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This article was originally published in issue #49
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Hofner's Ignition series is a laudable attempt by this venerable German manufacturer to offer a range of models that are based on the original German made ones at distinctly non-German prices.
Oozing with vintage character
Very easy to play
Only going to appeal to a minority
There seem to be more versions of Hofner's 'Beatle bass' than you can shake the proverbial stick at- and at amazingly varying prices depending on which model you are considering and where it's made. In the end we managed to track down the version Dan Veall has been playing and it was one of the entry level ones. So, does it get a Ticket to Ride, or was it a case of I Should Have Known Better?
Time to head back to the 1960s, when everything was ‘fab’. We have in for review a reissue - one of many from Hofner - of the famous 500/1 violin bass, this being a remake of the 1961 ‘Cavern’ bass. The 'Cavern' by the way appearing to be Hofner's name not for the famous Liverpool venue but the close spacing of this version's pickups.
As always with a Hofner Violin bass, this is an incredibly light instrument due to its diminutive body size. I’m so used to extended range instruments that this cheeky chap feels a bit like actually playing a violin to me! Still, if you are one of the many sufferers of 'bass player's shoulder' that will be only too welcome!
The hollow body features a flame maple back and sides with a spruce top. There is no centre block internally and the instrument resonates loudly, if a little boxily in tone, acoustically. That’s really to be expected given the construction - but, I was intrigued to hear that it really does resonate. The body sound really has character, richness not heard in solid body electrics.
The maple neck with its rosewood fingerboard is glued, in traditional style, and the neck profile, as you may guess, is skinny - certainly in my huge hands. Interestingly though, the nut width is 42mm, which is a lot closer to a Precision bass's width than what I was expecting! It didn't feel that wide and it’s interesting that the neck profile can also make a big difference to how large the neck feels when playing. Of course, having a mere 30" scale length makes it easy to handle, too!
Despite this being the Chinese made entry level version, the Ignition maintains vintage stylings in the hardware department - small nickel tuning keys with ‘pearl’ buttons; the trapeze bridge assembly, also in nickel, extending the lines of the strings out to the very tip of the instrument.
When the Cavern Bass is powered up, and in this review we went straight in to my own ‘monitor-like’ bass gear, we were rewarded with a mid-present tone. well rounded and oozing with character. I’m slowly being drawn to having a bass with a pickup right up near to the fretboard as I think it sounds great! Mixed with the ‘middle’ pickup, there is a pleasing full bodied sound that I would have been more than happy with just leaving the controls where they were. No need to adjust, but of course in the interests of demonstrating what other sounds are available I walk through the options on our video.
Hofner's Ignition series is a laudable attempt by this venerable German manufacturer to offer a range of models that are based on the original German made ones at distinctly non-German prices. In fact, the Ignition seems almost incredibly cheap for what it is. The question is, though, does it still have a place (other than in a Beatles tribute band!) all these years later, when so much has changed since the 1960s? The answer has to be 'yes', of course, but with the strong caveat that this is a very distinctive instrument and isn't going to suit everyone. Then again, if you have ever fancied one just for the occasional number, or simply to play around with, the Ignition is a very playable and cost effective way of making the acquaintance of this iconic bass.