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Alembic Club » Alembic Basses & Guitars » Archive through February 24, 2005 » For Mica or Val - Info wanted on Series I « Previous Next »

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Intermediate Member
Username: ajdover

Post Number: 172
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Saturday, January 29, 2005 - 6:22 pm:   Edit Post


I'm in the Korea at the moment, and had the opportunity to go by the Nakwon musical instrument market in downtown Seoul. I found a store that had a an '81 Series I, SN 81 1798. Was wondering if you could provide some info.

The instrument is in fairly nice shape, the only flaws being backplates corroded in places, and one ding in the top. The bridge needs to be polished, and the strings are horribly old, and the bass was way out of tune. It also doesn't have an adjustable nut - not sure if that was the standard in '81, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. No LED's either.

I wanted to try it, but the guy who owned the shop was reluctant to pull out the power supply and let me play it. As a result I can't vouch for the electronics. Cost is W5,000,000, or $5K U.S., and includes the power supply and hard case. Seems a bit high to me. Funny, last time I was there he wanted $6K.


Username: lothartu

Post Number: 93
Registered: 8-2003
Posted on Saturday, January 29, 2005 - 7:37 pm:   Edit Post

Unless it's got something like really rare wood and/or special inlay work then $5k US sounds high to me also.
Intermediate Member
Username: ajdover

Post Number: 173
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Saturday, January 29, 2005 - 8:18 pm:   Edit Post

As far as I can tell, the wood isn't rare, but then again I'm not an expert. The inlays appear to be stock mother of pearl or whatever was standard in 1981. It also has a standard point body, and all of the knobs and switches appeared to work, but since I couldn't plug it in I couldn't tell if they had an impact on the sound, e.g., scratchy, dirty, etc.

What I've noticed here in Korea over four trips in the last 7 months is that they charge hideously high prices for anything imported. By way of example, an U.S. made MTD 435 goes (on the surface at least) for $5,400 U.S. I can get that same instrument at Bass Central for close to half or three-quarters of that. Same goes for amplifiers. I looked at an Ampeg BA-115 (I own one back home) that had a price tag of $900 U.S. I paid less than half that for mine. Korean made stuff is much cheaper, though (of course). I paid about $320 for my Ovation CC074 acoustic electric, and a custom made gig bag cost me $60 more. Not bad for under $400 when you consider they're going on Ebay for over $500 or so.

In better hotels here, they charge $350 U.S. for a bottle of Vodka and $8.00 for a beer, so I shouldn't be surprised at how much things cost. Things can be had cheaper, but you really need to look and haggle.

Senior Member
Username: poor_nigel

Post Number: 482
Registered: 7-2003
Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2005 - 3:34 am:   Edit Post

Hey Alan. Something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. I would be willing to pay $2,500 to $3,000, from decent to near mint condition. $3,500 to $4,000 if it were quite unique and beautiful. From what you said, this is not the case. Regardless of what it is worth in Seoul to the locals, it sounds like a poor deal here in the US. But that is just my opinion, and should be taken as such.
Username: dfung60

Post Number: 57
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2005 - 7:45 am:   Edit Post

I too feel that the asking price is pretty high, although it may not be out of line for a high-end Alembic located overseas. The seller is watching the new retail prices of the instruments, but at the time it was new, it would probably have been $2600 in the US. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean anything now, but that does explain why the used prices of old Alembics has such a huge gap from new retail instruments.

Even if the shop manager doesn't want to pull out the power supply, you can check out most of the electronics using the 1/4" plug with a regular guitar cord. To use it, you will need to make sure that there are two 9-volt batteries which are in the compartment with a round cover that sits on the centerline of the back of the bass (e.g. on the back of the neck strip).

Older instruments like this usually have stereo output on this 1/4" jack, so you'll normally only hear the bridge pickup when you plug in. But you can fully test the bridge pickup volume, tone, and Q-switch. Volume is as you'd expect; to test tone, put the Q-switch in the "down" position and the tone knob should act like a regular tone control when you turn it. Flip the Q-switch up and it will almost sound like a wah pedal when you turn the knob. The middle position will be in between.

The pickup selector (normally a teardrop shaped knob on the lower bout) is set up to be 1) neck pickup alone, 2) both pickups, 3) bridge pickup alone, 4) standby (no output). So, if you're plugged into the 1/4" jack, you'll only hear output in 2 of the 4 positions!

You can actually test the neck pickup too, although the store owner will probably start freaking out now. Pull the plug out gently while the amp is on (low level please!) maybe about 3/16" and you'll find that the contact for the other pickup may engage. You can then test out the other set of knobs, Q-switch and the rest of the pickup switch. You'll get the kind of noises that come with the plug only being partially in though.

Or you can just leave the plug fully in, and make a face when the neck pickup doesn't work and tell him that you won't pay more than $700. It probably won't work, but at least they'll dig out the power supply then.

Good luck

David Fung
Username: valvil

Post Number: 632
Registered: 7-2002
Posted on Monday, January 31, 2005 - 12:08 pm:   Edit Post

Hello Alan,

here's what we have:

1981 medium scale series I bass
Koa top & back
mahogany body
maple/purpleheart neck
Ebony fretboard
Schaller tuners
Mother of Pearl Oval inlays
Completed 3/18/81
That's it.

Intermediate Member
Username: ajdover

Post Number: 174
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 12:48 am:   Edit Post


Thanks for the info.


Appreciate all the insights and comments. I wasn't considering buying it unless the price was extremely right, and it isn't. I could offer the guy less, but it is a Standard Point body which I don't care for. In fact, I'll risk heresy here and state that I'm not a fan of the Standard Point, Omegas, Triple Omegas, Pistol Grips, etc. Nothing wrong with them, just not my thing. While it's true that I own a Spyder and a Dragon's Wing (as well as a Europa), they don't have points sticking out of the back end right behind the bridge, or cut outs where one's knee would be when sitting down. One could make the argument that my Alembics are pointy in their own way (and they are!), but not to the degree that a standard point or omega is. Again, this is all my opinion, so please don't run me out of the club! :-)

Regarding actually playing it, I've noticed that most of the dealers here are reticent to let an American play an instrument unless it's very clear to the vendor that the foreigner in question has the cash up front and shows it to the dealer. Some are more willing, some less.

As far as price goes, most American or European made instruments and equipment sold here are two to three times their cost in their home countries, at least on the surface anyway. I'm sure this is due to import duties and all, but sorry, I'm not going to pay more than something is reasonably worth, regardless of where I'm at. $5K for that instrument is, IMHO, too much, particularly given there is nothing "special" about it (if Alembics can be considered not special!).

And nigel is right - it's only worth what someone's willing to pay for it (witness $300 tickets to listen to Barbra Streisand - I wouldn't pay $3, but others would pay full price). My guess is that that instrument will remain socked away in this guy's cubicle for the next year or so until he figures out that until he lowers the price, no one's going to seriously consider buying it.

All of this being said, I'm going to take the info to the guy so he has it for the next person who might be interested in it.

Senior Member
Username: poor_nigel

Post Number: 486
Registered: 7-2003
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 2:56 pm:   Edit Post

Hey Alan: If you have $5K to burn on an Alembic, you might want to check this one out.

It is back at Bass Northwest, again, and again . . . It is a great looking bass, but it must be very neck heavy or something (I read somewhere on here that it is quite neck heavy), as it keeps coming back to the shop shortly after being sold. I have been sitting on the fence considering this bass, as it is pretty special. It comes very close to being what I want in a five string, but not quite. It is a 97, so may need the electronics upgrade, which is cheaper for a newer one ($800?). $5K is not a bad price for this bass, but is still enough of a chunk of change, as to want to consider carefully before spending. Good luck on your quest for an Alembic, if you are on one.
Username: byoung

Post Number: 18
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 9:18 pm:   Edit Post

I have played the Series II at Bass NW. It is a very nice bass, but the pictures at don't reveal some flaws:

The tip of the crown on the headstock looks like it got dinged against a wall. It looked like it had white paint embedded in the finish from the impact.

It has a ding on the bottom (the lowermost edge, beneath the controls).

It has a big, sliding ding on the back-- imagine the strap came loose, and you grabbed it as it slid down against your belt buckle or something like that. Not through the finish, as far as I can remember.

Some of the control knobs were cracked and/or had missing bits (I know this isn't a huge expense, but those are reasonably durable plastic-- what exactly caused them to break?).

I suspect that to some people, the above could be considered "normal" wear & tear, but I'm a bit sensitive.

It did not have any noise or anything wierd-- the location of Bass NW (for those who don't know, Bass NW is located in Pioneer Square, and there are many technology companies, a wireless hotspot 3 doors down, etc. in the area) ought to have exposed any RF problems.

The bass is otherwise beautiful; the hippie sandwich is a really nice combo. If it was less dingy, I'd own it.

Please don't take this as a contraindication to purchase; I think it was a very nice bass. I just wanted y'all to have a "field report".

Intermediate Member
Username: ajdover

Post Number: 175
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, February 03, 2005 - 11:54 pm:   Edit Post


I'm not a five string player - necks always seem way too wide to me. The way I see it, Jaco and Stanley did it all with four strings, so ... In any event, 5 or 6 strings aren't going to make me a better player.

On the other hand, I realize some guys like the low B, etc., adds dimension to their sound...
And yes, there are times when the music calls for an extended range bass. For me, I just tune down.

I will admit that I've yet to hear a five string player with an amplification system that can truly replicate those low frequencies without sounding like muddle. I mean, some folks will go out and get a 6, 7, 8 string, but use nothing but 10" speakers? I don't get it. If the whole purpose is to go lower, I should think one would want the speakers and power amps to match. I know there are guys in this club who've done just that with excellent results.

The instrument you refer to is truly a nice instrument, but not something for me. And no, I'm not on an Alembic hunt ... hell, still have to pay off the Dragon's Wing!


Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1306
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 6:34 am:   Edit Post

Brad; thanks for the field report!
Senior Member
Username: poor_nigel

Post Number: 487
Registered: 7-2003
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 7:13 am:   Edit Post

Brad, thanks very much for the scoop on the fiver at Bass NW. I live on the other coast, so stopping by to check it out is not a light option. I think I will just forget about that bass, and keep looking.

Hey Alan, I use 21" P. Audios, and my Tobias fiver sounds great through them. I understand why many players go for the 10"s and 12"s. They are light, bright, and fit their playing style. I just like the deep, clearness of larger speakers on E's and B's. I use 10"s for mid range. Fits my style of playing and gives me the sound I am looing for. I like playing four and five-string basses, though it did take me a couple of months to not space out on the B, thinking it was the E string. My fingers are probably too stubby to enjoy a six string. Five is as many strings as I can handle, I think.
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 746
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 7:56 am:   Edit Post

Seeing a bass change hands that many times makes you wonder, TK. If there were something really exceptional in the tone or feel of the instrument, I would expect a buyer to look past some of the flaws and bond with it. This thing as been owned by at least four people, none of whom felt that they couldn't let it go. It's a bit of an anomaly and not what I would expect.

That said, there's someone out there who will think that this bass fits them perfectly. It just seems that this bass is having a harder than average time locating its owner.

Personally, I am watching for a Balance or Balance-K fiver on the used market. It may be a couple years before they start to appear, so that will require more patience than the wait for a custom.

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