If you want a slice of the past without a genuine vintage price label then this bass has to be on your shopping list.
A new ’58 without the NOS price tag
Good case included
Play the neck to decide if it’s your thing
Shame about the price
Fender recreates yet another prized incarnation of the original bass guitar with its '58 Precision relaunch. Time to celebrate? Or is it time to move on..? Dan Veall finds out.
Fender's American Vintage ’58 Precision commemorates the first year in which 'the bass that started it all' appeared in three colour sunburst. The Precision is an absolute classic, of course, much copied, much ‘improved’ over the years, but unlike a lot of other 'firsts' that have been left behind (would you drive a 1958 car?) the Precision, like the Strat and Tele, remains a huge seller. Fender has been picking off iconic years in production for its American Vintage reissue ranges and this time it's the turn of 1958. Featuring an ‘authentic lightweight alder body’ for the version here, or ash for the white blonde version of this bass, wrapped in what Fender calls its ‘Flash Coat’ lacquer.
We borrowed our sample from the friendly folk at DV247 to whom, as ever, our thanks are due.
Moving out then: from the top of the headstock down the body we start with four vintage tuning keys of the reversed Kluson style and they are mounted on a one piece maple neck. The profile is labelled ‘Large C’ and is a big chunk of seasoned maple. As I said in my video, I was expecting it to be even chunkier than it actually was - not really unwieldy and massive at all, though the nut width on this bass is 44.1 mm so it does feel fairly wide for small hands, no doubt. A 34” scale as you would expect, which is pretty much the standard scale length.
The fretboard is adorned with single black dots markers up the positions on the front and of course there are matching dots on the top edge too.
Underneath the nice chrome covers we have a four saddle American Vintage bass bridge with four threaded steel barrel saddles and an American Vintage '58 split coil Precision bass pick up. It has to my ear in the studio an open and clear 'Precision' tone that helps to emphasise the maple and alder combination. No wonder it's such a favourite and I admit I’d own the bass tomorrow if I had the spare cash! The Split Coil is hooked up to a standard master volume/master tone control configuration. Dead simple, no messing about!
Finishing off the look, partially covering that lovely sunburst finish we have a gold anodised aluminium pick guard which provides a tasteful look against the maple fretboard. Fender fits its own NPS 7250 nickel plated steel strings - gauge 45-100.
There's no doubt the ‘58 has had care and attention lavished upon it and everything bar the actual strings attached is absolutely flawless. However, the action on our sample was a little on the high side out of the box and I would like to see the neck relief looked at as well but that aside, the bass was superb and very comfortable to play, even despite one's natural caution at seeing it comes with that ‘Large-C’ neck profile.
Is this bass worth the money? Well it is the real thing, or at least as close as you could get without the price tag of an original 1958 in ‘NOS’ condition. (New Old Stock describes an instrument manufactured many years ago but in new, unsold condition) and it comes with the Fender name on the headstock. All the same, the consensus in the office was that the price in the UK is really pushing the limits. However well made it is and however accurately it replicates the original this is still a pretty simple instrument to make.
If you want a slice of the past without a genuine vintage price label then this bass has to be on your shopping list. I really enjoyed the experience despite never having played with pickup covers before, as you'll see my video! I struggled just a little, but what a great instrument and I'm looking forward to spending more time with the American Vintage series, though I might just take the cover off any model I may own and put them safely in the supplied premium vintage case!