Why online reviews are often sketchy at best
Many people are hunting online for bass guitar reviews and for just about anything associated with the electric bass, from strings to amps and everywhere in between – you may even have ended up here at Bass Guitar Rocks because you were researching bass guitar necks or how to eq your bass amp. While there are plenty of review sites out there, I’m going to offer you my opinion on why you need to take what you find with a heaping grain of salt, allow me to explain…
Exhibit A: Mostly positive Bass Guitar Reviews
Pick a bass guitar review – any bass guitar review and chances are it will more often than not be positive. I was about to demonstrate this by visiting a well known instrument review site – Harmony Central – but for whatever reason their site is down as I write this (I was going to pick a random instrument from a random manufacturer and read the score of the first review I found and let you know if it was positive or not, but you can try this out yourself and let me know how it works out for you!).
Anyway, I’m willing to bet my blog that the majority of the reviews you find online, whether you’re reading bass guitar amp reviews or an acoustic bass guitar reviews, they will be positive more often than not. The reason for this is that some of the most prevalent reviews on the internet fall into one of the following categories:
- It’s either an affiliate link where the person reviewing the product stands to get a percentage of the sale if you click on a link and procede to buy the instruments
- It’s a personal review from someone that just bought the item and is completely in love with it.
In the case of the first review, the affiliate is not going to say anything potentially negative because that would go against their goal of making some money. In fact if you’ve landed upon a particular shady review site you may only find copied or vague information on the bass as if the reviewer hasn’t actually played it or examined it in person before writing the review. This is obviously a bad source of information.
As for the personal review, chances are they are highly biased about the instrument they just bought. They may write well and whole-heartedly believe everything that they’ve written about the instrument but they could be a little off on their assessment for two reasons. One – they’re still in the Honeymoon phase where the flaws of the instrument are either unnoticed, ignored or downplayed. The other reason for this is that once somebody has made the decision to purchase a particular item they’ve decided to completely buy into the product (hook, line and sinker as they say). They’ve also put up at the very least a couple of hundred dollars and don’t want to look like an idiot for buying a piece of garbage. This goes double for those that choose to buy a bass out of popular consensus of opinions on their favourite bass guitar forum rather than find out what they really want for themselves.
Exhibit B: Most Negative Bass Guitar Reviews are Useless
Maybe my memory is just that bad, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a good, honest and critical review that happened to be negative. Most of what you’ll find are intellectual tidbits like “This bass sucks for $2,500 – Fodera rocks!” – really helpful stuff eh?
Apparently when people start researching by reading, say Ibanez bass guitar reviews (or any other manufacturer for that matter) they’re often not looking so much for the good reviews but they’re looking for bad ones. At this stage they’ve just about made up their mind but they want that last bit of security that they’re about to make a smart purchase; so they do some due dilligence and see if any negative reviews show up in Google for the make and model of the bass guitar that they’re about to commit to buying.
I’m not saying that there is zero negative information out there, don’t get me wrong. Often the biggest complaint that I’ve seen tends to fall more in the customer service department; many times its directed at a bass manufacturer or a retail outlet. You may also read negative comments about one bass guitar in a generally positive review of an altogether different instrument. Again, even this can be misleading because it’s human nature to favour the new over the old; again you have to wait for the Honeymoon effect to wear off.
So where are you going to find good, honest reviews if you can’t trust most of either the positive or negative reviews that you find online? The reviews that I’m more likely to trust are those from qualified bassists who don’t actually own the instruments that they review. The fact that they don’t own the instrument gives them little reason to overlook any perceived short-comings of the instrument. However, there is a drawback to this type of review as well – they’re generally only found in publications like Bass Player magazine or Bass Gear magazine. While I don’t dispute the journalistic integrity of either of these publications, there is a possible conflict of interest anytime a magazine has potentially bad things to say about the product of one of their advertisers.
To be fair, I have a lot of respect for how Bass Player magazine reviews their products. I was a long-time subscriber and learned a lot of what to look for in a good quality bass from their bass guitar reviews and even their bass guitar string reviews.
The best advice I can give is for you to research thoroughly before you make a purchase, especially if you’re going to spend more than $1,000. This means reading reviews – good and bad, on review sites, blogs and bass guitar magazines but most importantly – by trying out the bass for yourself.
Knowing what it is you’re looking for in a bass guitar will serve you well. Find out what type of electronics, woods, styling, feel and tone you’re looking for. If you’re not exactly sure…keep playing everything you can until you can effectively narrow down your options.
Once you have a solid idea of the type of bass guitar you’re looking for, you’ll be less likely to be swayed by positive reviews of other instruments that may look or sound cool, but don’t match up with your own particular requirements.
That’s my take on bass guitar reviews – I’d love to hear your comments below!