Basses of the ’80s are old now – treat with care

(Pictured above: 1982 Gibson Victory Bass Standard)

When one thinks of “old bass,” and we’re specifically talking about electric basses here, certain makes and models come to mind such as a ’65 Hofner or maybe a ’62 Fender Jazz Bass or the like. However, it’s generally true that anything 25 years of age or older is considered antique, as in old. Old is not a bad thing as long as you know what you’re dealing with electric basses that were made more than 25 years ago.

Everyone knows that all electric basses made in the ’70s are antiques now. Bear in mind 1979 was 38 years ago.

All electric basses made in the ’80s are also antiques now as well. 1989 was 28 years ago.

Are basses of the ’80s bad?

Most ’80s era basses are actually pretty good, but you have to bear in mind the decade they were made in and whom these instruments were being marketed to. Back then it was all about the rock-and-roll as that was the music dominating the charts, so the basses were voiced to sound correct (or “correct enough”) when pushed through the bass amplifiers of the time.

As evidenced by the Gibson Victory Bass seen above, sometimes you’ll come across some interesting stuff with an ’80s bass. Check out the tilt angle on that pickup, and keep in mind it’s a 4-string.

As ’80s basses useful today?

Yes. Even though many ’80s basses have pickups that are voiced “flat,” modern amp and DI technology allows you to shape tone pretty much any way you want.

Presently, ’80s basses are “affordable vintage” for the most part unless you seek out a high-end build such as an ’80s Alembic such as the Distillate model. Certain G&L brand models from the ’80s also typically command a high price.

Which are the best bang-for-the-buck ’80s basses?

Peavey T Series and Squier Japan-build basses. Either can be had for well under $1,000 in near-mint to mint condition…

but we’re happy to hear your recommendations for great ’80s basses, so feel free to post a comment with your vote for makes and models to check out from the ’80s era.

Show us your ’80s bass if you have one

Post a small story of your ’80s bass if you have one and link to some photos. And feel free to submit it for Bass of the Week. Your bass might get featured!

23 thoughts on “Basses of the ’80s are old now – treat with care

  1. ’85 Fender Performer bass – MIJ designed by John Page, one of the founders of the FCS. 24 frets (1st one for Fender) thin fb (closer to a Ric than a Fender) THX tone pot, pointy headstock with unique Fender graphics. Light gauge strings recommended. Originally designed to be the “deluxe” Jazz bass. Made for 1 year – June ’85 – June ’86. Came in 5 colours: pearl white, 2 colour sunburst, burgundy mist metallic, gunmetal metallic, and this alien green. Cool modern bass that was lost in the transition of Fender/CBS back to Fender and the onset of the conservative/retro movement.

    /Users/georgekitta/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/resources/proxies/derivatives/1e/00/1e83/C2s8SYiGT7mSK+qItUvhmg_thumb_1e83.jpg

  2. My 80’s bass is my main: a 1988 Charvel 4B with EMG’s. There are several more 80s basses I want, but I won’t mention any till after I have them. If people find out how good they are the prices will go up fast.

  3. I have 2 G&L L-1000’s
    1982 and 82
    Have a peavey T-40 not sure the year
    1981 Ibanez Roadsrer same model as in the video for run through the hills.

  4. I have a 1977 Ibanez Silver Series Jazz Bass style which I bought new. It was my main working guitar for over 30 years. I tried a couple of others but kept coming back to this workhorse. I now play 5 and 6 strings whenever jamming but am reluctant to sell the Silver Series as it is a beautiful guitar and in such good condition and all original. I had the rear pickup cover re-chromed and apart from that it has only required regular maintenance. I know it does not qualify as 80’s but it is old !! Happy to send photos (beautiful wood grain) if someone can tell me how to load them.

  5. I have an ESP Series 400 P bass style bass that I bought in 1984. Awesome bass which is better than the Fender P bass I had bought and returned due to dead spots on the neck. I have been playing ESP before George Lynch and Metallica!!!!

  6. My 2nd bass is a semi acoustic from Landola bought new in 1970…

    It’s not an original antique any more. The first alteration was in around 1990 when I had the (badly positioned) frets removed and a fretless ebony fingerboard installed. That sounded rather nice but I got ambitious…

    I went looking for a contact pickup but that failed due to body noise issues and the piezo tech in those days was not to today’s understandings or standards. But I’m still on that hunt.

    Long story short, project 2 is under way with the great assistance of our local luthier (I am in northern Peru where luthiers are for seeking). First stage is to refinish, that’s happening after we removed all the electrics. Now waiting for new pots from the far away USA.

    I already have a set of K&K piezos and a Bartolini p/m mix ready on the shelf and the nice original chrome knobs are waiting to go back. I can’t find any matches for them and Landola keep forgetting to look at my emails. Am keeping the original humbuckers for now.

    We did find that the best sound for the circular type piezo is on the tailpiece!

    If we have any success with this expensive folly I might get back to BBG with a snap or two.

  7. I had a Sunburst Gibson Victory Artist “B” bass. I found the claim that “B” basses had only cosmetic flaws, although the worst i saw was the “wings” weren’t flush with the center section. No problem; it was still gorgeous! he problem(s) was/were that the intonation couldn’t be corrected by the 4 different shops/repairmen. Also, the preamp picked up way too much string noise (I’m a roundwound user). Between the two, I couldn’t use it in the studio at all; it was too ‘flat’ w/o the preamp on & the intonation problems made the thing useless. I had used my Tokai-made $139 new Ampeg Big Stud in different studios w/o any problem! She was a beauty, but she had to go! I added a Peavey Foundation to replace the Victory & kept my Big Stud. I also added a Dan Armstrong to my arsenal at that time (circa 1978-79).

  8. I have a 1980 or so MusicMan Stingray which I rarely play but can’t get myself to sell, and a fretless Carvin LB-70 with an all Koa-wood body and neck with matching headstock, no doubt made in the 80s at some point. A great player, sweet sounding. I replaced the oem preamp about a year ago. I also have an OLP (licensed by Ernie Ball MM) 5 string Tony Levin model, which might be a late 80s product, not sure. All great players.

  9. I also have a Peavey Foundation Bass, 1983, white, in mint condition. The super Ferrite pickups are outstanding. The only modification I made was insulating the control cavity which cut the noise substantially. Love that bass!

  10. The Ibanez Musician (Made in Japan) that I bought new in ’82 was an incredibly funky bass – great thru-neck construction and active eq that made the $600 I paid for it seem incredible value, and it stands up well against newer designs.

  11. I’ve got a trio of mid 80s Japanese Fender Jazz Bass Specials. The active version was my first “good” bass that I bought back in the mid 90s. The passive fretted and fretless versions I’ve added in more recent years, mainly to complete the trio in matching colors. My go to P-bass is also a mid 80s MIJ Fender.

  12. For my money the Guild Pilots were outstanding basses. I have had several over the years. They stay in tune and intonate with the best of them. The ones I have played were all rock solid, light and comfortable and with a primo playable neck. My go to bass for all occasions except when I go back to my P Bass roots. If you find an original Pilot for a reasonable price you can’t go wrong!

  13. I use a 1987 Guild Pilot 4 string, PJ set up with EMG’s, cherry sunburst. It’s my primary, and it still sounds so good.

Leave a Comment