Retro-Rama: 1966 Klira Twen Star

WHEN THE BEATLES BECAME SUPERSTARS IN 1964, sales of electric guitars and basses took a huge upswing all over the world, and manufacturers had to adapt to survive.
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WHEN THE BEATLES BECAME SUPERSTARS IN 1964, sales of electric guitars and basses took a huge upswing all over the world, and manufacturers had to adapt to survive. Höfner—whose 500/1 “Beatle Bass” was the instrument of choice for Paul McCartney—was a huge beneficiary of this surge of interest, but on its coattails rode a number of companies making Beatle Bass knockoffs. Some of the best-known models came from EKO and Univox. (The Univox version plays a unique role in bass history; it was Victor Wooten’s first childhood axe.)

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Klira was a German company founded in 1887 by Johannes Klier in the town of Schonbach. Originally violinmakers, Klira made the switch in emphasis to guitars and basses in the 1950s. By this time, the company was based in Bubenreuth, which in postwar Germany was also home to Höfner and Framus.

This Klira model 362 bass, also known as the “Twen Star,” was the company’s top-of-the-line violin bass, manufactured in 1967–68. At a little over five pounds, the 362 is lightweight, but it feels substantial and plays solidly. The 30"-scale neck is still straight and true. The bass incorporates many of the classic elements of the 500/1—the violin-shaped body, a zero-fret, “trapeze” bridge and wooden saddle, and ivory binding, and adds a few unique design touches, especially the “cat’s eye” ƒ-holes, crescent-shaped pickguard, and Gibson-like headstock inlay. The tuners, somewhat small but still quite effective, are easier to manipulate than the typical ivory button tuners of that era.

This bass has the classic Höfner “boom” from the neck pickup. The back pickup sounds somewhat thin, but the Klira spits out a respectable “tic-tac” sound when played pickstyle while palm muting. The E string has a punch that cannot always be found in a short-scale bass, the stringto- string balance is excellent, and the notes sound even all over the neck. The intonation and playability are excellent, the volume and tone knobs are smooth, and the 3-position pickup switch is simpler to use than the Hofner switch system.

The look of this bass is Beatlesque enough to draw double takes, but the sound holes give it away quickly. Close your eyes, however, and the sound and feel take you back to the glory days of Beatlemania.

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