Hollow-body bass guitars will always have their place in the world of bass. It has a truly pure and irreplaceable tone that just makes it stand out uniquely among others. The big, warm, woody, and somewhat trebly sound brings a unique sonic touch to wherever it is being played.
In a world where many players are leaning more towards what we can describe as an unnatural and overly modified sound, the acoustic tone of the hollow-body bass guitar becomes rather priceless and pristine.
Void of excessive tonal and electronic modifications and “unnecessary” additions, the hollow-body bass stands tall and unrivalled. That being said, when talking about hollow-body bass guitars, especially vintage ones, some brand names often make it to the top of the list.
If you have ever played any guitar (be it bass or electric) or even know the slightest about bass guitars, chances are that you know about the Epiphone Brand.
Also, if you know a little about Rock Music and the British Rock scene of the 1960s, chances are that you have heard about or even seen The Beatles and the legendary Sir Paul McCartney. Paul’s signature bass was the hollow-body Hofner Ignition bass.
As a matter of fact, this legendary bass is also sometimes referred to as the “Beatle Bass” or “Cavern Bass.” For some reason, this was [and still is] Sir Paul McCartney’s bass of choice. Another similar and quite popular bass is the Epiphone Viola Bass.
As a matter of fact, the Epiphone is also sometimes referred to as the “Beatle Bass.” Although many bass players and hollo-body enthusiasts often try to create a versus between these two legendary hollow-body bass guitars, the truth is that they are both very amazing bass guitars.
Although these two basses might appear to look quite similar and almost identical, there still exist some major differences. The Epiphone has a centre block inside of it and feels a bit heavier than the Hofner Bass. Also, there are some significant differences in electronics, overall feel and sound.
In this article, we will place these two iconic vintage bass guitars side by side and see what makes them different and what also makes them similar. All you have to do is read on!
Table of Contents
About the Epiphone Viola Bass
The Epiphone Viola Bass is a semi-hollow body bass guitar with a fascinating backstory and design. It was first released in the 1960s as a less expensive alternative to the famed Hofner Violin bass, which Paul McCartney of The Beatles notably used.
The name “viola” refers to the instrument’s violin-like design, which includes rounded top and bottom edges and f-shaped sound holes. This design aimed to capitalize on the burgeoning popularity of the violin bass style and its link with the Beatles.
The Viola Bass has a short-scale neck, which makes it ideal for musicians with small hands or those who prefer a lower-scale length. Its semi-hollow body design produces a warm and resonant tone, while the dual mini humbucking pickups produce a clear and articulate sound.
The 4-string Epiphone Viola bass guitar is renowned for producing deep, rich tones. Its hourglass shape, semi-hollow body structure, and vintage Vintage Sunburst finish combine warm tones with enticing acoustic overtones.
The guitar’s laminated top, short-ratio 30.5-inch neck with a comfortable nut, smooth rosewood fingerboard, and high-precision rosewood bridge and saddle are all made from resonant maple wood.
Mini-humbucker pickups in the neck and bridge positions deliver an incredibly clear and hum-free tone. A tone knob and two additional knobs for various pickup volumes are on the sound control plate.
The bass is suitable for experienced and new players because it is lightweight (7 pounds), has a classic style, and is an overall beautiful piece.
Famous musicians from all over the world have used Epiphone guitars. Among these musicians are:
- Lee Malia Nick Valensi
- Joe Passage
- Hooker, John Lee
- Delonge, Tom
The Epiphone Viola Bass is a historically noteworthy and one-of-a-kind instrument created as a more inexpensive alternative to the legendary Hofner Violin bass.
Its short-scale neck and semi-hollow body construction make it a comfortable and resonant instrument, and its unique design has made it popular among many notable artists.
About the Hofner Ignition Bass
The renowned Hofner Violin Bass debuted in the late 1950s has been updated as the Hofner Ignition Bass. Since then, it has gained notoriety for its distinctive appearance, sound, and connection to The Beatles, one of the most influential bands ever.
The Hofner Violin Bass was initially created to cater to classically trained musicians seeking a smaller, more portable instrument that could offer a playing experience similar to a double bass.
Remarkably, the violin-like form and hollow body design provided a particular sound that complemented the then-emerging rock and roll music.
The original Hofner Violin Bass has a rich history and a distinctive tone, and the Hofner Ignition Bass is a premium instrument that honours those qualities.
The Hofner Ignition Bass is undoubtedly worth looking into, whether you’re a fan of The Beatles or are just searching for a fantastic bass guitar with a unique aesthetic and sound.
The Ignition Series bass’ semi-hollow construction is its most intriguing feature. This particular characteristic of bass guitars causes a piece of the body to be hollow, which allows the sound to reverberate inside the instrument before reaching the amplifier.
The Hofner Ignition Bass has two Hofner Ignition Staple humbucker pickups, a set maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, and a hollow body of maple and spruce. These pickups were created to reproduce the original Hofner Violin bass’s renowned warm, full-bodied tone.
They lack, however, the traditional f-shaped hollow that hollow and semi-hollow guitars have. Therefore, this feature prevents you from playing the bass without an amplifier, but it does add a ton of air when you do.
Sir Paul McCartney, who frequently played the Hofner bass while he was a member of The Beatles, is its most well-known user.
The Hofner Bass appealed to McCartney because of its distinct tone, lightweight, and cosy feel. Its unusual design also helped him stand out from other bass players of the era, which he valued.
Unique Details About The Epiphone Viola Bass
The body of the Epiphone Viola Bass is an important part of what makes it sound and look different. It has a half-hollow wood body, and this helps give it a warm, resonant sound.
The top is spruce, making the sound brighter and helping the notes sustain longer. The shape of the Viola Bass’s F-holes is also important in how it is made, and it not only adds to the look of the instrument as a whole but also makes the bass sound even better.
The Viola Bass also has a unique shape, with rounded corners and a cutaway that makes it easy to reach the higher notes. This design is good-looking and useful, allowing it to play comfortably and in many different ways.
Overall, the Epiphone Viola Bass’s body is a big part of how it looks and sounds. It is a well-made and well-thought-out instrument that pays tribute to the famous Hofner 500/1 violin bass while also being a unique and flexible bass guitar in its own right.
The Epiphone Viola Bass has a short, light neck, feels smooth, and fits petite bassist players. The neck is built of beech and maple. It features 22 smooth medium jumbo frets with basic dot inlays.
It has a 42mm nut width and an asymmetrical C-shape neck profile. Last but not least, the neck has a radius of 12′, making it a flat neck.
The rosewood fretboard on the Epiphone Viola Bass includes 22 medium jumbo frets. Most bass guitars have a scale length of 34 inches, but the bass in question has a shorter scale length of 30.5 inches.
The Viola Bass has a warm and rich tone with a pleasant playing feel because of its shorter scale length, set neck construction, and semi-hollow body design.
The fretboard is inlaid with pearloid dots, and the neck has a SlimTaper “D” profile that makes it comfortable for players of all skill levels.
The pickups are made by Epiphone. The viola bass has no active pickup and middle pickups. The Epiphone Pickup neck is a NYR mini humbucker. Its pickup bridge is an NYT Bass Mini Humbucker.
The Epiphone Viola Bass’s headstock features the Epiphone name in the centre, with two tuners on either side. The scroll design on the base of the headstock is a decorative touch that enhances the instrument’s overall appearance.
Unique Details About the Hofner Ignition
The Hofner Ignition comprises maple wood for the body and spruce wood for the top. Its body is slightly smaller than a typical bass guitar and has a violin-like appearance.
It also features two f-holes on each side of the bass guitar’s body, giving it a distinct appearance and sound.
The maple wood neck is glued to the body of the Hofner Ignition. The neck is short, with a scale length of 30 inches. This makes playing easier for people with smaller hands or who like a shorter scale length.
The fretboard of the Hofner Ignition has 22 frets and dots made of pearloid, Its shape imitates that of a club bass. The radius of the neck is 14 inches, making it a comfortable bass to play chords and solos. It also comes with script artwork and a logo.
The Hofner Ignition Staple pickup is in the neck position, and the other is in the bridge position. The pickups are made to give the bass guitar its unique sound. This bass is known for its warm, round tone.
It also has two level knobs, one for each pickup, and a master tone control is available to control the pickups.
The headstock of the Hofner Ignition looks like a fiddle, just like the bass guitar’s body. It looks and feels old because it has four open-gear tuners. The Hofner logo is on the neck, indicating that the guitar is real and of good quality.
Epiphone Viola Bass vs. Hofner Ignition: Pickups
The Epiphone Viola Bass pickups come in an NYT mini humbucker and have no centre and middle pickups. The Hofner, on the other hand, comes with 2 knobs and is nickel plated.
Epiphone Viola Bass vs. Hofner Ignition: Necks
The Epiphone neck comes in 12 radii, has 22 jumbo frets, is medium size, and has a C-shaped neck. The Hofner Ignition’s neck has a 14-neck radius, and its headstock resembles a club bass.
Epiphone Viola Bass vs. Hofner Ignition: Headstock
The Epiphone headstock has two tuners on both sides and an Epiphone emblem in the centre. Hofner’s headstock has all four tuners on one side and an emblem on its neck.
Epiphone Viola Bass vs. Hofner Ignition: Body
The Epiphone Viola Bass and the Hofner Ignition are based on the classic “Beatle Bass” Hofner 500/1 that Paul McCartney made popular. But their body types and sizes are not the same.
The Epiphone Viola Bass has a bigger body than the Hofner Ignition, and it has a more balanced shape with a longer upper horn and a shorter lower horn. The body is made of maple, and the neck is made of maple and rosewood.
The Hofner Ignition, on the other hand, looks more like the original Hofner 500/1 because it is smaller and more compact. The back and sides are flame maple, and the neck is set maple with a rosewood fingerboard. The body is made of spruce.
A Brief History of Epiphone Viola Bass and the Hofner Ignition Bass
The Epiphone Viola Bass and the Hofner Ignition Bass are well-known instruments that have greatly impacted how popular music has changed.
The Hofner Violin Bass inspired the Epiphone Viola Bass, which emerged in 1958. The Viola Bass was made for musicians who wanted a light, easy-to-play instrument with a unique sound.
The first Viola Bass had a maple body that was half hollow and a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. The guitar had two single-coil pickups, and the controls were simple. Each pickup had its own level and tone knobs.
In the early 1960s, Paul McCartney, one of the best Epiphone Viola Bass players, often used it with The Beatles. McCartney’s use of the Viola Bass helped make it a well-known and respected bass guitar.
The Epiphone Viola Bass is still made and is a popular choice for bassists who want an instrument that looks old and sounds unique. On the other hand, the Hofner Ignition Bass is a fairly new bass guitar in the Hofner line.
The Ignition Bass is a less expensive version of the famous Hofner Violin Bass, made in 2004. Like the Viola Bass, the Ignition Bass has a body that is half empty and is made of basswood instead of maple.
The fingerboard of the neck is made of rosewood, and the neck is made of basswood. Hofner’s staple pickups are used on the Ignition Bass and are made to sound like the original Hofner violin bass pickups.
A new breed of bass players likes the Hofner Ignition Bass because it sounds different and looks like it came from the past. It is also popular with musicians who want a cheaper option for the Hofner violin bass.
Overall, both the Epiphone Viola Bass and the Hofner Ignition Bass made important contributions to the development of popular music, and bass players still choose them today.
Serial Numbers and Factory Codes
Höfner instruments did not have serial numbers before the early 1960s. However, certain guitars created before that period may include a stamped or hand-written manufacturing date on the back of the headstock.
|1921, 2116, 2224, 2531
|3204, 3215, 3267, 3351, 3596, 3894, 3959, 4072
A new six-digit serial number was assigned to the Hofner instruments between 1986 and 1999.
The first digit represents the year the guitar was built, the second and third represents the month, and the fourth and fifth represents the day of the month.
The final digit represents the numerical order number of the instrument produced on this day. Example. 602262 is the 2nd guitar made on the 26th of February 1986 or 1996
In the year 2000, the first digit became a letter. “A” stands for 2000, “B” for 2001, and so on. Thus, this system is viable through 2023 (Z).
To avoid confusion with 1 and 0, the letters I and O have been omitted. Example. B02086 is the 6th guitar produced on 8th February 2001
To identify the location of an instrument’s manufacture, Hofner also employs factory codes on the back of the headstock. Here are a few instances:
Epiphone Viola Bass
Epiphone serial numbers include the following details:
In the serial number, the first letter represents the country of manufacture, the second number is the year of manufacture, three and four is the month, and the last numbers are the manufacturing number
DW = DeaWon
EA = Gibson/QingDao
EE = Gibson/QingDao
MC = Muse
SJ = SaeJung
Z = Zaozhuang Saehan
BW = China
I = Saein
U = Unsung
S = Samick
P or R = Peerless
No letter or F = FujiGen
J or T = Terada
SI = Samick
B = Bohêmia Musico-Delicia
Example. U5120575 – U=Unsung Korea, 5=1995, 12=December and 0575= manufacturing number
Bass guitars like the Hofner Ignition Bass and the Epiphone Viola Bass have made a big difference in popular music.
The 1958 release of the Viola Bass was made specifically for musicians looking for a portable, simple-to-play instrument with a distinctive tone.
The Viola Bass’s reputation was shaped by Paul McCartney’s use of it with the Beatles. The 2004-released Hofner Ignition Bass closely resembles the Hofner Violin Bass but is more reasonably priced.
Both instruments are still favoured by bass players who appreciate their distinctive sounds and retro designs.