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Vigier Nautilus

Digital Bass Guitar

An exciting new digital bass guitar, the Vigier opens up a new world of user recorded sounds for bass players.

True innovations are rare. And when they arrive, there tends to be no end of comment, discussion, and a general rush in the direction of the music shops stocking the chosen item. However, this sort of activity seems to have bypassed a quite exquisite new bass and guitar system, recently introduced by Vigier, the French guitar makers.

There are several models in the Vigier range, including a fretless 6 string guitar, and while the quality of all the Vigier instruments themselves is extremely good, the fact that sets two of the models apart from the rest of the market is that they are fitted with a 19 sound digital memory system. (We hope to cover the digital guitar in a future issue).

The Vigier Nautilus Bass System comprises the instrument itself, plus a foot-switch controller which can switch the bass on and off - allowing the volume to be set and left - and also changes the number of the memory that is being used, even as you play.

But first, the instrument itself. The distinctive shape of the body is well balanced and comfortable, this is comparable to many other bass guitars on the market, but, unlike the Nautilus, few remain comfortable for long periods of playing. The body is sculptured at the back and features a staggered cutaway giving easy access to upper frets.

The neck joins the body at an (almost) heel less contour, with the walnut and maple sandwich construction continuing through the body, and 'splaying out' to form the central section of the body. The neck is not only sandwiched laterally, the fingerboard itself (laminated with a poly covering), meets a metal sheet that runs the entire length of the neck. This Vigier call S.T.M. or 'metal under fingerboard'. This plate in turn meets the truss rod along the centre, and the maple and walnut slices that form the back of the neck. This construction, the makers claim, combines all the advantages of all wood and all metallic necks while removing the disadvantages. For a test on this, we have to allow time to take its course, but the neck is extremely well finished, and the contour running both across the neck, and from headstock to body, is logical. Those used to a more 'standard' feel, where the neck thickness remains more constant, may take time to get used to this Vigier, but once there, conventional necks feel rather cumbersome. The frets are wide - almost 1/8" in fact, which gives a fast feeling without losing intonation accuracy over the entire length.

The neck sandwich opens as we have said as it reaches the body, and makes a beautiful contrast to the chestnut sunburst walnut from which the body is hand carved. The upper arm of the cutaway looks 'top heavy', a sort of caricatured Rickenbacker, but the balance, due to the contours, is aided by it and allows the bass to be held very lightly when playing, since it remains very stable.

The Body

The twin pickups, (manufactured by Vigier by one M. Benedetti), contain eight pole pieces each, these being made from alnico 8. These are set in an ABS surround, that has no sidecovers, forming a table-like structure, with the coil windings supporting the top.

The bridge on the Nautilus is massive. Heavy chromed steel, four shafts emerge from the base of the bridge to take the four individual string supports. These can be raised or lowered for string height, and moved bridge or neckwards for intonation. The four ball ends on the strings, emerge from the back of the body.

The Electronics

The basic idea of the Nautilus is to allow the musician to find the right sounds from the instrument in rehearsal (up to 19 can be stored) which can then be brought up at the touch of a button (or in this case the choice of a dial, or the footswitch). There are twelve controls on the body, and a schematic description of them appears below. So let's take the largest and most important first. This is 'R' on the drawing and is the memory search. Running through 1-19 continuously gives easy access to all the numbers. The chosen memory number is displayed on a small prism, which is illuminated with LED digital numbers, easily visible to the player (except in very bright lights).


We have printed below the manufacturers explanation of how to program - using the references to the drawing - and as you can see they are simple to operate, and there is enough safety margin to ensure that treasured sounds can't be easily erased.

What none of this can tell you, is that the basic sound from the Nautilus is excellent. Playing from a straight 'Precision' sound, through the Rickenbacker 'jagged edge' to a smooth Wal-like sound - in fact, it can produce almost all the bass sounds currently in use in modern music, and a few of its own invention.

The volume of each sound is not programmable, however, and for this you have to utilise the master gain and the volume control to achieve the best from the bass. The degree of control afforded by the parametrics takes away the slight 'toppiness' of the sound, while the depth of the bass sound is powerful - all the way down! Obviously, on stage, the wealth of controls is no problem since everything is pre-programmed, and as long as you do your homework in the programming stages, the use of the Nautilus in the studio should be a dream. "Jazz funk sound? That's number 5... heavy metal, that's at 14..." Using the controls manually will obviously come into use at some time, and here the Vigier really scores since, as long as you are aware of the capabilities of the instrument, the basic parameters of the 19 programmed sounds become much wider since you can work on those memories manually - and you won't have to reset any of the memories at the time, or afterwards - they remain as before.

The inclusion of a standard jack socket on the front panel was puzzling at first, but it seems that this taps the sound direct from the treble pickup for tuning purposes - a boon for stage and studio musicians alike - just hook up a tuner, and leave it there.

Parametric Functions

Frequency Allows you to choose from Bass - Medium - Treble in relation to the position of your frequency pot (F1) and (F2)
Gain Allows you to boost the frequency 0 to 15dB or to attenuate this frequency (0 to -15dB)
Bandwidth Allows you to amplify or attenuate the chosen frequency with precise selection
GS Master Gain
S Two position switch (three functions)
S' LED OFF Manual Mode
This position is used for creating different tones. Before deciding whether or not to store these sounds into the memory. (See memory feeding).
S" LED ON Memory comes into action. Sound previously been stored and selected ready to be used and changed by (R). 1 to 19 reading on A.
(Hard edition ready) Memory ready for editing facilities.

Memory System

1) Switch S to S' (LED OFF) to obtain manual mode.

2) Create sounds with (B, I, G1, L, F1, G2, F2, GG) using tone, frequency volume, polarity switches etc.

3) When a suitable sound is found, select a memory available for storage, for example No.5 (with R)

4) Pull M (safety switch) down M' and back to its' original position (M)

5) The sound is now stored into memory No.5 and LED is now displaying at S confirming that sound has entered memory No.5

The above operation can be repeated using different sounds and memory numbers to create your own pre-selections.

The Controls

Refer to drawing

V Volume (not programmable - see GG)
R Rotary Switch - memory search.
Digital display 1-19 reading display on perspex prisme A.
B Balance between pick ups (Bass and treble)
I Two position switch (LED Display)
I LED OFF Normal Phase
I" LED ON Reverse Phase
LED LED overload
C Direct output of TREBLE PICK UP (for tuning facilities)
G1 Gain + or - 15dB Parametric 1
F1 Frequency Parametric 1
G2 Gain + or - 15dB Parametric 2
F2 Frequency Parametric 2
L Switch two positions (band width selections)
L' LED OFF Wide Band Parametric 1
L' LED ON Thin Band Parametric 1
L" LED OFF Wide Band Parametric 2
L" LED ON Thin Band Parametric 2
L' L" LED ON Thin Band or Parametric 1 and 2
D Switch on/off power 220 volt


But the real delight is the simplicity of the instrument - once the programming is complete. The fluidity of the neck, coupled to the removal of any need to fumble away at the controls leaves you to simply play. Out from the bass comes a six pole (male) din connector, this can be linked to the female cannon which is wired direct to the pedal-board. This pedal is connected direct to the mains, and the cable to the guitar carries both the current required, and also the signals. An output jack is then led from the pedal to the amp or PA or mixer as required. There are two footswitches on the pedal - one for standby, with system working but no output/switch on, and a stopping control for the memory. This, however, only goes up in single. So, to get from 1 to 19 you have to tap 18 times. Whereas the rotary on the body will reverse or advance as required. Perhaps the addition of a reverse stepper would help here.


An exceptional instrument, with the capability to faithfully reproduce almost every bass sound available - and remember them! But what is more important is that the basic sound from the Vigier Nautilus System is so excellent.

At the price, there will be only a handful of serious bass players interested in the Nautilus - a strange fact considering the expense that keyboard players (for instance) expend on their working instruments. The Vigier certainly deserves a much wider recognition - it is as versatile as it is beautiful as it is innovative.

The Vigier Nautilus Bass System retails for around £1,300.

Information is available from British distributors Capelle Music Industries, (Contact Details).

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Stop Press - MemoryMoog Plus

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Hot Licks Instruction Tapes

Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Jan 1984

Donated & scanned by: Stewart Lawler

Gear in this article:

Bass > Vigier > Nautilus

Review by Tim Oakes

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> Hot Licks Instruction Tapes

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