Category Archives: Fender Guitars

Fender Made in Mexico Fretless Jazz Bass

I know for a fact that almost everyone reading this title pictured a certain bassist when they read it, which is one of the reasons i’m writing this. The Fender Fretless jazz bass is one of the most famous types of electric instruments that ever was. It’s unescapable association with Jaco Pastorius is one of its main selling points, as Fender makes this lower priced model available to those of us not willing to shell out two grand on an similar instrument, just with strategic, American-made wear marks all over it. It’s familiar hybrid tone of an upright bass in electric clothing has attracted thousands of musicians to adopt the fretless bass as a red-headed stepchild to their ventures in recording, taking advantage of seamless slides, docile tones and the softer edges of notes that only an instrument without metal frets can provide.  Well, that’s what you would hope, right? Alright, go to a guitar store, pick one of these up straight out of the box, and you’ll understand exactly why Fender Mexico will never be mentioned in the same sentences as Gibson, Rickenbacker, Jackson, or even Ibanez.

You may be asking why i’m reviewing this, and i’ll tell you why, I bought one a few months ago. As a guitarist first, I figured it couldn’t hurt to expand my instrument collections. I’ve got a drumset, harmonicas, keyboard, and now i’ve got a violin, so you can read this from a perspective of someone who realizes I am all for being a multi-instrumentalist. The bass was an impulse by in a state when I was a huge Jaco fan, and I was really digging the sound of a fretless jazz bass, so I felt it would be alright to drop around 500 dollars on a fretless bass. So, I went to my local guitar store…where else? Guitar Center.

The Specs: It’s got an alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and the standard hardware accompaniment you’d expect on all Fender Jazz bass. The only “difference” that Fender touts is that they put the American electronics into it to beef it up. There’s got to be some sort of profit reason behind it, because this is really a cut and dry bass. It’s the exact same electric bass they’ve been making for years, but for some reason it costs the same price as a normal bass, despite using a lot less labor and material to make. The fretboard doesn’t have frets in it, and instead uses little plastic lines which look like they just cut white plastic from a box and slid it into already made bass fretboards. So they save money on materials by not having to install frets, or fret markers on the front of the fretboard. All they need to do is run a 9.5 radius sanding block across the top, and call it a day. Hopefully you can see some sort of theme developing in my tone towards this bass. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end here.

The Neck: There’s not much to say. To me, all Fender bass necks feel the exact same. Nothing really astounding, and nothing to say it feels bad. The sad thing is that there is a lot of room between the end of the neck and the neck pickup, and for some reason they limit it to a 20 fret range. Not only that, but the fretboard was poorly done. The little plastic fretline fillers didn’t fit properly, and they were moving out of the fret slots. I had to sand the things down because I couldn’t play the 2-4th frets on the D and G strings without buzzing, and the only way to overcome it was to loosen the truss rod. Sorry, not about to sacrifice the action of the entire bass because the shop workers couldn’t run the sanding block a few times more. Not only was it poorly made, but they could’ve extended the fretboard over the pickguard, for petes sake. It’s not like there are frets or anything. It’s proof that Fender really doesn’t intend to reinvent the wheel. They feel they did a good enough job inventing the first wheel, so why improve/change it?
The Body: I’m glad they didn’t change this. It’s what makes a Fender bass look like a Fender bass. However, to my surprise, when i took off the pickguard, there was a 3/4 inch cylindrical hole under the pickguard, and it was filled with sawdust. For some reason, I had trouble contemplating how sawdust could get into a hole on a bass which was already finished.  There should be no reason for an instrument to come in contact with a sawdust creating process after the instrument has already been painted, clearcoated, and buffed. Stretch your own imaginations, I could use some explanation.

The Electronics: To me, the pickups seem underpowered, but really, the bass sounds like a Fender Fretless jazz bass. I’ve got no complaints there. Roll off a little of the neck pickup and you’ve got that Jaco sound. The only thing is, i’m/you’re not Jaco, so whenever you butcher Portrait of Tracy, people know it. It doesn’t change anything that you’re playing a Fender Fretless.

The Hardware: It’s typical Fender hardware. Big club-shaped tuners, ultra generic, cheap volume knobs, vibration prone bridge saddles, and the same bridge they’ve been using forever. Again, not reinventing the wheel.

The Whole Shebang: I bought a Fender fretless jazz bass, and it’s what I got. I went against my own pillars of guitar religion and bought something that wasn’t very good. It was terribly set up, and when I mean terribly, I’m not exxagerating. It took me days to finally set it up to where poorly made fretlines weren’t buzzing, the bridge was properly adjusted and the truss rod wasn’t bent like a 400 foot flagpole in a Chicago afternoon. Literally, the sales person admitted you could “drive a truck under the strings” because the action was so high. The problem was, when most people think about a guitar’s action, they look to the bridge. But the bridge was alright, it was the truss rod which looked as though they had never set it up. They just slid it into the neck, put the bass into a box and sent it to the Guitar Center from where I bought it. It’s probably the reason they didn’t sell it to anyone and the same one had been there for years. If a person who’s new to an instrument can’t play it or adjust it, then they won’t buy it. I only used it’s poor condition as leverage to drop the price from 450+ tax down to 375 out the door.

For the most part, Guitars aren’t like cars. Honda can still call the same thing a Civic for 20+ years, but improve it as technology changes. Fender can – and will – call their jazz bass the same thing forever, and they won’t change a thing. They won’t attempt to make that giant bolt-on block any less wieldy, they won’t add more output to their pickups, and they won’t add more frets.  The only way I turned it into a more tolerable instrument was with almost 50 hours of work to clean out pockets, clean up bad sanding jobs, tighten screws, adjust the bridge, tighten the truss rod and wait for hours for it to adjust. I basically paid 375 dollars to cause me stress, and to buy something that fills up my closet. The only good thing about is that when I want to play a Fender Made in Mexico Fretless Jazz bass, I can. Woo boy.

The Pros: It’s a Fender Fretless Jazz bass, so the Tone, and fretless sound. Comparable to buying a Chevy Bel Air if Chevrolet was still making it indentical to how they did in the 50’s.

The Cons: Just about everything else.
The Grade:

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Filed under bass, Electric Bass, Fender, Fender fretless jazz, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar review, Jaco Pastorius, Jazz Bass, music, negativity

I’m still alive

Just as a reassurance that i’m not dead, look forward to reviews and rants coming an a day or two. I’ll be talking Parkwood acoustics, BC Rich platinums, and possibly a Fender Fretless jazz bass rant.

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Filed under Bc Rich, Fender fretless jazz, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, Parkwood, player

The Charvel San Dimas 1H

Charvel1h

You look at that picture, what do you see? Do you see 80’s metal? Do you see an instrument indicative of an antiquated style of playing? These can be some of the emotions evoked by Charvel’s return to the guitar market. However, don’t be fooled. The only things Charvel about this guitar are the neck and the logo. The rest is made, pretty much, by everyone else. Seymour Duncan humbucker, Floyd Rose floating bridge and nut, Fender Strat body. Hell, Charvel and Jackson were bought by Fender, so they can cut the corners on the design process. So all in all, it’s a pretty standard looking guitar.

But when you pick it up, plug it in, and your fingers hit that board…

…you feel something that can only be described as magic.

The Specs: Alder body, Seymour Duncan TB14 humbucker, Standard Fender Strat body, bolt-on hard rock maple neck, ebony fretboard, 22 jumbo frets, original Floyd Rose, all wrapped up in the classic Charvel package. This is the essence of the words “Superstrat.” It is a simple guitar with one pickup, one volume knob, and a bridge that really looks like it’s floating there. There’s no pocket routing, and all of the electronics are from the back. The only thing on the front of the body is the pickup, one knob and a bridge. This is bauhaus minimalism, folks.

The neck: The first thing I do when I touch a guitar is wrap my left hand around the neck. I get a feel for how thick it is, how round it is, how flat the fretboard radius is, the finish on the neck, and the action of the frets. I’ll tell you, i’ve played 3 of the San Dimas 1Hs, and every single time I wrapped my hand around that neck, I didn’t let go. I picked it up and sat there for an hour with it every time. The neck that they put on this thing seems to epitomize perfection in neck form. It’s not paper thin as to make you want to flatten your hand, and it’s not bulky thick. Think about a fine line between an ibanez Wizard and an Ernie Ball Music Man. And now that I think about it, my descriptions can’t do it justice. My hand just seemed to have a mind of its own when I played this guitar. The action was perfect, the frets were finished perfectly, and they didn’t blast up and down the neck, they glided. As always, i’ve got to have my gripes. Usually, I love the feel of a through-neck guitar, but the bolt on seemed to fit perfectly here. However, the one neck complaint is the fact that there are only 22 frets. This is a super strat with plenty of room there with the lack of a neck pickup, so put 2 extra frets for that extra octave without risking a string-breaking bend.

The electronics: For what the electronics are, they’re perfect. The Seymour Duncan TB-14 was designed for Jackson/Charvel style superstrats, because they know what the buyer had in mind when they got one. They wanted to be able to move fast, and they wanted it to be comfortable, and they wanted tone to match the style. This TB14 fits perfectly with this guitar. I’m trying to avoid using a poetic cliche` to describe the tone of the guitar; Guitar magazines do it, and I can’t believe their advertising induced wordings, but this guitar truly sings. That’s it. It’s meant to be overdriven and played loudly, and these electronics fit extremely well. A coil tap might have been clever, but since they were going for the most you can do with the least stuff, they did extremely well. Granted, it’s not very versatile, but it’s not like this is going to replace your Joe Pass signature hollowbody in your jazz quartet (not unless you really want to shake things up). This is meant for speed, shredding, leads, and pretty much everything synonymous with lead playing. Simply put, this guitar was meant to take the lead.

Hardware: Perfectly finished frets resting in an ebony fretboard, simple Gotoh-style tuners. Charvel wasn’t exactly trying to reinvent the wheel here. Despite my hatred for floating bridges, nothing else would’ve fit on this guitar. It wouldn’t have had the same pinache on that rack with through-body bridge ferrules. So you’ll spend an hour restringing the thing, re-calibrating the bridge, and tuning it, but whenever you start to play it, you won’t care that you just spent over two hours making your guitar perfect again.

The Whole Shebang: Simply stated, this guitar is magnificient. When you pick it up, it tells you exactly what you’re going to play on it. You’re going to want to play Eruption, Hot For Teacher, or some sort of 80’s shred fest with some sort of galloping rhythm. And since it is a very expensive guitar for something so simple as a standard alder Strat body with a maple neck and ebony fretboard, you’re going to get it perfectly set up. The Floyd Rose will be parallel to the body, new strings, perfectly tuned, ultra-low action, and perfectly intonated. You’re going to realize it’s got limitations without a neck pickup, 24 frets, a fixed bridge, a tone control, or a through neck. But trust me on this, you’re going to forget every single one of those things whether you’re playing it through a 15 watt Crate or a Marshall JCM 900. Every one of those possible flaws I felt I could never get over, just seemed to disappear. Amazing, this guitar makes you not care about anything that might be wrong with it. That’s powerful stuff.

The Pros: Perfect neck, perfect frets, looks gorgeous, perfect tone for that guitar, feels perfect. Absolutely perfect.

The Cons: It’s about as versatile as a drag racer, but you only get a drag racer for one reason. 22 frets? No tone knob? No fixed bridge? No thru neck? No one cares.

The Grade:

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Filed under Charvel, Charvel San Dimas 1h, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar rant, guitar review, Jackson guitars, San Dimas