Venson Trade Show 12-String Bass

2002 Venson 12-String Bass

According to the information we have been provided, the Venson brand 12-string bass was built by the Sungbo Industrial Company of Seoul, South Korea. The buyer of this bass, Rick, sent in some photos of his new bass and was able to supply more details about it. Here's what he had to say:

"Made by Sungbo out of a mix of Galveston and Dean Rhapsody parts. According to the seller, it's the only one. His company bought the contents of Venson's NAMM 2002 booth and he was selling off the various show guitars."

"The body appears to be mahogany, with the same translucent black polyurethane finish as a Dean. The smoked-chrome bridge and tailpiece appear to be Dean items. It has offset dot markers instead of bat-wing inlays. The body shape is comfortable, with a Strat-like contour cut in the back. It's a very small body, not quite like a Hamer Chaparral; more similar to my Godin BG-V except smaller, like a Spector. I like the looks much better than either a Dean or Galveston."

"A push-pull volume for the so-called 'active' electronics just makes it louder and a little hissy and trebly. The pickups are generic soap-bars with the Venson name silk-screened on them. The sound is actually nice, clear and pretty balanced. One tone knob is useless, and I will eventually rewire it. All pots are super-smooth in action."

"Generic black tuners, the same brass nut as a Galveston, and a one-piece maple neck like a Galveston. Construction and finish are very good. Frets are very nicely finished but there's some buzzing at the 12th fret that I have not quite solved with the truss rod adjustments and some gentle tapping with a hammer. Very smooth, glossy polyurethane, and the neck is super-tight in the pocket. Overall I'm really pleased with the instrument. Rick"

We have no doubt that Rick correctly supplied the details about the Venson 12-string bass that he was given. However, there are some things that don’t add up. Dean and Galveston brand 12-string basses were made in Inchon, South Korea by Unsung Musical Instruments, not by Sungbo in Seoul. The hardware on the Venson is identical to that used on the Deans and Galvestons, but that only indicates Unsung and Sungbo acquired these parts from the same source.

The way the neck is attached to the body with five screws on the Venson is unlike the four-screw technique used on the Unsung basses. The Venson headstock design and body shape more closely match the Shine 12-string bass made by Saein than any 12 built by Unsung. And the brand name being silk screened onto the pickups is also something not done by Unsung.

We will likely never know the true story behind the creation of the Venson 12-string bass. To Korean factories, guitars were a ‘commodity’ product that could be farmed out to different manufacturing plants, suppliers or even countries. This is even more true of Chinese guitar builders today.

We were willing to believe that only the one Venson 12-string bass had been built until we saw this:

Venson 8-string bass

Several years after we learned about the existence of the Venson 12-string bass, a seller in Germany was offering to sell this Venson 8-string bass. It clearly has the same body design, construction and logo as the Venson 12. This finish is a two-tone burst, unlike the 12’s transparent black finish.

Was this 8-string bass also included in the 2002 NAMM booth inventory? If so, it would have been expensive to ship this bass to Germany. Given that Korean instruments are inexpensive to begin with, shipping internationally would have added a significant percentage to the buyer’s final cost.

The pickups on this 8-string bass are labeled with the Venson brand name

It is common for manufacturers outside of the USA to sell the contents of their trade show booths once the show is over. That way they save the time it takes to package the instruments for the return trip, they won’t have to pay to fix any instruments damaged in transit, and they save the shipping costs which can be substantial. But just because they don’t take their display models home with them, that doesn’t mean they didn’t make any sales. They may have flown home with some orders for 8-string and 12-string basses safely tucked away in their briefcases.

Close-up of the body of the Venson 8-string bass.

It is possible that more Venson 12-string basses exist. Like the Jet 12-string basses that were only available in Russia or the Phil 12’s that were only offered in Norway, a small number of Venson 12’s could have been built for a dealer in some other country. If you know of the existence of any additional Venson 12-string basses, please let us know!