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Vintage Fenders vs. Modern Fenders?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by -=DanAtkinson=-, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. Here's a question for anyone lucky enough to own or play a true vintage Fender (50's or 60's model): How do they truly compare to modern USA Fenders? Do they actually feel better & sound better? Or is it simply the nostalgic appeal that makes them so desirable? Or maybe the "rare" thing does it?

    It would seem to me that construction quality and know-how would have vastly improved over 50 years, but maybe I'm wrong.
  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    IME and from what I've gained from others, quality control back then was no better than it is now; probably much worse. However, the few basses that have survived the test of time are the keepers. The lemons have been modded/destroyed/lost. The basses that you see with tons of player wear are probably pretty decent. Some of the closet classics might be hit or miss. Some guy could have stored a lemon in his closet for 40 years.

    Today, I feel Fender is quite consistant. Not perfect, but pretty high quality. Good enough for most people. There are a few fit and finish issues that dont affect anything. The major things, like fretwork and such, are pretty good.
  3. Thomas Swenson

    Thomas Swenson

    Feb 9, 2008
    The VR, Custom Shop, and even the MIM Classic series basses are very good reissues and feel much like the basses of old (when they were new). They had a nice looseness to them, as do these new models. The thing I do not like with the American Series, and now the American Standard is the graphite reinforced neck. These basses just seem stiff and lifeless to me, although they play nice and are instruments of excellent quality and consistency, as previously noted. The AS is like a modern instrument. The VR, CS, and Classic Series really do meet my need for a vintage feeling instrument. Beginning in 1964, at various times, I have owned a 1963 JB and a 1959 PB, as well as a 70 Telecaster Bass, and a 71 PB. I have also owned a 97 AS JB, a CS CC 59 PB, and a fairly recent VR series 62' PB. Currently I am playing a 50's Classic Series PB, and I really enjoy this bass. Good topic. Thanks.

    If I may add, I have played all of my basses, except the 1963 JB through the same amplifier, a 67 Dual Showman w/ a couple of cab changes over the years.
  4. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006

    Good post. I agree that the grn deadens the sound, and I prefer the AV series.
  5. Maybe I don't qualify as mine is a '75, but compared to the reissues and other new Fenders, there's a big difference. The vintage basses just have a totally different vibe, even if the reissue might be diminsionally identical. They vibrate differenty, the finish feels different, balance is different... just about everything is different.
  6. i prefer my 62 and 78 jazzes to any fenders being produced right now in both feel and tone.
  7. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    A few of the elements of real vintage Fenders that people rave about:

    -Real brazilian rosewood on fretboards - that very dark rosewood, and

    -Because they used nitro finished that have worn off, the wood has been able to "breath" and dry, so the bodies tend to be very light and resonant, because their water content has been reduced over all those years.

    Those two things are hard to recreate in newer basses, although real and old brazilian rosewood is still available, but hard to find (ask Jimmy Coppollo).

    I have had a few '70s Fenders, and I agree that the mojo is incredible, at least for me, unobtainable in anything produced today.

    I once played a real, all-original 1965 P-Bass, lefty, and it was just amazing: that very dark rosewood, thin frets, worn out finish, shrunk pickguard, super light and resonant, very nice neck contour, I mean, that was the real thing.

    I do believe that some basses get better with age, not only Fenders.
  8. Manol

    Manol Too Sexy To Be Left Handed.

    Oct 9, 2005
    Melbourne, Australia

  9. ibanezcollector

    ibanezcollector Yoyo's Hurt When You Crank It Into Your Face

    Feb 18, 2007
    Cleveland Ohio
    then dont open the threads its such a simple thing.. Resist the temptation to come and dump on a thread that your sick of.
  10. abassman84


    Sep 27, 2007
    Fontana, CA
    I think that Vintage Fenders are better than any new Fender bass. I think wood instruments definately sound better with age. This you can not replicate. In 50 years technology has improved with Fender basses but in all honesty, you can't reinvent the wheel. Leo Fender struck gold when he designed the original P and J basses, thats why they have been in production for so long and have changed little. I own a '66 Jazz bass and have played a '57 P bass and could recognize the difference between new and vintage instantly. I am not saying that new Fender basses are bad, they just don't have the sound and feel vintage basses do. Funny thing is the next bass im getting is a '08 Fender Jazz!
  11. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    I don't understand the 70s Fender mojo thing. 60s, especially early 60s, yes; because of Leo and the history. But the 70s stuff is just older, current stuff -- no real pedigree if you will. btw, I'm sitting here playing a all original 65 Jazzmaster (with Brazilian rosewood fretboard) right now. There is not much difference in the current AV and CS Fenders and the 60s stuff except the history and Mojo of preCBS.
  12. ricknote


    Aug 3, 2006
    Lefty007 and figjam have covered the major points perfectly.
    I would like to add:

    New Fenders:
    They have a high degree of manufacturing accuracy due to modern
    computer machining. Better intonation and and playability when setup
    properly than you'll likely find in vintage basses.
    The graphite reinforced necks are more stable than vintage and require setups less often. Although this does change the tone. Not necessarily in a negative way. Just personal preference.
    Like any wood instrument, luck plays a huge role in the overall sound and feel of any new bass. When purchasing a new Fender, take the time
    to play as many as you can and don't be shy about telling the
    salesman to straighten the truss rod if need be so you can get an idea if
    it's going to be lively relatively buzz free. Make sure they have a return policy so if it doesn't setup right, you can exchange it for one that does. Play it unplugged first in an area that is quiet so you can zone in on the tone of the wood. Then plug it in and listen to the pickups. I found a 1998 American Standard in a store recently
    and couldn't believe how good it was. Perfectly straight neck, no neck dive. I bought is straight away. It's one
    of my favorite basses.

    Old Fenders:
    The wood is generally drier and has had time to fuse well with the
    finish. This is always a good thing, though it won't save a crappy
    instrument. If it started out good, it will likely have gotten better.
    That's where vintage instruments get there bloated reputation.
    Many of us have had the opportunity to play a really good 60's Fender.
    When they started out good, 50 years later they are spectacular!
    I've never played a new instrument that can compare to a really good
    60's Fender. Realistically thought, I've only played a half dozen out of a hundred of these basses over my 30 years of playing that were that good. Most of the time the ones I play at vintage shows etc. are much worse than a good new one, and cost 10 times as much.

    If it sounds good and plays good, it is good!
    Don't let the vintage snobs blind you from the truth.
    Evaluate instruments objectively.
    If you do find a great vintage Fender that plays and sounds awesome,
    make every effort to buy it. They are becoming more and more rare
    every day and the prices will continue to creep up.
    You can find a really good new Fender though, just be patient and find that gem.

    All the best,
  13. To me, while the 60s are great, classic basses, I really dig the 70s J basses. They're just funk machines for some reason. I think that even for the $$$ they're still some of the hottest basses out there right now, and I'm glad I scored mine before the values started going up.
  14. JKoehler


    Jan 31, 2008
    Snoqualmie, Wa.
    While it`s easy to think that wood lightens with age, it actually lightens very little because of moisture content loss. A heavy piece of wood will always be a heavy piece wood. In the pre-CBS days of Fender they whould choose wood more carefully for the weight, not saying that all old Fenders are light weight, but a good many are. As we know when CBS took over, so did the "bean counters" ,as Forrest White put it. Which explains the many heavy 70`s Fenders.
  15. BobBarker


    Aug 18, 2007
    I think each and every instrument must be judged on it's own performance. There really cannot be any preconceived notions. The best sounding jazz bass I've ever played is my Japanese made 75RI. The best sounding Precision bass that I've ever played(by a long shot) is my 1968 Sunburst P. The latter cost me thousands, the former cost me 425 bucks.

    Go figure.

  16. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    I sure wish I could remember my 66 oval tuner Jazz better ... but I had it in 72/73 when I was 17/18 years old, ... I have since gone thru about a dozen varieties of Fender basses in the last couple years, American Series, American Standards, Hwy Series, MIM Standards, FSR's, and MIJ SCPB ... all in the $700 range (used) or less, and I really never found a one that I didnt like at least some things about, but never felt moved to NEED to keep them ... then I stumbled across a Classic Series 60's Jazz (had a couple of them) that just spoke to me ... not a thing about it that I didnt like ... and best of all, I paid less for it (in todays dollars) than the oval tuners are now worth from that 66 Jazz ... by the way, I sold the 66 for 300 bucks back in 73 when I went into the service, and figure conservatively it would now be worth $6-$10,000 in that same condition ... I would be afraid to take it anywhere and use it if I still had it ... besides, with the variety of good RI's out there currently, I could try/have several for that kind of money ... and would have no problem actually using them ... nostalgia is great, practicality just makes more sense (and cents) ... especially since I am playing for enjoyment, and not prestige or in situations where anyone would even know the difference ... JMHO
  17. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    Leo cut every corner he could to save a buck. Perhaps CBS was more frugal, but not because of lack of effort of Leo's part.
  18. MixBass


    Feb 23, 2006
    L.A. Harbor
    Co-founder. GrabAxe
    Many great comments so far. Every piece of wood is different and some want to resonate bass frequency more than others. Some just don't want to ring period, regardless of how old or new. There is a feel to a neck that has had thousands of hours of hands on it. That feel can be simulated but there is something to the real feel of a played neck. Does that feel translate to sound? Beats me, but it may translate to how you play it. I'm lucky enough to have hung on to a 64 P through the years that was a good bass w/ rounds on it, but is a great bass w/ flats. My favorite P w/ rounds is a CS 59 NOS that sounds like the best of the old P/round recordings. A decent bass may come alive with a simple change of strings.
    For comparison, the 64 and CS 59 can be heard here:
    " http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=313843189 "
    Wow, long link. Anyhow, "Loveseat" is the 64 and "Police assisted suicide" and most of " Baby don't like it" is the CS.
  19. Its funny how people are hesitant to take their old basses out and play them; I often take my bass with me on a non-gig trip because I feel its more likely to be stolen from my home than off the street or something, when its with me. I mean, I live in an apartment building where minimum wage maintenance guys have keys to my place! :rollno: My double bass is worth way more, but as small as the DB community is, I don't worry about it being stolen much, and that's even figuring a burglar would bother lugging it away! And as for damage; I don't sweat it. Some of the greatest instruments of any sort in the world are the ugliest, and I've already made money on my investment; I play it, travel with it, and just forget about it. Its my bass and it gets used! My bass is puching forty years old, and I've probably put more wear on it in the ten I've owned it than the thirty before... :)
  20. You obviously scored one of the better ones.

    I purchased my '78 jazz in 1985. I wasnt really hip to the quality control issues prevalent with jazz basses of that era, at that particular time.

    I played the thing for 20 years because I couldnt afford a new instrument and finally traded it on a MM SR 4 in 2005 ( the stingray is an infinitely superior instrument)

    This bass was most definitely NOT a funk machine. It sounded dull and lifeless. I just could not get a decent sound out of it because of what i perceived to be a lack of resonance caused by that ridiculous micro tilt neck and the resulting poor body neck join....not for rock or anything else that required playing at a reasonably loud volume. It had a swimming pool route under the pickguard and was laminated from 7 separate pieces of non matching ash.

    All this and it weighed ......14 pounds.!!

    In short, it was a dog of a bass. The irony is, that had i kept it, it would now be worth more that what i played for the 'ray brand new (the ray is 100 times better)

    Vintage my arse!!....lol

    One day I WILL get a good jazz...I love em!!

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