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Apollo IV, do you read me?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by meursault42, Dec 25, 2012.


  1. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Calling all Vox Apollo IV owners! Here's the story: My wife knows that I'm a big fan of Paul Bryan (bassist/producer for Aimee Mann) and has heard me talk about that lovely sound that he gets with his Vox Apollo for years now. So long-story-short, she decided to surprise me this X-mas and buy me my very own!

    It is however in need of a setup...in particular these gawdawful tapewound strings have GOT to go. But in general this is a really quirky instrument to say the least, and I have some questions for those in the know:

    1.) My bass has a metal nut (brass? aluminum? mystery metal?). Was this standard for the Vox basses?

    2.) What exactly is the function of the "Treble/Bass Boost" and it's corresponding knob? To me it sounds like as you turn it clockwise it cuts treble whilst boosting bass, and does the opposite counter-clockwise.

    3.) What type of strings do you have success with? I was thinking that the LaBella Hofner strings would be fine. It's the same set that I have on my Hofner Club and they sound/feel great.

    4.) What type of set up do folks use on these? With my Hofner, I use very low relief on the neck and high action at the bridge. I know it's all a matter of personal taste, but figured it couldn't hurt to get some opinions.

    5.) Does anybody happen to have a copy of the original Vox manual/brochure (if one ever even existed)?

    6.) From what I've heard and read, I was expecting the pickup to have fairly high output, comparable to my Hofner. But the output is actually slightly lower than the PUPs on my P-bass. Any thoughts here? Could it be partly the fault of these hideous tapewound strings? Or is the high output an internet myth?

    7.) I've also read that the electronics are active. Does it require a 9v battery?

    In general, if anyone has any tips for how to better approach this exceptionally quirky instrument, please post on here. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Challah! :D
     
  2. Rickengeezer

    Rickengeezer

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2005
    Location:
    Central Texas
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Steve Clayton Accessories
    Hate to answer a question with a question, but.....where did you get your wife?
     
  3. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Haha, same place we all get 'em brother. Ya get what ya give though ;)
     
  4. Thornton Davis

    Thornton Davis Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 1999
    Location:
    GTA
    Here are some answers to your questions. I've owned many Vox basses over the years so i've shared some of my experiences below in red.

    1.) My bass has a metal nut (brass? aluminum? mystery metal?). Was this standard for the Vox basses? It's Aluminum and yes it was standard.

    2.) What exactly is the function of the "Treble/Bass Boost" and it's corresponding knob? To me it sounds like as you turn it clockwise it cuts treble whilst boosting bass, and does the opposite counter-clockwise. Correct, that's the way it's designed to work.

    3.) What type of strings do you have success with? I was thinking that the LaBella Hofner strings would be fine. It's the same set that I have on my Hofner Club and they sound/feel great. If you want to go with Roundwounds, I'd suggest D'Addario EXL170-M or EXL160-S each being a different gauge & length. You may find the LaBella's won't fit as they're designed for a 2+2 headstock and may not have a long enough G-string.

    4.) What type of set up do folks use on these? With my Hofner, I use very low relief on the neck and high action at the bridge. I know it's all a matter of personal taste, but figured it couldn't hurt to get some opinions. I would set the Vox up the same as the Hofner if that's the setup you prefer.

    5.) Does anybody happen to have a copy of the original Vox manual/brochure (if one ever even existed)? There never was one to the best of my knowledge.

    6.) From what I've heard and read, I was expecting the pickup to have fairly high output, comparable to my Hofner. But the output is actually slightly lower than the PUPs on my P-bass. Any thoughts here? Could it be partly the fault of these hideous tapewound strings? Or is the high output an internet myth? Vox's Ferro-Sonic pickups (especially the ones with the chrome p/u covers) always sounded better in a solid body rather then when they were installed in a semi-acoustic IMO.

    7.) I've also read that the electronics are active. Does it require a 9v battery? Correct, it's needed to drive the onboard effects and located inside the body accessable through the back of the bass under the body pad. It has no effect on the output of the pickup.

    Enjoy your new-old bass.

    TD
     
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  6. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Thanks Thornton! As far as the output goes, I'm thinking it's probably a combination of the strings and the height of the pickup. I've looked at several pictures of these basses and noticed that the pickup height is rather low on my bass. I'd like to take it in to my luthier and see if he can figure out how to get that little guy closer to the strings. Interesting tidbit about the chrome covered pickup. Is it the same as the plasticover underneath?

    Also another question that I neglected to ask in the OP: Is this pickup single coil? I'm getting a lot of what sounds like typical 60-cycle hum associated with single coils, but perhaps it's something more to do with the electronics?
     
  7. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Also another thing: does the rosewood fingerboard have a finish on it? It's honestly hard to tell. It may just be the years of oil/dirt/etc. accumulation, but it almost looks like there's a finish there.
     
  8. bassteban

    bassteban

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2004
    Location:
    Northern California
    Pics. My Constellation's FB looks bare, aside from finger gunk.
     
  9. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2011
    Not exactly an owner's manual per se, but there's an original exploded-view "Service Manual" for the Apollo IV here:
    http://www.voxshowroom.com/us/guitar/apollobass1.html

    Parts list here:
    http://www.voxshowroom.com/us/guitar/apollobass2.html

    and wiring diagram here:
    http://www.voxshowroom.com/us/guitar/apollo3.html


    btw, I am jealous! Ever since a guy in my band circa 1974 brought a Vox Apollo IV to a rehearsal I've wanted one of my own...only ever found one for sale once since then, and they wanted way too much for the condition it was in. That's an awesomely unique instrument. Your wife's obviously a real keeper too. :)

    Put up some pics, please!
     
  10. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Oh cool. Thank you, that'll definitely come in handy.

    I just watched a YouTube video of Paul Bryan wherein he's stuffed a bunch of foam behind the bridge (between the tailpiece and bridge) on the Apollo. I'm curious what purpose that serves. Any thoughts?
     
  11. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2010
    Location:
    The Great Midwest
    I think you better have me take a look at that bass it may be a fake? I'll need at least a month to do a through investigation and at that time we can discuss a fee.
     
  12. bradjonesbass

    bradjonesbass

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Location:
    Fort Wayne, Indiana
    It serves as a mute and gives a big round almost uprightish sort of sound. Lots of guys use this technique on P basses.
     
  13. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    No, this was behind the bridge, in front of the tailpiece. Not in the usual place in front of the bridge.
     
  14. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Do players actually use the onboard electronics? Just curious, because if they aren't really useful per se, then what you've essentially got is a Saturn IV with a bunch of useless circuitry (and added weight). However, all I ever see guys with are the Apollo IV. I was messing around with the "Treble/Bass Boost" function today and noticed that it seemed to mute the 60-cycle hum considerably...but it also makes the tone muddy/woofy as well.
     
  15. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2011
    I've had some hollow-body guitars with a separate floating bridge and trapeze tailpiece like the Apollo IV, and some form of muting behind the bridge was required to prevent that short length of string from resonating sympathetically when you played the instrument. It would add harmonically-unrelated overtones otherwise; the mute cleaned up the pitch definition on the instrument.
     
  16. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Yep. That's what I figured. :)
     
  17. PaulieBe

    PaulieBe Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Thank you for caring!

    I use that foam between the bridge and tailpiece to have somewhere to stick my pick when I put the bass down.

    Originally in the mid 90's I was trying to figure out how to play on Apollo IVs and experimented briefly with foam between the bridge and pick up to see what would happen (and also using the on-board pre etc., which is VERY cool but extreme.)

    (The non-harmonic fuzz is usable too and I have recorded it a bunch for effect. It could use a gain knob to get the gain staging right for live- unusable there for me at the moment...)

    But after fooling around a bit with various settings and damping materials, I ended up just using the Apollos in passive mode and rolling the tone control to where I felt it was working for me on a song to song basis.

    When I took the foam out, I stuck behind the bridge (it was a good piece of foam- I wanted to save it!) and found that I can store picks between the foam and strings- I mean, I can go to Europe or Japan and that pick will not have budged one inch... So I put foam on all of them purely because I am absent minded and will lose 5 or 6 picks a day if I don't stick them somewhere.

    Weird personal details aside, I think what is really great (for me) about Apollo IVs is that they are really oddball and difficult to control in a way: not at all 'full-range' or 'pro' instruments. This gives limits to what/how you can play them and what might sound good range-wise and style-wise in a recording. But I like personally limitations in instruments and music, and I relish someone telling me I can only use a certain few notes on a guitar, or only so-many instruments/tracks in a recording- that is the fun part. Almost a relief in a way.

    'Too many options' is not my friend. What's needed in any musical situation will always reveal itself and that is always manifested as narrowing of possibilities...

    But re technique: muting the Apollos is key and I always play them with a pick. All of my muting on Apollos comes from the right hand palm sliding around to taste, left hand phrasing and then using the tone control to dial in whatever attack is desired. Also key is picking power... they can take a lot. There is a sweet spot where they like to be 'thunked' tone-wise, at least for me. It took me many years to find it.

    I have three of them and they all have the original flatwounds that were on them when I bought them; I have never changed the strings in 2 decades of using them and all of them showed up to me with flats on. They are remarkably consistent (I have had two others,) and I can not tell them apart except by color... or what features are broken on them at any given moment.

    My Fenders are an entirely different ball game. I am back in the Fender world with a vengeance these days and totally into manipulating them with foam, pedals and the 'bassmute' which is a revolutionary kick ass invention.

    Best PB
     
  18. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Thanks Paul! It's very gracious of you to take the time to share all of this on here. I think we can officially close the case file on this one!

    I'd personally encourage anyone interested to give these basses (and other short-scale hollowbodies) a try. They're quirky, yes. But very rewarding when you take the time to get comfy with them.

    I just brought mine to a rehearsal over the weekend with a band that covers Lucinda Williams' "Can't Let Go". I'd been having trouble getting a sound/feel I was happy with on my Fender for that tune, so I grabbed the Apollo. It was immediately one of those 'a-ha' moments when everyone kind of nodded their heads and tacitly agreed, "oh yeah, that's the sound."

    And so thanks, Paul, for being the trailblazer!
     
  19. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Would you say that the single-coil PUPs in these are relatively noisy, say compared to a Fender Mustang or something like that?
     
  20. TimmyBoomBoom

    TimmyBoomBoom

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2007
    Mine was noisy, so in 1972 I swapped it out for Gibson EBO bridge pu. The feed back is easier to control. But I love to be able to do the Pete Townsend thing. The F#, G, E and Eb notes are particually "alive".
     
  21. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Haha, nice! I think I use mine in a completely different fashion though. Mellow and muted, either with my thumb or a pick.
     

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