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Best Era For Fender Jazz Basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jazztonebass, Apr 5, 2014.

  1. jazztonebass


    Apr 23, 2012
  2. interesting read....thanks for sharing!

    I think a strong case could be made that the best era for Jazz basses is NOW. The 2008 - 20?? J Basses have seen so many improvements in Build Quality, Quality Control, Features, etc. There are Custom Shop Jazzes, Select Models, Am Deluxe, MIJ, Am Std, MIM's and Squires. I believe ALL of these models are enjoying a golden age so to speak.
  3. I have played them all in stores, an over the years. Now is the best time for Jazz basses. An all the copies. Heh. 70s an early 80s jazz basses the WORST of the lot. We knew it then. Conveniently forgotten in face of almighty dollar today.
  4. JimmyThunder

    JimmyThunder Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2008
    New Hampshire
    'best era' depends on what you're holding in your hand at the time. Dogs and winners everywhere.
    Ace Of Bass likes this.
  5. Unless I missed something, the four basses tested did not necessarily have the same type, brand and gauge of strings. I appreciate the fact that the strings may be quite old on some of the basses and newer on others. That fact - in and of itself - has a direct impact on the sound. Strings always have a direct and dramatic impact on the sound - be they flats or rounds or halfs or tapes - and of course, we all know the sound of the same type and gauge can vary wildly from brand to brand.

    Any test of this nature, in my humble opinion, must be conducted with the exact same type, brand and gauge of strings - or the test would be inherently flawed.

  6. The read was excellent. They like an revere the older basses more than me. An while I agree the tones of those basses pretty good, they underemphasize just how badly constructed those basses are. Not just neck gaps... Bad soldering, hugely varying and inconsistent output, bad necks... List goes on. Opinions vary. Mine is certainly no more important an opinion than anyone's. But the basses made today by both Squier and Fender are light-years ahead of anythin made by Fender then. The Squier VM series is closest to the older basses. An most pros scoff at usin them over the American series of basses. All across the board, technology and our ever increasing standards and tolerances have made the entire bass guitar industry better. Let alone the Fenders from back then. Do my current American Deluxe Jazz basses sound different than those older ones? You bet. But even here, each bass sounded different. All basses sound different, period. Each single one is like a different person. But construction, materials an designs have improved so much... I can't wait til my basses are 25, 30, 60 years old. I'll get to see how they stack up to a 62, 73 or 85 at the same age. I bet my tuners work better. I bet my neck more solid. I bet my tone is more solid, detailed. An I bet we debate this to eternity. I lve them all. But I play these current ones. You get more, for less. In my opinion. In my experience...
  7. Dluxe

    Dluxe Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Austin, TX
    A big plus 1. I love my '76 Jazz. Back in the early 80's I had a great '65 Jazz. That was probably one of the best Jazz basses I've ever played.
  8. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
  9. davedblyoo

    davedblyoo "All the mayhem and none of the sticky mess." Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2012
    Augusta, GA
    I realize that quality in any individual Fender (or another other instrument) can be a hit or miss proposition. However, I had a 70's era Precision that I played for a few years. It was heavy, the neck wasn't comfortable, and had the wimpiest sounding E string I have ever encountered. It also had a Badass II on it, draw your own conclusions. Upgrading the pickup to a Seymour Duncan PB3 did absolutely nothing to help. I picked up that bass in 1985. In 1995 I acquired a brand new 1995 American Standard Jazz. Buildwise, it was a huge improvement over the 70's bass. I liked the tone better. It fit me better. I still have that bass, lightly modded. I replaced the pups with some Aguilar 70's pickups (Heaven!) and replaced the bridge with a Fender HMV bridge, strung through the top. That bass is now one of my favorites, never to be parted with. Jump ahead to early 2013. I bought a new 2012 American Standard Precision. I changed the strings to some Sadowskys. and I believe that this bass is one of the very nicest basses out of the box I have ever owned. The build is great, I love the tone and the playability, can't imagine at this point that I would ever have to upgrade anything on it. And I bought it online, sight unseen. A few weeks ago I bought a 2013 American Standard P Bass 5, and it is great also. I have to admit, I'm thinking about swapping the pickup out. It sounds good, but I can't help but think there's something out there that would push it completely over the top. What I'm trying to say with all of this, is that based on my personal experience, the current crop of Fender instruments is the best I've ever used, and I've used a few.
  10. DirkP


    Jan 18, 2013
    Hamburg, Germany
    It might be true that most of the instruments Fender builds today are quality instruments. But Fender still does things that I find hard to accept.
    For example they offer a bass for 750,- Euros, the Pawn Shop Series Fender Bass VI. And the way it is delivered it is not possible to tune the E-String correctly. Not only that the string has the wrong gauge for that kind of bass, Fender USA today can't build the time correct bridge. They had to ask Fender Japan to lend them the tools, but Fender Japan rejected to do this.
    It's not exactly a cheap instrument, but it comes even worse: they did the same - I don't know, if they have changed this now - on the Custom Shop version of the Fender Bass VI which costs more than 3.000,- dollars.
    This company doesn't have the tools or the expertise to build a cheap metal sheet, a stoneage primitive bridge, they have to beg Fender Japan???

    They are building instruments for more than 60 years now and most of these instruments have the same basic design as decades ago and they are still making these huge mistakes?

    I still like my Pawnshop Bass VI and it's otherwise a good instrument for the price but what Fender still does when it comes to Quality Control or managing to deliver an instrument that can't be tuned in its orginal configuration still makes me wonder...
    The tools they have today are so far superior to the tools they had to use decades before, it has become so much easier to install quality control systems that make sure that your products maintain a high standard of quality.

    In most other industries, they wouldn't get away with stuff like this. Musicians still accept to pay a rather high price and then have to modify an instrument to make it playable. Just imagine Fender would build cars!

    My main bass is a 1978 all original Fender Jazz Bass.
    I just bought a Stingray and regarding the workmanship and quality control it is far far superior to Fender Instruments I've seen so far.
    Apart from this, Fender isn't in an easy position. Whatever they do, many folks will complain.
    Me too. I would prefer it, if Fender would concentrate on real innovations and offer less models, but these in a quality that put their competition to shame. What's the sense in offering 1297 different versions of instruments in 4 different price classes that are 99% the same? But I guess economic reasons dictate them to do this. Even Musicman offers "vintage" or "classic" models now...

  11. Why won't the E-string tune?

    As far as the Stingray....MM's USA built instruments have superb build quality IMO. However, comparing a $750 Fender to an $1800 Stingray is not an apples to apples comparison in the interest of fairness and objectivity. Have you played an American Deluxe or Select series Fender? Even the current crop of MIJ basses I would put on par with MM's build quality as they are EXTREMELY under rated and under appreciated IMO.Those are more in the ballpark with a Stingray and i think the build quality is just as good on the Higher end Fenders based on my experience with owning both instruments.
  12. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    I've had three or four J basses from different times - so this is my take.

    Putting aside the mystical pre-CBS worship thing, My favorite J basses were those made in the late '90s with the Suhr pickups. Nice necks, great sound - my only gripe is the cheap routing on the body so you can't remove the pick guard (I really hate that).

    Today's J's are quite good too - Folks forget how wildly inconsistent Fender was up through the early '80s. I had a '77 that was pure firewood - a real POS, so don't go buy the year - go by the bass.

    As for the article - it seems pretty spot on... And yes, that "antiqua" finish was then and is now *hideous*. I remember being at the GC downtown checking gear out then they were brand new - I was amazed how everyone was oohing and ahhing them, while me am my buddies were just amazed how ugly the were. Yes, to each his own, but sometimes, ugly is just ugly.
  13. PaulieBe


    Jun 25, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Having had one or two of all decades at various times- I am voting for 1965-66. They are unique in many ways but still retain all the good pre-cbs qualities. Of course to each his own!
  14. cableguy


    Jun 4, 2009
    North Bend, WA
    Early 80's G&L's.........:bag:
  15. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    I'm going to have to disagree with this. I have owned Fender Jazz basses from every era including a 2011 model. There are good and bad instruments from every era. The early 80s were actually very good. It was during that time that Fender production moved back to the original Pre-CBS Fullerton, California plant. Fender rehired many of the Pre-CBS employees and manufacture instruments on the same equipment that was used prior to the sale to CBS.
  16. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef Formerly "thebrian" Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    I like the 1960s the best. And contrary to what people say on talkbass everyday, they were built very well back then.. especially when Leo was around. Most of the vintage basses that play like crap today are that way because of abuse, neglect, and improper storage. The vast majority did not leave the factory with issues. And I don't know if I've ever seen a large neck pocket gap in the '50s or '60s. Quality definitely did suffer in the '70s and '80s (but of course there's still great ones from those eras too). But in the '50s and '60s, Fender guitars were state of the art instruments that the entire world wanted for a reason.

    It's really easy to look at a 50 year old instrument without knowing it's long history and just assume it always had the problems it may have now, but think about that. And the fact that many are still fantastic playing and sounding guitars all these decades later speaks for itself IMO.
    jim nolte likes this.
  17. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef Formerly "thebrian" Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    Actually, Fender didn't have to move back to Fullerton, they were already there. They moved their factory to Corona during 1985 and all American Fenders have been built there since then. The reason the early '80's guitars are called "Fullertons" is because the company was in 2 different cities during the decade of the '80s, so that's just kind of become early '80s guitars' nickname (even though the '50s, 60s, & '70s were "Fullertons" too. On a side note, I do believe that Fender's original location in the '40s was a building down the street to where they were in the '50s-80s.

    Quality did go back up in the early '80s also, mainly with the release of the American Vintage Series, which was Fender's (sucessful) endevaor to show the public that "they could still build 'em like they ised to".

    EDIT: Reading a little bit more into it, Fender actually had 29 buildings spread throughout the city of Fullerton by the time CBS took over in '65, who then built their main Fullerton facility in '66.
  18. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    No doubt quality did a serious rebound from the '70s to the '80s - I was selling / teaching at a music store in the mid '80s and I recall how impressed even the hair-band Jackson/ESP/Kramer guitar players were with the new fenders - how they really had "turned it around". I bought a new 89 P bass plus that I played the frets off of - a great bass with some very odd characteristics (the electronics & bridge were both just strange) but it was a solid bass.

    I did play a '72 J bass a while back that was nice - it didn't have all of those annoying mid-70's characteristics (thick poly finish, poor fit, heavy as sin) - it was nice. It seems like after that, though, they went down hill.
  19. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Pacifica CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Thanks for posting - a worthwhile read. It was narrowly subjective, but I enjoyed its de-bunking of the commonly believed myths related to these vintage instruments. Money corrupts everything and unfortunately the tools we use have become a target for it's corrosive cancerous nature. I love J's and have a few, both mongrels and otherwise and could give a flying [----] about their collectors worth. It's about expressing oneself through an instrument - period. F the "market".
  20. Laurent

    Laurent Supporting Member

    May 21, 2008
    Napa, California
    This article was printed in Tom Bowlus' excellent Bass Gear Magazine.
    It's just another reason to subscribe to this excellent publication.
    The article was groundbreaking and very educative.