The Höfner 500 is a hollow-body instrument, though lacking soundholes, and is as such commonly referred to as a semi-hollow bass. It is built using a fairly traditional style, similar to that of an acoustic guitar. It commonly features a thin maple body, a spruce top and a maple neck. The fretboard is traditionally made of rosewood, though more contemporary models have utilized other, similar tonewoods. The Höfner 500 features a two-piece bridge system, consisting of an adjustable ebony bridge, and a metal tailpiece. The Höfner 500 is also notable for its distinctive control layout, featuring two rotary knobs, as well as three sliding knobs, controlling tone and pickup selection.
Earlier models, as well as certain reissues featured the two pickups spaced closely together, up against the heel of the neck, providing a fairly uniform tone, though most recent basses feature a more conventional “bridge/neck” pickup placement. The earlier models are often referred to as “Cavern basses”, after the Cavern club, where Paul McCartney famously made use of this particular model.