The Vox Bassmaster bass was a short scale (30"), two-pickup bass, with very simple controls: one volume and one tone. White plastic controls, typical of most JMI Vox guitars of this period. This one has a laminate wood body, sycamore neck and rosewood fretboard with dot inlays. Early Vox literature describes the Vox Bassmaster body as 'lightweight hardwood', and for some basses (see this 1965 Vox Bassmaster) Vox used mahogany, although there are examples using other one-piece wood bodies, maybe sycamore, and potentially agba.
It is a light bass, weighing in at just 3kg, and with it's short scale and simple components perfect for the entry level bass players of the early 1960s. The Bassmaster was advertised from late 1960, and available right through to 1967, when Vox guitar production ceased in the UK. The bolt-on neck is very thin; nut width is just 1 5/16", and was supplied by a local British furniture manufacturer, G-plan. The light weight and easy dimensions, made for an effective easy playing instrument, perfect for the student musician. Although a truss rod was fitted it was not adjustable.
The Sunburst finish on this bass is quite unusual, especially for an early lower end bass. Red is by far the most commonly seen colour, and along with white the only finish listed in Vox literature (for example the 1964 Precision in Sound). Compare this three-colour sunburst with a darker two-colour burst of a 1965 Bassmaster.
Note the jack plug is side-mounted, another early feature. A year or so later they were positioned on the front, next to the tone control. This would originally have been a coaxial input, but like most Vox's this has been swapped for a standard guitar jack.
Most early UK-produced (Dartford) Vox guitars had the green scripted Vox logo shown here; a purely British feature, not seen on any of the Italian Vox models. The decal also has the model name - later versions often had the Vox logo on a separate transfer, situated at the far end of the headstock. These JMI Vox decals are not very durable at all; it is rare to find one in undamaged condition.
This image shows two Bassmaster bodies - top: this 1963 Bassmaster with plywood body, bottom: a 1965 Bassmaster with solid mahogany body. Note the difference in curvatures between the two edges. This rounded profile was just one example of how UK Vox guitars improved as the decade progressed.
Another difference between these two basses are the different scratchplates; the 1963 Bassmaster has a thinner single ply white plate, but the '65 has the thicker three-ply, white-black-white guard with wide black revealed edge. The later versions of this guitar, and many other UK Vox guitars are almost always the superior quality instruments.
The Bassmaster bass is less Fender-like than other early Vox guitars (most notably the Symphonic bass), but neither is it particularly original, at least compared to the Phantom and Mark basses also under production in the mid 1960s.
Like most other features of this bass, the circuitry employed was pretty simple. The two pickups are wired to the 250k logarithmic volume pot, with a 250k linear tone pot. It is a popular misconception that only the earliest Vox instruments had coaxial input jacks, but this is not the case. It seems lower end British instruments had them fitted at least until 1966, when production of the majority of Vox guitars moved to Italy. This jack was moved from the side of the guitar to the scratchplate (see this 1965 Vox Bassmaster) in 1964(?)
This clip shows the 1963 Vox Bassmaster played through an (also 1963) British WEM ER-15 head with Pick-A-Bass cab. I usually prefer flatwounds on basses like this, but the ancient rattley roundwounds that were on it just sounded so great cranked up, I had to record it. Recorded with an Electrovoice RE-20 (left channel) and Shure SM57 (right), through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface - all highly recommended gear!
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