First of all let me put this review a bit into perspective:
I've played bass for over 30 years. I currently own around 40 basses. I have owned several cheaper Höfner basses (and lookalikes) over the years: CT President, Ignition Violin + some cheap Asian copies like Epiphone. The only one I've kept is the Höfner CT President (which is a really cool instrument).
I've always wanted a real German Höfner 500/1 and particularly one with the early pickup configuration. But based on the cheap Violin basses I've owned I wasn't sure if it would be worth spending that much money on such a niche instrument. Are the German made Höfners really THAT much better than the cheap Asian ones?
In short: YES!
The Asian copies (and Höfner's own Ignition series) are cheap and cheerful. Fun instruments but they feel a bit... cheap.
This German made Höfner is a work of art. The craftsmanship is simply OUTSTANDING! The selection of wood is amazing. Everything about this bass just oozes handmade quality.
Let's look at the details:
Neck: The neck is FAT. It's not particularly wide but MASSIVE front-to-back and with a very chunky profile. I guess it's a U-profile? Or maybe a C-profile with very high shoulders... Anyone looking for a "fast" neck should definitely look elsewhere. This is vintage correct specs of course. I would be lying if I said it's the most comfortable neck I've played but it feels nice and most importantly: It makes me play a certain way. I won't be making the same type of basslines with this bass as with my Ibanez SR, that's for sure. And that's kinda the point, isn't it?
Fretwork: The fretwork is exceptionally good. Some of the best I've seen on any bass in ANY price range. Very impressive.
Wood/finish: The wood selection is excellent. Beautiful patterns. Lovely flame, particularly on the neck. Beautiful dark rosewood fretboard. The color of the finish is somewhat different from the pictures on both the Thomann and Höfner websites though. Not quite as red/orange in appearance. More brown/beige kinda faded but in a good way. Very beautiful. And the pickguard looks more yellowed/cream colored. Very nice. I'm extremely happy with the looks. It's much more beautiful than any of the pics.
Hardware: Well, it's the quirky old school Höfner hardware. It's hardly the pinnacle of bass hardware evolution but it's exactly how a Höfner is supposed to be. And in that sense it's perfect of course. It really couldn't be any other way, especially on this "61 reissue" (sort of) model.
Setup: Perfect in every way. Except for the intonation of course. It seems like Höfner basses always leave the factory with the saddles (meaning those tiny bits of fret wire) in a straight diagonal line. This bass can definitely be intonated better by moving those tiny bits of fret wire up a notch on the D and A strings (possibly two notches on the A-string). Having said that, imperfect intonation is in some ways part of the classic Höfner sound. And lets face it, perfect intonation isn't quite as important with the thumpy sound of a Höfner Violin bass equipped with Pyramid Gold strings as on a 5-string boutique bass with stainless steel clarity and infinite sustain. I will leave it untouched for now, maybe adjust it later if I find it problematic.
Strings: Well they're basically Pyramid Golds but the Höfner branded variety which is slightly different gauges than any of the Pyramid branded sets. Classic vintage Höfner sound. No other strings can do this.
Sound/pickups: Yep, it's got THAT sound. Not the most versatile sound perhaps but you don't get a Höfner 500/1 with Pyramid Golds for it's versatility. Especially not the version with the older pickup configuration. But if you want the classic Höfner sound (and let's face it, you would have to be completely braindead if you purchased this bass and didn't) it's as good as it gets and quite simply PERFECT!
Case and case candy: Lovely vintage style case and an amazing amount of case candy! I haven't enjoyed unboxing a new bass this much in a VERY long time. There's even a photo of the person who built the bass (Thomas Stühlein: If you ever read this: NICE JOB, THANKS!!!).
I keep seeing people on certain online forums saying German made Höfners are overpriced because of Paul McCartney. Well, if this bass is overpriced then US made Fenders are OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced. The craftsmanship on this Höfner is something you would have to pay twice as much for in Fender-land. Bascially Custom Shop. Because that's the level of quality we're talking about here. This bass is absolutely exquisite in every way! It's not cheap but you get what you pay for.
I also keep seeing people online saying the cheap Ignition series are basically as good as a German made Höfner. I can only assume that these people have never actually played a German made Höfner. Comparing this bass to the Ignition series (or cheap copies) is like comparing Fender Custom Shop to Squier Affinity. With all it's inherent quirks these German made Höfners are serious quality!
Sure, these basses ARE a bit of a niche instrument but they are amazingly crafted niche instruments. And with different strings than the Pyramids Golds they are actually more versatile than most people give them credit for. Still, the Pyramids will stay on mine. I got this bass specifically for THAT sound and couldn't be happier.
Quirky: Yes definitely, but also amazing craftsmanship. These basses aren't for everyone but if you want the classic Höfner sound you can't make a better choice than this.