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Unbiased review: Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass, medium scale, 2020 model (made in the Samick factory, Indonesia)


Bassdude BE
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Unbiased review:
Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass, medium scale, 2020 model (made in the Samick factory, Indonesia)
 
Hi, as many of you more experienced bass players may know the Squier classic vibe series has often offered incredible value for money in the past.
 
Personally I´ve owned, modified, played and gigged quite a few of them, and I was always pleased and often even surprised by the craftsmanship and quality of these instruments, especially considering the price these go for.
 
Having played a 2009 Made in China CV Precision bass for quite some time (the made in China 2008-2012 series of Squier CV basses are still considered by many of the pro-players, modders and collectors as the best Squier basses ever made, comparable in both fit and finish
to the earlier JV series, which go for crazy amounts of money these days) I was very impressed by the playability and overall quality of these instruments.
I´ve had the chance to compare my 2009 MIC CV Precision to several mid- to high-priced Fender equivalents and my CV Precision could easily compete with the Fender versions and it felt, played and sounded sometimes even better than some of
it´s much more expensive counterparts.
 
So, when I heard earlier this year that Squier was going to release a new Classic Vibe series medium scale (32") Jaguar bass I was definitely intrigued.
I´ve always been a fan of medium scale basses due to their excellent playability, reduced weight and the fact that to me they offer the perfect middle ground between full scale (34") and short scale (30") basses.
In my humble opinion they are the perfect compromise, keeping most of the attack and strong fundamental that you get out of full scale basses, combined with the thump, added perceived low end and superb playability that you get from short scale basses.
 
These new CV Jaguar basses come with a Precision + Jazz pickup configuration and a stacked pot Vol/Tone, Vol/Tone control plate.
I found this 60´s-style stacked pot control plate to be a nice touch as this configuration adds a lot more tonal versatility to the already very versatile P/J pickup combination compared to the more standard Volume/Volume/Tone control plates these basses usually come with.
 
As I was on the lookout for a versatile, lightweight, medium scale bass to take some of the strain of my left arm during long gigs, this new Jaguar seemed to tick all the boxes.
As always I did a fair amount of research before testing the bass and found out that this run of CV Jaguar basses is being made in the Samick factory in Indonesia. Having owned and played a few of the older, original Samick basses and guitars in my early days as a bassist, instrument enthusiast and modifier I seemed to remember that these instruments were well made and offered great value for money.
 
Knowing all this I figured this new CV Jaguar might just be the perfect modding platform for the "Super-Squier" build that I was planning to use with my new rock band, so I contacted my friends at Thomann to see if they could send me one of these as soon as they came in to test and review.
 
The CV Jaguar basses were meant to be released in March 2020, but due to many design changes combined with communication by the Fender company there was a lot of confusion about the scale length (First they were listed as 34", full scale basses, but later Fender changed that to a 32",
medium scale length*) and some other design features of this bass and therefore the release date was postponed more than once.
So I was very happy to see that this shiny new medium scale Jaguar bass had finally arrived at my doorstep earlier this week.
 
*The neck on this particular model is exactly one inch shorter than a normal full scale bass neck, the bridge has been moved upwards by one inch as well (compared to a normal full scale bass) and as a result the total scale length from the nut to the bridge saddles is exactly 32".
 
First Impressions:
 
The neck:
 
Straight out of the box I notice the excellent quality of the neck.
The headstock and the back of the neck are coated with a vintage tint finish, which looks good, feels really smooth and
isn´t sticky at all, on this particular example the quality of the paintwork on the neck is outstanding.
 
The jazz width neck plays super fast and easy and the fretwork is excellent.
The narrow, tall frets are all seated well in the fret board, and they are rounded at the fret board edges. There are no sharp fret ends.
The block inlays look super classy and are completely level with the Indian Laurel fret board which adds to the quality look and feel of the neck.
The Indian laurel fret board has a very nice grain to it with some Birdseye maple-like patterns all over the fret board and fret board edges, it has a much darker and nicer look to it than the recent made in Mexico Pau Ferro fret boards and it certainly gives you the feeling that you´re holding a much more expensive instrument.
 
The body:
 
The body is made out of Nato, a type of wood with a density and sound characteristic very similar to that of mahogany,
weight wise it is a lot lighter than mahogany tho and the body is noticeably thinner than that of a regular Jazz or Precision bass.
The total weight of this particular bass came in at just 3,53 kg.
The Nato wood has a very nice grain to it which comes out beautifully through the transparent sunburst finish.
 
Factory set-up:
 
With the set-up from the factory the bass was playable, but the action and neck relief definitely needed some adjustment to make it feel and play good. After lowering the bridge saddles quite a bit, a quick turn of the truss rod to straighten the neck a little and setting up the intonation the bass really came to live and now it actually feels and plays very good.
The shorter scale length certainly makes a difference, making it a lot easier to do those wider stretches and fast runs,
thus reducing hand fatigue.
 
Neck pocket, tuners, pots and knobs:
 
The neck pocket is nice and tight with no noticeable gaps on either side.
The tuners do their job, but are clearly not of the same quality compared to the ones on earlier classic vibe series basses.
The stacked pots feel o.k. and turn smoothly, although I had to move the stacked knobs and tighten the screws a bit for optimal efficiency.
 
The bridge:
 
Now this is where the guys at the Samick factory dropped the ball a bit in my opinion. Possibly Fender´s decision to change the scale length of the bass at the last moment has something to do with this, but the bridge isn´t properly aligned with the neck and pickup routing.
 
The bridge is placed +- 2 mm more towards the G-string side than it is to the E-string side and looking at it horizontally I noticed that the top of the bridge on the G-string side is also sticking out a fraction of a millimeter higher towards the neck when compared to the left side.
It doesn´t really affect playability, but I found this surprising as
I´ve never encountered such serious issues with other top of the line Squier basses.
 
Amplified sound:
 
Personally I was planning to equip this bass with a set of aftermarket Dimarzio pickups, so I didn´t expect much of the Fender Designed Alnico pickups.
After a quick soundcheck I found them to sound quite strong in the upper mids, with an aggressive attack, but lacking some bass and low mids compared to my other basses.
 
For a beginner I think these will probably do the job, but for more professional players and/or audiophiles like me a pickup swap would probably be advised as they tend to sound quite thin compared to most aftermarket pickups.
 
Acoustic sound:
 
Played unamplified, with the factory strings I found the bass to have plenty of acoustic volume, with lots of clarity, but again I felt like it was missing some lows and low mids compared to some of my other basses.
I thought this might´ve been because of the extremely thin Nato body,but then again I usually use flat wound strings, so that might´ve had an impact on the overall sound as well.
 
Pros:
 
- Extremely well-made and easy to play neck, with a nice Jazz
bass type nut width and profile, getting slightly wider than a
normal jazz neck at the neck pocket.
- Excellent fretwork
- Lightweight
- No noticeable neck dive when balancing on a strap.
- The high quality Indian laurel that was used for the fret board
combined with the block inlays and finish of both neck and
body make the bass look a lot more classy and expensive
than it actually is.
 
Cons:
 
- The hardware is of subpar quality compared to earlier
Classic Vibe series basses,
the tuners feel kind of flimsy and feel like they would
definitely need replacement at some point if you plan to use
this bass in a professional setting.
- Samick´s quality control definitely dropped the ball when
checking the bridge placement on these basses,
the bridge plate itself also seems to be of lesser quality
compared to earlier CV versions and looks like it would bend
easily.
- The Alnico pickups sound kinda weak and thin compared to
earlier versions.
- Price: Considering the fact that Fender definitely cut some
costs when it comes to the quality of the hardware used on
these basses the price is still quite high.
 
Conclusion:
 
I´m really impressed with the quality and craftsmanship of the neck on this bass and would love to keep the neck in order to combine it with another body and hardware.
The quality of the pickups and hardware + the fact that they messed up the bridge alignment on this bass have left me with mixed feelings as to whether it is still worth the investment, especially when compared to the earlier Squier classic vibe series basses which went for the same amount of money, but offered a lot more value for money when it came to the hardware used on these basses.
 
On the competitive market of today there might be better options out there in this price range.
 
On the other hand medium scale basses are still quite a rarity these days, so if this is what you are looking for it definitely is a cheap way to add a medium scale bass to your arsenal and with a few upgrades it can probably become a solid instrument that is ready for both live and recording use as the neck offers superb playability and most flaws (subpar tuners, pickups and bridge placement) can be easily fixed by your local guitar tech, luthier or handyman.
 
At the moment I´m still on the fence if I´m going to keep the neck and/or upgrade the body, pickups and hardware or look elsewhere for my short scale/medium scale needs, but I´ve just gotten notice that I have a Sire U5 short scale P/J bass** coming in to test and review next week, so I´ll have the opportunity to test them both side by side and compare them before making my decision.
 
Average street price for the Squier CV Jaguar bass: 385Euro.
 
**The review of the Sire U5 will be posted on my Facebook page sometime next week.
 
Kind regards,
@Bassdude'sBassment
 
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If the above pictures are of your bass, then the bridge alignment looks fine. If it was seriously misaligned the G string would be much closer to the edge of the fingerboard. I used to own an Indonesian standard Squier Jazz, which I believe was built around 2000. The bridge was seriously out of place. It only cost me £95 secondhand and although the G string was almost hanging off the neck, it still played well and sounded great.

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13 hours ago, gjones said:

If the above pictures are of your bass, then the bridge alignment looks fine. If it was seriously misaligned the G string would be much closer to the edge of the fingerboard. I used to own an Indonesian standard Squier Jazz, which I believe was built around 2000. The bridge was seriously out of place. It only cost me £95 secondhand and although the G string was almost hanging off the neck, it still played well and sounded great.

The pictures I stole from the web tbh, just had a knee surgery a couple of days ago, so i´m stuck in the sofa atm with plenty of time to write,

but taking pictures is a bit harder atm.

I´ve measured it up tho and the bridge is 2mm close to the G string and 0.5mm higher on that side as well,

The bass plays fine this way, but it is a mistake that i wasn´t expecting to find on a classic vibe squier as they have always been the most expensive and best quality squiers on the market. Most people and/or beginners probably won´t even notice or mind the misalignment, but being a bass/pedal builder myself and being a perfectionist it does bother me a bit.. :)

 

 

 

Edited by Bassdude BE
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  • 2 weeks later...

I tried one of these out this morning and I have to say I was pretty impressed by how it felt to play. One thing I noticed though was that when I soloed the pickups, the J pickup was considerably quieter than the P pickup. Does that sound right? 

Also - if I wanted to swap out the tuners, would Fender ones go right in with the same screw holes?
 

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On 19/09/2020 at 14:13, omikin said:

I tried one of these out this morning and I have to say I was pretty impressed by how it felt to play. One thing I noticed though was that when I soloed the pickups, the J pickup was considerably quieter than the P pickup. Does that sound right? 

Also - if I wanted to swap out the tuners, would Fender ones go right in with the same screw holes?
 

 Yes, I had the same idea about the bridge pickup.

I.m.e. this is a very common issue with P/J basses tho and adjusting the pickup height can usually balance things out quite a bit.

I´ve been looking around and at first sight there seem to be no direct replacement tuners for the new 2019/2020 Squier CV models as the screw holes are now in slightly different places compared to the older SQ CV models.

Either SChaller BML´s, Hipshot HB1 and HB7´s should fit in nicely, but as far as I´ve been able to find out all of them needed some filling and redrilling of the screw holes for the tuners.

Edited by Bassdude BE
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