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Fender Jazz (MIM) or Dingwall ABZ ?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassonata, May 23, 2011.

  1. Bassonata


    May 23, 2011
    Oxford, UK
    Hi there,

    I’m about to buy my first fretted bass in more than 20 years of playing fretless, and would value any opinions before I make my choice between two particular favourites:

    - A 5-string Fender Standard Jazz (active, made in Mexico); and
    - A 5-string Dingwall ABZ (passive, made in Canada).

    Some questions and observations:
    - They’re both new, but the Dingwall is three times the cost of the Fender--not an insignificant factor.
    - The sound of the Fender Jazz is what I’m really after, but equally it seems that one can get close with the ABZ, though the latter might have slightly more clarity.
    - There is debate over whether the Fender, with its a 34-inch scale, copes at all with that low B, whereas Dingwall claim astounding results with their 37-inch scale: how true is this?
    - How tiring/stretching must it be playing a 37-inch scale Dingwall for any length of time??
    - Stylewise, I’m not a ‘slapper’ as such, but influenced more by guys like Lee Sklar (though his endorsement of the Dingwall isn’t a good enough reason on its own for me to buy the ABZ!).
    - I’ve heard that the Fender Jazz can suffer from hum and grounding issues?
    - Whichever I choose will mainly be used in the studio.
    - When on stage I usually monitor with a TE combo, fed to the desk.
    - And for what it’s worth, my everyday fretless is currently a cheap old RockBass Corvette 5-string fretless (passive) with D’Addario flatwound strings, and I rather like it (the B string performs okay live, even at the 34-inch scale), although the whole thing can sound a little boxy without some extra EQ.

    I know this is ultimately a personal choice but having played fretless for so long, I genuinely have virtually no practical experience with recent fretted basses. And it could take a lifetime trying them all!

    Hence, I’d be genuinely grateful for any thoughts, recommendations or advice on pitfalls of these two basses in particular.

    Thanks so much.

  2. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Hi There,

    Given that the Dingwall costs 3x as much as the MIM Fender, you're really talking about different classes of instruments here. I don't want to offend any MIM owners here -- I have two MIM P-basses myself and they can be a great value -- but if you are looking for the Jazz bass sound, you might want to consider a finer example of the form, like the American Deluxe or American Standard:

    Buy Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass V 5-String Electric Bass | 5 String Electric Bass | Musician's Friend

    As to the scale length, I can't much comment because I am a four-string guy and 34 inches suits me fine. However, one of my close friends plays a Lakland that features a 35-inch scale, which is in between the Fender scale and the Dingwall. He tells me that the extra inch on the Lakland really helps the low B while not adding much of a reach.

    To be honest, it sounds like you might be well served by the Lakland 55-60. It's a fine example of the Fender Jazz bass form, and it has a 35-inch scale. The Skyline version -- made overseas but set-up and tweaked in the U.S. -- should be in your price range.

    Welcome to Lakland
  3. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I own two Jazz basses (MIJ & MIA) and two Dingwalls.

    I can plainly state that I can't see how this is even a comparison. The build quality on the entry level Dingwall is head and shoulders above the build quality on ANY MIM made Fender I've ever held. I play the 37" scale Dingwalls for hours at a time and have never had any 'stretching' problems from it. And tonally, Fender Jazz basses just don't do it for me any more...not enough definition and tonal purity from what I'm used to hearing.
    chaosMK likes this.
  4. Bassonata


    May 23, 2011
    Oxford, UK
    Thanks for the thoughts, guys.

    Yes, I know there's probably no comparison--I just took a liking to them both. I guess my question should have been, 'Would the cheaper Fender give me all that your average bass player needs, or are there any serious reasons why I should spend the extra money on the Dingwall?'

    I haven't got to see a current American Fender, or the Lakland here in the UK as yet, but whilst researching recently I read that the MIM Fenders are almost in the same league, and shouldn't be ignored at the price. Sounds like they're not really that good in practice?

    I'd obviously prefer to spend less, rather than more, but don't want to end up disappointed either way, so was keen to learn of any major downsides to these two very different basses.
  5. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars

    [FONT=&quot]Well, I’m going to tread lightly here. The Fender MIM Jazz (or Precision, or Tele, Strat, etc.) is probably a good deal for the money. But that’s the qualifier here. Fender also makes WAY more of these instruments than Dingwall does, exponentially so. The fit and finish and the final setup is done in shop by Sheldon and crew. Sheldon himself is the final person to sign off on the instrument. While the Combustion is made in China, its made to a very high level of quality control and each piece, part, detail has been chosen very carefully and scrutinized. Scrutinized by a small handful of guys who usually handle basses worth $2-10K.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]Will the Dingwall do what you want? I don’t know. It does something different than a standard Jazz. The compound scale length of the instrument has some very specific features. It creates even tension across the neck. It gives optimal and even timbre, output and tone across the neck. It makes the B string as easily playable and just as fast to play as any of the other strings. The low reaches sound as clean clear and defined as the upper reaches. Its up to you if you need that, or you like what you feel and hear from a traditional bass. Of course, this doesn’t even hit upon things like the Dingwall having pickups, etc. that are wound in shop, some of the more esoteric build qualities. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]But again, it comes down to you. Are you looking for a traditional sounding and playing instrument? Are you looking for something that’s a bit more progressive in its design, and more modern in its sound? There’s nothing wrong with either approach. They’re just different.[/FONT]
  6. Bassonata


    May 23, 2011
    Oxford, UK
    Skies, no need to tread lightly - just say it as it is!

    I suppose I was really just wondering what the problems or shortcomings might be with either of these. I've read some good, and some less good comments.

    For example, as much as I've read how great the Fender MIMs are for the money, I've also been reading this weekend about the obsession that many owners of both Mexican and American jazz basses have regarding the need to dismantle and internally shield these instruments to alleviate the hum that is typical of this design. Is this just owner obsession, or a genuine shortcoming of the instrument? If the latter, does it also affect ‘copies’ such as the Lakland and others that are based on the same design? I don’t want to end up with an inherent grounding issue, that’s for sure.

    There are also reviews of the Combustion, some on this site, that note the occasional poor quality of fit and finish (e.g. gaps around the neck heel, printing rubbing off the pickups), plus the low power output issues of the 'B' string, and an apparently very limited tonal variation. It’s a little disconcerting to find that customers need to retrofit a DIY 'B booster kit' to get a balanced output on a US1200 dollar instrument (that's actually US1900 dollars equivalent here in the UK right now) that pins it’s reputation on a design that specifically aims to maximise consistency of tonal quality across all strings; the need to do so doesn't reflect the high level of scrutiny that one is led to expect. So not even Sheldon's operation is perfect every time.

    That said, I still think the Dingwalls are extremely appealing all round; the kind of object that makes you want one because they're so very different to the norm, and of course claim to offer a significant breakthrough in sonic consistency. I haven't experienced the full extent of what the ABZ can actually do because I haven't owned one, but I have to admit that it's still hard not to want to rush out and buy one!

    On the other hand, I played the MIM Fender jazz and liked both the sound and feel enough to make me wonder whether spending more was really worth it in the real world.

    So I guess it's back to the shop for a longer, deeper session with both. And the Lakland. And probably some of the rest. This might turn into a longer session than I'd hoped.

    It'll be fun though...
  7. seungkoo

    seungkoo Banned

    Nov 20, 2003
    if money is no object...go with the dingwall.
    Yea a mim fender or even a squier can get the job done. The dingwall will execute that job even better imho.
  8. Sheldon D.

    Sheldon D.

    Oct 3, 2001
    I appreciate your thoughts as it helps us to fine tune things.

    I'm responding to the pickup logo and B-booster comments as I think forum talk can distort reality a bit. The weak B on some Combustions is/was pretty subtle on the bench with fresh strings which is why they slipped through. I'm sure worn in strings and live settings contribute to make the problem more obvious. In my opinion we responded pretty quickly with a solution that's simple and inexpensive to implement. To date out of the several hundred Combustions out in the field less than 10 customers have upgraded so far. I'm not trying to downplay things just balance the information.

    Foil stamped logos on pickups are pretty common, EMG, Lace, Ibanez, etc. This is the first complaint I've heard of the logo wearing. If it persists we'll look at other options.
  9. mexibass


    Feb 12, 2012
    Cozumel, México
    Hi Sheldon! Regarding the stamped logo on the ABZ 4 and 5's pickups, I've always wondered why don't you put on them the same shells with the carved logo that you install on your ABZ 6 series? They just give a classier look to the bass (if that's even possible). Then again, as long as they sound the same it shouldn't matter much, but there's people that care a lot about cosmetics.
  10. spiritbass

    spiritbass Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2004
    Ashland, MO
    BurningSkies has clearly stated the downside of investing in the Dingwall. If you want to ruin your attraction to basses other than Dingwalls for life, go for it. Then begins the DAS... ;) ;) ;)
  11. Bean639


    Aug 18, 2010
    Richmond, Va
    As a ABZ5 owner... I really do not see much of a fender tone in my bass. From what I have read, and had (little) experance with, I think the combustion is much closer to a jazz sound than a ABZ5. I would not worry about build quality on these basses. ESPECIALLY when comparing to anything fender short of custom shop. Also, IMO, I have never played a fender 5 that I was even remotely happy with. I have always thought this, even before I was spoiled by one of the best 5ers on the market.

    I hope this helps. Good luck!
  12. Green1


    Sep 23, 2010
    Scottsdale, AZ
    As someone who owned an ABZ 5, and they are wonderful instruments.....I would contend that if you are willing and able to spend 2k on a bass, which is what an ABZ would cost you, I would look at some other options.......for instance, Nino Valenti could build you a jazz bass for that price and you would be able to pick scale length, pickups, preamp, bridge, etc exactly as you would like it.....good luck!
  13. Sheldon D.

    Sheldon D.

    Oct 3, 2001
    A couple of reasons. One being cost. The difference is significant. The second was that we wanted to encourage a customization culture with the Combustions kind of like what happens with motorcycles. A stock pickup shell leaves lots of options if you want to swap out the pickups.
  14. mexibass


    Feb 12, 2012
    Cozumel, México
    Exactly what I thought. It is amazing to have this level of input from the luthiers themselves, that's what I love about TB. I've been trying to get a Dingwall for a really long time but nobody carries them here in Mexico, import and shipping costs are always breaking any deal I could get... maybe one of these days. Keep up the good work!

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