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Review of my customized MIM Jazz

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Dave Siff, Feb 23, 2001.

  1. A couple of you requested that I post a review of my recently-acquired MIM Jazz Bass, which was customized by Steve “Dude” Barr of Vintage Bass Trading Co., and luthier Michael Dolan. I received the bass on Tuesday, and played it in a band setting last night, so I have a pretty good idea now of what this thing can do!
    To recap briefly, this is a 1998 MIM Jazz that Dude decided make some serious upgrades on. The bass now features a Badass II bridge, DiMarzio 123 split-coil humbucking J pickups, a J Retro preamp, and upgraded tuners. Dolan fully shielded the instrument, and did a complete filing, leveling and dressing of the frets. Dude put the bass up on ebay with a “Buy It Now!” price of $650. After reading the description of what had been done to the bass, and seeing that no one had bid on it after 5 days, I jumped on it.
    Playability-wise, this thing is amazing. Dude said that he and Dolan agreed not only was the finished product the best-playing Fender they’d ever seen, but that it played as well as any $2000+ bass. They weren’t kidding. The action is incredibly low, with no buzzing or rattling of any kind.. and I tend to dig in pretty hard. The bass really plays itself. I’ve played some VERY expensive basses that don’t even come close to playing as easily as this bass does. Bravo to Michael Dolan for a first-rate fret job!
    Now, to the real treat: the sound. I initially played the bass through my little Fender BXR-25 practice amp, and it sounded pretty big and full. So, I was really looking forward to playing it through my SWR SM-900 and Eden D-410XLT, which I did last night.
    I tried the bass in passive mode first. In passive, the J Retro allows you to choose either both pickups on, or just bridge pickup. I went with both pickups on, and the blend knob about halfway. The amp’s EQ was set flat, with bass at 2pm, treble at 1pm, aural enhancer at 2pm, and the limiter engaged. The bass sounded enormous.. really full and cutting, round and punchy. My bandmates said it sounded more present than my ’77 Carl Thompson. I’d say it definitely matches the CT in punch and cut, but with a different character.. a little sharper on the attack.
    I switched over to active mode and did some knob-twiddling. In active, the pickup options are both on full and mixed equally, or both on full with a blend option. I chose the latter. I pulled up on the treble knob to engage the bright switch, and had the treble, bass (boost only), mid and mid frequency knobs all turned up about 60% of the way. With these settings, I got a tone very similar to the passive sound, but with a little of the harsh edge off the top, and a smoother, deeper bottom end. There are endless tonal variations available with the preamp, but I tend to find a tone I like and leave it alone. This one was it.
    By the end of the night, I couldn’t decide whether I liked active or passive better. The bass sounds huge either way. The DiMarzio pickups are pretty hot, and the preamp is way cool, and I am generally not a fan of preamps in basses.
    If I had to rate this bass on the ‘ol BP scale, 1-5, I’d say:
    Construction 4.5, Electronics 5, Playability 5, Sound 5, Value 5!
    It’s a keeper, folks.
    You can check out some pictures here: http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=637760&a=10717653
  2. Ummmm........that sure is a purdy bass.

    Sounds like you got a fine instrument there. Since I play an modified fretless MIM Jazz, I was very curious as to what modifications would be appropriate and what each would do to the sound.

  3. great dave, i remember the day you told us about that bass like it was yesterday. glad to see things are working between you two.
  4. hey dave i know what a surprise it can be tomoddify what some regard as being an average bass

    i've played bass for about a year and half,, and love it,,
    i live in england and what i saw were a lot of cheap tacky basses,, westfield, hohner very small,, i'm rather tall do weights etc so i wanted something of a decent size which i thought the jazz body was,, i also wanted something that i could keep well forever,, too many people starting bass buy cheapo basses ( fair enough) but then have to sell that for very little to get something, that if they had waited, could have bought for a bit more, it also helps ypur playing if u have a decent bass

    anyway i bough a californian series j bass( joint mexican, american made) body and neck made in america, sent to the mexican factory, finished and sent back for pieceing together,,

    therefore it had a bit more quality in parts but the finish is great( thats something i've found in all the mexican j basses i've found) and it was the same price

    the only thing that set it aside from both the current mexican and american standard range was the one piece pick guard and white strat style knobs

    i played it for about 6-7 months then i started asking on here and looked into moddin it i took my time

    and did the following

    added baddass 2
    black 70's style knobs
    black one piece pickguard
    chrome control plate
    dimarzio ultra jazz pickup's
    i also had the neck removed, shimmed, all the frets from 12 up leveled( way too high), dressed

    it's cot me a bit ! i don't care it was a gradual processo over a year and the cost was not even noticed

    in my opinion i've ended up with a bass i love, can play and is better than anything in the shops under1.5k

    now,, what about that j-retro

    i'd love to do it , whats it like??
    and what about tuners?? do they make any difference mine are ok but i do notice the different tensions in the gearing when re-string and tuning

  5. Stu, good deal! Sounds like you made some great improvements on your bass.
    The J Retro is cool, very easy to use. I think I'll be mostly playing the bass passive, but it's nice to have the option.
    As for the tuners, I'm not sure what kind I've got on my bass, but they are very smooth and even. If you've upgraded almost everything else, I'd go ahead and get some better tuners, too.
  6. yeah i probably will , i have upgraded everything even strap buttons

    i like the idea of the j retro because guitar teacher plays either a 6 string like a modulas or a 4 like a wal custom,, so i need to be able,,, in my opinion to cut through his sound when we jam a groove out

    i think that tuners will be a good idea , cos u upgrade one end of the anchorage what about the other,, i know it goes over the nut,,( before anyone asked but it all counts

    oh yeah what sort of pickguard u got on there

  7. Check out the pictures.. it's just a standard three-ply black/white/black pickguard, but I plan to change that. I'm on the hunt for a mirrored pickguard! Yes, a purple bass with a mirror guard.. this will be "Pimp Bass 2001"!!
  8. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL

    You're an inspiration to us all! You give us hope, you breathe life...aw shucks:D

    Anyway, I'm particularly intrigued by this because I'm probably going to buy a MIM Jazz very soon, just to leave at my fiancee's apartment for those times I've GOT to play, ya' know?

    But, I read this and thought to myself, hmmm...sounds like I can make a cool project out of it!

    Thanks for the update, man! I think you just helped me to make up my mind;)
  9. thought so,, it just looked quite thick,, i think u should leave it black, works with the baddass and bell plate

    i'll post mine eventually

    looked at the j retro site,, coool

    but exspensive:(

    i'm only a student,, i'll have to sell something !! nah,, just save up
  10. Dude! Sounds sweet. Um...that color is cool. Is it one of Fender's colors or was it painted?
  11. "Midnight Blue".. I think that's a Fender color. Dude didn't say it had been refinished. You don't see too many around with that color, though.
  12. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Sounds like a nice bass. Hope you enjoy.
  13. red_rhino

    red_rhino Gold Supporting Member

    The MIM-Jazz I just bought for my upgrade project is also Midnight Blue with a white pick guard. (I think the black pick guard looks nicer. :) ) I did have a mirrored pick guard on a jazz bass once. They look very nice, but be careful playing outdoors on sunny days, or warn members of the audience sitting in the front to put on sunglasses! :cool:

  14. I swear, man, I love these things. I also put on a Badass2 and DP123's on mine, but none of that blasphemous active electronics crap. :D I have yet to get a proper fret job, and even without it, it absolutely feels, plays, and sounds like a $1000 bass. Total investment = $400 (I snagged the bass new for $225 from a disgruntled ex-Fender dealer)

  15. Nice bass, Dave.

    Does this mean you're through with the carl thompson, though?
  16. Thanks, CROZ.
    I don't really see the Jazz dislodging the CT from the top of the heap (some heap.. 3 basses!) The CT just has too much vibe and character. The Jazz will be the backup, or if I decide I don't want to take the CT to a certain club for some reason.. stuff like that. I got that Jazz basically because I felt like it was way too good a deal to pass up.
  17. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I'm glad that you like the Jazz, Dave. Thanks for the review, I am considering getting a J retro for my Geddy Lee Jazz.

    How does the bass compare to the Reverend that you kept?
  18. AssMan


    Dec 2, 2000
    Minnesota, USA
    I saw that thing on ebay a few weeks ago. I thinking about getting it, but I'm a 5 stringer person. $650 isn't too bad considering the j-retro is around $200 buy it self.
  19. on a scale from 1 - 5.. i´d say 74.... :D

    that looks pretty nice... ;)

    have fun!
  20. Erlendur Már

    Erlendur Már

    May 24, 2000
    Wow! That´s a beautiful bass!

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