The Vox Bassmaster was one of Vox's earliest guitars, and probably their first bass. Vox guitar manufacture was in it's infancy, and unlike Vox amps, the first guitars were primarily aimed at entry level guitarists who were into the Shadows (one of the earliest British guitar bands who endorsed Vox amps, yet played Fender guitars). Short scale (30") and a thin neck made them ideal for younger hands. The Bassmaster was a loose Fender Precision copy, but smaller, and more economically manufactured. They were produced from late 1960 until at least early 1966. They were manufactured in the UK, the necks outsourced to furniture manufacturer G-plan with the electronics and assembly taking place at the JMI plant in Dartford.
A closer look
Early versions were made with plywood bodies, sycamore neck (a European tree closely related to maple) and rosewood fingerboard (see this 1963 Vox Bassmaster). They also used mahogany (see this 1965 Vox Bassmaster) and sycamore as body material. Necks were thin: just 1 5/16" and without an adjustable truss rod. Vox catalogues only mention red and white polyester finish options, although various burst finishes were available, and perhaps black. But red was by far the most common colour.
Naturally, the solid wood bodies are more desireable, and it is easy to see this if you examine the unpainted neck pocket. But even without taking the neck off you can often tell by looking at the curvature of the body edges - in the picture here the top guitar has a laminate body, the bottom is solid mahogany - notice the difference in shape. Click the image to see a larger version.
The Bassmaster had two Vox single coil pickups but very simplified electronics (wiring diagram). Just one volume and one tone control. The input was a coaxial tv aerial jack, positioned on the side of the bass until the second half of 1964, then mounted on the scratchplate from then on.
But sales were good and today, the Vox Bassmaster (along with the Clubman) is probably the most regularly seen of all vintage Vox basses in the UK, though maybe not so common elsewhere in the world. They don't sound bad either - have a listen to the Vox Bassmaster sounclips - a 1965 mahogany-bodied Bassmaster, through an Ampeg B15. I like the last clip with the tone rolled down.
The Vox Bassmaster bass, as shown and described in the 1963 Vox catalogue
All Bassmasters were British-built, and when guitar production in the UK was superceded by the Italian-built Vox's, the basic body shape thin neck lived on as the Vox Panther and Vox Hawk bass guitars.
When JMI folded, and Vox guitar production ceased in early 1968, leftover Bassmaster stock was sold on by Dallas Arbiter nominally unbranded (though potentially still with a Vox engraved bridge cover and pickups) simply as model 4533. This was at a somewhat reduced price of £21 1 8 (the 1967 list price was £28 15 0).
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