Review of Hofner President HCT 5005 bass
If you thought time machines were the stuff of science fiction,
think again! Here's the Hofner President bass, brought back to life
from a DNA sample left in the Cavern Club back in the early 1960s.
Dan Veall finds out how it will survive in today's world.
This might be about as iconic as a 1960s bass can get - maybe
short of a Burns Bison or a Fender Precision or, of course, a
Hofner 'Beatle bass'! Just taking it from its case instantly took
me back to looking through vinyl gatefolds as a kid, staring at
'60s albums that featured an array of different Hofner instruments.
Back then, especially in Europe, where Fender and Gibson basses
were more or less unknown (and certainly unaffordable!), Hofners
were the basses most aspired to and, indeed, Stuart Sutcliffe
played one of these in the early days of The Beatles. And when Mr
McCartney took over bass duties, what did he buy? Why, a Hofner, of
The bass we have for review here is a Hofner 'contemporary'
version of the original 500/5 President Bass and it oozes those
classic stylings so much so that you can almost smell those smoky
clubs of yesteryear! The sunburst finish over the curvy spruce
topped acoustic 'semi' body looks wonderful. The big F-holes in the
top are neat and, well, a bit cool really. I also really love the
look of the tail piece hanging in mid-air, anchoring the strings to
the back of the body. The bridge assembly is a simple affair with
little adjustment available for intonation - but we'll come to that
Moving up the body, Hofner includes two 'Black Bar' pick-ups,
one placed at the end of the fretboard and another forward of where
you might find a Precision pickup. It's certainly simple to use,
thanks to the 'famous Hofner control panel' (their
So how does it stand up? Well, the sounds available from this
bass are surprisingly characterful and rich. Don't expect sustain
for days but the Hofner has a very pleasing low end rumble from
that fretboard position pickup alone. In fact it's so successful it
makes you wonder why more manufacturers aren't doing it. Yes, I
appreciate the 'slappers' amongst us may find it in the way but I
really don't see this particular instrument as a slapper's delight
anyway! The controls allow the two pickups to be mixed with level
controls, but also offers two switches which allow each pickup (or
both) to be totally turned off as well. The third switch, a rather
natty addition (that I'd probably like including on a bass of my
own!) is a 'solo' switch that when engaged, boosts the output level
of the bass. It's very useful for doing just that, a nice bass
solo. Sadly, unless you have a bit of time between your last note
proceeding the start of the solo, it's actually really hard to get
over to the switch, play a solo and back again! It feels like it is
Let's turn our attention away from the front of the bass - check
out the sides and back of the President bass - wonderful pieces of
flame maple that look so tasty under the vintage sunburst finish.
The sunburst isn't just reserved for the body either. The back of
the maple/beech maple laminate set-neck is similarly attended
to, as well as topped off with binding down the fretboard and round
the body. Up to the headstock and we're in for more of a treat. The
strings pass over a zero fret for optimal string height and through
a white/black/white striped plastic nut. Even these small details
look great. The headstock, a glossy black two-a-side layout
features a flower inlay and the Hofner script logo. Finishing off
the headstock are four rather small nickel tuners with pearl tips,
holding the installed Hofner HCT roundwound strings in tune.
Playing the bass is actually a joy - though for some it may take
a little getting used to! The 30" scale and very close string
spacing (a mere 48mm at the 12th fret according to the specs) feels
squat for big hands. That's not to say it's impossible to play, for
example, all of my basses feature a 16mm spacing or less, so
getting to grips with the President even with huge hands like mine
isn't that hard.
All the same, be prepared for 'something completely different'
if you try one!
I think the Hofner President bass does what it sets out to do
admirably. Would you want one? Well, it suits certain styles
of music very well and would be invaluable if you were in a band
where the look of your instrument is important - a Gerry and The
Pacemakers tribute, perhaps? But please don't assume this
nicely made instrument is only fit for that sort of role, because
it can offer you so much more.
Are there downsides? Well, intonation up the neck can be
an issue, given the limited adjustment available, but who is going
to be soloing on a bass like this? Also, I'd also hazard a guess
that certain brands of strings may have problems with the smaller
keys if the thicker windings protrude over the nut up past the
keys. Worth checking, or of course, stick to the Hofner strings.
Grumpy Editor insists that feedback is also an issue with semis
like this but I'd say this is still a great-looking bass, perfect
for tribute acts, getting jazzy or for that cool photo-shoot, but
don't dismiss it for a whole lot more!
Check out the full review inc. video of the Hofner
President HCT 5005 bass guitar featured in The Bassment of
Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 19.