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fender '51 vs regular precisions

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by diskette7, Jun 13, 2003.

  1. diskette7


    May 25, 2003
    Here's my story. Basically, I'm deciding on a new bass to buy in a mid-level price range. If anyone can offer some advice (I've been playing bass for a year and this will be my second purchase), that would be awesome. Anyway, first I was set on a basic MIM fender p. Then I noticed the Highway series, which offered me the coveted "american" recognition, yet cost less than the standard americans, which are out of my price range. the only thing is, because they're so new, the jury seems to still be out as to whether or not they're any good (based on the previous postings). Today, I began reading some great raves about the '51 reissues/sting bass and am now quite intrigued by that. I guess the Japanese craftsmanship seems to be superior to Mexican, and according to some people, even American. My only concern with this model is 1. the vintage pickup. Is it any good? It doesn't seem like there would be many options if I wanted to get rid of it and find a new one (but perhaps it's great to begin with?). And 2. based on how long it is, many people report some stringing issues.

    Obviously, one of the bigggest factors will be how it sounds and feels when I play it, but just based on specs and experience, where would you put your money in this case? (any help appreciated, even if you've only tried one of the three.) thanks!
  2. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    I've had one for several months and gigged it a couple of times. I think it's one of the best values out there! The pickup (which I understand is one-of-a-kind for this bass) sounds great. The only potential drawback is that some players find the slab body uncomfortable on the right forearm. I don't. As far as the stringing through the body, I use TI Jazz Flats and had to shave the E string a bit but they work fine. A beautifully made, tone-laden bass at a very cheap price. Here's mine:

  3. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    I don't own one...yet...but there seems to be a certain magic about these basses. Everyone that I've played, a couple of Stings, one like boogiebass' and a paisley or two all felt absolutely wonderful. There is a special vibe in that bass...maybe it's the headstock???(and I'm kind of serious).

    I do have a MIM P bass...and it's one of my favorites. I like it so much that I sold my American Hot Rodded P (which was also wonderful) when I downsized to one P Bass. I also have a MIM J5 Deluxe and it's a fine bass as well.

    If the tone is right for you, you can't go wrong!!!
  4. geezer316


    Jan 26, 2003
    go with the japanese fender by any & all means possible,even the used p-basses from the late 80's & early 90's are fantastic(i own one and love it)i am also looking into buying the 51 re-issue because of the superior craftsmanship to the mex models,the single coil alnico magnet p-up sounds full and well rounded.I could'nt believe all the sound and tone that the pick-up puts out. i also played the american 62 re-issue jazz bass that same day and the p-bass sounded alot better. the jazz bass was 1349.00$ and not as good as the 599.00$ p-bass which i think is made better as well.YOU DO THE MATH :D .i think its B.S that the american basses cost that much and the fact that some models are inferior to the japanese basses which is whay i will never buy one EVER :mad:! as far as the High-Way one models are concerned i never got a chance to play one but i heard that they are OK.but i have a feeling that they cant be better than the japanese basses;)
  5. But ain't it a fact that the bridge causes some players problems because of the design.
    Though I heard some players
    just put on a new one.:D
  6. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    If that's a problem, you can go with the Sting bass which is supposed to be like a '54 or '55 and therefore has a contoured body.
  7. Ace123


    Sep 25, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    whoa. diskette you took the words right out of my mouth, exactly! i was just going to post that i was thinking of getting a 51' fender re-issue P-bass (also i've been playing a year like you, want to spend mid-range, and it would be my second purchase)

    Anyways i went to my guitar store and i played one. WOW! The sound is absolutley magnificent. It has such a unique sound that i really dug. I play both finger style and slap and the slap sound out of that bass was incredible. It was real "punchy" and alive. I loved every aspect of it, except i was trying to play harmonics and it would not get a good sound on those at all. Maybe it was just the way i was playing it, the strings, or anything else. Besides that it was incredible and i most likely will be purchasing one of these in the future.

    Also, where did you read reviews on this becuase i'd like to check those out. THanks
  8. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Not this player. Fender's original design is less flexible than other, later designs but fully capable of proper intonation and action. In fact, Fender used a similar two strings-to-a-saddle design on Telecaster guitars until the late seventies/early eighties.

    I had no problems setting mine up.
  9. diskette7


    May 25, 2003
    I just did a search in the "basses" forum for terms like "51 reissue", "sting", "special highway," etc... it's definitely a great resource, because there are valuable things i would have never found out otherwise about these basses.

    i guess my biggest concern about the '51 is its setup. the pickup is apparently one of a kind, and therefore, isn't upgradable. i would probably end up replacing the bridge to a modern model, which might entail a fair amount of work. and apparently, the neck is so long that people report stringing issues. i'm not so keen on buying some specialty pair of strings every time i need a new pair. while those are my gripes, i've heard nothing but great feedback about their sound and craftsmanship.

    still no word on the special highway series... anyone????
  10. You can buy aftermarket single coil P-bass pick ups - from visiting the FDP (another great resource, at least if you're interrested in Fenders) I've heard that Seymour Duncan makes them, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are other brands that offers SCPB pickups as well - or get the stock pickup rewound if you're not happy with it.
    There are standard Fender replacements bridges that would fit without modifications, or so I've heard.
    I don't think this a neck issue, but rather a bridge issue. The standard bridge only allows through body stringing, which requires long enough strings, but if you were to change bridges, just get one that lets you string through the bridge as well. Then you could use any long scale string without a problem.
    As you might have figured out by now, I find those gripes to be minor issues. Now all I urge you to do is play one, and see if you like it. IMO, you can't go wrong with a Japanese made Fender.
  11. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    I own a sting P and I have played the 51 R.I. and they a similar just contoured differently. The sound is old school and sorta bluesy sounding. A must have in your stable of basses. I would not get one if it was going to be my only bass due to limitations of the single coil pup.
  12. diskette7


    May 25, 2003
    cool, thanks for all the input everyone. it definitely helps me in making my decision.

    last call for US special highway comments... anyone????
  13. geezer316


    Jan 26, 2003
    today being SAT,i went to my local music store and checked out the "big sale",what a load of crap:mad: .they have the nerve to send me a sale catolog every month and there is'nt any bass on "sale",once in a while they will have a clearence item but for the most part they can use the same sale paper for each month by putting a different cover on it:meh:.now back to my original point(sorry about the tingent :rolleyes: )i still want to buy the 51 re-issue no matter what,i cant believe how good that little pick-up sounds,its as good as many others.i did'nt know that the sting bass was different from the 51 bass,i though they were the same only the signature made the difference. can anyone tell me how they differ please ?:D
  14. i believe the only difference between a 51 and a sting bass is the contoured body of the sting bass, i have several fender basses, a MIJ frettless jazz a 62 MIJ reissue p-bass, a 75 reissue jazz(also a MIJ) and a sting bass (54 reissue) the sting bass has become my main bass, can i say more........imo the MIJ basses are all and more of what the american made basses should be....less cost and better workmanship in every case....shame on you american fender !!!

    (HD's edit - deleted racial slurs)
  15. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Back in the 50's, the '51-'53's had the squared body edges all the way around, then in '54-ish Fender started contouring the body like the Strat for a more comfortable player...especially where your gut and right arm sit. The '51 RI is obviously like the original while the Sting is like the mid-50's.

    I too have been looking quite a long while for a '51 RI, but haven't found "the one" yet. I want a blond one, and every blond I've seen in all the stores looks more like a nuclear yellow-green color...not at all a replica of the correct blond that came in the 50's (yes, I'm anal). The US custom shop '55 has the right blond (but a $2900 price tag), and to me it seems the early 90's MIJ '51 had it too, so I'm just waiting to snatch up one of those when I run across it.
  16. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    If you want the skinny on the '54RI/"Sting" and the '51RI, do a search on my name with these limiters.

    The "Sting" is nothing but the '54RI that Fender Japan made for domestic sales, but with that silly inlay and a cheaper pickup added (the Japanese-market version has the US-made "Basslines" SCPB pickup).

    Most '51RIs have slimmer necks than most "Stings."

    The new floral/paisley '54RI is similar to the "Sting," but with a basswood body. I believe it has a neck similar to the '51RI.

    The "Sting" usually has a heavier body than the '51RI because a lighter type of ash is used in the '51RI to compensate for the uncontoured slab. The ferrules are set differently in the back, so this makes a difference in string length requirements.

    The generic stainless strings that come on the ones I've seen are horrible, destroy frets and won't properly intonate the G on the vintage bridge, and suitable replacement sets are hard to find.

    These basses have a lot - and I do mean a LOT - of annoying problems due to the vintage bridge geometry, size and placement, but you can get a drop-in modern Fender bridge and throw the vintage one overboard if it gets too much for you. I like a setup challenge, and all the mojo will flow out of these in a little pink mist if you cop out and get a real bridge. I could write a long article on the hassles of the bridge alone.:)

    As for the H1, I cannot say much for sure as I have been unable to see the Fender parts lists for these. I do know, however, that the H1 Stratocaster is much more of an MIM than it is represented, with it being nothing but a MIM "'70s Classic" (a very overpriced MIM guitar) with a slightly different neck, machine head knobs and a crappier paint job applied in the US. Otherwise, all the parts are identical. Much of the assembly is MIM of the MIM-grade parts. Portraying the H1 Stratocaster as a "stripped-down 'American' series," as MF does is an outright lie. There are no common parts with the "American" series except the switch and two pots.

    This does not bode well for other "H1" instruments.
  17. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    Yeah, that school-bus yellow really turns me off, too. Surprisingly, the original color actually looked like the blonde on the '68 (not the later humbucker!) "Telecaster Bass" - which was Fender's first reissue instrument, a pretty close copy of the '51 Precision. The original blonde yellowed at a very rapid pace, but I've never seen one that looked anything like the current CIJ yellow, even after fifty-plus years.

    There's a picture floating around the net of a then-new '51 or '52 that was tightly sealed in its case for decades, and thus retains its original color. It's very close to the white blonde of modern instruments, except that it has turned dark around the bridge from the outgassing during decomposition of the foam rubber mute under the tailpiece. It's a fascinating photograph. It's not yellow at all, because it was never exposed to the air or light.
  18. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    There are other differences between the current '51RI and the "Sting" that I have mentioned, above, but they are usually relatively minor.

    I don't find Japanese workmanship on these instruments to be all that great, though they're OK and probably superior to the average MIAs. My "Sting" had a number of finish flaws and a pretty screwy-looking misalignment of the cosmetic bridge cover cutouts on the pickguard, and the output jack was misinstalled and falling out, among a few other relatively unimportant problems.

    More annoying is the Japanese unwillingness to waste any tiny scrap of ash when gluing up body blanks. The result is often a pretty freaky-looking body. I've seen some crazy-looking grain mismatches on eBay "Sting" basses. One interesting FJ cost-cutter is a tiny scrap they stick on to fill out the underside lower bout, below the control plate, in order to save using a whole larger piece. It's usually covered by the sunburst, but you can often see the glueline through the paint, or in the translucent part of the fade. I haven't closely examined a '51RI yet to see if they are better or worse with this skimpiness.

    When I say "FJ," I really mean "whoever actually made this under contract for Fender Japan," as FJ actually makes nothing, and various so-called Japanese Fenders have been made by as many as four different Japanese contractors. Nobody I know of seems to be sure how many they have actually used, including folks at FMIC. FMIC does not control FJ, and is a minority stockholder. My understanding is that most of the current FJ instruments are coming out of the same plant that makes Japanese Ibanez gear.
  19. NV43345


    Apr 1, 2003
    I like the Sting Bass the best,The tone is unreal.
    There were 3 of them at the store, and it is so hard to judge when your not playing threw "your amp", but when I got home and plugged in, I was really impressed. This one sounded a little warmer than the other's. I also like the rounded body edge.[​IMG]
  20. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    Before the recent reimportation of the FJ '51RIs, I was looking like crazy to find a used one for a decent price (the FJ '51RIs from previous importation runs were going around US$1000 on eBay! This was ridiculous, as but a year or so previously the going used price was around $300).

    "Dude" Barr told me to forget it and get a "Sting" because it was a better player anyway. Just then, MF had a sale on them for $449.99, including shipping, so I jumped on it.

    Curiously, Ishibashi finally got around to exporting "Stings" a few months later and their price was slightly over twice that, before shipping.

    The contoured body is really not that much of a deal because these SCPBs require a different playing technique from that familiar to most players of later split-pickup Precisions. You can't play the SCPB with your thumb anchored on the uncovered pickup, as you will eventually pull the top off of the spool and destroy the unit. This has happened to numerous posters here and elsewhere. The proper, safe way to play them if you must anchor your thumb against the instrument is with the thumb anchored against the end of the fretboard edge, with the fingers between the end of the fingerboard and the pickup.

    Doing this means you probably have to put your arm in a different place against the body, too. As a result, I don't even touch the bass in the area of the countour anyway, so it's a moot point whether I have a slab or contoured body.

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