In his 2003 book, American Basses, author Jim Roberts noted that for all of Peavey’s innovative offerings in the 1990s, “…the company hadn’t forgotten their regular customers,” specifically citing the company’s mid-’90s Forum as a “good old meat-and-potatoes bass.”
The Forum series did indeed exemplify the builder’s efforts to adhere to founder Hartley Peavey’s mantra of “quality equipment for working musicians at fair prices.”
Debuting in ’93, the Forum bass looked like a lot of other instruments – basic Fender P-Bass silhouette, “P/J” pickup configuration, etc.
Its neck was made of eastern maple, bilaminated to keep it rigid and measuring 11/2″ wide at the proprietary Graphlon composite nut. The fretboard was rosewood, and had 21 nickel-silver frets. The neck joined the body at the 16th fret on the bass side, 19th fret on the treble side.
The body was poplar finished in polyester/urethane. The pickguard, bridge, etc. were also generic, and controls consisted of two Volume and a master Tone; no muss, no fuss. An active circuit variant known as the Forum Plus was also available.
Within two years of its launch, the Forum underwent a makeover, perhaps to differentiate it from other basses in the market… including other Peaveys.
In ’95, the basic Forum became a one-pickup active instrument, with a neck measuring 1.7″ at the nut and a body, the catalog said, “…constructed from the finest Swamp ash or Alder,” with a slight modification where the cutaway horns were lengthened to add greater balance.
The large, rectangular pickup was Peavey’s new and powerful VFL Plus active unit (which had originally been designed as a passive model), and was, like earlier Peavey models, “harmonically placed.”
“I used the old T-40 to start, then changed it to an active type for VFLs,” Peavey designer Mike Powers said of his work on the model.
The three knobs on the second-generation Forum controlled Volume, Treble, and Bass; the two Tone knobs had center detent.
The two-pickup Forum AX had two harmonically-placed VFL Plus pickups, and appropriate controls – master Volume, a rotary pickup blend, and concentric Bass and Treble.
The control layouts differed from the Forum to the Forum AX; the one-pickup version has its knobs mounted on the “tail” of the pickguard, in allusion to the P-Bass, while the two-pickup model’s controls are mounted in a chrome plate, a la the Fender Jazz Bass. Pickguards on both were usually three-layer, black/white/black.
Powers recalled that the circuitry in the revised Forum basses was analog, powered by two 9-volt batteries, and described in owner manuals as “an active high/low pass shelving circuit.” Centering the Tone controls meant pickup response was flat. Rotating the Treble clockwise from center increased all frequencies 255 Hz and above, while counterclockwise rotation decreased the same range. The notion also applied to the Bass control – clockwise rotation increased frequencies 96 Hz and below; counterclockwise rotation decreased frequencies in that range. The owner’s manual summarized that the use of such circuitry “…translates into an audible cut/boost of 12 decibels.”
Bridges on the second-edition Forum and Forum AX were also different – the single-pickup bass still had a standard-looking bridge, while the two-pickup model’s bridge was unique and aesthetically sharp.
“The massive ABM bridge on the Forum AX is machined from a solid block of brass… and offers the ultimate in adjustability. String height, intonation, and spacing may be adjusted to fit literally any playing style,” the owner’s manual boasted.
A five-string model, the Forum 5, was offered in the new configuration. It had a four-plus-one headstock silhouette and was otherwise a five-string version of the Forum AX.
Peavey had other basses in mind for the late ’90s and beyond, including the Millennium and the neck-through Cirrus, so the Forum series was discontinued just after mid decade.
This article originally appeared in Vintage Guitar magazine September 2012 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.