I own an old Killer B. In fact, it's one of the last few built by M. Tobias himself and the original team before Gibson took over production. Pictures and a review are available here.
I have come to know this bass inside out, especially from the building angle. I can almost feel the line of thoughts that generated every detail. It is a true masterpiece in his own right - even though it was never meant to be in the league (price-wise) of Alembic and Co.
I have never really bothered checking out what a Gibson made Killer B would feel and sound like, even though I have read countless debates about the topic.
I went to London for work recently. During a day off I was wandering around looking for good basses when I stumbled upon a Gibson made Killer B and I gave it a go.
I must say, there is no arguing anymore as far as I am concerned. This new Tobias was no even the shadow of the original bass.
I usually get the first feeling just by lifting up the bass. Its weight, the feel of the wood under my fingers... these are for me almost definitive clues.
This new KB felt light, almost inconspicuous, the neck wood lacking that silky feel that makes my Tobias such a pleasure to hold. The Maple neck looked too plain, without anything special to it. It didn't look like a wood that was carefully chosen to match the others or just a beautiful piece in its own right. And so did the body. Incidentally the bass sported exactly the same wood combination as mine - Swamp Ash body, Maple/Purplehearth laminated neck (although I think the new one had a M/Bubinga lam neck) and Pau Ferro fingerboard. Thus the comparison was all the more striking.
I must confess, the feeling was so off putting I didn't even plug it in. It wasn't worth it to me, really. A bass has to feel right first.
Now, I don't mean that it wasn't a decent instrument - perhaps even a pretty good one... if the price was right, that is. I am simply looking at it as the heir of a much loved bass. As such, the new production failed me miserably.
Of course, it might be me a bit too fussy? Of course, it might have been just a very unlucky encounter with a lower grade run away bass...yeah...what are the odds...
But the bottom line remains the same: one feels hand made, the other machine-made. Enough for me.
Love & Peace & Groove.