I’ve been consistently happy with the U-bass aside from the tuner repair issue (probably self-inflicted when I wrapped the new strings too many times). It feels comfortable, it’s compact enough to use while sitting at the corner desk, and I love its mellow sound. It doesn’t cover all the bas(s)es, though, thus the Mikro, for a fretted, metal string, brighter sound and feel.
But the Mikro isn’t quite micro enough to be fully comfortable to me. Sometimes it’s absolutely great but sometimes things just don’t flow. And the overall body length can be awkward to maneuver without bumping the headstock into stuff. So I’ve searched for alternatives, and over the last week it came down to the finals.
MihaDo (FingyBass): they answered my Reverb message very quickly even on Easter Sunday. They are quite flexible about custom work, so they get some points there. But the price they quoted me for the selection I made, helped me realize that their lower prices come from corner cutting — specifically from simplified designs and cheap hardware. If you get more selective and ask for options more comparable to their competitors, the advantage disappears and even inverts. And while FingyBass owners generally seem happy, they have also mentioned the instruments are a bit “rough and ready” and “DIY-ish”, and one was planning to have a second instrument built with upgraded hardware.
The standard FingyBass body shape is not super appealing to me in 16″ and 18″, though at 22″ it’s a bit more graceful — and the B-style comes with added cost.
Wing Instruments (Wing NT): It seems a solid choice, but I did not contact them. They have a fairly long lead time (and I’ve heard, can be significantly longer than their website says). Their prices slightly higher than MÜB (and more still for custom options), and while they do look cool, they’re not quite as cool-looking; they seem more like an abbreviated bass guitar rather than their own sort of thing.
Maurizio Über Basses (Miezo): This was always one of the most eye-catching and classy small basses out there. Their prices did go up a few months ago, but are still significantly less than full-scale custom basses tend to be. There are a number of Miezo owners in the (subjectively) best thread on TalkBass, “Ambient/Post-Rock/Textural bass playing”, and they all love it. The luthier, Maurizio Caduto, has a great reputation, and there is a lot of attention to detail.
Communication with Maurizio has been great — he’s very friendly, has an obvious love of what he’s doing, and gives helpful advice about the various options based on my interests and concerns.
So I’ve gone ahead and put down a deposit on a Miezo 18, 5-string, with raintree body and ovangkol fretboard, and double-coil pickup.
This photo is not the exact one (different pickup I think, fancier electronics, and 6 strings), but a sample image he sent to show what those wood choices generally look like.
The wood choice was between raintree (aka monkeypod) and nyatoh for the body, and ovangkol or ironwood for the fretboard (other options possible for a fee). Maurizio gave some description of their (alleged) tonal qualities. I’m personally somewhat neutral/skeptical on the importance of “tonewood” when the pickups are electromagnetic, but he’s the experienced luthier and I’m the relatively new and casual bass player. All the choices are valid ones though and I don’t think there’s a wrong combo. So I made my choices due to the woods’ appearance and sustainability, partially influenced by Maurizio’s apparent enthusiasm for raintree.
The tuning with regular bass strings is B1-G3 (one octave above a typical 5-string bass) or A1-F3 (a fourth above a “hi C” 5-string). This is basically cello range. It’s pretty common to use octave pedals with instruments like this; I have find that the free Pitchproof VST plugin works extremely well.
I didn’t ask for a time estimate on the build. I’ll be patient — there’s still a lot of music to make in the meantime!