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Fender Flea Jazz Bass Review and Compare

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by AL_BASS, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. AL_BASS

    AL_BASS Supporting Member

    Be warned as this kinda long.

    I have tried resisting but the GAS hit me pretty hard for this past week. It all started when I received the latest Bass Player magazine which had an advert on the back cover with a pic of flea surrounded by the shell pink regarding the new Flea model road worn Jazz bass. That was it and I ended debating over purchasing, asking myself do I really need another Jazz bass and then finding one available from the major stores. So in the end I bought got it a few days back. I gave it a full once over and here is my initial breakdown and review comparing it between my RoadWorn Jazz and 61 custom shop Jazz bass with concentric stacked controls.

    Weight comparison:

    Flea - 9.102 pounds
    RoadWorn - 8.5 pounds
    CS - 9.172 pounds

    The pickguard had a powder residue which I guess was supposed to be part of the aged look but comes off easily with a quick wipe. It is the standard 64 vintage pickguard. No additional holes in the body for the thumb rest or pickup covers. Would really love Fender to work on a more accurate vintage pickguard but c'est la vie. Even though the CS vintage models seem to have a mysterious brown tort guard that differs from there other non CS offerings.

    The Flea finish is a great nitro(even smells good) but the road wear patches seems too sharp as if the paint flaked off rather than years of your skin wearing on it. Hoping the sharp lines will fade with use. Fleas' real jazz does have wear around the areas but the exposed areas appears whiter almost like there is an undercoat of pain beneath the shell pink. On the topic of shell pink it is more pink than I expected. When you see flea playing it appears more off white in pictures but this one is pink. Neither RoadWorn bass has the awesome finish checkering that the Custom shop has.

    The Flea neck and the RoadWorn neck seems the same. I love the feel as they are both very fast players. I think the Flea has a thicker piece of rosewood vs the RoadWorn. The custom shop has the best wood and finish.

    The bolt on neck plate with Fleas signature and smile. I am fine with this but others might want a standard plate.

    The pickups sound better than the Road Worn model but to my ears not as full as the Custom Shop. With the Nickel Plated Strings and the differing 64 pure vintage pickups the Flea sounds nicely aggressive and a very nice slap n' popper.

    When comparing all three the CS feels, plays and looks the best. But I still enjoy having the roadworns and recommend both. In personal satisfaction rating they go CS, Flea Jazz and then the Road Worn.

    Just sharing my thoughts and observations.
    Sands, 19sixty3, remcult and 19 others like this.
  2. AL_BASS

    AL_BASS Supporting Member

    Here are some poor tablet pictures of each:

    Attached Files:

    Sands, Fingertone, Thibby and 5 others like this.
  3. StudioGC

    StudioGC Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2015
    Why is it no one responded to this review? Nice job.

    I tried the flea bass at my local shop a few weeks ago and was very impressed. I came close to pulling the trigger, but then found a Classic '64 MIM local on CL for half the price, and then found a partscaster with with a '76 neck and have since built up a period correct '76 Jazz bass (even with period correct case!). My '76 mutt base sounds and plays incredible....but, it weighs 11.3 pounds!

    I'm still tempted to head over to my local shop and get the Flea since I have a store credit burning a hole in my pocket......
    bass6strng, Tbone76 and Ghastly like this.
  4. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    There is already a large thread on this subject, but the OP wrote a good review.
    Tbone76 and Ghastly like this.
  5. murphy

    murphy Supporting Member

    May 5, 2004
    Great Comparison.....Thanks for taking the time
    Ghastly likes this.
  6. Kitsapbass

    Kitsapbass What key is this?

    May 26, 2005
    Bremerton, WA
    Thanks for a good review and comparison, especially liking how you compared it with a cs and a roadworn.
    Sands likes this.
  7. deepestend

    deepestend Commercial User

    Feb 21, 2003
    Brooklyn via Austin and NOLA
    Guitar/Bass Builder and Social Media at Sadowsky
    Nice review. Thanks!
  8. AL_BASS

    AL_BASS Supporting Member

    image.jpeg Thanks all. Have really been enjoying the bass. Since I know I am keeping it I made a few changes to make it closer to the original.

    >I changed the pickguard to Fenders vintage model and reliced a bit to show the shrunk celluloid, something about the matte flat pickguard seemed off (I know this gets into the whole good looking tort thing)
    >Added the holes for the pickup covers
    >Added the grounding strip
    >Placed the white fuzzy washers to the the strap button

    Although I do need to remove the thumb rest. I placed an image of the original for reference.

    Attached Files:

  9. woodyng2

    woodyng2 Supporting Member

    Oct 4, 2015
    Oregon Coast
    You didn't mention how the fret work compares on the 3 models. That's usually my achilles heel measurement of any bass.
    I've purchased a Mim P,an American standard Jazz,and an AVRI '58 P bass in the last 8 monthes.
    Found the Mim P to have objectionably rough-edged frets,(it's gone),the AM STD J was a bit better,(looking to be on the way out the door),but the AVRI P is just superb. (Comparable to my Ricks,which always seem to have great fretwork).
    These days,i don't even want to bother with a bass if the frets bug me,so how does the Flea bass rank?
  10. deepestend

    deepestend Commercial User

    Feb 21, 2003
    Brooklyn via Austin and NOLA
    Guitar/Bass Builder and Social Media at Sadowsky
    Does anyone know anything but about the shell pink p with a musician pickup that flea is playing in the recent lollapolooza video?
  11. AL_BASS

    AL_BASS Supporting Member

    That is a really good point. The CS has the best frets and fret ends. But the RW's are not too shabby. Of course I am basing these off of my examples but there is a noticeable difference on the RWs. I guess I am trying to say you can feel them a little more - not that they are sharp just not as refined. That being said we have band practice today and out of the three I picked the Flea to start warming up. We will see if this remains my go to as time goes on.
    woodyng2 likes this.
  12. deepestend

    deepestend Commercial User

    Feb 21, 2003
    Brooklyn via Austin and NOLA
    Guitar/Bass Builder and Social Media at Sadowsky
    To be fair, I'd think that any of these basses would need a little fretwork.
    woodyng2 likes this.
  13. Mr_O'B


    Feb 22, 2015
    Very good review!
  14. woodyng2

    woodyng2 Supporting Member

    Oct 4, 2015
    Oregon Coast
    Well,as the price point goes up,i expect better workmanship to be included with that increase.
    I would certainly not be satisfied with paying for a CS that needed additional fret finishing.
    The flea bass is pretty pricey for a MIM,so along with the RW relicing,
    i'm hoping for some decent fretwork.(broken-in feeling,even!)
    MobileHolmes likes this.
  15. deepestend

    deepestend Commercial User

    Feb 21, 2003
    Brooklyn via Austin and NOLA
    Guitar/Bass Builder and Social Media at Sadowsky
    Custom shop should absolutely be perfect but I'd expect some things here and there with the mim basses.
  16. AL_BASS

    AL_BASS Supporting Member

    The Custom Shop is really good and you are right the MIM's are not equal with tone wood choice, components, fit and finish. I would like to play(not buy) a master built Jazz one day and compare to the teambuilt CS and see there is a difference. There is such a cost difference to me that would have to be the best Jazz ever minus owning a really nice "real" vintage Jazz.
  17. deepestend

    deepestend Commercial User

    Feb 21, 2003
    Brooklyn via Austin and NOLA
    Guitar/Bass Builder and Social Media at Sadowsky
    Having had the opportunity to play a few relatively perfect Sadowsky basses over the past few months, I have come to know a little bit more about this whole topic. Most MIM's are totally fine out of the box with a quick setup, especially with the advancements in CNC technology and overall production efficiency. That's why we have so many threads here where people champion Squires over more expensive basses. Some of that is the psychology that we all fall into from time to time of championing the lower cost option and feeling good about making the smarter choice. Some of it, though, is because the standard of what passes for a starter bass is much higher these days. It's much easier to get a really good, very playable bass at a lower price point.

    That said, makers of higher quality basses (that are generally higher priced) usually show attention to detail-- aside from fancy inlays and top woods-- that make an overall difference to the players experience with the bass, which really does make a difference in the end with how you feel about and approach your instrument. I can speak to Sadowsky's attention to detail when it comes to getting a perfect fit to the neck and body, which will translate into a better playing experience (and better tone). It's a lot of little things like that, from adding threaded inserts to the control cavity so that you don't blow out the holes, to the amount of time that they put into each nut (over an hour), to the chambered design of the bodies for resonance and weight, to the total quality control-- it all makes a difference in how the bass plays and feels.

    Whether or not the price of a well thought out instrument is worth it to you is a personal question. On some levels, yeah, you're going to get a pretty good instrument whether you go with MIM or Custom Shop. And if you are a weekend player and money is tight, there is no shame in going for the cheaper option. Who doesn't have a beloved "cheap" bass that plays great? You stated that you'd love to play a masterbuilt CS to see if there really is a difference. I can't speak to CS, but at least with the Sadowsky's I've played, you really do feel and hear a difference in the end. Even if it's not to your taste, you can see that it's totally well thought out and appreciate that it's "done" and there are no loose ends to worry about. The more I play great basses, the more I can really see and understand what makes them next level. I still play my crappy beaters, but I know how to appreciate the nice basses as well.

    And I can tell you from personal experience, perfectly matching a body and neck so that the fit is like a neckthrough is an artform... very time consuming to do it right and involves a lot of math and feel.
  18. sanroman


    Oct 20, 2017
    A question for the more technically savvy: I have a vintage (real) 64' P-bass neck I really love and I'm crazy about the Flea bass, I'm considering buying one and changing the necks. Will it fit?? :hyper:
  19. deepestend

    deepestend Commercial User

    Feb 21, 2003
    Brooklyn via Austin and NOLA
    Guitar/Bass Builder and Social Media at Sadowsky
    Maybe. Likely you will need to have someone help you with a neck fit or shim it if there is a gap (or not if it looks and sounds fine).
  20. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006
    This lines up with my experience with the Flea. The one my local shop had was one of the best sounding J basses I've played, but I thought the relicing was kind of fake looking (I'm with you on the sharp transitions that feel more like chips than rubs). I Get the sense from various threads here that there may be quite a bit of variability on them though.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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