The Australian anomaly. The Onyx Mosrite copy.

Onyx is a brand known to Australians but probably not many outside of our country except for a brief mention in Tony Bacon's great book "The Ultimate Guitar Book" which mentions and has a picture of this very model I'm talking about.



They were a brand name imported by a Melbourne wholesaler in the 80's and early/mid 90's (and the name has recently been resurrected again with lower end Chinese copies) originally from Korea and later from China.
They sold many copies including the cheaper end "Fender" copies (Strat, Tele, P bass) and some Gibson copies (SG, LP) all with bolt on necks and laminated bodies. Construction on these early ones was typically Korean with headstock joints and laminated "carve top" LP's as distributed under many different names at the time.

They also had the "Custom Craft" series with neck plates stamped with serial numbers and ONYX that were better quality Korean models with full headstock binding (on Gibson style) and block inlays.
Also available around the early 90's were "Ibanez" style and Super Strat metal guitars (droopy pointy headstocks/shark tooth inlays) and bolt on neck "Matsumoku style" (Aria/Vantage through neck) and BC RIch copies.

These Korean made guitars were quite good for the money and used decent quality hardware and generally played well for a $300-400 guitar.

In this series they also made a 335/345 copy with laminated body and set neck and all the binding and blocks AND a Rickenbacker 330 copy with semi hollow body and set neck that is actually quite impressive. I have owned (and sold) these models over the years and some have been great value for money. I'm not apposed to laminated bodies or Korean made guitars. I personally think some of the Korean factories have rivalled some Japanese factories for quality, and I LOVE Japanese guitars.

Anyway, in amongst all these models someone at head office decided that a Mosrite copy was needed ....

 

It is a VERY strange thing in this world that a small importer, from Australia, in the late 80's would want a Mosrite copy (model 1030) .... for metal players.

 

Growing up in Australia I rarely (I mean RARELY) saw Mosrites unless a touring band was playing one. Tumbleweed was famous for them. Brad from the Hoodoo Gurus had them, Spencer P Jones had one and of course when I saw the Ramones live, there it was. But buying one here .. forget it.

 

I remember seeing punk bands using these Onyx copies in clubs and pubs and loving that people were using something that looked like a Mosrite.
Over the years I have "converted" so many of these guitars to "non metal" mode for punks to play live. The whole idea of a Mosrite with a Floyd Rose and locking nut was foreign to players like us. We wanted one because of Johnny Ramone and all this extra baggage just didn't make sense to us.

You used to see these in second hand shops cheap (I mean cheap) so I'd grab them and de-metal them for friends. The thing is, they are ALMOST exactly a Mosrite shape but slightly smaller. If you traced a Mosrite Ventures and moved the lines in 10mm all round, you have one of these.

 

The bodies are thick laminated timber with a bolt on hard maple neck with rosewood fretboard in Fender 25.5" scale.
The vibrato is a "fake" Floyd Rose of typical Korean manufacturing from the 80's and like all the hardware is good, but not great. The locking system all works but .... it's a Mosrite ?
The pick ups are HIGH output humbuckers with one of the most complicated switching/tone systems the world has ever seen (again, it's a Mosrite?) with a master volume, a blend between coils and a tone control. The blend and tone control pots are stacked so each can be used when the mini toggles are engaged. They are single coil closest to bridge and closest to neck together/full humbuckers and phase between coils on each pick up. These options together with the blend/volume/tone gives an amazing (ly complicated) array of options.

This model was only offered in silverburst or metallic charcoal with matching 3 a side headstocks.

 

The bass version was exactly the same body with a Fender scale neck in the same configuration (2 a side) and also only came in those colour options.

Onyx guitars get a lot of bad press on the net. Sure, the later Chinese (and current) models are definitely an entry level guitar, but these older Korean made ones are actually OK and are comparative to Korean Hondos or Epiphones. Remember, taken for what they are, a $3-400 guitar, they are quite impressive.
This guitar here is all original, including all electrics. To me, any 25 year old guitar that has been used and everything still works fine, and plays well, is a pretty good guitar for $400 ?

These will never be collectable or sought after and the Gibson and Fender copies used to be EVERYWHERE but as with cheap copies with a "no name" headstock brand, they all got trashed. The Mosrite copies (and Ric and 335 copies) seemed to have been looked after "slightly" better and are still obtainable (I've sold quite a few) at reasonable prices for what they are.



As a young punk into Mosrites living in Australia it was totally bizarre to see a copy of a Mosrite in silverburst with all the metal appointments cheap in shops and on stage. It seemed so out of place. What metal player wanted a Mosrite ? What Mosrite player wanted a Floyd Rose ? Maybe someone came up with the idea and made a heap of them and someone said "how the hell are we going to sell these ?" and the marketing guy said "send 'em to Australia. They don't know any better"

Nov 05 2016 Written By: Tim Brennan