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Best fender p-bass years?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassle, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. bassle


    Dec 12, 2009
    I couldn't find a similar thread to this topic, so here we go :)

    I have fell in love with the p-bass sound, so i've decided to get a p-bass, hopefully a vintage 70's one.

    Therefore, I need some help to get an overview over the models and what the best years are. Any opinions about this? I've heard that 1970-75 is safe. Is this true?
  2. ZSavage

    ZSavage GrooveBopDeluxe

    I have been using a 1974 fretless P Bass for a number of years in lots of different situations (ClassicRock-R&B-SmoothJazz-LatinJazz-Country) and it is absolutely brilliant.
    I would say that those years are a pretty safe bet for a P Bass
  3. jetbike


    Apr 2, 2011
    Sydney, 'Straya
    This is good news. I have always wanted a '74, year of my birth.
  4. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    ... have fallen ...
    getrhythm and M.R. Ogle like this.
  5. Templar

    Templar Supporting Member

  6. bootsox


    Apr 28, 2012
    Biloxi, MS
    2012. Soon to be 2013. Manufacturing techniques have gotten better and more precise in the past 60 years, there's no denying that. Not saying a shiny old '58, '64, or '74 is a bad bass, but when you can have something just as good and only drop $1200 on it I think it's silly to go vintage just for the sake of it.
  7. bassle


    Dec 12, 2009
    But doesn't the 70's basses sound different? I thought they had a more warm and richer tone.
  8. bootsox


    Apr 28, 2012
    Biloxi, MS
    A little bit, but that's down to improved (cheaper and faster, not necessarily better) production in the pickup department. You might hear warmer and richer in the old ones, but what I hear in the new ones is improved clarity. Tone is too subjective a thing to say one is better than another.

    It sounds different, not better. If you want to spend a buttload of money on something that isn't any better that's up to you.
  9. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Not really - put a Fender '62 or Duncan SPB-1 pickup in any P Bass, and there it is... Quality on any of the 70s Fenders can be hit or miss, but there are still some really nice ones out there - and they can still be had for a reasonable price for what they are... Or, you can buy one from '08 to current production, and it's a safe bet you'll get a nice bass - if the sound doesn't wow you as "classic P Bass", slap one of those pups in there, and you'll be good to go... I have a '76, and to my ear, the SPB-1 has a warmer and deeper sound than the original pickups do:


    - georgestrings
    Son of Wobble and fender68 like this.
  10. bluestarbass


    Jul 31, 2007
    It's funny cuz 10 years ago 70's p basses were considered garbage. I've played some great 70's ones, and some terrible ones. 70's is the decade I'd stay away from, worst qc era IMO. Make sure you can play it before you buy. I've seen 70's neck pockets you could almost fit your pinky in.
    fourlow, drews.anderson and dagrev like this.
  11. 2008 onwards. I wouldn't personally bother with a vintage one unless I was certain about the authenticity.
    Catbuster likes this.
  12. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
  13. Spinal Tapper

    Spinal Tapper

    Nov 15, 2007
    My 75 is a FANTASTIC playing / sounding bass

    It's definitely not a dog like some claim from the 70's- although the neck pocket doesn't line up perfectly flush along the top portion- seriously who cares. That neck is straight as an arrow and the action is DEAD LOW all the way up and down the neck.

    You have to play one first before you buy it though. There are crappy Fenders from EVERY era.
  14. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Vintage P's often look and feel great, but newer P's actually tend to sound fatter. Most modern pickups have hotter winds and a bigger bottom end. Even Nordstrand's "vintage" pickup is a little rounder and more even than a real vintage Fender p/u.

    Classic 60's and 70's P basses sound a little light on the open E string. They also have slightly honky, hollow mids, and more air up top than you would expect. Purely IMO and IME, but for my taste, that's what makes a good Precision attractive. The Jazz goes deeper and brighter, but a P-Bass is all about the mids

    The classic, fat recorded P Bass tone is more about the way that complex tone interacts with EQ (and in some cases, dead flatwounds), than an inherent fatness or richness.
    Thwack likes this.
  15. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005

    Agreed with all of the above...

    - georgestrings
  16. pbassnut

    pbassnut Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    Falls Church, VA
    Even if you work in guitar/bass repairs or vintage buy/sell/trade retail and see a lot more examples of P-Basses than the average player, I still think it's generally difficult to make blanket statements about specific eras, models, countries of manufacture ... they're all over the place. Then you can add "one man's trash is another man's treasure" into the mix and the concept that some perceived dogs could actually be diamonds in the rough and have the potential to be good basses with the right setup and/or strings. Lastly, with all the super high quality aftermarket hardware and pickups readily available, many shortcomings can be easily rectified with the right part(s). In the end, seeing is believing so trying before you buy is always going to be the most reliable way to get a good P-Bass and buying sight unseen over the internet is always going to be a leap of faith to some degree. As always, IMHO and YMMV disclaimers apply.
  17. SpinyNorman


    Oct 24, 2012
    I agree with georgestrings recommendation. You can pick up a nice used '08 - '11 American Standard for ~$700 to $900. If the stock pickup doesn't float your boat, you can swap in a new "vintage" pickup for less than $150. Heck, compared with the price of a real vintage instrument, you could experiment with a dozen different pickups and still come out ahead.
  18. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Every year Fender puts out scads of P Basses. If you play a bunch, some are great, some are good, some are NG. I do not believe there is a "golden period" of Fender Bass production.

    I would base my judgement on the individual instrument, not the year it was produced. This is the same reason vintage basses hold no added value for me. I believe the quality of the components is better on newer instruments. One just needs to play a bunch and find a "goodie."
    Dec1975 likes this.
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Best fender p-bass years?


    Pre CBS

    The old ones are great ... But I really don't like a bolt on neck with only 3 screws. That is a bad idea. I think all bolt on necks should have 5 or 6 screws. I also don't like the truss rod adjustment at the body.

    The best Fenders these days are the MIA ones ... or custom shop.

    I prefer to build my own parts/frankenstein p-basses, jazz basses, jag basses, Fenderbird basses, SG basses, etc ...

    When I build my own I can use the neck I like, the bridge I like, the electornics, pickups, etc ... I get my own custom shop bass. It is not that hard to do. There are a ton of Fender style aftermarket parts out there.
  20. msb


    Jul 3, 2002
    Halifax,N,S. Canada
    Pbasses have always had four screws for the neck .
    Kukulkan61 and rockinrayduke like this.