SD Mini-Humbuckers and the Hofner Beatle Bass

The Green Hofner Icon B BassThe Hofner Violin Bass is an icon in and of itself, due to one particular musician that happened to do pretty well in the 60s. It’s also an interesting instrument, because while it is classified as a short scale (30″) instrument, it actually requires a set of strings that would be classified as medium scale (34″). So when my suggestion to release a medium scale version of the GHS Precision Flats was approved, I naturally ran to grab one of this iconic basses to use as the test instrument. Yeah, that’s the reason I got it… It arrived in the office, the flats were strung up, I plugged it in and played as many of Sir Paul’s basslines as I could remember. And while the sound was “good” and definitely in that “A Hofner will always sound like a Hofner” category, I knew it could be better so I ran to the Seymour Duncan website to see what was available.
And I found nothing.
Still, not one to give up, I thought that maybe the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop would be the place to turn, so I emailed Scott Marceau and asked. After sending him a picture of the bass with the pickup dimensions, Scott told me that mini-humbuckers would work just great, and recommended I use the SM-1 Vintage Mini-Humbucker for the neck with the SM-3 Seymourized Mini-Humbucker for the bridge.

To say Scott was right on the money in terms of pickup recommendations is akin to saying the Beatles sold a couple of records. The tone on the bass went from “Well, it’s just a cheap Chinese version, so what did you expect?” to “Abbey Road just called; they want their original masters back.” The vintage tone of this bass was there! The creamy warmth of the neck pickup plays extremely well with the bridge pickup, and when you put the bass boost on (because those familiar with the Hofner know that there are only a couple of EQ switches on it, no tone knobs), you’ve got a defined low end that is woody, but still rings true and clear. When you start favoring the neck pickup, the tone blooms into something very rich and meaty. When you favor the bridge pickup, you can really start making this bass bark.
At the end of the day, I owe Scott a beer the next time I see him. The SM-1 Vintage Mini-Humbucker and SM-3 Seymourized Mini-Humbucker were excellent replacements for the run of the mill pickups that came with the bass. While the Hofner will always have “that Hofner sound” and be considered a “One Trick Pony,” these pickups really opened up the tonal capabilities of the instrument to allow you to really dial in some great vintage mojo. And throw on a set of flats, and you’re in tonal nirvana.

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  1. I was curious, did you use each models respective “Neck” and “Bridge” pickup? Or did you put “Bridge” possition of each model SM-1 and SM-3 in neck and bridge possition? Thanks

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