Is any bass better than a Fender?

Thoughts on the Sadowsky/Warwick team-up

By Jon Liebman
Week of January 6, 2020

This week, I published a fascinating interview with my old friend, legendary bass maker Roger Sadowsky. What made the interview even more special was the fact that we did it at the Warwick headquarters in Markneukirchen, Germany, during a two-day event celebrating the exclusive licensing and distribution agreement between Sadowsky Guitars and Warwick GmbH, helmed by Hans-Peter Wilfer.

As we got to talking, Roger recounted how he’d established his company in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s by making “Fender-style” basses. In those days, as Roger tells it, it was a requirement for session bass players to walk in to each session with Fender J or P bass. Fender was the standard, and everyone was expected to have one.

With that reality in mind, Roger developed his own line of basses, using the Fender model as a starting point, but adding his own twist. A bold move, perhaps, keeping in mind that Leo Fender got just about everything right, pretty much right from the start. It didn’t take long, though, till Sadowsky basses began capturing the attention of some of New York’s elite players, including Marcus Miller and Will Lee. 

So, with the industry so deeply entrenched in a Fender-only requisite, why would a bass maker want to build anything else?

Even before Roger began marketing his own basses, he spent a lot of time repairing and modifying existing Fenders. Recognizing the needs of the working musician for things like retruing fingerboards, refretting, shielding electronics, and upgrading hardware, Roger found himself in high demand. Add to that his genuine passion for wood, specifically the acoustic qualities of wood, and there’s no doubt the guy’s really into what he does!

Initially, one thing that made his instruments stand out was the Sadowsky pre-amp. As one of the early bass makers to install active electronics into instruments, Roger’s pre-amp dramatically improved the overall bass sound, enabling it to cut through the mix, both live and in the studio. The pre-amp, Roger says, was a huge catalyst in establishing his reputation in the bass world.

As he begins this new chapter in his life and career, Roger is looking forward to spending more time making basses, and less time running his business. I couldn’t be happier for him. 

As for whether anything can be “better” than a Fender, I’ll just say that I’ve played an awful lot of basses over the years, including some classic late ‘50s and early ‘60s Fender J and P basses, and a few 2019 Sadowsky basses. I love great basses, but I love them differently. Don’t make me choose one over any of the others!

Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Roger here.

Comments on Is any bass better than a Fender?

  1. Alvin Campbell says:

    One thing about Fender basses, even though they are getting pretty pricey, the average joe, can usually afford one. Some of the high end basses, that could go for as much as 10K or better, unfortunately will only be a dream for most of us.

  2. Chet Perry says:

    I love my Sadowsky Verdine White Signature model. I think I ordered the first one! Thank you so much Roger and Verdine!

  3. Terri Templeman says:

    I love my short scale Univox.

  4. marcus davis says:

    I was never into the Fender Precisions ,ones that I had played seemed very fragile.I do like the Fender Jazz Basses though,they’re tailor made to play any style or genre.

  5. G.N. says:

    Fenders are classic, classic sounds on classic recordings. All my favorite bass players use them.
    And…….I have a G & L J-4 that rocks!

  6. Francisco Huizar says:

    I played many fender basses in my youth. Born in 1960, really great used fender basses were available to learn on when I was in my teens. Since then I have owned bunches including custom-made Master piece basses. The truth is I still really miss the 1960 Jazz I picked up while doing missionary work South of the border. I also had 72’ just like the one Geddy Lee talks about.
    Wish I had them back, but I don’t really play out any more so I at least hope they’re still making great music somewhere for someone.

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