Ural 650 electric guitar

Keyboard instruments factory in Sverdlovsk produced several types of organs and synthesizers but was mostly famous for it's guitars. Actually, not guitars, but a guitar. After a couple of years of Tonika production the factory's own model was designed. Although called "Ural", it is not the name of the guitar but the name of the brand: all of Sverdlovsk guitars and basses had "electric guitar Ural" inscription on the neckplate. This guitar's real name was Model 650 or 650A. The difference between 650 and 650A models was in tuners' location and several cosmetical details.

It was the most popular and available Soviet guitar. The latest investigations of serial numbers (Lordbizarre) give approximate quantities of 10,000+ 650's per year. The earliest 650's we've seen have 1975 on the potentiometers so we assume the production started around 1975. By the middle of the 80s 150,000+ guitars were made. It was regulary purchased by trade unions and schools, almost every Soviet guitarist played it at some stage. Even today, when there are much more stuff to buy in Russia, 650/Ural still remains the most "popular" beginners guitar. Young guitarists can buy it for less than $100, and it's not such a shame because everybody's playing it.

Ural was a Soviet mass production. It does not nessessarily means it was all machine-made, but all the parts were standard, and people who developed them did not think about the sound and feel of the guitar. You could find a good luthier among those who made these guitars, but there was no personal touch. This is something about the logics of the socialist state. There were no high quality goods. Everything had to be good enough to fit everybody, and there was one level of quality set by the buerau of standards. There could be no small quantities of fine electric guitars, because this could destroy the "equality" among the guitarists as the citizens of the Soviet state. There were huge amounts of low quality guitars for the people. And Ural was probably the best of them.

Ural is a heavy instrument. There's a lot of wood in Russia, and the constructors of Ural were sure that good guitar must not break under any condition. So the neck and the body were made of heavy slabs of wood, the neck radius is very small - it's almost half of a circle, very hard to grip (and to break). Unlike other Soviet guitars Ural has relatively long horns, escpecially the upper, rickenbacker-style horn. The headstock has a distinctive "samurai" shape [let me add here that Yamaha recently released a well designed guitar with the similar "samurai" headstock and pickup configuration similar to other Soviet guitar, Solo II. They claim that these features are innovative, but we know where they came from...