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The Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass has a special place in the hearts of all vintage loving bassists as it’s so iconic, with Paul McCartney’s violin bass defining his stage image. Part of the German brand’s Ignition Series, the Vintage Violin Bass sports delightful retro looks and comes in at the lower end of our chart on the best basses under $500 – but does this affordable Beatle Bass meet our high expectations? One way to find out…
This vintage-inspired bass just looks fabulous and Hofner has stuck very closely to the original violin bass when making the modern Ignition Series model. It sports a semi-hollow body made with spruce on the top and flamed maple on the back and sides. This features some beautiful vintage decoration, including the violin sunburst finish, white binding and the white plastic pickguard. With a slightly shorter 30” scale length, this bass features a neck made from alternating maple and beech, with a rosewood fretboard, 22 frets and simple dot inlays.
Even though it’s made in China instead of Germany, the quality of the craftsmanship is very admirable considering this is still an affordable bass, with the fit and finish showing no glaring blemishes. The body is lightweight, while the short scale neck feels beautiful to play and would certainly suit smaller bassists. Finally, it all comes setup quite nicely out of the box, with a low action and good fret treatment.
So, it looks and feels just like the original Beatle Bass – what about the hardware? The Ignition Vintage Violin is voiced by two Hofner Ignition Staple Nickel humbuckers at the bridge and neck position, which are fantastic at delivering the warm tones Hofner is known for. Each of these pickups has its own volume control, along with three switches – one each to turn either pickup on or off, and another to flick between rhythm and lead.
The rest of the hardware is true to the time, with Hofner offering a rosewood bridge and nickel trapeze tailpiece holding everything in place, while the headstock sports a set of open-gear nickel tuners with attractive pearloid buttons.
It certainly delivers the strong sound you’d want in a vintage bass, with great warmth and clarity to nicely replicate the classic tone of the original 500/1. It can be very mellow, but you can also get the thump you’d expect from the shorter scale length. The trio of switches and volume controls provide good versatility, although throw it anything from pop, classic rock or blues and it’ll deliver!
Check out the video below for some samples of the Ignition’s vintage tone:
If it’s good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for the rest of us! Let’s face facts – not many of us can afford, or even find, an original 500/1 from Hofner. But with this Ignition Series Violin Bass, the truth is we don’t have to. The German brand are faithful to the original when it comes to style, while the playability, tone and build quality are excellent for under $500.