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Fender factory setups - why so high?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by shewhorn, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. shewhorn


    Jan 30, 2012
    Boston, MA
    Apologies if this has been covered, I searched but nothing came up.

    Just curiosity on my part. Every new Fender (P or J) that I've picked up (regardless of where they are made) seem to have an action so high that you could drive a Mack Truck under it. I recently played my instructor's P which was set up by Jim Mouradian and the action was just absolute buttery brilliance!!! I know Fender can't have Jim or his equal set up every guitar that leaves the factory BUT, many other manufacturers seem to have figured out how to ship their basses with much better setups than what Fender is doing.

    I'm just curious, is there a particular reason for this? Certainly Fender has the best brand recognition of any electric bass or guitar out there and LOTS of people play them (and for very good reason). I would think they might be losing some sales as a result. I knew Fenders were capable of a much better than how they are setup out of the box but until I played my instructor's bass, I had no idea just how truly brilliant they could really be (obviously I haven't picked up a whole lot of Fenders... my love affair with the bass is relatively new).

    Cheers, Joe
  2. Truktek2


    Sep 5, 2008
    Queens, NY
    Yep noticed that too. It's very annoying when you try to play a bass in a store and the action and relief are so out of whack. You would think the store would set them up before displaying them. The only thing I can think of is that fender doesn't want the basses to buzz and maybe lose those customers. :rolleyes:
  3. BassBob1


    Dec 21, 2010
    I wouldn't say that it's necessarily a Fender issue. I have played plenty of Fenders and non-Fenders that have had terrible set ups in stores and plenty that have been set up well. I can't say I have played that many basses in stores or from other bass players that are set up exactly the way I like my basses though so I never expect to be completely satisfied when I take a bass of the wall to play it.
  4. If you learn to do your owm setups, it won't make any difference how they leave the factory.
  5. shewhorn


    Jan 30, 2012
    Boston, MA
    Why would that matter (actually from a sales perspective I can tell you why, most people do not know how to adjust a truss rod, neck angle, string height, and intonation)? I don't care if I setup my instruments myself or if I pay someone to do it for me.

    I'm talking about something that I think might be losing them some sales. I'm thinking more upon the lines that most purchases are heavily influenced by first impressions and emotions. If you (not YOU personally, a general you) try a bass with a poor setup, it's instantly made a bad impression and if it makes a poor first impression you're probably not going to feel good about that good about it purchasing it when the bass sitting next to it that plays much better right off the shelf. Intellectually you can tell yourself that it can be improved greatly with a good setup but you might still be left wondering... I think most would leave the store either buying the instrument that plays better out of the box or leaving without buying anything. Understand that when I say "most" I'm talking your average buyer who is going to use the instrument with whatever setup it has directly from the factory.

    Cheers, Joe
  6. Here's just a perspective;

    I'm a relatively new bass player, converted from guitar. When I was trying out basses, trying to pick my first, I actually found units with high action easier to play. Those with lower action seemed to buzz and I kept hitting the pickups with my fingers. Until you learn how to work your fingers, and just how to pluck, I think basses with low action are harder to play and get a solid sound out of. Maybe this is one reason? Once I got some help from a close friend on my setup, the Schecter that I bought was transformed....low action, perfect-o intonation, relief set properly...a pleasure to play....but I don't know if I would have liked it as much until I developed some basic skills. Just a thought.

    Or maybe it's just easier to throw them together and send them out with high action because you know each player is going to adjust it the way they like it anyway....

    In any case, it's not particular to Fender. Seems like a lot of "off the rack" basses come through with awful setup, but you don't know it unless you've been playing a while, or played something set up differently.
  7. I'm also guessing that they want to avoid buzzing and otherwise dead spots found by the prospective customer so a slightly higher setup is better. It's pretty easy to adjust it later, anyway. And some of us like setups that are a little bit buzzy, anyway.
  8. Stinsok

    Stinsok Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    Central Alabama
    The setup specs on their website aren't high.
    matante likes this.
  9. shewhorn


    Jan 30, 2012
    Boston, MA
    Thanks BayStateBass. That might be one explanation.
  10. Factory specs on Fender basses are not really that high. In fact they are in line with what many other manufacturers use. If they are out of whack it most likely happened with climate changes or other outside factors. This is really a store issue more than a factory issue.

    FenderĀ® Support
  11. shewhorn


    Jan 30, 2012
    Boston, MA
    That's certainly a possibility as I live in New England and most basses seem to be manufactured in much warmer climates (and at least in the winter time, much more humid climates as well). If that was the case though, I would expect other manufacturers to suffer from the same issues as many other basses seem to be manufactured in the same geographic areas.

    As mentioned though, Fender isn't the only one with such issues but of the Ibanez, Schecter, Spector, Music Man and a few other basses I've tried out, it seemed that the Fender setups were the highest of the bunch.

    Ultimately it doesn't matter much to me. The curiosity is sparked more from the business side of me (I own two businesses) and I was thinking that if I built basses or guitars, I'd want them to arrive at the store with a really decent factory setup as it would make for a more competitive product. Granted Fender might not need that because when a lot of beginners ask their instructors what to buy they are (I am speculating) more likely to hear "get a Fender (insert P or J here based on the instructor's recommendation)" than anything else.

    Cheers, Joe
  12. shewhorn


    Jan 30, 2012
    Boston, MA
    BTW, thanks for the link. Their specs are indeed quite respectable and I know from playing a well setup P that the action can get quite low. My big point though was that I've never played a Fender new from the factory that even came close to the specs listed. That's not to say there aren't some that do... I'm one person with a limited group of a samples.

    Cheers, Joe
  13. In my area it always seemed (to me) that Musicman suffered the most from this issue. They never seem to be setup well.
  14. j.kernodle


    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    I don't think it's unique to fender. I've played g&l's, musicman's, warwicks, yamahas and plenty of others with mile high action. usually I find that it's more an issue of neck relief getting out wack than a bad factory setup. fender spec on a 9.5" radius board is 3/32's at the 12th fret on the E string. once I gave the truss rod on my Mexican p bass a little tweak it settled in right about there or a little lower. why more music stores don't do this I'll never know. it's like having cars on a dealers lot with tires 10 lbs underinflated. it'll get you there but will handle like poo.
  15. lowsideonacurve


    Feb 24, 2011
    I noticed this not long ago at GC. All of the MIA's had really high strings, almost unplayable:confused: yet the MIM's were set up pretty good, but had a twist in the neck.:meh: All of the Squiers were straight and set up good. I believe GC is in the practice of setting up the entry level guitars to move.
    I left there swearing I'd never buy an MIM and hoping I'd find a good used MIA somewhere. The following weekend I found a good MIM Jazz that is now my main bass.:)
    On the other hand......
    I went in to a local shop a few months ago and the owner was anxious to show me a used Rickenbacker he had on consignment. At first glance the bass looked to be in great shape, but before I picked it up I could see the strings where way high. After playing a few notes I was just about to comment on how stupid high the action was, when he blurted out; "I set it up myself!" :(
    I was so dissapointed I went ahead and told him the action was too high for me and put the bass back in it's case.
    Sometimes it's the nut behind the wheel.
  16. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    My 2010 Precision V came right out of the box and I have not had to adjust the action at all. This includes 3 string changes.

    It's action I would say is uncharacteristically low for a Fender.
  17. FrednBass


    Feb 24, 2012
    Well, you can change the setup if you want to, you know that, right? It would be foolish not change it into your own taste, actually... So the setup that the bass have when it comes from the factory is not something to really be upset about.
  18. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    If I were a bass manufacturer, maybe I would set them up a little high before shipping them out, too.

    If the basses incurred climate change in shipping, the neck relief could increase or decrease. If it was low to begin with, it might become on-the-frets unplayable. The higher action also masks fret inconsistencies and buzzing, as has been noted.

    Love the analogy of the new cars on the lot with under-inflated tires, exactly! I know even a cursory "quickie" setup costs time (therefore money) but I cannot help but think a LITTLE more attention to the store stock...a couple tweaks here or there... would INCREASE unit sales enough to offset the cost of a little tech time.
  19. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Fender never was concidered as being a low action bass by design. Leo fender as you know started with bass being very very simple, played with thumb, thus tug bar. You'll have to look to later mfg's for low action designed basses.
  20. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I'm going to go against the grain and throw out an alternative answer: they set them high (and recommend extremely high setup specs) because it makes them less culpable for less than quality work.

    If their necks and more specifically, their fretwork is not completely dialed, then a low action is going to buzz, fret out, etc. If people demanded lower action and cleaner playing, then Fender, Gibson, et al would eventually be forced to up their game. However, they've managed to convince a great many people that their action is SUPPOSED to be that high, and so many players just assume that factory spec is as good as they can expect. The truth is that a high quality bass or a quality fret job and setup by somebody who knows what they're doing can make a world of difference to how an instrument plays, and often times can make the instrument play clean WAY lower than what the manufacturer suggests.

    Most manufacturers (not just instruments) live by the mantra that quality in excess of consumer expectation is a waste. Why should they have to produce a higher quality when most people aren't even aware of how good their instrument can and should be?

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