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Buying vintage hofner beatle bass, what to look for?
Old 18th October 2013
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Buying vintage hofner beatle bass, what to look for?

I'm set on buying a hofner beatle bass, I was pretty happy jamming on the cheap ignition series in guitar center but I'm ready for the real deal but nervous about taking the plunge on a late 60's one.

What should I look for other than obvious intonation, straight neck etc. I love the sound so much I'm just nervous I might buy a lemon like I'm known to sometimes do. Any tips on verifying authenticity or anything like that would be a major help.

Thanks!
Old 18th October 2013
  #2
Gear Addict
 
spurratic's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by radnar View Post
I'm set on buying a hofner beatle bass, I was pretty happy jamming on the cheap ignition series in guitar center but I'm ready for the real deal but nervous about taking the plunge on a late 60's one.

What should I look for other than obvious intonation, straight neck etc. I love the sound so much I'm just nervous I might buy a lemon like I'm known to sometimes do. Any tips on verifying authenticity or anything like that would be a major help.

Thanks!
My former bass player in my former band owned one for a few years, (great bass player in his own right) and he came across an epiphone viola bass that was a bit bigger and when he a/b'd them he couldn't get over how much better the epiphone sounded. Said he had always owned the Hofner because he assumed it was the best but that the epiphone outperformed it in every way. Electronics, intonation, pickups, Etc. So if you are serious about 'that sound', maybe try a viola bass as well. (If you can find one).
Old 18th October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 

I've heard the Rondo version is pretty much the same as the Epi, minus the Henry J upcharge.
Old 18th October 2013
  #4
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

I'd look at the Gretsch or Guild Hollow Body Bass, strung with flat wounds, they are better instruments than a vintage Hofner, with great tone, and they play well.

I got my '66 Hofner in 1967 New for my 14th B-Day.
My mom paid $99.00 (400DM) with gig bag on sale.
It's not for sale purely for sentimental reasons.

They have a cool sound, but I also understand why McCartney moved to Rickenbacker & Fenders with flat wounds. My Rick was a much better playing instrument with a great sound.

The Hofner feels like a toy by comparison.

Keeping the neck straight, setting intonation with a limited adjustable, floating bridge and being stuck buying only select, short scale light gauge strings is not very convenient.

Original tuners may have cracked where the string goes through the winding pin.
So some tuners are replacements that cost more than what I paid for my bass.

There will usually be quite a bit of checking in the high gloss finish.
Old 18th October 2013
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for the ideas guys, I have owned a bunch of vintage jazz basses that were awesome but I can get such a special tone on a hofner. There is something unique about the short scale that contributes to it's sound in a good way and you shouldn't discount it, heck I'm over 6 feet tall 200 pounds but not afraid to rock a tiny bass.

Since I produce music and don't play in a band anymore I'm just after that super woody British classic sound. It screams 60's soul funk and really has a character, check out Tame Impala they are a great band and the bass player rocks a hofner.

This is a good deal for a vintage one, I'm going to see how much better it sounds/feels than the cheap reissue I liked in guitar center today.

Any hofner lovers out there?
Old 18th October 2013
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

I will agree with Spurratic, although I've only compared the entry level Hofners with the Epi version. The Epi pelt sturdier and sounded fuller. I didn't plug them in when I played them because I wanted to hear the openness of them resonate. The Hofner (like I said was the entry model) did feel toyish to me. The Epi felt like an instrument and if anything, I would say it didn't have the vintage sound I was expecting. Not that it's vintage, but all of the recordings I would reference in my head showed me that the Epi has a Modern sounding version of it. If that makes sense. The Epi is a friend of mine's bass that he walked out of the store with it in a nice case for under $200. And when we've jammed in the passed, it sounds good (once through my SWR Workingman and Through his Ampeg B2R) and balanced in the mix. I would love to play the real deal (like some of FFTT's gear) to have a better reference point, along with a nice Ric too!
Old 18th October 2013
  #7
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

I would still go for the Gretsch G5440LS (Long Scale) or G5442BDC (Short Scale)

Strung with flat wounds, you'll get the tone, but the neck feels and plays more like a Rick 4001. The Action was much better than on my Hofner.
The instrument felt very solid and also looked great head to toe.

I played a Red one down at the local mom and pop store and damn near put a deposit on it. In fact, I'm still thinking about it. It played great, sounded great, looked great and said "Take Me Home."

Sure I'd prefer the Filtron pickups, but then you're spending another $1200.00+ for the pro series just under $2000.00 retail.
Old 18th October 2013
  #8
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

The vintage Hofner string spacing is tighter than any of my other basses.

The short scale neck, combined with extra light gauge strings gives the action a really
rubber bandy feel. And the strings break easy.

You can't just use any short scale light gauge strings.
The tuner winding shaft holes are very small so they will only accept certain skinny top
light gauge stings, like Pyramids or Labella Lights.

I like my bass. I learned how to play on my Hofner playing the first two years acoustically without an amp. I also blew up my Fisher Stereo with it :-)

It's a cool old bass, but functionally I'd go for something sturdier for playing live events. Vintage Hofners are kinda delicate.
Old 18th October 2013
  #9
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by spurratic View Post
My former bass player in my former band owned one for a few years, (great bass player in his own right) and he came across an epiphone viola bass that was a bit bigger and when he a/b'd them he couldn't get over how much better the epiphone sounded. Said he had always owned the Hofner because he assumed it was the best but that the epiphone outperformed it in every way. Electronics, intonation, pickups, Etc. So if you are serious about 'that sound', maybe try a viola bass as well. (If you can find one).
This is nice to know as i picked one up a while back. I,m not a bass player but its a lefty and was a great price. I play guitar so it does get some use. It takes medium and not small scale strings and the electrics dont have those little switches just 3 pots....2 volume..1 tone. Its a solid guitar
Old 18th October 2013
  #10
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

For $2000.00 or less.........

Just looking through the new hollow body bass offerings, I'd have to say I'm stuck
between the G6119B Broadkaster® Bass



And the G6128B Thunder Jet™ Bass with the Chambered Body



The only issue I see with the Thunder Jet is minimal fine intonation adjustability over a floating bridge,
kind of the same problem the Hofner has.
Old 18th October 2013
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

So if you read my post again it says I'm set on the hofner ok?

The late 60's one I'm looking at is $1000 so I would have room for an easy resale if I hate it, the cheap Indonesian one in guitar center will be $500 so it makes sense to try the real deal. I tried some different cheap hollowbodies but they don't have the thud that the hofner had, all I care about is tone.

Spending $1000-2000 on some gretsch won't leave me an easy way out should I decide I don't like it, there is no way to demo a gretsch and I can't imagine it would have the same sound with it's open holes.
Old 18th October 2013
  #12
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

That's perfectly fine as long as you've thought it through properly and know what you're getting into.

I've enjoyed mine many decades, but it's not my first go to choice against my other basses.

The preferred Vintage Hofners are the '66 and Earlier with the Staple Pickups.

My '66 is a German transitional late '66 with the solid bar pickups, but everything else is set up like the '63- early '66.
Old 18th October 2013
  #13
Gear Nut
 
ANOK's Avatar
 

Back in the 80's I had an original 1963 Hofner violin bass, and it sounded pretty bad, muddy and no sustain.
Old 18th October 2013
  #14
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

I had to remember not to turn around and face my SVT unless I wanted it to scream
like a rampaging bull elephant.

Old 19th October 2013
  #15
Lives for gear
 

A neck reset is a given at some point, just keep that in mind when settling on a price point. I had a '67 spec 500/1 that had the neck done and it played very nicely, light as a feather and lots of mojo, watch out for feedback as FETT sez.

If it plays well you won't regret it, a great secret weapon on stuff. It is what it is ... and it ain't no P-Bass.

It's a cool bass but there's a reason why there's only one famous guy who played one
Old 20th October 2013
  #16
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e3p0's Avatar
 

I just sold a '67 a few months ago. I LOVED the way it sounded, but I did not like playing it. It was neck heavy, the string spacing is pretty tight, and I realize I have grown accustomed to side position markers. I suppose a marker or stickers would have done it.

I would say $1000 is a pretty good price. I sold mine for $1300. Bought a Gibson LP Studio 50s tribute with humbuckers and pocketed $700.

If I were you, I would buy it. Play it for a while, record parts to a ton of songs, sell it for a profit. If you fall in love with it, keep it forever as it won't lose value.

Good luck. And Tame Impala rocks! His Hofner sounds perfect for their music.
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Buying vintage hofner beatle bass, what to look for?-screen-shot-2013-10-19-7.22.49-pm.jpg  
Old 20th October 2013
  #17
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Mine needs some work on the neck too, but the truss bar nut is so tight I'm afraid to mess with it.

Fortunately I found a good luthier close by.

The vintage Hofner site has tons of reference information.
Old 21st October 2013
  #18
Don't let any nay-sayers deter you, there is something super specific and magical about a real Hofner bass. It's true, it only makes one sound. It's just a perfect sound.

'67 into the 70s, they switched to blade pickups. Those can be found for a more reasonable price than old ones with staple pickups and many bass players prefer the blades. If you're thinking non- vintage, the newer ones made in Germany are the business.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #19
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Don't get me wrong, I love my Hofner, but they aren't for everyone and they can have some issues that need attention.
Old 24th October 2013
  #20
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noah330's Avatar
I have one of the handmade German ones from a few years ago. It's an amazingly light and unique sounding bass. I usually run it through an old Marshall Plexi. It's a really fun bass to play. Don't count out the handmade version!
Old 29th October 2013
  #21
Lives for gear
 

The main (possibly the only) reason Macca started out with one is that like me he is a lefty.
In the early sixties there were NO lefty basses and few regular lefty guitars available in the UK, so the hofner was a logical way to get one that was easily adapted.

I cannot remember seeing things like EB0s (which would have worked but been more expensive) etc., until much later in the 60s.

My first bass was a 62 precision I bought used in late 62 and set me on the path of being a lefty who plays right handed, as most of us did at that time.

And FWIW I owned one of the epi fiddle basses at one time and it was WAY better than the hofners.
Old 29th October 2013
  #22
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

The Beatles were dirt poor starting out, so buying a Hofner that came left handed and for < $100.00, nothing else could compete as a starter bass. You could also play one without an amp as I did for the first 2 years as I was learning.
Old 1st November 2013
  #24
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Ephi82's Avatar
 

I would go over and do a search at the Beat Gear Cavern forum and get some advice there.

It's a Beatles focused place and you should get a lot of feedback on the Hofners. In my opinion, if you want a Beatle bass, buy a Hofner
Old 6th November 2013
  #25
Gear Maniac
 

So I bought a new cheap hofner at GC and I'm getting some nice recordings straight through my aurora audio preamp, I'm gonna go check the vintage one and maybe return this new one. I really appreciate the advice! I'm getting 70's psychedelic tones to die for even out of this low end model
Old 9th November 2013
  #26
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Radnar, I just now stumbled onto this!


Enjoy!

Old 9th November 2013
  #27
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

I've worked on guitars (and basses) professionally for the last twenty years, but I've only seen a few Hofner basses in that amount of time. I guess not too many have made it to the region I live in.

As Hounddog said, the main problem to look for is neck angle. If the strings are high when the bridge is lowered all the way, then the neck angle is wrong. I'm not sure how difficult it is to reset a neck on a Hofner, as I've never done one, but I'd advise passing on the instrument if it needs it.

If you're picky about playability, virtually any instrument that old (particularly a bass) will also need the neck planed and refretted as well - more so due to the plane of the neck having changed than because of fret wear. A neck reset and refret will set you back at least $700 (likely closer to $1000). If it just needs a plane and refret (and it will), expect to pay around $350 for the job.
Old 9th November 2013
  #28
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
I've worked on guitars (and basses) professionally for the last twenty years, but I've only seen a few Hofner basses in that amount of time. I guess not too many have made it to the region I live in.

As Hounddog said, the main problem to look for is neck angle. If the strings are high when the bridge is lowered all the way, then the neck angle is wrong. I'm not sure how difficult it is to reset a neck on a Hofner, as I've never done one, but I'd advise passing on the instrument if it needs it. I

f you're picky about playability, virtually any instrument that old (particularly a bass) will also need the neck planed and refretted as well - more so due to the plane of the neck having changed than because of fret wear. A neck reset and refret will set you back at least $700 (likely closer to $1000). If it just needs a plane and refret (and it will), expect to pay around $350 for the job.
Right now mine has more bow than I'd like to see, but the truss bar adjustment nut is so tight, I'm afraid to mess with it or accidentally strip the adjustment mechanism.
Old 9th November 2013
  #29
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
Right now mine has more bow than I'd like to see, but the truss bar adjustment nut is so tight, I'm afraid to mess with it or accidentally strip the adjustment mechanism.
You're wise to be cautious. When functioning properly, truss rods are simple to adjust. But if you force it, something is likely to break or strip. You might get the neck a little straighter if you oil the adjustment nut, and then re-tighten it as much as you dare to.

A skilled luthier can correct the problem with strategic fingerboard planing followed by a refret. If done properly, the neck will be straight and fully adjustable.
Old 9th November 2013
  #30
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
You're wise to be cautious. When functioning properly, truss rods are simple to adjust. But if you force it, something is likely to break or strip. You might get the neck a little straighter if you oil the adjustment nut, and then re-tighten it as much as you dare to.

A skilled luthier can correct the problem with strategic fingerboard planing followed by a refret. If done properly, the neck will be straight and fully adjustable.
I finally found a good local luthier, its just a matter of money and seasonal priorities right now.

I need to replace the tuning machines back to original and have the neck attended to and it will get done, but its crazy money to spend on a bass that
was $99.00 new when I got it.
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