This incredibly ornate bass is packed with enough electronics to make ’70s-era IBM blush, but it’s origin has our columnist stumped. Thoughts?
It's not hard to feel as if we're living in the best of times when it comes to the equipment the market has to offer. That's surely true for amps and the vast amount of different—and sometimes complex—pedals out there. But basses? Not so much. It seems the main goal is to get prices down. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but most new instruments these days aren't complicated builds. There was a time, however, when there were more of those.
I recently came across a very special instrument, which might be a good example of that time, but it's been difficult to find out where and when it was made. I wrote a column a few years ago [“Name That Bass," September 2013], where I asked the PG audience to help identify the maker, model, and history of a particular bass. I successfully identified the instrument thanks to the feedback, so your help will be very much appreciated once again.
Here's the skinny: This mystery fretless 4-string (Photo 1) is equipped with two soapbar humbuckers, which are followed by both an optical pickup and a piezo bridge. The heart-shaped headstock sports four guitar tuners, which are obviously able to handle the load. The bridge is a top-loading unit that looks rather massive and modern, as opposed to a typical, folded-steel sheet style. Although the bass is loaded galore with pickups, there are no visible controls.
It's easy to see that both the piezos and optical pickup are able to handle each string separately, and it turns out that the Hi-A humbuckers are Bartolini quad-coil pickups, which means they have dedicated coils for each string. These pickups were built from 1973 to 1978 and widely used, although most manufacturers made no use of the separate-coil feature. Besides the Hi-A, there is no logo or name anywhere else on the bass.
Photo 2 — Courtesy of Michael Nürnberger
The body's complex 3-D shape (Photo 2) looks like something from the '90s. It's amazing to see how much effort went into the build, as it was probably carved by hand, including the heart-shaped headstock. Keep in mind that modern 5-axis CNC machines were new and uncommon at that time.
The instrument's backside features a large electronics cover with 16 holes. It turns out the massive amount of electronics underneath (Photo 3) has trim pots—accessed by the holes—which allow one to separately adjust each pickup's individual string volume.
So, while the magnetic pickup is a mid-'70s build in a '90s-style body, the circuit board contains the hint on the manufacturer and manufacturing era for the optical pickup. K-Muse was a keyboard manufacturer who—according to Billboard magazine—introduced a guitar and bass MIDI system at the Chicago NAMM show in 1986. Roland also had such a system, but the K-Muse's main feature was the conversion of vibration through light via an optical pickup with a light source and photosensor. (There are more details about these pickups in my “Piezo and Optical Bass Pickups" column in the September 2012 issue.)
Photo 3 — Courtesy of Michael Nürnberger
It's beyond me why this pickup wasn't in clear violation in regard to the original inventor and patent holder, Ron Hoag, but it appears as if there was more than one violation, since he first introduced them at NAMM in 1969. Even more so, K-Muse later either licensed or sold the technology to Gibson, who built several prototypes and branded them as Phi Tech, with the model name Photon. For whatever reason, some of these prototypes later ended up in private hands, but it's hard to imagine this is one of them, right? Everything on this bass seems to be well planned and nothing on it points to a retrofit of any of its parts.
So, there we have it. Pickups spanning a period of two decades, a rather modern appearance, and still no clarity on this bass' maker or build date. Again, any hints from the PG audience on who, when, and where this bass came from would be appreciated!
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.