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SamPlaysBass

Fender-gone Conclusion

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I fear I may have to admit that my pursuit for the ultimate jazz bass has led me down a rabbit hole. 
 

I’ve started rehearsing with a new band. New band, new bass - right? I’ve been lucky enough to own some great basses over the last 15 years or so, but I was very very happy with my new-to-me Fender Elite Jazz from 2016. I played it in a new rehearsal venue with a lovely USA made Ampeg SVT II and 4x10. The ultimate in Fender build quality into a great, vintage SVT. Tonal perfection. 
 

Next rehearsal, I thought I’d bring my well loved but often forgotten about Mexican jazz, which I’d chucked some Tonerider pickups in. I opted to use my own Markbass Evo 1 set clean through the same Ampeg 4x10 as I’d be using this head predominantly for gigging with this band. May as well see if it works. 
 

Well, it was equally great. Similar low mid mid bump as the Elite, fantastic punch and warmth. There wasn’t enough in it to choose based on sound. 
 

In all honesty, I was disappointed. My parents bought that Mexican jazz for me one Christmas and I remember it costing about £339 from GAK in 2007. The Elite cost the original owner over £2k. Don’t get me wrong, the Elite is a nicer thing to hold in your hands and to look at, but which do I feel better about leaving in a van? Or left on a stage whilst I grab a pint and a meal deal? 
 

I’m starting to think that all those naysayers, chanting about spending lots on a lovely bass makes little difference to the sound, are true. Bastards. 

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Times have well and truly changed in terms of more expensive equates to sounding better.

One of my closest friends does heaps of writing and recording and has been on quite a few big budget film scores in the past few years, he uses Harley Benton basses and guitars for a lot of his work because they sound great. They may not feel as good in the hand and have a few rough edges compared to a £1500+ Fender but for him it’s all about the sound.

I have owned some custom built instruments and some really cheap basses over the years, and I enjoyed getting a good tone  from a cheap bass and in a pub/marquee/hall I would challenge anyone to pick an expensive bass over a £100 Harley Benton of the same style.

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I truly wish I could get past having to have US Fenders. The post 2008 MIMs, especially the Player range are excellent. But I can’t get past it it seems, given I’ve bought a US Jazz today.

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Got two Fender Players. A P and a J. Cost me 2/3rds of the price of one American Fender. They do the job perfectly. 

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Certainly a lot of praise for the mexican made fenders these days. Thing is if you're gigging somewhere you don't have control over sound or it's a quick setup you could be playing a Fodera, a knackered Ashton acoustic and later a Hofner, the audience might see the difference but if the sound man isn't bothered that day they'll just hear a low end mushy rumble. 

I went to a Marcus Miller masterclass and he was talking about the Sire basses. At the time the V7 was the "bottom" range and he was saying, I'll paraphrase, about the V9 and V10 range that all the details like flame tops etc doesn't make much difference to sound its for you to enjoy looking at the bass, holding it, inspire you to pick it up and play it. But he's happy playing his V7. I thought that was anti-marketing! Same principle applies across the board: get a good tool for job, and if you want bells and whistles the differences are for your enjoyment more than any conceivable difference to others. 

Edited by uk_lefty
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I've had a Dingwall, a few Musicman (SR5 / Bongo 4 & 5), Fenders MM Jazz, Overwaters, Spector.

All of them were obviously good instruments, but now my 'go to' bass is a Squier VM Jazz I got for £200. I couldn't justify the capital in the basses value compared to what I could get for under 25% of the cost

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13 hours ago, SamPlaysBass said:

I’m starting to think that all those naysayers, chanting about spending lots on a lovely bass makes little difference to the sound, are true. Bastards. 

I think most advice here is to buy the best bass you can find, within your budget. The bass that speaks to you. If that's an upgraded MIM Jazz bass then all is good.

IMO there is no ultimate. All we need is a bass that makes us sound good. If you want a true comparison you need to play your basses through the same amp and cab.

My experience is that I found a very "reliced" Sadowsky RV5 Metro, for good price, and it sounded so good that I sold my Lakland 55-94, Fender Jazz V and Mike Lull M5V. I'd play the cheapest bass available if it sounded like this Metro.

We should buy the basses we want to play. The ones that make us happy to pick them up.

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33 minutes ago, chris_b said:

We should buy the basses we want to play. The ones that make us happy to pick them up.

Yep, great advice, there are basses we love to own - often expensive - and basses we love to play - often surprisingly inexpensive. I’ve tried very hard to turn the former into the latter many times, but despite owning some great basses, my two go-to basses, both bitsas, owe me about £250 each. 

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I got a MIM P bass for my 16th birthday. I upgraded the P/Us a long while ago but since I've had it i've been through at least 10 other basses but I've still got and use the P bass daily. Oh, and I got the Gallery to do a fret dress which made a big difference and was pretty cheap. It's fairly light, sounds beefy, stays in tune and plays well. Simple.

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Mexican bass is good enough for that fella in Vulfpeck...
 

Honestly though, by the time you’ve speced and bought some custom pickups and had them put in it, it’s not going to sound much worse than the US one is it? 

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Also I’ve played a lot of fender mex. some of them have been amazing, some awful. Equally I’ve played some Insepid USA stuff ...

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6 minutes ago, LukeFRC said:

Also I’ve played a lot of fender mex. some of them have been amazing, some awful. Equally I’ve played some Insepid USA stuff ...

Isn’t the point that the bad stuff can be fixed with parts? My MIM actually came stocked as new with American standard PUs and they were still too timid.

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1 hour ago, OliverBlackman said:

Isn’t the point that the bad stuff can be fixed with parts? My MIM actually came stocked as new with American standard PUs and they were still too timid.

No, I think the bad ones are due to the construction/finish in my opinion. 
a dead sounding Bass acoustically isn’t going to become more resonant by changing hardware in most cases. 

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I remember sitting in a long departed music shop a number of years ago with the mission of buying myself the best sounding bass I could find in the shop.

A good number of hours later, having played all but the insanely expensive basses in there (£1,500+ circa 2004-ish), I walked out with a very affordable, Fender Mex Jazz, that was fitted with US made pickups. It sounded superb, and certainly trounced the US made basses in the shop to my ears.

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The problem with these threads is that people who have bought expensive US basses feel that this is a criticism of their choice. 

The original post missed one crucial point, it’s not the pursuit of ‘the’ ultimate jazz bass, but ‘your’ ultimate jazz bass. 

You can play a packed out show at the Albert Hall on a £400 bass - I did. Now I play a US Fender because I like it the best.

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7 hours ago, chris_b said:

We should buy the basses we want to play. The ones that make us happy to pick them up.

This is a wonderful sentiment and one that I’m going to carry forward. Good point, well made! 

1 hour ago, Burns-bass said:

The original post missed one crucial point, it’s not the pursuit of ‘the’ ultimate jazz bass, but ‘your’ ultimate jazz bass. 

Indeed, it’s always going to be a subjective thing. That’s the beauty of preference! What’s wonderful to someone is horrid to another. That’s what makes life interesting. 
 

To go back to your point, it’s not necessarily a criticism of threads like these, but more a realisation. I, and I expect everyone else on Basschat, knows that price isn’t necessarily an indicator on how well a product will work for you. There are hundreds of threads on it, I expect. However, it wasn’t until I tried my basses back to back that I realised and felt exactly what that commonly known fact is describing. I had traded my way up to what Fender was billing as the ultimate in technological advancements on their Jazz bass design (in 2016). When I compared it to a bass that I know I love from years of playing it, I wasn’t magically blown away as much as I thought I would be. I was tongue-in-cheek about being disappointed, but the reality is that I had experienced the feeling that I knew about - the foregone conclusion that more money doesn’t equal better. 

 

I took to Basschat because my better half told me to shut up about comparing basses, haha. 

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I have lots of expensive basses and still can't stop buying them. What is wrong with me? :)

I have a Fender Elite 5 that I thought was my ultimate Jazz bass, until I decided to build one and 'improve' on the Fender. The result is a fraction of the cost and better sounding.

All basses are wood and electronics, so as long as it is set up well, feels and sounds good, that's all that important. Oh the current MIM basses are crazy good value.

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1 hour ago, SamPlaysBass said:

This is a wonderful sentiment and one that I’m going to carry forward. Good point, well made! 

Indeed, it’s always going to be a subjective thing. That’s the beauty of preference! What’s wonderful to someone is horrid to another. That’s what makes life interesting. 
 

To go back to your point, it’s not necessarily a criticism of threads like these, but more a realisation. I, and I expect everyone else on Basschat, knows that price isn’t necessarily an indicator on how well a product will work for you. There are hundreds of threads on it, I expect. However, it wasn’t until I tried my basses back to back that I realised and felt exactly what that commonly known fact is describing. I had traded my way up to what Fender was billing as the ultimate in technological advancements on their Jazz bass design (in 2016). When I compared it to a bass that I know I love from years of playing it, I wasn’t magically blown away as much as I thought I would be. I was tongue-in-cheek about being disappointed, but the reality is that I had experienced the feeling that I knew about - the foregone conclusion that more money doesn’t equal better. 

 

I took to Basschat because my better half told me to shut up about comparing basses, haha. 

Sounds about right!

At least you didn’t question the sanctity of vintage Fender basses 🙂

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1 hour ago, SamPlaysBass said:

I, and I expect everyone else on Basschat, knows that price isn’t necessarily an indicator on how well a product will work for you. There are hundreds of threads on it, I expect. However, it wasn’t until I tried my basses back to back that I realised and felt exactly what that commonly known fact is describing. I had traded my way up to what Fender was billing as the ultimate in technological advancements on their Jazz bass design (in 2016). When I compared it to a bass that I know I love from years of playing it, I wasn’t magically blown away as much as I thought I would be. I was tongue-in-cheek about being disappointed, but the reality is that I had experienced the feeling that I knew about - the foregone conclusion that more money doesn’t equal better. 

Even if you ‘know’ more expensive doesn’t mean better It’s easy to forget And be swayed by expensive shiny things. I do it all the time. 

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10 hours ago, LukeFRC said:

Even if you ‘know’ more expensive doesn’t mean better It’s easy to forget And be swayed by expensive shiny things. I do it all the time. 

Exactly! I wanted a jazz bass because I had 3 single pup basses... I know how good Sire basses are and could do with a five string. I spent a few hundred more and bought a Japanese Fender J because... I did. I sound like my daughter when she's been caught doing something she knows is wrong. 

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I never felt the MIM ones sounded any worse that otherwise like models from the US.  Made on on identical tooling to the same QC standard, I can't see any I reason why they would sound inferior.  I think they're great.

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When I bought my squier CV P bass, from a not so long departed shop a few years ago, I tried a MIM and US bass at the same time. It was better than the MiM sound wise, it was similar to the US, the us had better machineheads, but was 4 times the price. I don't regret the choice on that.

I am not a fender player, so It would be hard for me to justify the price of a US fender, as I never found one that was far away better than anything else and they all look the same to me, for that sort of money I could get something special.

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11 minutes ago, Woodinblack said:

When I bought my squier CV P bass, from a not so long departed shop a few years ago, I tried a MIM and US bass at the same time. It was better than the MiM sound wise, it was similar to the US, the us had better machineheads, but was 4 times the price. I don't regret the choice on that.

I am not a fender player, so It would be hard for me to justify the price of a US fender, as I never found one that was far away better than anything else and they all look the same to me, for that sort of money I could get something special.

Every time I play a load of fenders in the shop the Squier come out second for me, the custom shop was top. Taking price into consideration ten Squier or one CS...

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Many years ago, I bought my new-to-me USA Fender Precision bass, for the princely sum of £150.

Maybe it was the sign of the times, and my young age, but it never lost the wow factor for me, as in 'wow, I own a proper USA made Fender bass!' which of course made me love playing it, and want to play and gig it more.

For me, I don't think I could ever have the 'wow factor' from a MIM.

 

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