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Are higher priced Fenders really worth it?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Alex Lineback, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. WRChadwell


    Jan 14, 2013
    I own one Fender Modern Player Jaguar (Made in China), one Crafted in Japan Jaguar, one Made in Mexico Jazz, one American Standard Jaguar, and one USA Geddy Lee Jazz. What I have found that is fit and finish on all of them are largely equally nice. The difference I have found, however, is in the pickups. The American-made (higher-priced) basses sounded great out of the case. All the others needed some help in the pickup department. The stock pickups sounded OK, and may have passed muster had I not known they could sound better, but in comparison, they just sound OK, not great. I've switched out the pickups on the Modern Player Jaguar and the Made in Mexico Jazz (using high-quality, aftermarket Fender pickups) and the change was dramatic and much for the better. Bottom line: if you're willing to sound just OK, go for one of the less-expensive Fenders. If you want the best sound possible, go for an American made or be prepared to switch out pickups.
    Novarocker likes this.
  2. musicbass-man


    Nov 16, 2014
    Yes, I think they are in the main; but sometimes they aren't as good as they should be. The 2014-16 American standards were gems, with customer shop 60's pick ups. Arguably better than the Fender Professional with the V-Mod pickups. I'd take the 2010- 2016 American Deluxes over the Elites based on build quality and sound. The Mexi Player series are good, but not to American build quality, and I struggle to think of a time when the Mexi ones were better. However the MIJ Fender basses have quite often beaten the American ones! IMHO.
  3. AJ on Bass

    AJ on Bass Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2017
    I think you have to separate the playability of the instrument from the monetary/asset side. From a playability standpoint, there are good ones, and bad ones no matter where they are made. From a financial standpoint, the American produced basses hold their value better, and can appreciate “better” over time. Also, one must decide whether to purchase new or used. I have/owned everything from a Custom Shop J Bass all the way down to a China produced Squire P Bass. I have purchased both new and used basses. At this point, I only purchase used basses. I like searching for sweet, excellent condition American built Fenders of all ages/types. As far as the non-US produced basses, the 80’s-early 90’s Fender Japan produced basses are nice.

    My overall recommendation is Buy Used (let someone else “eat” the initial depreciation. The only reason to not do this is if you are buying New and using the 24/36/48 month no interest financing out there because you don’t have the cash for the purchase right now. Or, you have the cash and want the New Bass smell!!! Buy American, just overall going to be a better experience. Target Used between 10 years and 25 years old. Buy the best condition you can find, unless you are into “relic” condition.

    So, as a player, play what you like, don’t worry so much about where it is made. As a collector, American made all the way!
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  4. D kass

    D kass

    Mar 4, 2019
    "Worth" is a tricky concept. Is a Ferrari worth the cost for a working couple with five kids? It's likely the minivan will be the car of choice. If you like it and can afford it go for it. I have a 1976 p bass(plays great). But I bought it 23 years ago for under $500. I would never spend $1800-$2800 for the same bass today....PERIOD. I would buy an MIM, get it dialed and play it to death. Is there a difference? Absolutely(but so is there a difference from MIM to MIM)! Is it that important? I certainly don't think so.
  5. aureliab20gt


    Jul 19, 2011


    Mar 3, 2018
    I'm still very much a novice, for what it's worth, but I just bought a 75 Fender Mustang and I have found it plays much better for me. Like I noticed I don't have to press as hard with my fretting hand as with other basses. As a matter of fact, if I press too hard I get fret buzz and have to lighten my touch, which makes it easier for me to play things that are a bit faster. For example, the ending riff of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain.
  7. NevadaNed


    Nov 28, 2010
    Dayton, NV
    I think if I was going to pay the money for a high end American Fender, I'd put a little more cash with it and order a bass from Creston Lea.
  8. I think it depends. My #1 is a 2018 American Pro P Bass in Olympic White. It's just gorgeous. It has that Goldilocks feel where I just can't put it down. I picked it out at Parkway Music in NY after looking at a few others.

    In my experience the American Pros often (perhaps usually?) have that Goldilocks feel for me. For me it's rare for the Mexican Standards/Players to have that. It's not impossible. Right now there's a MIM P at the local shop that's pretty incredible. (I would buy it if I didn't already have two.) But they often feel clunky when I pick them up.

    I find that the American Pros tend to have an ineffable feeling of being more refined than the MIMs do. But not always. (And I'm certainly not trying to pick a fight with those who love their MIMs.)
  9. Rade Pejic

    Rade Pejic

    Feb 25, 2019
    New Orleans
    It sounds like you have a great sounding comfortable bass. That’s the main thing. I have a newer (2010?) American P-bass string with flats and it’s great. I feel that it was with the cost.
  10. swedbass

    swedbass Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2007
    Los Angeles CA
    F Bass Artist
    Gary Willis explained this quite well:

    Lower cost instruments have less consistency and quality control, and therefore span a wide range of quality. Preamps in the lowest cost instruments are usually crap. Go to a store where they have several of the type of bass you are interested in. Play them all, focusing on response and tone. Most of them, of a cheap model, might be described as 'meh', but there will be a small number that compares well with basses costing many times more. When you find that bass, buy it. If you are unhappy with the sound, replacing pickups is a a relatively simple and cheap task. Same goes for hardware.

    BUT...it all adds up. If you have to to a fret job, replace tuners, bridge, pickups, do a complete shielding job etc. a more expensive model might be a better value.

    I have a Squier P Bass I bought for $135 and a '63 P Bass I bought for a lot more. In this case the Squire is a much better value because is sounds decent, plays well and after replacing the pickups sounds pretty good. But you can guess which one makes me happier ;-)
    Ronzo likes this.
  11. Bass1958


    Jul 12, 2016
    I played a $300 Mexican P with some kind of vintage Fender 60s replacement pickups and LaBella flats. At least 50 people have asked me if it was a perfectly restored 62 P. So no, as far as a P Bass with flats.
    Ronzo likes this.
  12. Scuba Slap

    Scuba Slap

    Feb 25, 2019
    You can find mint condition used american standard p basses for less than 900. And worth it. I'm in the middle of building my next one though. Jazz bass with a warmoth neck, will let you know if I like it more hahah
  13. Bruce

    Bruce Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2004
    south carolina
    I have had several Jazz basses, and I can tell you this. My 2013 Road Worn Jazz bass is the best sounding of them all. It is hot all over the neck, and is a dream to play. Got rid of my 70's US and 90" MIM because this one blew them away for playability and sound.
  14. Leo Thunder

    Leo Thunder

    Sep 27, 2018
    You are confusing the quality of the instrument with that of its set-up. It's easy to do and can be learned on YouTube. I can play all my basses with "a light touch", even the one I got for 50€ plus shipping.
  15. I was lucky enough to find my perfect P bass.. a 2007 Highway One. Doubt I will ever find one better. Paid the same as I would have paid for a new Mexican but the US neck does feel great compared to my MiM P bass. Tone, sustain all seem better in my opinion.
  16. holdfast


    Jan 27, 2014
    Yeah, if I could afford it, I'd buy a Rickenbacker 4001. I love them. I played one for years on long term loan from my brother. He took it back, and I don't think there is a cooler, more wonderful feeling instrument to play than that model. I did some repairs recently to a friend's 4001 and I fell in love with that neck all over again!
  17. Whitebeard


    Sep 20, 2010
    "Back in the day" when Fender instruments were mostly hand made there were often physical differences between two instruments of the same model. Now with the use CNC machines the physical dimensions are identical from one instrument to the next of the same model. Therefore IMO a production line instrument made in the U.S.A. is no better than a production line model made at the Fender shop in Mexico. Possible differences could include quality differences in hardware and electronics including pickups. But if the hardware and electronics used in both instruments are of the same brands and quality lines then the instruments should be identical. Custom Shop is a different level of build and materials than production line instruments. For instance the Custom Shop bass you mentioned having the "old style" neck profile was intentionally built that way to either replicate a classic year or to accommodate players who prefer the "old style" neck profile (perhaps because they've been playing that neck for several decades and know it blindfolded). The best instrument is the one that feels and sounds best to the player which in this case is you. Enjoy!
  18. Ricky J Travis

    Ricky J Travis

    Jan 27, 2019
    I have five Fender jazz basses two MIM and three MIA including a 1977 and custom shop model with AAAA quilted top $$$$ from California. And there’s definitely a difference in the quality and sound. To each it own, but I would spend the money again and again to replace them.
  19. rickbass1


    May 29, 2014
    I own a 60’s custom shop journeyman Jazz, an am std P4, an Am std P5 string and a Am std Dimension. All great basses though the CS is definitely higher quality and I often use it in the studio. I owned a 24 fret 5 string Am Sadowsky and think my CSJ is definitely better made.
    In saying that they all have got their own mojo and wouldn’t part with any of them, but the real dark horse is the Dimension, an excellent instrument as good as if not slightly better in quality than my 2 p basses, and as far as playability and versatility goes it is my go to 4 string gigging bass.
    Never understood why these got such a bad rap, too many seemed to judge them for superficial reasons such as appearance etc without really giving them a chance. Anyway glad I got mine, sort of feel like i own something a bit unique and special, especially as they’ve discontinued their production. American made Fenders are top notch!
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  20. Erokker


    Feb 15, 2019
    My opinion is thus: Owning both an American Elite Precision as well as a Squier Classic Vibe Precision allows me the opportunity to scrutinize each end of the spectrum. In a nutshell, the Classic Vibe has noticeably better fit, finish and attention to detail in it's build quality. It's hardware (bridge, tuners, electronics) are serviceable, solid, and for 11 years now, have given me no problems at all. The American Elite, unfortunately, has some nits to pick - all in the arena of fit and finish. As an example, the headstock carve has uneven radii, paint finish is average, all control knobs were mounted flush to the guard and rubbed (had to loosen then and raise them all a bit). Perhaps the most annoying issue is that the truss adjustment wheel is free floating, like a socket on a nut. I had to place a small piece of foam against it to keep it from rattling. However, all my bitching aside, this thing has the voice of the Precision Gods! Seriously colossal tones that cover pretty much all the basses I'd ever need to cover. The dimension and stiffness (that's what she said) of the neck are about perfect. No dead spots, and amazing heft to the notes. I attribute this to the graphite rods. The only other bass I have that has a comparable neck stiffness is my Spector Euro 4lx (graphite rods as well). So there ya go. They're both solid, playable and great sounding basses for different reasons. Hey, that was my first post...

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