Good day to all!
I am a kubicki fanboy and I had a collection of up to 7 kubicki exfactors from all eras. I got hooked when I heard stu hamm on Kings of sleep & vail johnson on kenny G live. I have since narrowed them down to 2 to make way for a few ernie balls, warwicks & fenders.
I have seen reviews of real vs fender but really none of them being compared side by side by one owner. Most of them proud "real" kubicki owners giving their opinion on Fender-made ones.
I still have 2 of them in possesion and I would like to give an honest review of the 2 (one fender custom shop & one pre-fender) for future kubicki owners wanting more info between the two. Here goes nothing!!!
Here are my two remaining Kubickis. The black one is pre-fender from 1989, and the red is FCS from 1990. I kept these two and sold the others because I felt these two were the best overall feeling, best playing & best sounding from my collection.
To give an overview, I had a reverse blue burst pearl from 1985 I purchased used. The bass was so abused by the previous owner the neck had a long crack from headstock to the middle of the neck and it was missing a brass cup on the E-string. It had the very early pickups and preamp which were very loud and sounded very different from that signature kubicki tone. I had a very nice bahama green from 1987 which had a fat feeling neck & very nice tone, but I could not lower the action enough like the others & I accidentally dropped it during a gig which caused a nasty crack on the control cavity. I had a black FCS from late 1989 with the 6-way kubicki leftover preamp. I found it too trebly & the pickups made a clicking sound everytime I played over the bridge pickup. I had another bahama green from 1993 which I purchased used. It had a crack on the neck heel when I got it and it sounded a bit thin. So I kept the two above because I had minimal complaints with them. Headstock & Neck:
This is my Red FCS kubicki. FCS logo stamped. One difference from REAL kubicki necks is that the truss rod nut is so hard to turn and when it eventually turns it takes a few good turns before the neck reacts.
The FCS side dash markers protrudes above the side of the fretboard like it was painted on.
Back of the neck of an FCS kubicki is finished with a clearcoat. Shiny & also sometimes sticky.
Pre-Fender Real kubicki. Truss rod is smooth to turn and reacts at a quarter turn of the screw.
Side dash markers are smooth and inlaid inside the side of the fret board.
Back of the neck of a real kubicki has a bare wood feel. You can feel the laminates as you move across the neck. But it also accumulates dirt from your fingers through the years.
Surprisingly, the fender made neck is not sensitive to humidity changes as much as my real one. Preamp:
Here is where most of the debate comes from. They say real kubickis "smoke" the fender preamps. I totally disagree with that.
This is the FCS preamp. 9-volts plus the midboost screw. Very versatile if you want to adjust the level of boost. I prefer it at 75-80% boost.
The real kubicki preamp. 18 volts. 6-way selector. Signature kubicki sound. Playablity & Finish
Low action on FCS kubicki. I managed to get the action very low without any buzz, without any modifications. I just slammed the saddle and made the neck almost straight.
Real kubicki has very very low action but has a little buzz. I had to file the saddle slot to make it deeper so the string would sit at its lowest. I also had to file the nut slots.
FCS. Has a slight gap on the bass side neck pocket but negligible.
Real kubicki has an even bigger gap on the bass side.
FCS bridge. I find it has the same quality as the real one. Has a bit of grind when turning the knobs even after opening it up and lubricating them.
Smooth operator but I had to file a deeper groove on the G string saddle to get the action very low.
FCS knobs have a shiny finish.
Real kubickis have anodized flat black finish. Tone/playability/Conclusion:
So that was my honest review of the differences of real vs. fenders. do I think real ones smoke the fenders? Absolutely not! I find the fenders to have more "twang and pop" when slapping and popping. The real ones sound clean & compressed & have nice highs. The real ones sound thunderous when slapping & the FCS are more open & raw. It's like bartolinis vs EMGs. Both are nice, but different from each other.
I managed to get the action on my fender very low without modifications. On my pre-fender, I had to file a deeper groove for the G string to go as low as possible.
No any two kubickis will be exactly the same, be it FCS or real. Both of my kubickis have flaws. Both are nice. I would never part with any of them. I don't think one is above the other.
I have also played other kubickis owned by my friends, both FCS and real and yes, some FCS kubickis play as well as real ones, some even better.
I hope you like this review. Thanks