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From 1966 through to 1969, Ampeg produced a class of electric horizontal vintage bass guitars which were somewhat peculiar as well as innovative for that period. The majority of them were built with a headstock, much like those found on an upright bass or violin, this is why these musical instruments are known as the Scroll Basses.
Scroll Bass Models
The Scroll Basses came in 6 different models. It is really just three primary models, but they were offered in fretted and also fretless editions. The models were called AEB-1, AMB-1, AUB-1, AMUB-1, ASB-1 and AUSB-1, with the “U” denoting the fretless version.
The AEB-1 in addition to the AUB-1 were the first electric horizontal basses using Ampeg’s own design, and are the most widely known Scroll Basses. They have the famous headstock in addition to a rounded body shape along with a pair of big F-holes which go through the entire body.
Almost all of the front area of the bass is protected by a big black pickguard which wraps all around the F-holes. You might think they are attractive or perhaps you might think that they are ugly, nevertheless you can not confuse them with any other type of vintage bass.
Production began in Ampeg’s Linden, NJ manufacturing plant immediately following their debut at the NAMM show during July 1966, and continued through 1968. Besides its special look, the AEB-1 and AUB-1 vintage bass also had a few intriguing technological attributes which were unique for that period of time. The “mystery” pickup, which is how it was referred to in Ampeg’s pamphlets, is buried within the body beneath the bridge.
The tailpiece dangles around an inch below the rear of the bass on a couple of steel posts, plus the additional length in between the tailpiece and bridge would need specialized strings which were almost 3″ longer than regular length. This was partially done to get the required string angle above the pickup, as well as the longer string length allowed them to stretch more, which could then be plucked harder just like a vertical bass.
Their ASB-1 as well as their AUSB-1 basses were launched close to December 1966 and ended up being produced for roughly a year. Their most distinguishing attribute was the unconventional body, having a pair of lengthy, slender, outward-curving horns in addition to triangular-in-shape cutouts which go completely through to the back. For reasons which are obvious, they have been nicknamed the “Devil Bass.”
In late 1967, Ampeg developed another scroll model vintage bass, the AMB-1 and AMUB-1, to deal with consumer complaints together with production issues that they had with their original models. The so-called “mystery” pickups were found to be problematic to produce reliably, as well as being temperamental on the road. Furthermore, the previous versions did not have sufficient range.
At first look, the AMB-1 resembles the earlier on AEB-1, however, it’s really a totally different musical instrument which had considerable improvements. The AMB-1′s body was solid maple and the “mystery” pickup had been replaced with a black rectangle-shaped magnetic pickup attached in the center of the body. Regrettably, they did not sell really well and therefore production was terminated in 1969.
Late in 1967, Ampeg unveiled a short scale vintage bass in an effort to get a piece of the student and beginner market which had been dominated by low-cost imports. The fretted SSB and fretless SSUB had a 30 ½” short scale length along with a more conventional flat slab headstock and they were not a great deal bigger than a typical electric guitar.
Production of the SSB and SSUB was cancelled shortly after they were released. Even though they had been available for about 50% of the cost of the AEB-1, they were still a lot more expensive when compared to the imports.
Today, it’s hard to find an AEB-1 or an AUB-1 vintage bass in excellent condition. The finish is normally chipped and cracked as the lacquer that was used didn’t last longer than 15 years. Because of this many of them were refinished which decreases their value even more.
The AMB-1 and its brother the AMUB-1 were of superior quality to their predecessors and have therefore fared better as far as their condition goes.
As for their value the AEB-1, AMB-1, AUB-1, and AMUB-1 basses are worth about $2,500 in excellent condition while both versions of the Devil Bass will be closer to $3,500 in that same state.