1963 Vox Bassmaster

British-built Vox bass guitar

1963 Vox Bassmaster bass
Model 1963 Vox Bassmaster
Serial number 43447
Body 17 5/8" x 12 1/4" x 1 1/4". Laminate construction
Neck One-piece sycamore neck with non adjustable truss-rod. Rosewood fretboard
Scale 30"
Width at neck 1 5/16"
Width at 12th fret 1 11/16"
Weight 3.01kg
Hardware Two UK-produced Vox single-coil V1 pickups with Vox-engraved chrome covers. Aluminium bridge and individual open gear machine heads. Single volume and tone control with white plastic knobs.

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.

One of the earliest British bass guitars

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.

1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - body detail
The Vox Bassmaster was a simple dual pickup instrument, with the simplest controls possible: just one master volume and one master tone control.
1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - reverse body detail
The back side of this Bassmaster clearly shows the three-colour (gold/brown/black) sunburst pattern of this bass. The body attaches to the neck via four screws through the neckplate.
1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - pickup detail
The Bassmaster, like the Clubman, had two Vox V1 pickups - simple, single coil units, fitted to Vox guitars and basses alike. These pickups were attached to the pickguard with two spring-mounted screws to allow height adjustment. The engraved Vox logo shown here was not always present on these pickups, especially as the decade wore on. Many guitars had a mix of plain and engraved pickups, or just plain ones.
1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - bridge cover detail
The compensating bridge is a simple stamped metal design, with a lightweight Vox emblazoned cover. This simple design was most likely copied from the Fender Precision that Jennings were distributing at the time, and appeared on a lot of solid body Vox basses.
Headstock with decals, Vox logo and Bassmaster designation

Vox decals

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.

1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - Vox decal detail
This bass has the green Vox decal, Bassmaster model designation, and 'JMI Dartford Kent' (Jennings Musical Industries), that only appear on British produced Vox guitars, with the Vox logo and model name on the same transfer.
1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - Vox machinehead and serial number
The Bassmaster was fitted with open gear individual machine heads; lightweight units as fitted to a number of six-string Vox guitars. Note the five-digit serial number stamped below the E tuning key.
1963 Vox Bassmaster bass body detail - the laminate wood body is clearly visible in the neck pocket
The laminate body of this bass is clearly visible in the unfinished neck pocket. Some middle period Vox's (generally the later British built ones) had dates, or other markings stamped in ink here, although not in this case. Laminate wood construction was a standard feature of most early sixties solid body Vox guitars, but by 1964/65 pretty much all guitars leaving the Vox factory had a one-piece agba or mahogany body.
Another feature obvious in this picture is the single-ply white pickguard. Most Vox Bassmasters have the three-ply white/black/white guard, with a wide central layer (see this 1965 Vox Bassmaster for comparison).
1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - body route detail
The body itself is really very simple; the two pickup routes and the control route are three almost identical rounded rectangles - actually they are all subtle different: three different widths, and the control route is a little deeper than the pickup routes.
1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - (lack of) contoured body profile

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.

1963 Vox Bassmaster bass - circuit layout

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(?)

1963 Vox Bassmaster video clips

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!

Subscribe to our youtube channel for more vintage guitar and bass demos. Also, check out the longer, high definition demo of this guitar/amp here

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Cas68 Comment left 28th November 2013 22:10:22 reply
Looking for a small Vox decal or smal plastic Vox logo. Please help and respond to "casavant68@verizon.net"
Stuart Wardle Comment left 20th October 2011 15:03:11 reply
What does 'B' stand for in the neck pocket?



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