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Are Sadowsky Basses Worth The Money?

Are Sadowsky Basses Worth The Money?


Sadowsky basses have become one of the most formidable J-style basses on the planet. The Sadowsky is famous for being a scaled-down Jazz bass with a durable, reliable and highly-customizable build with a killer preamp.

Sadowsky basses have achieved great recognition for their quality and playability. Each bass is meticulously engineered with the best-in-business components, high-end electronics, exceptional construction. They are often viewed as lifetime instruments built and designed by one of the best luthiers of our time.

A Sadowsky bass has more active juice than the nicest Pro Fender J. The VTC preamp is awesome at imitating a P-bass. It gets very close to the slap tone of an EBMM SR (5ver). It sounds great in a mid-scooped metal setting. And you can dial in a convincing passive Fender style tone for Motown, soul and blues. 

Each of those sounds is memorable, and it is hard to find such versatility in a bass guitar kit without spending a lot of money.

If you are a one-bass person, a Sadowsky NYC bass could very well become the mainstay of your rig for the rest of your life. It has a distinct hi-fi tonality, highly customizable build and extraordinary craftsmanship. 

Sadowsky basses can go up against other boutique builds priced much higher and come out on top. Musicians may or may not think they are overpriced but few people think they are overrated.

Sadowsky is also well-known for its outstanding customer care.

Sadowsky bass construction

If you value an artisan-build with superlative construction, the Sadowsky is worth every penny of the price tag.

Sadowsky basses adhere to high-quality standards. Despite the brand’s success, the company has repelled offers to mass-produce the NYC line and insists on handcrafting each instrument to uphold its reputation. 

Every Sadowsky I have ever played had immaculate fretwork, near-perfect intonation, exquisite neck-feel and excellent weight-balance. The action on the instruments can go as low (if not lower) than anything else on the bass market.

Roger Sadowski’s years of working on j-basses helped him understand what is lacking in the current crop and how to move it closer to the demands of professional bassists. That is what Sadowsky is about – taking the best design and making it better.

Every little detail can change the fundamental tone of a note. There are various vital processes like truing the fretboard, cutting the nut, selecting tonewoods and matching it with electronics.

Sadowsky’s high-end boutique basses have a mastery of all these elements and offer a lot of customizable options combined with top-shelf components.

Sadowsky bass tone

‘Hi-fi tones in a classic build with modern/active electronics’.

The Sadowsky bass tone is this distinct tone, often called the super-jazz tone, that everyone loves. A big chunk of it can be dedicated to the onboard active preamp. Sadowsky preamps are famous for a hi-fi modern J-bass tone that is bright and cuts through the mix like a boss. 

Thanks to the EQ filter, first-rate pots and sensitivity response, you can typically run it through a DI without an amp or pedals and get a ready-to-mix tone out of the box.

The tone on a Sadowsky is exceptionally even across the entire fretboard. The 4-knob control panel has a VTC knob (Vintage Tone Control). The VTC is basically a passive control knob that allows you to dial in or dial out ‘the modern hi-fi’ sounds to get a thick and warm vintage-y low-end. The knob does a respectable P-bass approximation. 

The bass can sound burpy and nasty with the treble boosted, which isn’t a bad thing. The only downside is that neither the 3 nor the 4 knobs onboard preamp have any mid control and it certainly reflects in the sound.

For some, the Sadowskys are the Holy Grail of a J-Bass tone, often described as sharp, hi-fi, bright and modern. It works great for any style, especially fusion, funk, smooth jazz, gospel and R&B. 

The Sadowsky tone was all the rage in the 90s. To some, it may sound dated compared to some other ultra-modern boutique builds.

Sadowsky vs Fender basses

We often hear how ‘Leo Fender’ got it right and no one has ever been able to outdo the original Fender J-Bass. Well, Sadowsky did it well enough to earn the “super jazz” nickname – a jazz bass on steroids. The real question is can the bass justify the difference in price?

The Fenders still rule the under $2000 bass guitars when it comes to value. A passive Fender is great for people who don’t like the ‘glass’ of modern electronics. The Fender has more warmth and a softer tonal palette.

The Sadowsky is wide and loves to sizzle and burp. The huge price difference is difficult to justify unless you really want the hi-fi Super-J tone.

However, when it comes to that Super-J tone, the active Fenders can’t compete with the Sadowsky at any level. Then again, comparing the mass-produced Fenders to the handcrafted Sadowsky is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

You can pitch the Custom Shop Jazz versus a spec’d out Sadowsky and see what your ears prefer. The verdict will depend on whether you like the warmth and sweetness of a Fender Custom Shop build or the active/modern Super-J Sadowsky tone – a highly subjective choice.

Despite the back and forth, the Sadowsky beats the Fender in value based on components, construction, and consistency. You need to play a handful of Fenders before you can find a ‘great’ bass. Sadowskys are faultlessly consistent in quality control and every bass is set up and checked to a T by Roger himself. 

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