Nick Jennison reviews the Fender Jazzmaster MIJ Hybrid II. Made in Japan, the Limited Hybrid II Jazzmaster, Noir is based on the Hybrid II, with a satin black finish matching headstock for a strong look and a 3-Ply black pickguard featuring an eye-catching red centre layer. All metal parts and plastic parts are unified in black, and also equipped with a Synthetic Bone Nut alongside a 9.5-inch-radius fingerboard. Narrow-tall frets provide a modern feel and comfortable playability.
I have a confession to make: I have never owned an “offset” guitar. If I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure why! I’ve long admired the elegant lines of Jazzmasters, and their sheer size appeals to me as a “large human”, but the planets have never aligned in such a way that I found myself in possession of one of these handsome beasts.
I think part of the reason might be my perception that, as cool as Jazzmasters are, they’re not “for the likes of me”. What I mean by that is, that I tend to require a guitar that has “all mod cons” - locking tuners, tall frets, easy-to-use switching, powerful pickups etc. Turns out, Fender make just such an instrument - the Hybrid II Jazzmaster Noir.
Based on their excellent Hybrid II Jazzmaster, the new Noir model pairs the modern features and vintage looks of its predecessor with a gorgeous satin black finish and eye-catching black-red-black 3-ply pickguard. It also sports a set of “vintage-style” locking tuners that are cunningly disguised as split-post models, a set of custom-wound Hybrid II pickups, a slim 9.5” radius neck with tall, narrow fret wire and a three-way toggle in lieu of the array of sliders and thumbwheels that adorn your typical Jazzmaster.
First things first, the playability. I know Jazzmasters aren’t historically “shred machines”, but this thing absolutely rips. A combination of tall fret wire and a flawless factory setup makes for an effortless playing experience, but with enough clearance that you don’t have to “baby” the guitar with an overly delicate touch. Dig in, and there’s not a hint of rattle or buzz.
This setup also allows you to take advantage of the dynamic range of the Hybrid II single-coil pickups. Not to be confused with P90s, Jazzmaster pickups have a voice all of their own, with tons of chime and a wiry midrange growl, but still with the “open-ness” of a true 6-magnet single coil that sometimes gets lost with bar magnet designs. These pickups retain these qualities, but with a little more punch that works great with higher gain sounds.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about this guitar is its sheer stability. Tuning is absolutely rock solid, but especially so with the floating tremolo - a great-sounding unit, but unfortunately barely functional on many older Jazzmasters. We used to refer to these units derisively as the “out-of-tune lever”, but I’m now eating those words. I don’t know if it’s the nut, the tuners or the term itself, but this thing is flawless. Chord shimmers are beautifully smooth and “in tune”, and there’s even scope for some EVH-esque histrionics, and all the while the tuning stability is unimpeachable. This makes me happy, since Jazzmaster tremolos have a very specific “spring whine” that sounds like a ghostly overtone on long sustained notes, especially with distortion, and it’s really, really cool.
The Hybrid II Jazzmaster Noir is a Jazzmaster for players. It plays like a dream, is rock solid and tonally authoritative, without compromising the traditional look and “vibe” of the original guitar - albeit, in a gorgeous black finish. I’ve never owned an offset, but after spending some time with this stunning guitar, I’m determined to put that right.
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