Cool and classic basses: Ovation Magnum I/II

Legendary basses profiled from Fender, Gibson, Warwick and more

Cool and classic basses Ovation Magnum I II
A pair fine Ovation basses

Ovation’s first bass guitar was the Typhoon, a thinline semi construction similar to a Hofner Verithin released around 1968/9, but it created little interest.

Determined to do better with their first solid bodied bass the Magnum was designed to be the ultimate bass guitar to date. It was certainly packed with unusual features, particularly regarding the pickups.

The bridge unit has U-shaped pole pieces wound in pairs like a split-coil pickup but the huge bridge humbucker has individual coils wound round each pole piece and each coil has its own volume control for perfect string balance. This is certainly a pretty cool thing to have. The bridge offers very precise adjustment for scale length yet changing strings is quick and easy.

In order to get full use of the stereo function the Magnum was provided with a splitter lead for the stereo output jack so you could either use both channels in your bass amp or two completely separate rigs for a monster sound and delivery. Sadly however, the Magnum is just not a sexy looking instrument and although it sounds great it weighs a lot too, so it never achieved the popularity that was expected. They did produce a more regular shaped twin cutaway with a less cluttered appearance in 1978 but sadly this also failed to capture the imagination and was withdrawn in 1983.

Not wishing to miss a trick, along with the passive Magnum I Bass Ovation also produced the Magnum II, an all active unit that provided even more tonal response and opportunities. The 3-band EQ offered Bass, 400Hz and Treble each as a double slider with +/- 12dB adjustment. To power the circuit two PP9 batteries were housed in a compartment by the lower cutaway underneath a separate section of the scratchplate.

The individual volume controls for the pole pieces on the humbucker were accessed through the four holes provide using a regular screwdriver. When adjusted well this was produced a very well balanced instrument from string to string. This highly sophisticated circuitry gave the Magnum II a cleaner yet meatier sound than the passive version and was way ahead of its time but still failed to find favour with enough players to keep it in production any longer. Our sincere thanks to Dave Swift for use of his basses and Lars Mullen for the pictures.

Read our full Ovation Magnum I/II profiles