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Westone Thunder Bass

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As with all things bass-related; beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  My first decent bass was a Thunder 1A in natural finish and what first caught my eye was the visible real wood - ie not hidden under solid paint or a plastic pick-guard. The other thing I liked was that it had its own look and wasn't a clone of an American design.

Having enjoyed playing it for about 2 years I wanted to upgrade and a Thunder III was the automatic choice.  Having owned that bass since 1985; I can only say that the build quality and components stood the test of time and I've never had any problems - the bass was 100% original until I did the electronics upgrade mentioned in my post above.

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I’ve got a Spectrum DX and it’s really decent. Maple body rosewood neck. High gloss black finish looks immaculate from several feet away though fairly dinged up on closer inspection. Single pickup is I believe essentially a p and sounds excellent. Unlike the Thunder it’s not a heavy bass. I’d definitely recommend. 

D4991381-B4FD-40F5-9184-EACB034A5C2D.jpeg

678BE672-5BA3-484C-B31B-0511B63D73CB.jpeg

7A88B74D-8B13-49A4-9157-29BF1E59464F.jpeg

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I believe you could buy a fretless neck alongside the fretted bolt-on necked bass at one point when new. I’d really like to try one if anyone has one. I had an aria sb600 in the mid 80s and the Westone isn’t maybe just as good but that might be to do with the thirty years wear n tear in between times!

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On 09/06/2018 at 06:19, BreadBin said:

Don't pay too much, they seem to be strangely overrated at the moment. 

When I was learning bass around 30 years ago they were cheap, but alright. Now there is a growing belief that they were extremely high quality instruments which I don't think they deserve. 

A bit unfair IMO. I recently "came by" one. It was in terrible condition superficially, but I spent some time restoring it and was really impressed! The hardware was top-notch (solid brass bridge for instance, Tokai Hard Puncher pickup...) and it played very well - definite a P-bass sound. The one I had was very light at less than 8.5 pounds, although there was a degree of neck heaviness that a decent strap easily coped with.

If it wasn't for the fact that I already had five basses I would have happily kept and gigged it (especially in my 80s covers band!). I sold it on here (for £200 as it happens, so clearly I am a rip-off merchant ¬¬). The buyer seemed very happy to pay that much.

Yes, they were cheap at the time (around £100 for the passive Thunder 1) - but then what did a "decent" bass cost back in the mid 1980s? My Status series II was £1300, but what did a Fender J or P go for?

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40 minutes ago, Conan said:

A bit unfair IMO.

See my later post...

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1 hour ago, Wotcher said:

I’ve got a Spectrum DX and it’s really decent. Maple body rosewood neck. High gloss black finish looks immaculate from several feet away though fairly dinged up on closer inspection. Single pickup is I believe essentially a p and sounds excellent. Unlike the Thunder it’s not a heavy bass. I’d definitely recommend. 

D4991381-B4FD-40F5-9184-EACB034A5C2D.jpeg

678BE672-5BA3-484C-B31B-0511B63D73CB.jpeg

7A88B74D-8B13-49A4-9157-29BF1E59464F.jpeg

Wow that is nice.

I think the DX was a step up from the ST, with a chunkier bridge mainly. 

I remember there were also also two higher end models - the Spectrum GT and LX. I think they had two pickups and came with a spare fretless neck. 

The only one I've seen in recent years was a fairly tatty one in Crack Converters which felt nice and lightweight but was badly in need of a set up and some TLC so I left it there.

Edited by bassbiscuits

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On ‎14‎/‎06‎/‎2018 at 08:23, walbassist said:

My first decent bass was a Westone Superheadless.  It had a superb EQ system in it and was a lovely bass to play.

Awwww man, I had mahoosive GAS for one of these back in the day. I'd still like one now , more for nostalgia than anything.

superheadless3.jpg

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2 hours ago, BreadBin said:

See my later post...

I did. I agree that £400 is a bit steep - but if that example is as pristine as they say it is, then it could still be a reasonable buy. A good, playable bass, well made, from decent components. I don't think £400 is too over the top for that. Of course, if you can get  one for less than that, so much the better! :)

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Just now, ForestPoetry said:

That headless one is gnarly!

Agreed, now that's a Westone I would like to own :)

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On 15/06/2018 at 08:38, Conan said:

The buyer seemed very happy to pay that much.

That'd be me. 🙂 I'm still really impressed with this passive Thunder 1 - particularly the neck, but it's also got a nice bridge and tuners, and a good-sounding P pickup with adjustable pole pieces. In general it feels like a decent Japanese reinterpretation of the P design.

I'm a bit surprised at the comments about them being heavy; this one is 3.5kg (600g lighter than my 2007 MIM P). I guess the more common active version will be a little heavier, and there's probably some production variation...

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I visited an old friend yesterday - he has a Thunder 1A which weighed quite a bit. 

It did nothing to change my opinion - solid construction and a reasonable sound but certainly nothing special. His was picked up out of a skip though so he is quite happy with it!

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On 9 Jun 2018 at 13:14, Brother Jones said:

 And they built an unlined fretless which was the ultimate pose machine.

Heh heh! I had the first unlined fretless Thunder 2A in the UK.

It was my birthday present back in 1981. I'd asked for a bass for my previous birthday and my parents bought me a Hondo Rickenbacker copy and my dad told me if I learnt to play he would buy me a better bass for my next birthday. I actually wanted an Aria SB1000 fretless but my dad went to check them out and they were too expensive, so he ordered the Thunder instead.

It had to be specially made and shipped over from Japan.

The Thunder 2A was a pretty versatile bass but it was heavy. In a fit of nostalgia 10 years later, I bought a Thunder 1 fretless brand new and it was utter rubbish, so I would say stick to the early 80s Thunders if you fancy one.

 

Edited by matski

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Haven't been on BassChat for a while and just stumbled across this thread today. Westone Thunder Basses?

I bought a Westone Thunder IIIA from the Bass Centre in 1986. I think I bought it because it didn't look like a P-bass and it was red. I'd been ripped-off by my local music store when buying my first bass - a Squier JV 57 Precision with a twisted neck. So I decided I'd go to the top. I figured the Bass Centre couldn't afford to damage their reputation by selling me a lemon but it took some courage to go in to their shop as a novice bass player. But I did and boy was I glad. They treated me with respect and dignity and gave me the best advice they could based on my playing abilities and my budget - and for 360-quid I wound up with a red Westone Thunder IIIA plus gig-bag. That was thirty-two years ago and its still my main gigging bass today. The gig bag died years ago though. I wouldn't class it as a cheap bass either. 360 quid wasn't cheap in 1986. Mid-priced would be more accurate.

I haven't seen too many red Thunder IIIs... well three to be exact. Mine, a red fretless in a second-hand shop that I should have bought and a picture of a red one online somewhere. The rest seem to be walnut brown colour. The red ones are louder!

Years ago Guitarist magazine published a list of all the guitars and basses imported into the UK over a certain number of years. I can't remember how many years the list covered, nor can I find any reference to it anywhere but I DID see it. On that list it showed that there were only 20 (I think) red Westone Thunder IIIAs imported into the UK. They were imported by FCN Music of Tunbridge Wells who went out of business a million years ago. I didn't dream it, I definitely had that copy of Guitarist mag but its long-gone. So, in the UK at least, I would rate my red bass as fairly rare.

I've had various modifications made to my bass over the years (all done by the Bass Centre). Badass Bridge, EMG pups, EMG Bass Tone Control, Gotoh tuners, Schaller strap-locks, replacement pots, jack sockets, control knobs and switches, fret polishes etc. but I've kept all the original parts safe in case I ever feel the need to put it back to its original spec. Its a fantastic instrument. Incredibly well-made and very stable - thirty-two years remember. And I play it in incredibly unforgiving circumstances at outdoor gigs in the Middle East and in my freezing cold air conditioned apartment. It thrives in both environments with an occasional tweak of the truss-rod.

Good piece of kit, shame they went out of business.

IMG_2045.JPG.66d9a7a83caafc8e673bbee2db54b896.JPGIMG_2044.JPG.a18b44370692927b0fba54c93f789d08.JPG

 

Edited by bbrich
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My first proper bass was a Thunder 1 passive bought for IIRC £80 in 1985 from Music Ground? in Leeds or Sheffield I think. I thought it was great but the Thunder 3s were a big step up from memory...

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1 hour ago, julesb said:

My first proper bass was a Thunder 1 passive bought for IIRC £80 in 1985 from Music Ground? in Leeds or Sheffield I think. I thought it was great but the Thunder 3s were a big step up from memory...

This is a very good point - a lot of sellers are asking Thunder 3 money for Thunder 1s. 

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23 hours ago, bbrich said:

Haven't been on BassChat for a while and just stumbled across this thread today. Westone Thunder Basses?

I bought a Westone Thunder IIIA from the Bass Centre in 1986. I think I bought it because it didn't look like a P-bass and it was red. I'd been ripped-off by my local music store when buying my first bass - a Squier JV 57 Precision with a twisted neck. So I decided I'd go to the top. I figured the Bass Centre couldn't afford to damage their reputation by selling me a lemon but it took some courage to go in to their shop as a novice bass player. But I did and boy was I glad. They treated me with respect and dignity and gave me the best advice they could based on my playing abilities and my budget - and for 360-quid I wound up with a red Westone Thunder IIIA plus gig-bag. That was thirty-two years ago and its still my main gigging bass today. The gig bag died years ago though. I wouldn't class it as a cheap bass either. 360 quid wasn't cheap in 1986. Mid-priced would be more accurate.

I haven't seen too many red Thunder IIIs... well three to be exact. Mine, a red fretless in a second-hand shop that I should have bought and a picture of a red one online somewhere. The rest seem to be walnut brown colour. The red ones are louder!

Years ago Guitarist magazine published a list of all the guitars and basses imported into the UK over a certain number of years. I can't remember how many years the list covered, nor can I find any reference to it anywhere but I DID see it. On that list it showed that there were only 20 (I think) red Westone Thunder IIIAs imported into the UK. They were imported by FCN Music of Tunbridge Wells who went out of business a million years ago. I didn't dream it, I definitely had that copy of Guitarist mag but its long-gone. So, in the UK at least, I would rate my red bass as fairly rare.

I've had various modifications made to my bass over the years (all done by the Bass Centre). Badass Bridge, EMG pups, EMG Bass Tone Control, Gotoh tuners, Schaller strap-locks, replacement pots, jack sockets, control knobs and switches, fret polishes etc. but I've kept all the original parts safe in case I ever feel the need to put it back to its original spec. Its a fantastic instrument. Incredibly well-made and very stable - thirty-two years remember. And I play it in incredibly unforgiving circumstances at outdoor gigs in the Middle East and in my freezing cold air conditioned apartment. It thrives in both environments with an occasional tweak of the truss-rod.

Good piece of kit, shame they went out of business.

IMG_2045.JPG.66d9a7a83caafc8e673bbee2db54b896.JPGIMG_2044.JPG.a18b44370692927b0fba54c93f789d08.JPG

 

I owned the unmarked fretless version of this - how many of those do you think there are? - and it was a proper excellent bass in every way.  Fit & finish were superb and once you'd sussed the controls it was really flexible.  One of the switches turned both pups from series to parallel, another put them out of phase and somewhere you could switch it fro active to passive with a passive tone control.  One of the ones I am sorry to have had to sell.

G.

Edited by geoffbyrne

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On 07/09/2018 at 14:41, bbrich said:

IMG_2045.JPG.66d9a7a83caafc8e673bbee2db54b896.JPGIMG_2044.JPG.a18b44370692927b0fba54c93f789d08.JPG

 

 

That , for me at least, is the nicest looking of the Thunder series

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I bought a Concorde used in 1982 I think.  Brilliant bass. That thing has been through hell, including a cracked headstock and me setting it on fire. Still play it,  still love it.

A903B0FB-E7A8-40F8-A45F-29FD7DB0DAA6.jpeg

Edited by Rubbersoul
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They are underrated imo, great value for money excellent build quality and electrics are great , easy to play with a fast neck profile, it will probably need a fret dress due to age, however they are built to last and have that classic look, I understand they are based on the original Aria Pro series,  if you buy one you won't regret it as you can get some serious variety of sounds from it ,from Precision tone and beyond thanks to the active e.q.

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Stuart Morrow used  a Thunder when  in New Model Army -see the Marquee live footage from 85 I think. That’s a pretty good endorsement

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8 minutes ago, Wotcher said:

Stuart Morrow used  a Thunder when  in New Model Army -see the Marquee live footage from 85 I think. That’s a pretty good endorsement

A Thunder Jet, IIRC

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Back when we were all first learning, a friend had a Thunder I, which was a really nice, passive bass. Ten years ago or so, I fell in with a Westone Thunder IA guitar. Not the right style for me (I'm definitely an old-school guy; few post 1960 guitar styles really appeal to me), but damned if it wasn't the only 2xHB guitar I've ever owned that (with the active engaged) sounded like I really wanted it to, not muddy like so many Les Pauls in my hands... Also have a very early (MKI logo) WEstone Thunder IA bass. Planning to sell both at some point, just don't want to be the guy who flogged them for buttons the week before they were worth a grand each..... (which could happen. Look at what Jack White did for Airline!) Both in the natural finish, which as I recall was always considered the one to have. 

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My first bass, bought second hand in 1993. Played every gig I did between 1999 - 2005 with it and it never let me down and always sounded good.

Very solidly built & good range of sounds - I'd pay £200-£350 for another of these! (If Mrs. Teebs would allow it 😧)

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