Submitted by guitar-list on
- electric guitars
Dates of manufacture:
The Sverdlovsk musical instrument factory made various organs and synthesizers but was best known for the Tonika guitars. The Ural brand name was introduced after several years of Tonika production and all of Sverdlovsk guitars and basses had "electric guitar Ural" engraved on the neckplate.
The Ural Model 650 and 650A became the most popular Soviet guitar. The minor differences between 650 and 650A models were in the machine head locations and several cosmetic details.
According to www.cheesyguitars.com investigations of serial numbers Sverdlovsk made around 10,000 or more 650's per year dating from 1975. By the 1980s production increased to 150,000 per year. 650s were bought in bulk by schools and other institutions and were a very popular beginners guitar, and even today many Russians start out on these easily affordable instruments.
The 650 has three pickups with a nasal flat tone, but by all accounts the electronics are idiosyncratic: there are six toggle switches and four knobs. The wealth of electronics expertise (and the lack of expert luthiers) in the Soviet Union meant that more attention was paid to the design of the electronics than the playability of the guitar. Many of these Soviet guitars have crazy electronics with built in effects and so on.
The hardware is functional (just). The vibrato for example can provide a shallow vibrato effect (no dive-bombing here), but will immediately de-tune the guitar - best to save it until the end of your guitar solo.
The Ural 650 is pretty heavy instrument. Ural has relatively long horns compared to other Soviet guitars. The top horn is a bit like a Rickenbacker shape. The headstock has a cool samurai sword shape - perhaps a bit like the 1960s Yamaha SG models. Despite the attrative looks the Ural 650 is said to be a bit of a dog to play: according to CheesyGuitars.com:
"Overall impression is that Ural is a hard guitar - hard to play and to break. It's also hard to talk to people who play Ural - when I ask about Ural, its specifications, details and so on, they tend to use only short and heavy words: shit. flat iron. log."
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