Vox Symphonic bass guitar

British built 1960s Precision style solid-body

1963 Vox Symphonic bass

1963 Vox Symphonic bass - have a closer look at this instrument here

The Vox Symphonic Bass, or V207, was one of the earliest Vox solid-body basses available; bodies were produced by G-plan in the UK for assembly at the JMI/Vox plant in Dartford, UK. At the time, Vox endorsers, The Shadows were kitted out with Vox amps and Fender guitars, so it is no surprise the Vox created a range of instruments that would appeal to Shadows fans who were not able to get a real Fender. Stratocaster-influenced guitars like the Vox Shadow sold well, the Vox Symphonic bass (heavily influenced by the Fender Precision) less so.

Unlike the other Fender-style Vox bass JMI was producing at the time, the Bassmaster, the Vox Symphonic was in the same league as the bass it was emulating - with the same long scale (34"), similar neck and body dimensions, and approximately the same weight as the Precision, and more than a passing resemblance.

1963 Vox Symphonic bass

A white Symphonic bass body awaits a neck at the JMI factory, Dartford, UK

The Symphonic bass was listed in Vox catalogues as early as late 1962, and at this time it was fitted with Vox V1 pickups, as fitted to numerous other Vox guitars and basses of the time. Unlike many other early models it did not have any major re-design, but there were numerous minor changes to the bass over the next five years of production, most notably the upgrade to V2 pickups in the mid sixties, mentioned although never illustrated in Vox literature. But furthermore, the body contours were deepened somewhat in the mid sixties; early versions are more slab-like (though not completely) and the neck pocket was also enlarged to allow the neck to join the body at the 15th rather than the 16th fret (also making the bass a fraction shorter). This required the bridge to be repositioned further back on the body to maintain the same scale. There were also intermediate examples with the larger pocket, but still joining at the 16th fret. One final change, that affected all UK Vox guitars was the new thicker 'black-edged' scratchplate.

1964 Vox Precision in Sound catalogue Vox Symphonic bass electric guitar - from the Vox "precision in sound" catalogue, 1964

The following description comes from the 1964 Vox catalogue 'Precision in Sound'.

Elegant electric bass. Two fine-quality adjustable bass pick-ups for maximum low frequency response. Independent tuning bridge. Adjustable reinforced neck with rosewood fingerboard. All hardware in polished chromium. Available in red, white or sunburst polyester finish.

The Symphonic bass was initially aimed at the UK market, and few were exported to the United States, however they were available in small numbers in 1965, before the Italian E.M.E plant was set up to produce Vox guitars for America. It had a 1964 UK price of £98 10s 0d, cheaper than the Fender, but as can be seen below, it was impossible for this Precision copy to compete overseas, when it was actually more expensive! Interestingly, the Summer NAMM show publicity of 1965 actually describes it as a Vox Stingray bass.

1965 US prices

Model 1965 price
Vox Clubman bass $100
Vox Bassmaster bass $120
Vox Symphonic bass $250
Vox Phantom bass $340
Fender Precision bass $223
1966 Vox Symphonic bass

This 1966 Symphonic bass has no serial number or headstock markings, yet is fitted with a Vox "V" bridge cover.

Vox Symphonic becomes Dallas Arbiter 4537

The Vox Symphonic bass as featured in the 1969 Dallas Arbiter catalog

The Symphonic bass disappeared from the Vox line in the US, but remained in UK price lists as late as 1967, although it is most likely that this was an attempt to use up old stock rather than any reflection of customer preference. The April 1967 UK price was £95 17S - the same as the Mark IV. Shortly after the issue of this list JMI went bust, and by 1969 unshipped Vox guitars were being marketed by Dallas Arbiter. The Symphonic bass was sold by them as model 4537 - with an incredible price of just £69.

The 4537 is shown here in the 1969 Dallas Arbiter catalogue. It was listed alongside the Clubman, Bassmaster and, as seen here, Mark IV bass. These guitars typically have no Vox headstock decal, or serial number, but often featured Vox engraved hardware.

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Bruce Wheeler Comment left 31st August 2017 08:08:28 reply
Your comments I was the owner of the Symphonic Bass featured in your article from 1967 to 2013 - and yes I was the one who scraped off the VOX logo ! Doh ! I purchased the bass second hand from Markham's Music in Colchester [sadly no longer trading] for £35 in 1967 -quite a lot of money in times when the average wage was probably less than £30pw. I used it for many years in local bands until life, mortgages etc etc got in the way in the 70's, and it was then stored for many years at our various homes from Essex to Cumbria. She looks a lot better now than when I sold her and obviously has acquired a new pick guard and along the way. I am still playing [in a Cliff/Shads. Tribute] today [aged 71] - and ironically perhaps, my main instrument these days is an American 62 reissue Precision - in Fiesta Red of course - just what I wanted audiences to think I was playing in the late 60's! Great to see her looking so good and cared-for now. If the present owner ever wanted to sell, I would definitely be interested in a reunion with my very old friend
Alan Comment left 22nd May 2017 15:03:58 reply
I own a very rare left handed Vox Symphonic Bass. stamped 1965. I still play it. Paid £30 for it in the 70's from the King Road Music Store London. I burnt off all the lacquer down to the bare wood to get a better cleaner sound. I use it with a pre CBS Fender showman blackface and early goodmans speakers. Any ideas on value as I know of no other left handed guitar like it in existence.
Vintage Guitar and Bass Comment left 22nd May 2017 16:04:50 reply
Hi Alan, sounds like a nice bass. In my experience left handed Vox guitars and basses don't typically sell for significantly different prices to right handed ones. Completeness and originality have more impact when it comes to determining value. I would expect you bass to sell for mid £xxx on ebay. Having said this you simply don't know until you try to sell, and frankly Symphonics (of either dexterity) come up for sale so infrequently that there is very little scope for comparison.
Larry Shaw Comment left 6th September 2016 15:03:03 reply
I had a Symphonic Bass back in 64, jennings supplied our band with matching white guitars, great Bass and unfortinately it was stolen from a music shop in Poole in about 66. Played Fender Precisions and Jazz's ever since (amongst others) but used to love that thing - often look at my old pic's with it.

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