Home » Ultimate Hofner Ignition Bass Review 2024 (Paul McCartney’s Secret Weapon in The Beatles!)

Ultimate Hofner Ignition Bass Review 2024 (Paul McCartney’s Secret Weapon in The Beatles!)

paul mccartney hofner bass beatles

The Hofner Ignition Bass has fast become my secret musical weapon. You can get that Paul McCartney Hofner bass sound, but you can also use it for unconventional purposes (like metal!).

It’s the most easily playable bass I’ve come across by far and is insanely underrated. As a result, it’s also a fantastic bass for guitarists. It’s only a matter of time before this thing is used by everyone, so get a jump start on the competition.

I first came across the Hofner bass like most people: from being a fan of The Beatles. That quirky looking bass that Paul McCartney would play always caught my eye, and I was enamoured with his fluid, melodic basslines that left their fingerprints all over The Beatles’ music.

Then in 2010, a band sounding like all the best parts of The Beatles’ psychedelic-era hit the scene, and the Hofner bass was right there in the mix, with a singer that sounded like John Lennon. This band was Tame Impala and it was instant love for me.


Full review coming up down below, with…

  • heaps of tips and tricks
  • video demos
  • tone guide on pairing it with pedals to unlock certain genres
  • a note on roundwound vs La Bella flatwound strings
  • Hofner Ignition vs Contemporary


Underneath all the layers of swirling guitars and tripped-out vocals was a vintage bass sound that would dance around effortlessly and become the lynchpin of their music. The quest to get that groovy Tame Impala bass sound became another motivation for purchasing my Hofner Ignition Bass.

Saying I was excited to get this thing would be an enormous understatement!

In just one year, I’ve now recorded an entire album, plus 2 EPs, with it. I have 2 other albums that I’m working on that have the Hofner bass sound all over it. I’ve played multiple gigs with it too, and it totally stands up on-stage and in the studio.

I’ve straight-up fallen in love with it and I think you will too.

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Hofner Ignition Bass Features
22 frets
30" scale length
Rosewood fretboard & bridge
Hofner Staple Nickel pickups
Hollowbody
Sunburst colour
Pearl pickguard





Hofner Ignition Bass Review – 3 Reasons This Will Become Your New Secret Musical Weapon

1. It Has Insane Playability

hofner ignition bass review
This thing is beautiful

My god, this instrument is so much fun to play! My fingers absolutely fly around the fretboard with ease. As soon as I pick it up, I can’t put it down and always find myself writing bass lines, riffs and grooves at a rapid pace.

It continues to shock me just how many ideas I’ve come up with while jamming or rehearsing with my bands, or just at home in my studio with this beauty in my hands.

  • This is a short-scale bass, which makes it a lot easier to play. So this is also a great bass for guitarists to pick up and start creating. I find that with more popular basses (like a Fender Jazz Bass) the neck is a bit too chunky to manoeuvre around more complex lines and fly through arpeggios. This is not an issue with the Hofner Ignition.

Notes are easily within reach and the fretboard is silky smooth, which means that your fingers don’t get stuck.

With other basses, the distance between the frets, combined with the materials they’re constructed with means that you get slowed down in certain positions. Your hand can start cramping up after a while because your fingers have to stretch so far. This makes it kind of annoying to play.

I get absolutely ZERO fatigue in my hands at all with the Hofner.

  • It’s also very very light, which means you can play it for hours at rehearsals or gigs and not get tired. The only thing to watch out for is that it’s a bit top-heavy. That means that if you’re playing it standing up and take both hands off it, the headstock will start tilting towards the floor. Not a big deal, but just something to watch out for so you don’t damage it.

I was also instantly impressed with how much more complex musical territory I could cover with this thing. Because it’s so easy to play, it will make you look significantly better at bass, and allow the flow of creative ideas that you have to be easily achieved.

When you’re deep in the creative process or jamming/improvising, you don’t want a clumsy bass stopping that flow – you want the ideas to just pour out of you!

The ideas pour out of me with the Hofner Ignition Bass to the point that this is comfortably the most playable bass I’ve ever come across.



2. The Sound/Tone of the Hofner Is Completely Unique

Check out this video demo to hear some of the cool sounds

Like pretty much everybody, I was attracted to the Hofner Ignition Bass because of the SOUND of it. It has such a distinct thumpy, woody tone that cuts incredibly well through a mix. You can bring this aspect out even more with La Bella flatwound strings (more on that coming up).

Right out the gate, this thing sounds awesome just recorded DI directly into my interface. In fact, I rarely ever need to record it with an amp. When it sounds great straight from the source without any extra trickery, then it’s only going to get better from there.

  • The two pickups sound brilliant, and the pickup selector is diverse. With the pickup switch set to Rhythm, you can get some punchy, thuddy, low-mids and deep, woofy sub-bass that has power to it. Flick it to the Solo setting and you can get some really snarly mid-range sounds that have their pocket in the frequency spectrum.
  • You also get a Bass and Treble switch, plus individual volume knobs for each pickup to unlock a vast array of different tones.

I picked up this bass guitar about a year ago as a present to myself for finishing my latest album. I had recorded all of the bass lines on that album with a Fender Jazz Bass.

Within about a day of getting my Hofner I realised that this bass sound NEEDED to be on the album, so I ended up re-recording every single bass track with it. This was a big undertaking, and required me to re-do all of the mixes, but the sound of this bass was just too good to not utilise and totally worth the effort to get it done.

  • The famous woodiness of the Hofner tone comes from the fact that it’s a hollowbody bass, which means that it’s semi-acoustic. This is great because you can play it unplugged and hear it easily, without it being too loud and bothering your neighbours/roomates (like a full acoustic bass would).

This particular aspect of it happens to make me more likely to pick it up and start writing, because I can just reach out and grab it, without having to worry about plugging anything in to hear it properly. This is great news for our productivity!



3. It Pairs Extremely Well with Effects Pedals (You Can Even Play Metal!)

What I enjoy about this bass the most is just how many different genres you can play with it, and just how interesting and alive it sounds when you pair it with pedals. This is NOT just for playing Beatles songs (although it does that extremely well too!).

Here’s a guide to some of my favourite Hofner Ignition Bass tones:

Classic Rock – Paul McCartney Bass Tone

hofner bass paul mccartney tone

Now obviously any review about a Hofner bass is incomplete without talking about the man who made it so iconic.

Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass tone in The Beatles is so incredibly well-suited to his playing style. The Hofner pairs well with the really melodic, fluid playing techniques that Paul is famous for. In fact, Paul was originally a guitarist in The Beatles, so it’s no wonder he became synonymous with such a great bass for guitarists.

Because the tone has a good dose of mid-range information in it, it gives really busy bass lines the clarity to cut through a mix, without clouding up the vocals either. In addition, the way it sits in the EQ spectrum means it avoids a lot of muddiness too.

This makes it a fantastic creative tool, because you can add a more flowing playing style, with more melodic colour and complex rhythmic flavour without it getting lost in the mix.

Paul McCartney’s iconic bass tone is easily achieved with the Hofner (and when you throw some flatwound strings on it – more on that coming up in just a sec).

Indie/Psychedelic Rock – Tame Impala Bass Tone

tame impala bass hofner

This bass has picked up steam over the last few years due to the Tame Impala bass sound.

Kevin Parker has this slightly gritty tone with a huge bottom end and a really searing mid-range. Weirdly enough, he actually runs it through his guitar pedalboard for some interesting tones that have massively influenced the indie rock world lately. [R]

  • He runs it through his MXR Dyna Comp to squash the signal nicely, then through his Boss Blues Driver to get some grit. He even runs it with his Holy Grail Reverb pedal for some extra texture (I love doing this too!). Who else do you hear doing things like that?
  • Tame Impala also famously uses the Diamond Vibrato pedal, which gets some nice warbly, rubbery bass tones. If you don’t have that pedal, then you can just throw some chorus into the mix and voila! You got yourself a killer indie rock/psychedelic rock bass tone.

For the Tame Impala bass tone, make sure to play with a pick and slap some La Bella Flatwound bass strings on it (we’re almost up to that bit!).

Shoegaze Bass Tone

The bassist from Australian shoegaze band Flyying Colours plays a Hofner

The Hofner has been gaining traction recently in the shoegaze world too and it’s easy to see why when you think about it.

When you have thick wall of sound guitars to contend with, you don’t want to muddy up the low end further. The mid-range of the Hofner will cut through those shoegaze guitars with ease.

Adding a bit of grit, like with the Boss Blues Driver, you’ll be providing the drive to your hazy shoegaze sound, while keeping a pulsing low end that adds rhythmic momentum, so you don’t get totally lost in the haze.

This is extremely important in such a sonically-dense genre.

Doom Metal/Stoner Metal/Garage Rock Bass Tone

This guy gives a little Motorhead-esque tone demo on the Hofner at 7:12

This bass may look refined and borderline classy (it’s literally called a violin bass because it looks like a violin), but pairing this bass with fuzz pedals unlocked some of the most filthy, cavernous doom metal tones imaginable for me.

  • I like running it into my Boss FZ-5 Fuzz (extremely underrated guitar and bass fuzz pedal, by the way) and it’s obscene how powerful and nasty such a lovely-looking instrument can sound.

You get some enormous sub-bass tones that can crush skulls, while melting faces with the searing mid-rangey fuzz pedal tones.

I’m working on an EP at the moment which has a doom metal breakdown in it and the sheer power that this bass brings to the equation is such an eye-opener to what can be achieved when you use gear in unexpected ways.

One of my favourite things to do when I have my Hofner bass paired with a fuzz pedal is use my Dunlop Cry Baby Wah pedal to sweep around and get different fuzz tones. Instead of using the wah in the traditional/rapid-fire Jimi Hendrix kind of way, you click the pedal on and slowly sweep around with your foot until you find a sweet spot with it and leave it in that position.

That trick makes a whole world of different fuzz tones available, right at your feet (literally).

House/Electronic Music Bass Synth Emulation

You can use the Hofner to imitate this classic bit of gear!

This is a bit of an unexpected one. It’s pretty rare that you’ll find live bass guitar being used in house/electronic music. Because it’s so rare, this is exactly what motivated me to explore this area.

One of my latest discoveries is that you can make the Hofner sound similar to a classic Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer. That bit of gear has a classic squelchy tone that’s quite bright.

I found that you can unlock this by playing with a pick and emphasizing two points in the EQ spectrum:

  1. around 1.4khz – this is where most of the pick attack lies. The TB-303 has quite a bit of attack in it.
  2. around 600-800hz – this is where a lot of the mid-range strength and woodiness of the Hofner lies

From there, you throw in some compression, a bit of overdrive, some modulation (like chorus), and maybe an auto-wah on it (depending on how squelchy you want it to sound!).

Suddenly you have a classic acid house bass sound that you can manipulate in real-time. Sidechain it to the kick drum and you got yourself something real groovy.

It seems unique to the Hofner, because I’ve been unable to achieve this sound this accurately with any other bass!



La Bella Flatwound Bass Strings – A Must-Have for That Hofner Vibe

flatwound vs roundwound bass string comparison
Flatwound strings (bottom) have a smooth surface, while roundwounds (top) are bumpier

As soon as I got this bass, I swapped out the default roundwound strings for some La Bella flatwound strings. Not because roundwounds sound or feel particularly bad, but because flatwound strings just sound and feel so damn good.

  • Paul McCartney used flatwound strings on his Hofner in The Beatles, and this pairing has become iconic (being used by Kevin Parker of Tame Impala as well). It emphasises all of the things that are great about this instrument.

The warm, woody tones really get a nice boost. There’s a really pleasing, muted, rounded quality to it (which also means you don’t have to mute so heavily when you play with a pick). Everything I love about the sound of a Hofner gets dialled up.

The playability also becomes even further off the charts. Because the strings are smooth, your fingers never get stuck in any spot (which calloused fingertips are prone to doing). It makes it such a joy to play this bass when your fingers are able to freely express every musical idea that’s rapidly coming into your head.

It’s like you become intertwined and merged with the bass. If you get a Hofner then you need to start your love affair with flatwounds as well.

Check La Bella Flatwound Price!




Hofner Ignition vs Contemporary

hofner ignition vs contemporary

When you buy a Hofner, you have a choice to make. Do you get the more budget-friendly Hofner Ignition Bass, or do you go with the full-priced, premium Hofner Contemporary 500/1?

  • The main differences are that the build quality and electronics are meant to be better in the Hofner Contemporary than they are in the Ignition.

I’ve played both now, and while I actually did find that the Contemporary felt a bit nicer and of higher quality, I personally didn’t find that I needed to pay double just for that. My Ignition more than does the job for me, considering it’s easily my favourite bass now.

If you have the extra money, then I always believe it’s better to buy quality from the get-go, because you end up spending more in the long-run when you go to upgrade. The Hofner Contemporary is a step-up from the Ignition, but you have to ask yourself what your motivation for getting it is.

  • If you’re a serious bass player on the quest to find the best possible tone, then absolutely look into spending the extra and getting the Contemporary.
  • If you’re everybody else, then I think the Hofner Ignition is an incredibly good deal. It’s so affordable for such a quality instrument.

Personally, my motivation for purchasing it was for some fun and to see if it would be the right instrument for me. It far far far exceeded my expectations and became my main bass, pretty much instantly.

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I may end up upgrading to the Contemporary 500/1 eventually, but that’s because I’m a professional musician that does a lot of studio recording and I want the best sound possible.

Regardless, after playing both, the difference between them is still minor in my opinion (not quite worth double the cost) and the Ignition will more than satisfy most people.



In Conclusion

hofner ignition violin bass

Well that wraps up this Hofner Ignition Bass review. I know that was a raving review, but honestly, I can’t really fault this thing and I just NEED people to know how good this bass is so we can hear more of it in music.

So many cool sounds suddenly being achievable will absolutely make your music stand out. There’s something about it that makes it feel like it’s just alive when I listen back to things that I’ve recorded with it.

The last year of owning this thing has allowed so many great musical ideas to come pouring out of me. Ideas that I simply wouldn’t get from playing something like the Fender Jazz Bass, so I wish that I had bought it sooner!

It’s incredibly easy to play, which is makes it inspiring to pick up. When playing music feels effortless and you love what you’re hearing back, you’re infinitely more inclined to keep creating.

You want as few roadblocks as possible in the creative process, and having a clunky, clumsy bass is a HUGE roadblock. The Hofner is a turbo-charged engine that bursts through those roadblocks.

If you have any specific questions, throw them in the comment box down below and I’ll answer them for you. If you’ve got one of these bad boys, then feel free to share any tips and tricks/cool things you can do with it that you’ve learned along the way. You’re also welcome to send across any music you’ve recorded with it to my email too!

Be bold


Hofner Ignition Bass

9.2

9.2/10

Pros

  • Insanely easy to play
  • Has an amazing tone that's big but also cuts through a mix
  • Works for a wide variety of genres
  • Super light and comfortable
  • Affordable and looks beautiful!

Cons

  • Can be a bit top-heavy
  • Smaller neck might take some adjusting for players used to bigger necks

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Hofner Ignition Bass Review 2024 (Paul McCartney’s Secret Weapon in The Beatles!)”

  1. Benjamin Sabourin

    Excellent article on this bass, I’m currently checking to get one myself and this text has me even more hyped to buy one !

  2. Hi,
    Very interesting article on the Hofner Ignition. I bought an Ignition just to try out and thought it would never come near my US Fender Jazz, but thought it would be good for home use. Not so! I am a semi pro musician and do mainly pub gigs, this Ignition is an amazing instrument, exactly as you say in your article. I then decided to step up a notch and bought the German “Artist” version….Fantastic! I now have put my Jazz Bass up and use this all the time. I would say to any musician starting off or semi pro…try out the Ignition first to ensure it suits you. There is very little difference tbh in the sound from either basses, that’s how good the Ignition is. But the for snob value, I am very happy to be seen playing the “Artist.” Cheers.

    1. Thanks for your comment Les, it really is such a great instrument! I don’t think I’ll ever part with mine. It’s become such an indispensable part of my sound and style now! Great to hear you getting great use out of it too and encouraging others to check it out as well

  3. I am a guitarist in a church worship team playing bass since we lost our bass player. Currently using an INSANELY heavy Fender Jaguar bass. I am what I would call an intermediate level player. The Ignition sounds like it would fit nicely into my realm. Thanks for the review.

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