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Vintage Ampeg Scroll Basses:
AMB-1 & AMUB-1

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In My Collection:
On the left is AMB-1 #000269, which I bought in 1989. It's all original and in nice condition. Someone had pulled the frets a few years earlier and put in white lines, but they did a neat job, and I was able to refret it without damaging the fingerboard.
On the right is AMUB-1 #000290, which I was very lucky to buy in a private sale in 1997. It's all original, and has obviously played thousands of gigs. It has a beautiful sweet tone.

Sorry, these instruments are not for sale!!

This is what the AMB-1/AMUB-1 bridge assembly looks like with the bridge cover removed. On some instruments, the bridge has to be tilted forward like this to minimize string buzzing. The serial number is stamped on the face of the bridge plate, just behind the round bar.

Vintage Ampeg Models:
Vintage Ampeg Main Page
AEB-1 & AUB-1
ASB-1 & AUSB-1 Devil Basses
SSB & SSUB Short Scale Basses

General Information On Vintage Ampegs:
Setup, Maintenance & Technical Issues
Restorations & Parts

Sometime in late '67, Ampeg began to work on a new model Scroll Bass, to address the customer complaints and manufacturing problems that they were having with the AEB-1/AUB-1 models. The "mystery" pickups had been troublesome to manufacture consistently, and tempermental on the road. Also, rock music was evolving rapidly, and electric bassists now wanted a full range, thundering sound. The AEB-1 didn't have enough range, and many Ampeg customers were adding new pickups to their basses as soon as they got them.

The AMB-1 (fretted) and AMUB-1 (fretless) Scroll Basses appeared in early 1968 to try to bring the Scroll Bass design closer to the dominant Fender P-Bass culture. These models were made through mid 1969, although some leftover stock instruments were sold out through 1970.

At a glance, the AMB-1 looks like the earlier AEB-1, but it's actually a completely different instrument with significant changes throughout. The headstock was reshaped to a smoother profile on the back, without the cello-like hook of the AEB-1. The AMB-1's body is solid maple, without the plywood back. However, I recently restored an AMB-1 with a high serial number, and found that the body was poplar, not maple. It was lighter weight and had a nice sweet tone. They may have been experimenting towards the end of the production run. Overall, he machining of the body and neck is much more precise and consistent than on the earlier instruments.

The "mystery" pickup was replaced by a black rectangular magnetic pickup mounted in the middle of the body. The pickups were made in Ampeg's shop, and are quite unique for the time. There's a separate coil for each string, and they're wired together alternately to form a humbucker. The whole assembly is cast into black epoxy.

The AMB-1's tailpiece is similar to a Fender; a bent steel plate that supports the bridge and is screwed down onto the top surface of the body. This allows them to use standard "extra long" strings, giving the owners much more choice and convenience. The aluminum bridge is similar in design to the AEB-1, but with three height adjusting screws instead of two. A round steel bar is mounted over top of the strings, behind the bridge, and it is used to adjust the angle of the strings over the bridge saddles. A large chrome cover with an embossed "a" logo on the face fits over the whole bridge area.

Most AMB-1's and AMUB-1's that are around today are in fairly good condition. Overall, they're higher quality instruments than the earlier models, and most have been well cared for. The lacquer finish is usually cracked, but it has stayed on well. Almost all of these two models came from the factory in the standard Ampeg black/red sunburst scheme with an ebony fingerboard. I know of only one instrument that appears to have been all black from the factory, although I've seen several that have been repainted all black.

From the player's standpoint, the AMB-1 and AMUB-1 are the best of the scroll bass family. They have a wider tonal range than the AEB-1 and AUB-1, but still have the distinctive warm, bassy Ampeg thump. Unfortunately, they didn't sell very well initially and production was cancelled in mid '69. A few bassists such as George Biondo of Steppenwolf and Michael Been of The Call played AMB-1's through the '70's and '80's. Today, musicians who own AMB-1's and AMUB-1's treasure them, and a surprising number of them are still played regularly by professionals. They rarely appear for sale.

The serial numbers of these models are stamped on the tailpiece, just behind and under the string hold-down bar. It's a six digit number with a bunch of zeros, starting (I presume) at #000001 and going up to about #000600. The highest number I know of so far is #000591C. I have information on a lot of AMB-1's and AMUB-1's in my database, but it's curious that I've only heard of one with a serial number under #000200. It's possible that the production run didn't start at #000001, and the early numbers may have been assigned to the prototypes, or may even have been mixed in with the short-lived SSB/SSUB models.

There are other mysteries in the serial numbers. Some AMB-1 and AMUB-1 models over #000500 have an "A", "B, "C", or "D" stamped at the end of the serial number. There are a lot more "C"'s than "A"'s and "D"'s, and I've only seen one "B" so far. I'm not sure what this means. Some of these instruments have some factory custom features, and others appear to be standard. Since so few were being built at that time, it may even indicate which employee built the instrument. Also, there's an AMB-1 marked #00371; someone forgot one of the zeros.

Taking all that into account, I estimate that 300 AMB-1's and 200 AMUB-1's were built, and most of them are still around today.