Early 70's Guyatone VB-28s

You all know how much I love Guyatones and I've written about their history a few times and mentioned different factories that made Guyatones around this period, which was a transition of sorts after Guyatone filed for bankruptcy in '69.

These Beatle basses were VERY popular in Japan because of, of course, the Beatles and Pauls extensive use of the original Hofner version. Many manufacturers in Japan made copies ranging from cheap to very good quality. The design is of course a simple one and this allowed many brands to make "inspired by" and very close copies with brands like Greco making set neck versions that are, in my opinion, as good as the real thing, but .... that's Greco.

While I've had many violin basses through some stand out more than others and these Guyatones are great. The couple of Firstman versions through lately are also very nice, having been made by Teisco Gen Gakki. 

 

These Guyatone versions follow the simple laminated hollow body design of the originals and are well made with good quality timber and hardware. The laminated body is of course made to look like an archtop violin which was Hofners original intention to appeal to double bass players when they introduced the bass in 1956.

Most of the commercially available copies are approximations of the '63 version which of course was the one made famous by Paul and they do a great job of them aesthetically, and in playability and tone.

 

The bodies are all double bound front and back with the simple rectangular control plate just like the originals. This plate caries a master volume and tone control and an on/off switch for each pickup. The bridge on some copies is the same as the original timber bridge with fretwire saddles for intonation but these Guyatones have a more conventional non floating steel saddle bridge anchored to a small sustain block. This adds strength and sustain making them slightly less "plonky" and less susceptible to feedback.

 

The necks are bolt on maple necks with a 30" scale. They have a bound rosewood fretboards like the originals from '64 onwards with dot markers.The headstock is the same shape as an original Hofner as used on most of the Japanese copies from the very cheapest. They also use a zero fret like the originals. 

While the bolt on neck doesn't seem to make much difference on a short scale hollowbody bass, the bridge and sustain block give it more attack and sustain, but only slightly. 

 

These originally came with Hofner staple style pickups that were made by a few manufacturers in Japan throughout the sixties and seventies. Most Japanese copies have VERY Hofner looking and sounding pickups as they're construction was very similar to the originals. One of these has had more modern mini humbuckers fitted which look more like the Diamond logo pickups (without the logo) and sound great in these. The mini humbucker is (essentially) the same size as the Hofner (and Rickenbacker) pickups and drops straight in without any modifications, including the original surrounds. 

Both of these VBs are from around the same period although one has the clear  "G" badged headstock and one has the black with gold Guyatone logo so they may have been made in different factories under exactly the same model name, although both have the metal Guya Co. LTD trussrod covers and Yamaha style output jack plates. The black headstock one is heavier and feels more "solid" and a peek inside shows a little more meat around the neck pocket and tailpiece. It's still "small short scale hollowbody" light but feels a little more substantial than a real Hofner. 

 

I'm a big fan of this era Guyatone as you can see by past blogs and what's available in the shop and these guitars and basses made by either Uni Musical Instruments & Kyushin Musical Instruments (and possibly Matsumoku and Nippon Gakki) are fine instruments with everything except the upgraded pickups on one being completely original, and that nearly 50 years later are still performing well.

 

Both of these are available in the shop with hardcases. The mini humbucker one has been set up with flatwounds and the original pickup one has roundwounds. They're both very cool. 

Jul 26 2018 Written By: Tim Brennan