NBD: Hofner Ignition "Cavern" Violin bass

DarnWeightDarnWeight Frets: 794
edited June 2017 in Bass
Birthday was about a week ago and had enough cash bunged my way for something cheap and fun, so snagged one of these.  This is the "Cavern Club" edition of the Hofner Ignition Violin Beatle bass...









Have been weighing up my options for a cheap short scale bass for a few weeks, saw a few demos of these, and decided to give one a go sight unseen.  I was looking for something lightweight and fun for playing around the house...and it's absolutely perfect for that.  Fully hollow so weighs next to nothing.  This "Cavern" version has the rear pickup in a more advanced mid position, rather than nearer the bridge, like Macca's early one.  It's not super versatile soundwise, but it does a great thumpy '60s R&B thing which is really really addictive.  Pondering flatwounds (rounds come stock) but it sounds pretty good as is.  I'm no Beatles obsessive, so can't comment on how authentic it sounds, but so far, just playing it through a few guitar amps at bedroom volumes, I like it plenty.  

Cons?  Fit and finish are generally fine, but there's what sounds like a stray ball of solder rattling around inside somewhere, and one of the pickup sliders needs a bit of wiggling/pressure to switch properly.  I'm going to open up the control plate over the next day or two and get both issues sorted, 'cos I can't face returning it to Germany (musik-produktiv) for what should be an easy fix.
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Comments

  • JezWyndJezWynd Frets: 2121
    Highly recommend a set of LaBella Beatle Bass flats. The gauges are light and make the bass a joy to play. I've found the Chinese Hofners to be incredibly well made, esp. when you consider the price. I relocated the strap button to the side, it stopped it rolling away and down. I've been searching for a violin bass for a while, looks like you scored a nice one.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2793
    edited June 2017
    +1 for flatwound strings. These and the slightly off intonation are integral elements of that period sound. 

    Take great care when removing the control plate. It may be worth lubricating the screws. Anything to avoid splitting the ply or chipping the finish.
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  • JezWyndJezWynd Frets: 2121
    Is there much tonal difference when using the neck vs bridge pickup?
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  • JezWyndJezWynd Frets: 2121
    Is there much tonal difference when using the neck vs bridge pickup?
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  • DarnWeightDarnWeight Frets: 794
    JezWynd said:
    Is there much tonal difference when using the neck vs bridge pickup?
    The neck is definitely thumpier (for want of a better description) with a sort of hollow sound.  The bridge/middle one is actually in more of a P-Bass pickup position.  I find it picks up harmonics much better, and is definitely a little brighter/snappier than the neck pickup.  Not as twangy as one nearer the bridge, but much fuller sounding without being muddy.  I like the sound of each pickup solo-ed, but the both-on position doesn't offer a ton of variety on top of that.  The reviews I read of the standard version suggested that the bridge pickup wasn't very usable on it's own, but mixed well with the neck pickup.  Horses for courses, really.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 30908
    edited June 2017
    DarnWeight said:

    The neck is definitely thumpier (for want of a better description) with a sort of hollow sound.  The bridge/middle one is actually in more of a P-Bass pickup position.
    The pickup positions aren't actually very different from a Rickenbacker 4003 really - it just looks that way because the Rick has the extended bridge with the mute at the front, which makes it look closer to the 'bridge' pickup.

    There's a surprising difference in tone from even fairly small pickup position changes - if you ever get the chance to play a Gibson Grabber - which has a sliding pickup - it's amazing you much tonal variety there is just by moving the pickup a tiny bit.

    DarnWeight said:

    I like the sound of each pickup solo-ed, but the both-on position doesn't offer a ton of variety on top of that.
    You could improve that by fitting a cap in line with the 'bridge' pickup, like a vintage Rickenbacker 4001 - it does cut a bit of bass, but more importantly it introduces a phase shift which makes the middle position much more characterful.

    If you wanted to keep all the options open you could get the same thing on the Hofner if you rewired the switches so the 'treble on' switch only applied to the bridge pickup and didn't turn the neck pickup off at the same time. (I would also do the 'bass on' switch so it only applied to the neck pickup and didn't turn the bridge off - given that there are the volume controls anyway, the stock system seems unnecessarily complicated and restrictive.)

    Or you could rewire the rhythm/solo switch to do something similar, or even as a phase switch if the pickups don't have single-core shielded cable… having a rhythm/solo switch on a bass has always seemed a bit pointless to me!
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • DarnWeightDarnWeight Frets: 794
    ICBM said:
    DarnWeight said:

    I like the sound of each pickup solo-ed, but the both-on position doesn't offer a ton of variety on top of that.
    You could improve that by fitting a cap in line with the 'bridge' pickup, like a vintage Rickenbacker 4001 - it does cut a bit of bass, but more importantly it introduces a phase shift which makes the middle position much more characterful.

    If you wanted to keep all the options open you could get the same thing on the Hofner if you rewired the switches so the 'treble on' switch only applied to the bridge pickup and didn't turn the neck pickup off at the same time. (I would also do the 'bass on' switch so it only applied to the neck pickup and didn't turn the bridge off - given that there are the volume controls anyway, the stock system seems unnecessarily complicated and restrictive.)

    Or you could rewire the rhythm/solo switch to do something similar, or even as a phase switch if the pickups don't have single-core shielded cable… having a rhythm/solo switch on a bass has always seemed a bit pointless to me!
    I think there is a small cap on the bridge pickup, and the more I listen to the both-on position, the more I can hear that notchy phase shifted thing you described.  It's definitely a usable sound (tighter and more-defined with a slight vowel-ly wah tone) but I just find myself defaulting to either pickup solo-ed.

    I had thought about rewiring the rhythm/solo switch to a fixed low- or high-pass filter, as I agree that the "just a bit quieter" rhythm setting is pretty pointless.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2793
    That entire control plate circuitry is a carry over from the guitar range. Very little thought will have been given to applying it to bass guitar.

    It would be worth taking a look at the underside of the control plate to discover what components are attached to the Rhythm/Solo switch. I cannot recall whether it is a simple preset volume drop or a filter network similar to the Fender Jaguar and Bass VI bass cut slider switch. (One by-product of such a filter will be a reduction in overall volume.)

    If you do not use the individual volume pots to blend the two pickups, there is no reason why you should not re-jig the controls to a Master Volume, Master Tone arrangement.
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