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Gibson Victory bass guitars. From top to bottom: Standard (Silver), Artist (Antique Fireburst), Custom (Candy Apple Red)
Gibson Victory bass guitars. Have a closer look at these guitars Victory Standard (Silver), Victory Artist (Antique fireburst), Victory Custom (Candy Apple Red)

Gibson Victory bass

The Gibson Victory was launched in 1981, as a basic one-pickup passive model; the Victory Standard, and a two-pickup active Victory Artist. These were joined a year later by a two-pickup passive Victory Custom. It was designed by the then Research and Development team, based in the Gibson Kalamazoo plant. The team was headed by Bruce Bolen, but the actual body/neck design was by Chuck Burge, and the electronics by Tim Shaw. Chuck was kind enough to talk to FlyGuitars about the development of the Gibson Victory bass.

1981 Gibson Victory Bass owners manualAnd now in 1981, the Victory bass guitars.
Your new Gibson Victory bass guitar is just that; a victory over the ordinary, the average, the "acceptable standards" for a bass guitar. A triumph of musical engineering, the Victory bass is as near perfection as the art of luthiery and "state of the art" technology will allow.

From the 1981 owners manual

Stylistically, it was unlike any previous Gibson bass, asymmetrical with a deep lower cutaway, allowing access to the 24 frets, only the Thunderbird-esque headstock suggesting its heritage. It was Gibsons attempt to woo Fender Precision players. Chuck explains "It should be indistinguishable as to playability - where everything is, from a Fender P bass. Because they were doing it right, and everybody liked that"

It had it's share of improvements too though. It was Gibsons first two-octave long-scale bass, and the first to have a rectangular steel bar either side of the truss rod, to increase 'Structural rigidity'. They were the first basses to feature the TRI-4 wedge bridge - a style still in use today, and also the first to use the series VIIIB humbuckers. The owners manual explains...

instead of using the traditional side by side placement of the humbucking pickup coils, an "end to end" coil placement design is incorporated. This enables each string to pass over only one coil of the pickup producing the pure, sweet, full frequency response of a true single coil pickup. However the pickups incorporate standard "humbucking" wiring to cancel the unwanted noise and hum frequencies unfortunately inherent in a simple coil pickup design

Gibson Victory Artist bass; the Rebel Victory

Gibson Designer Series flyer (1985)Gibson Victory Artist bass; the Rebel Victory. Taken from a 1985 flyer publicising the 'Designer Series'; a range of special effect finishes primarily for guitars - the Explorer, and Flying V - but also this one bass. The Gibson Invader guitar was also shown in rebel finish, with a Union Jack Explorer. The Rebel was a red guitar, front and back, with the rebel stripes applied on the front, and headstock only.

Furthermore the Victory Standard pickup used thinner diameter wire than the Artist, in order to "produce more mid-range and presence". The use of the series/parallel switch meant a wider range of available tones; the one-pickup Standard was a versatile bass with a number of distinct sounds. Only the Standard and Custom have this series/parallel switching facilty, and as such have three wires (red, white, black) coming from the pickups (see Victory Standard wiring images), as opposed the the typical Gibson braided humbucker wire coming from the Artist pickup (see Victory Artist wiring images. Have a listen to the sound clips to hear how much difference this switch can make.

Gibson endorsing bassist Ralphe Armstrong, demonstrating the Gibson Victory bass (fretless in this case) at the Atlanta NAMM show, 1982
Gibson endorsing bassist Ralphe Armstrong, demonstrating the Gibson Victory bass (fretless in this case) at the Atlanta NAMM show, 1982. See the FlyGuitar Ralphe Armstrong interview
The Artist, of course, creates tonal differences electronically, without needing to use the series/parallel switch - and when played in passive mode sounds similar to the Custom. When in active mode the bass and treble controls can frequency boost by 16db or frequency cut by 18db - allowing a vast range of possible sounds, extreme treble to complete bass. Furthermore the notch filter offers a midrange frequency cut of 12db, providing another voice still.

Along with the pickups, the all maple construction, bolt-on neck, and brass nut of the Victory basses were more than capable of giving bass players of the eighties all the twangy treble that they could handle, as well as plenty of bass. The series was moderately sucessful, with high profile players such as Dave Kiswiney and Ralphe Armstrong endorsing the Victory Artist. As usual with Gibson basses, it didn't outsell the Fender Precision, and so fell by the wayside after five years. The 1986 price lists still have the Explorer bass, but the Victory is replaced by the IV, V and Q-90 basses.

Other notable players include Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) and Greg Norton (Hüsker Dü) the Victory Standard, and John Wetton (Asia) with the Artist.







Specifications

ModelStandardCustomArtist
Available1981-19861982-19841981-1986
Pickups1 series VIIIB humbucker (3 core wire - red, black, white - small diameter coil*)2 series VIIIB humbuckers (3 core wire - red, black, white)2 series VIIIB humbuckers (braided 1 core wire)
ElectronicsPassivePassivePassive/active
Scale34"
BodyEastern hard rock maple. Length 19 1/2", width 13", depth 1¾"
NeckThree-ply maple neck with rosewood (plus the odd maple) fingerboard. Offset dot inlays. Width at nut 1.6875". 14 degree peghead pitchAs the Standard, but with additional brass nut. Necks are often unpainted, but not always.
HardwareOne volume, one tone control, series/parallel switch, Gotoh machine headsVolume, bass and treble controls, pickup selector switch, series/parallel switch, Schaller machine headsVolume, bass and treble controls, pickup selector switch, 3-way mode selector switch, Schaller machine heads
OptionsFretless neck optional
FinishesSilver
Candy Apple Red
Ferrari Red
Ebony
Antique Gold
Rebel Victory
Antique Fireburst
Candy Apple Red
Ebony
Antique Gold
Antique Fireburst
Candy Apple Red
Ferrari Red
Ebony
Antique Gold
Rebel Victory

* The Victory Standard humbuckers use thinner diameter wire, in order to produce more midrange and presence - see 1981 owners manual

Gibson Victory Bass FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the Gibson Victory bass

Were the electronics of the Gibson Victory a product of Bob Moog, as is the case with the Gibson RD Artist bass
This is a common misconception - Bob Moog was not involved in rhe production of this bass. The electronics in the Gibson Victory series are the work or Tim Shaw, who devised these basses with Gibson Artist Chuck Burge (read about the development of the Gibson Victory basses).


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UK ebay listings

VINTAGE 1981 USA GIBSON VICTORY BASS GUITAR TUNER LOGO CHROME

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Vintage 1983 Gibson Guitar Catalog Brochure Victory Bass Corvus Futura EDS-1275

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TRUSS ROD COVER for GIbson Victory MV II guitar

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1981 Gibson Victory Bass Guitar Original Magazine Ad

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There are 3 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
Sideshow Rob Comment left 14th August 2012 10:10:28
That rebel Victory looks too cool. Gotta track one of those down.
Sideshow Rob Comment left 14th August 2012 10:10:31
oh yeah... and Ralphe Armstrong is the MAN!
John S Lopez Comment left 18th July 2013 04:04:45
I own an 84 Gibson Victory Artist W/active electronics It is a little heavy being made of Hard rock Maple But it when it comes to sound it is great sounding bass it will blow you away when you open it up The sustain from that hardwood can hold a note as long as your finger is on it I own 4 bad ass bass My Gibson Victory Artist. Fender Active Jazz Bass A peavey T-40 Bass and a G&L 2000 bass A real G&L not a tribute. The Gibson is my Favorite

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