Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #52
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Rounding up, you know what you are getting with a Fender, it’s not an unknown brand, and a little research online goes along the way through the myriad of forum community posts.
A quality example of a classic model
Looks great, not so many of this colour choice out in the wild
A little pricey
Not a 60’s reissue model
Fender's FSR Jazz Bass is designed to be Punchy, with the ability to control each pickup individually or blend the two together. Sounds like a winner, here is Dan Veall with the details.
I’ll make no secret of the fact that I love the quality Japanese basses! When it comes to Fender, I myself have a pair of late 80’s ‘Power Jazz Bass Specials.' One in Candy Apple Red and the other that you will have seen in many of my reviews, heavily customised and sporting a rather tasty Chameleon Flip Paint finish. I get asked about that bass so much; it probably needs a review of its own!
So it came as no surprise to hear that I looked forward to reviewing and also expected this bass to be great straight out of the box.
So lets just cut to the chase. What do we have here? This is a take on a 60’s Jazz bass - but no ordinary model, this is a Fender Special Run model. In short, FSR is an opportunity for Fender to use the incredible quality of workmanship in Japan to create instruments that may I suppose not fit in with their wider European market models. Short run, special edition models with something a bit extra that might not be offered on the ‘off the peg’ Mexican and USA version. That’s my feeling anyway. Hopefully, I’m not too far off the money with that one.
Let's get up close.
Underneath the rich and glossy walnut look, isn’t actually walnut for the body material, but a nicely stained and finished Ash body. This particular example isn’t a hefty or weighty beast even for my bad back. You know what you’re getting with a Jazz bass too, and it’s ok, you’re not going to be finding any undue surprises here, but this isn’t a ‘super J’, this is a ‘based on a 60’s J’ bass manufacturer by the very name that brought the original Jazz Bass into being in the first place.
Curiously though, this example isn’t a true 1960’s reissue and I’m not sure how much of the bass is 60’s spec: There are no felt mutes, clay dots, bound necks or stacked controls for example and this FSR has more modern ‘downsized’ tuning keys too, so the vintage Kluson tuning keys are also absent. This example has a polyester finish.
These points don’t detract from the instrument as a whole if we take the ’60’s’ bit out of the equation. The neck on this example feels wonderful. 7.25” radius and a 38mm nut, standard!
I was disappointed with a Mexican model recently which, to be honest, was in a similar price bracket, but just didn’t feel like it was finished even remotely to the same standard. This Slim C neck here has brilliant fretwork, and rounded off edges with not even the remotest hint of a join where the fretboard meets Maple neck. Up at the headstock and here’s my only single and a minor reservation. The smaller tuning keys, of course, serve to save weight and help with balance, but my poor little brain can’t get round it, I just prefer those big Kluson tuning keys and elephant ears!
Out of the box, I was a little surprised to see the action was set ridiculously high, but I’ve been assured that we had actually intercepted this bass directly off the ‘boat’ and thus hadn’t enjoyed its pre-sales set up. I wound the saddles down, checked the intonation and neck relief. Thankfully in this case it was only the action that needed looking at, everything else was spot on.
We know Jazz basses and, well, again no surprises here when it comes to the electronics. Standard volume, volume, and tone hooked up to ‘accurate vintage reproduction of original 60’s pickups’ - This bass had tone for days and sounded wonderful in the studio. Bright top end but tight low end that needed no tweaking from my Bergantino B|Amp offering amplification in this review.
Fender Japan is already well known for crafting some of Fender’s finest work. The attention to detail and lasting workmanship (that I can attest to on both my hard-worked instruments) is without a doubt. The Japanese ‘reissue instruments’ including and especially what was known as ‘non-export’ models were clearly on a par, if not better in some cases than the US counterparts.
I’ve lost track of the more recent Fender manufacturing divisions between the different factories, and I suspect things have changed quite a lot, of course since my two were shipped for the first time!! I can quantify what I have in my hands today though. Watch the video to hear it in all its glory; it’s a super example.
Rounding up, you know what you are getting with a Fender, it’s not an unknown brand, and a little research online goes along the way through the myriad of forum community posts. Yes, there are so many ‘jazz bass’ alternatives. Many may suggest that you are paying more for a name and there are plenty of instruments on a par without the (in some cases hideous) price tag, but at the same time, this particular instrument isn’t a run of the mill Fender. I think this one is a bit special. If they all feel as nice as this specific instrument, then we have a real contender for your Jazz bass shopping list.