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HOFNER BASS GUITARS: 2000 to Present Day

 

NOTE: FOR HOFNER "CT", "ICON", & "IGNITION" BASSES, CLICK HERE



Hagenau Workshop, November 2009.

 



The current range of Hofner guitars and basses is very impressive and compares well against the old favourites of the 1950's and 60's. Indeed, the style and feel of these new instruments is very much the same as those sold earlier by the Hofner Company, and in fact the overall quality could well be much better! Maybe that is why I personally now own several post-2000 guitars and basses. Never let anyone tell you that the old ones are the best.......that is definitely not true!

I have come to the conclusion that the history of the 21st century guitars and basses has the same rights as the earlier models to be documented, so...........here goes, although in the case of the 500/1 re-issues I had to stretch a point and start in 1994! 

Click on the underlined heading for each guitar to view photographs of that particular example.


 

 

THE HOFNER VIOLIN BASS 500/1 RE-ISSUES (1994 to Present Day)

 The 500/1 re-issue models listed in this section are those included in Hofner's recent general catalogues, and do not include the 1980's onwards Japanese-market re-issues. These are covered in the Pre-2000 Bass Gallery Section of this website.

The first time that re-issue basses appeared in the general Hofner guitar catalogue was February 1994. These were the Hofner 500/1 Vintage '63, and the Hofner 500/1 Cavern Bass. Hofner had worked closely with the Music Ground company in Doncaster, England on the development of the Cavern Re-Issue for that companies own distribution and retail, and this together with their experience of satisfying the Japanese market throughout the 1980's and 90's with special export violin basses (that over time became closer and closer to the 1960's specifications), obviously prompted them into introducing re-issue basses into their own general catalogue. Since then, Hofner have produced a series of re-issue models and limited-editions that have encompassed most of the old favourite Hofner violin basses from the 1950's and 60's. I have attempted to categorize these below:

   In 2018, relic 500/1 basses were added to the range.

 

500/1 VINTAGE '63 RE-ISSUE

(1994 to 2010)

The main features of this bass which differed from the "Standard" 500/1 still on sale in 1994 were - Type 511B Staple pickups in small plastic surrounds, narrow control console with tea-cup knobs and white slide-switches, three-piece neck, exposed single "catshead" tuners, and no neck binding. Oh, and the " ӧ " in the Hӧfner headstock logo was changed to an " o " , just as Selmer had insisted back in the 1950's & 60's. In addition, a nitrocellulose finish was re-introduced.........the "Standard" (blade pickup) 500/1 of that time had a polyurethane finish - later also changed to cellulose.

Production of the "Standard" 500/1 bass fitted with "Blade" pickups seems to have continued in parallel with the new re-issue version for a couple of years until 1996, when it was finally discontinued. 

A fretless version of the '63 was available from 2005.

Limited editions of the '63 with different finishes have been produced over the years. Transparent red and blue finish options were actually offered in the 2001 Boosey & Hawkes/Hofner US Catalogue, although other colours were tried out in very limited quantities by Hofner at that time.

The '63 Re-issue was dropped from the catalogue in 2010, being to a large extent superseded by the '64 Re-issue described below.

 

 500/1 "CAVERN BASS" & "VINTAGE '61 CAVERN" RE-ISSUES - Now known as the "500/1 'CAVERN'

(1994 Intermittent to Present Day)

As stated above, this model grew out of Hofner's project with Music Ground. It has been available on a rather intermittent basis during the same time period as for the '63 re-issue, with only around 550 having been produced by the end of 2010. It really should be considered as a Limited Edition, which was indeed how it was referred to in the 2001 catalogue.

This guitar is intended to be an authentic re-issue of the bass that Sir Paul bought in Hamburg in 1961. Closely spaced "Diamond Logo" pickups (AKA "Cavern" Type) without exposed pole-pieces are the main identification feature of this bass, together with the old style vertical Hofner logo headstock. A three piece neck is also fitted, with individual machine heads, although the earlier Music Ground basses had 2-on-a-strip types. From late 2010 onwards, single "Rugby Ball" tuners were fitted.

The body has a flat back, in keeping with the 1961 period. A small number of the Caverns supplied to Music Ground Caverns had a solid carved spruce top, but the vast majority had laminated tops. The finish, as with the '63 RI above, was nitro cellulose. European sourced maple was used for the body back and sides.

The name "Cavern Bass" was given to it by Music Ground. Hofner called the model the "Vintage '61 Cavern" up until March 2014. From that date onwards, it is to known as the "500/1 'Cavern' ".

 

 500/1 40th ANNIVERSARY

(1995 to 1996)

Walter Hofner designed the 500/1 Bass Guitar during 1955, and the bass itself was introduced to the public at the Frankfurt Music Show in February 1956. Hofner decided to commemorate the 40th anniversary of these events with the introduction of a special version of the Violin Bass. The Anniversary guitar seems, from contemporary reviews, to have been really a preview of the '62 Re-issue which Hofner introduced four years later - a two-piece neck was fitted, together with two-on-a-plate tuners,  and perhaps more importantly the use of "selected" (European sourced) flame maple veneers. Laminated spruce was used for the body top. I assume that this was the fore-runner to the 500/1 Vintage '62 Re-Issue described below.

For the Japanese market only, an option was available of having "Cavern" pickups fitted in lieu of the usual "Staple" Type 511B units.


 

 

500/1 HOFNER 20/40 ANNIVERSARY

(1995 to 1996)

Another project between Hofner and Music Ground. This was advertised as a limited edition of 400 basses to commemorate the first 20 years of Music Ground and 40 years of the 500/1 Bass. It was basically the 40th Anniversary bass above, with two-piece neck, and 2-on-a-strip tuners. However, the pickguard and rear headstock featured commemorative logos, with a facsimile of Walter Hofner's signature on the pickguard. An ornate 20/40 Certificate was supplied with various the signatures including that of Christian Benker (Hofner's MD at the time).

 

 

500/1 VINTAGE '62 RE-ISSUE - Now Known as the 500/1 'MERSEY'

 (2000 to Present Day)

Presumably because of increasing pressure from Beatles enthusiasts, Hofner introduced this model in early 2000, in order to provide them with a bass that emulated Paul McCartney's second and most famous 500/1 as closely as possible. Unfortunately, they gave the model the name Vintage '62, when it actually has the details of a 1963 bass, but at least this title does tend to differentiate it from the Vintage '63 Re-Issue.

Probably developed out of the previous 40th Anniversary basses, the '62 Re-Issue differs most noticeably from the '63 Re-Issue in that it has a two-piece neck with a slightly chunkier neck profile, and it also has two-on-a-plate tuners.........just like Pauls! A higher quality European flame-maple than the African anigree used on the '63 RI, was also specified for the '62 RI.

Note: In an attempt to overcome the naming problem referred to above, in May 2014 this model is now referred to as the "500/1 'Mersey' " by Hofner.

 

 

500/1 50th ANNIVERSARY

(2006)

A limited edition of 150 basses, this was intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Violin Bass to the public in February 1956. The very first 50th Anniversary was presented to Paul McCartney by Hofner to mark his long association with the 500/1 model.

This anniversary bass was based on Paul's 1961 "Cavern" bass, and hence fitted with close-spaced "Cavern" pickups, a three-piece "fat" neck, single "catshead" tuners, and a vertical Hofner-logo headstock fascia. A solid carved spruce body top was also specified together with a one piece-domed back, and the whole package was rounded off by an engraved Anniversary pickguard and certificate of authenticity.

 

 

 500/1 VINTAGE '59 RE-ISSUE

(2008 to Present Day)

The early 1950's basses have seen an increase in collectability over the last few years, and this trend was reflected in Hofner's next choice for a re-issue model. Features included a flat-backed body which also has black binding, two closely spaced 1950's style "black bar" pickups, a three-piece neck, and the early vertical Hofner logo on the headstock. The truss-rod is accessed from the headstock on this model.

 

 

 500/1 VINTAGE '58 RE-ISSUE

(2009 to 2010)

Another limited edition, with 58 basses planned. This model was issued as a tribute to Hofner's most experienced luthier, Dieter Fischer, who continues to be associated with the 500/1 Bass after 50 years working with Hofner.

The specification of the bass follows the 1957/58 basses with the elliptical tortoiseshell control console. Other more subtle differences between it and the '59 re-issue are the two-on-a-plate tuners, the earlier style tailpiece including the "KH" badge, the 21-fret fingerboard, and the hidden adjustable truss-rod. Plenty of case-candy is included with this model, including a certificate of authenticity signed by Dieter Fischer, a genuine Hofner workshop apron, and a very detailed history of the Hofner Company, written by German Music historian Christian Hoyer.

 

 

 500/1 VINTAGE '64 RE-ISSUE - Now known as the 500/1 "VIOLIN BASS"

(2010 to Present Day)

This is a bass in the style adopted from early 1964 when the neck of the 500/1 was given white binding.

Note: From March 2014, Hofner have started calling this model the "500/1 Violin Bass", and in effect it has become their "Standard" model.

A fretless version was made available from 2017.

 

 

500/1 - NECURON FINGERBOARD

(2014 - 2015)

A very attractive bass guitar made up initially in May 2014 as a prototype in order to assess the use of the synthetic "Necuron" material for use as a possible alternative for the usual rosewood fingerboard on the 500/1 Bass. This prototype was fitted with twin "Cavern" pickups at the neck and bridge location.

After favourable dealer reaction, a production version was offered for general sale with either an ivory or a black finish. This was fitted with twin "Staple" pickups and "Rugby Ball" tuners.

 

 

500/1 60th ANNIVERSARY

(2016)

A limited edition of 60 basses produced to commemorate the first introduction of the Violin Bass in February 1956. This very special bass features an all-white finish combined with black hardware, and body art specially commissioned by Hofner from Klaus Voormann, the artist & musician who had a close association with the Beatles. It was Klaus who designed the famous "Revolver" album sleeve.

 

 

500/1-HGL GREENLINE

(2017 to Present Day)

This bass has been developed using the same philosophy applied to Hofner's long-running "Greenline" range of classical guitars. Nearly all plastic has been eliminated and replaced by wood, including the binding, pickguard, control knobs, and pickup surrounds.  The aim is to have a bass the is ecologically friendly and can in many many years time be easily recycled, which is an unusual concept but one that Hofner believe to be right. The Hofner logo on the headstock is laser cut using a lighter wood in order to retain the traditional look and feel.

 

 

500/1 RELIC BASS

(2018 to Present Day)

The nitro-cellulose finish on these new basses has been subtly aged in order to produce what one would expect a 1960's instrument to look like after being well used, but not abused. There are two versions - a 1961-style "Cavern" bass with a flat-back, and a 1963-style bass using the "Mersey" model as a starting point. A scratchplate is supplied with each guitar, but not fitted. Both are available in right and left-handed versions.

 

 

 

THE HOFNER 5000/1 BASS

(1968 to Present Day)

5000/1 is the name given by Hofner apparently to any violin bass which has a blonde/natural body. That surprised me, as I have always assumed that "5000/1" denoted only Hofner's top-of-the-range bass model with all its mother of pearl inlays, beautiful binding & purfling, superior laminates, and of course the gold-plating. The vast majority of 5000/1s do of course fall into that luxury category, but there have been very rare occasions when Hofner have produced a blonde violin bass called a 5000/1 that doesn't have every one of those trimmings. Perhaps matters are now made clearer by Hofner's adoption, since 2000, of the model name "5000/1 Deluxe" for the bass that the rest of us know simply as the 5000/1.

The 5000/1 has been in the Hofner price lists since 1968, when it was actually called the "5000/1 Super" ! This bass is very little changed from the present-day 5000/1 Deluxe, with the exception of different electrics which from around 1994 have been staple Type 511 pickups mated to a narrow (tortoiseshell) control console, in line with the '63 re-issue 500/1. Other features of the 5000/1 Deluxe are blonde/natural finish, laminated spruce body top, selected highly flamed maple or birds-eye maple (mainly on post 2006 basses) back & side, ebony fingerboard with double fret-marker dots, one-piece (usually flamed) maple neck, inlaid mother of pearl headstock inlay design, gold-plated, hardware, pearloid body & neck binding with plenty of body surround purfling.

The following are examples of the Deluxe model:

 



Examples of recent non-Deluxe 5000/1 basses are shown below:

 

  

 

THE HOFNER 500/2 CLUB BASS

(2002 to Present Day)

The original 500/2 Club Bass was produced between 1964/65 and 1970, reputedly at a time when Hofner couldn't make sufficient violin-shaped bodies fast enough to keep up with demand for the 500/1! The model was resurrected in 2002 and has remained in the catalogue ever since.

The standard finishes was Antique Brown Sunburst, but this was supplemented for a few years with a glossy Black lacquer. The black basses were provided with gold-plated hardware. Shellac violin varnish finish is used on the "Cavern" version, which now seems to have become a fully catalogued model.

Other than the body and pickguard shapes, the Club Bass has the same basic specification as for the '63 500/1 Re-issue, including a three-piece un-bound neck and individual "catshead" tuners........that is until the introduction of flame-maple body tops for the Club in 2013.

 

 

THE HOFNER 500/5 ELECTRIC ACOUSTIC BASS GUITAR

(2018 to Present Day)

2018 saw the re-issue of the famous 500/5 Electric Bass Guitar - the one used generally by many UK bands in the late 1950's/early 1960's, but more specifically by Stu Sutcliffe in the early days of the Beatles and during the time they were playing around the Reeperbaun in Hamburg. As was the case with the original 500/5, this new bass features a large 17" body, twin black-bar pickups closely spaced near to the neck, and a Hofner rectangular control console.

 

 

 

THE HOFNER 500/15 FEDERAL LIMITED EDITION BASS GUITAR

(2014 to Present Day)

Initially, a limited edition of twelve basses (including one leftie) produced in Hofner's Hagenau workshop, and all finished in glossy black lacquer. Produced in collaboration with Budge Magraw of UK band The Cesarians, it was available from the beginning of 2014. The Federal Bass was actually still included in the Hofner catalogue in 2017.

An unusual combination of a very full depth (12cm) hollow archtop body (similar in construction to that on the New President six-string with solid spruce top), mated to a Vintage '64 RI Violin Bass neck and equipped with modern-day "Toaster" pickups. However this has resulted in one of Hofner's most attractive bass guitars produced to date.

 

 

THE HOFNER 500/18 ARCHTOP BASS GUITAR

(2017 to Present Day)

A large bodied (17"lower bout) thinline archtop bass made in the same style as the famous 500/5 from the 1950's/60's in Hofner's current Hagenau workshop. Spruce top with flame maple back & sides. Equipped with twin "Diamond Logo" 510B pickups. Three piece neck, just as in the good-old-days, and vintage open-geared tuners. 30" Scale. Beautiful!

 

 

 



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