1970's Aria 1702

While I've written about these Arias (and other Arias) before I thought I'd tell a little about these earlier Phase I models that were bought into Australia in small numbers in the very late sixties or more probably the very early seventies.

The Aria, or in this case ARAI 1702 was introduced in 1968 to compete with all the other cheaper Mosrite copies on the Japanese market. Mosrites were very popular, and very expensive in Japan and most of the big, and small names made Mosrite copies or Mosrite inspired guitars for the entry and intermediate level players. 

 

These early Phase I 1702's were branded Arai after Shiro Arai, who formed the company in 1956 and later changed it to a more western sounding ARIA around this time. As such, some Phase I's have Arai and some have Aria. 

The very early 1702's differed from later Phase Is in that they had a slightly thicker body but I have only ever seen one of these, which I still own. All the other Arai Phase Is I've seen have the standard thinner body as seen on all Univox versions.

 

The only real difference between these thin body Phase I's and the Phase II is the pickup selector switches which are early rocker type for each pickup on these early ones and a standard three way toggle on later Phase I 1/2 and IIs. Phase IIs also got two string trees instead of the full bar type on these earlier ones. 

 

These early ones also had a waterside decal logo on the headstock that was running horizontal like this one while later versions had a decal or badge running vertically on the end of the headstock. I do have a sunburst Phase I with the badge and rocker switches, but it's the only one I've seen so it's probably a later transition model?

 

As I've said before, these are thin light bodies with great thin necks like a lot of Matsumoku made guitars around this period. They play well and sound great with these Mosrite inspired P-90 style pickups but they're not a Mosrite.

While the later Phase IIs seem to be reasonably common on Australia, we didn't get many of these Phase Is and importing stopped before the Phase III (and 4) for some reason? Maybe sales were declining or they diverted all production to Univox for the US market so the humbucker ones are much rarer here.

I love these little Phase I and II Arias a lot. They're well made and can take a punishment. I have fitted humbuckers to these before essentially making a Phase III but personally I'd keep these single coils.

This black one is over at the shop along with a few other Phase I 1/2s and IIs.

 

I also took a Phase II bass over with it that is in amazing condition. It's all original and plays and sounds amazing. It still has the original bridge cover/mute which you rarely see these days.

 

These basses play great and feel like slightly bigger guitars due to their thin body and shorter 30" scale length.

Drop into the shop and have a play. They're pretty cool.

 

May 11 2018 Written By: Tim Brennan