state is cheaper. That appeals to a lot of people, and for casual bedroom players, solid state is often enough. One of its advantages is that it actually responds better to being played at lower volumes. Tubes like being played loud, and by that I mean they break up at louder volumes and really add that warm tube overdrive to your distortion. Solid state sounds the same at any volume because it is digitally created by computer chips. This also means the solid state amps require less maintenance; no tubes to replace.

100-watt Tube amps will blow away 100-watt solid state amps in terms of perceived loudness. Solid state amps often come equipped with digital effects that can sound decent and save you money on effects. Tube amps typically don’t come with effects, but you can often buy pedal and rack effects that are much better than those that come with the solid state amps.
Basically, 1. how much money do you want to spend 2. what are you using it for; as in bedroom, local bar, etc. Keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for, and try lots of things before you make a decision. Happy shredding!!

Beware of the Music123 credit card

SD in New Jersey said: “I bought a guitar from on August of 2007. As part of the promo for signing up with their Music123 Card, it was stated that an additional 10% will be deducted from my purchase price after 60 days. In addition, Music123 has a price match guarantee that lasts for 45 days. Now, I found a merchant that sells the guitar for about $40 less. I promptly called Music123 about this (this was way before the 45 day time period) and they readily deducted the difference from my account.

Months passed. In December of that year, I checked my account and noticed that the 10% off was still not reflected. I called up Music123 and they made me call HSBC to fix it. Now HSBC claimed that I need to call Music123 for this. I called up music123 again, and now they claimed that the 10% was already awarded to me!!! Upon further investigation, they thought the price match they granted WAS the 10% discount. Now, they promised to contact HSBC about this and resolve it. They also promised to call me back about it. They did not keep their word. This went on for a few months until I got tired of it and gave up. I did call HSBC again in the meantime, and surprise surprise, they referred me back to Music123.”

(report courtesy of Household – HSBC Watch)

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