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Fender custom shop


uk_lefty

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Long story below, but my point is, what do you get for the extra money on a custom shop Fender? Seeing them at £4,400 up to over £10,000 now. I played one last night and have to say it was.... Alright. 

Last night I had the opportunity to play a lefty fender custom shop jazz. Journeyman relic, lollipop tuners, rosewood board with white binding... It was OK. I recently saw the Andertons video on the new Fender custom shop basses they have at over £4k each and thought they looked good and had good reviews. Luckily my friend paid about half that when he ordered his some years ago. I'm going to get my MIJ 75 Jazz reissue out later today to compare properly, but I just didn't see where the money went with this particular bass. The relic work was a lot more authentic than most I've seen, the neck felt lovely, but it just sounded OK. It seems the extra cash went in to relicing, matching headstock, a non standard colour, but I couldn't hear where any extra cash had gone. The bridge pup didn't honk like other jazzes I've played and the tone control had less range than others too. If I had been wearing socks I'm confident they would not have been blown off. I gave the bass a good tickle as everyone else was setting up, played the first two songs through a familiar amp, then put it down and got out my Stingray. The Stingray is a very different beast entirely but the feel and sound of quality was just a cut above the custom shop jazz I felt. 

From how this had been described to me I was expecting to going home, selling everything and getting a custom shop jazz on order. That will not be happening. I'd rather have a brand new US Jazz and Precision and enough change for a second hand car. 

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Two thoughts:
First - Some exceptional basses do just sound "ok", there's something about a consistent bass, even throughout the fretboard and with a fairly smooth tone response that might work fantastically in a mix. 
Secondly - One of the worst basses I've ever tried was a Fender Custom shop. YMMV

Edited by LukeFRC
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13 minutes ago, LukeFRC said:

First - Some exceptional basses do just sound "ok", there's something about a consistent bass, even throughout the fretboard and with a fairly smooth tone response that might work fantastically in a mix. 

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a dog. It was just OK. OK in the mix. It just didn't do what I expect a jazz to do. It felt lovely on the neck but I'm honestly thinking a Sire V7 blows away most Fenders I've owned or played. 

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For me there are two aspects to buying a bass, sound and feel.

I have played £150 basses that sound great and feel pretty crap and £3000 basses that sound a bit ‘meh’ and feel incredible. I guess the reason we all buy and sell so many basses is that we are probably seeking a bass that does both without spending 10k

I have played fender CS guitars that were simply the best feeling and looking instruments I had seen, even next to the likes of Suhr, Nick Huber, Tom Anderson etc. The relic work was so good and the neck feel and rounded board were incredible, so much so that I thought if I could buy a CS bass that felt half as good I would be happy.

I value feel and comfort over sound, because I can do a lot quite easily and cheaply to rectify sound (EQ, pickups, preamps etc), and for the playing I used to do, as long as it sounded like bass no one cared and I am not a person that has ‘my tone’ that I get precious about.

So for me what you get with Fender CS is a feel and something that may well inspire you to keep picking it up or that extra bit of mythical ‘mojo’. How much you want to pay for that is a personal thing. You may well find a £750 bass that will get you 98% of the way there and if so your lucky you don’t have to spend the money. 
 

I paid very little for my Stingray a few years ago and the neck is phenomenal. I still slightly lust after a Fender Relic because I think some of them look very cool, but I would probably buy it on feel and build quality over how it sounded in a shop, I don’t even bother plugging in a bass in shops because I know when it’s in my hand if it’s a goer!

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I tend to think that the Fender Custom Shop is aimed at 'Blues Lawyers', who are more interested in the look of an instrument, than it's sound or playability.

I have an American FSR 75 reissue Jazz, which I bought secondhand, that would have cost the original owner about £2.5k.

After spending all that money they obviously weren't very impressed when they got it home, because the first thing they did was whack a set of Lindy Fralins into it and a John East J-retro pre amp (which, frankly, would make the cheapest Squier sound pretty good).

I ended up buying it for about the same price as a new Fender Professional (with £350 worth of pickups and pre amp included).

 

Edited by gjones
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For me they’re in the same category as PRS guitars - bankers’ guitars.

If you’re dropping 5k+ on an instrument, then chances are you’re NOT a pro musician! 😄

Edited by paul_5
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6 minutes ago, TheGreek said:

I think you get an extra sticker which says "Custom shop" on it.......probably doesn't affect the tone though.

Tone stickers - now there's an idea!

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I think the price point vs what you actually get has gone over the tipping point now and I for one will not be buying another Fender CS - not from new anyway. I’ve had some CS’s that were definitely ‘meh’ and I still have a few that are excellent, but when you look around for what you can get for your money elsewhere, that’s what puts me off.

I have a Shuker P being built at the moment that will be every bit as good and almost certainly better than a Fender CS for a lot less £’s. As others have said, the fancy colours, MHS’s, Ltd Ed’s and Sig Ed’s all look nice, but it’s all smoke and mirrors unless it feels great and sounds fantastic. 

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A few years back after switching from precision’s to jazzes I made the mistake of thinking that the more money I spent , the better the jazz would be, so I bought 2 fender CS’s, one turned out to have a very slight rise on the fretboard, so the action couldn’t be set really low, that went straight out the door, and the second was really nice, but personally I wouldn’t say it was any better than my US jazz, which I preferred playing, so I sold it to a friend who really liked it, I don’t think I would pay the prices they are demanding now 🙂

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I can’t vouch for what Fender Custom Shop gear is like now, but I played and sold plenty of CS basses and guitars when I did time in Denmark Street, although admittedly that’s about 15 years ago now. A fair number of them looked and played great, but plenty of them were overly expensive ‘meh’ instruments that sold probably just because they were Custom Shop.

I remember a lot of the Fender Road Worn stuff blew the Custom Shop gear away, and given CS prices, that shouldn’t happen. 

Mind, I own a Hofner and a Tanglewood and a Squier so wtf would I know? 😂

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15 minutes ago, Sercet said:

I particularly like my Pino. 

I expect there are some stunning instruments out of the custom shop. My one and only experience left me perplexed, it just didn't have the distinctive jazz bass sound.

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Many prices are nuts these days. 

My Mike Lull PJ4 cost me £1999 in 2015, now they are £2999. I love that bass, and as its a quality custom build £3k is not outrageous, but I wouldn’t pay that for one now. My MM Stingray Special HH was £2200 in 2018, which was high then IMO, now they are nearer to £3k, which is crazy too. 

All that said, the value, desirability and reasons to pay out  is subjective to the buyer, and I can see why people would pay these prices, for a CS too, and that’s cool with me. 

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I have never played a CS but expect the extra cash goes on man hours as they are “bespoke” instruments. TBH instruments are generally so well put together these days some aftermarket pickups and a good setup can make most of them sound and play pretty well. If people want to pay for a CS whether they are a “blues lawyer” or a pro musician it’s giving someone pleasure and keeping folk in work so that’s fine by me. Personally I will stick to MIJ Fenders as I haven’t found a duff one yet. Speaking of which the hunt goes on for a MIJ Duff Mckagan.

Edited by tegs07
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Picked up a CS custom classic a few years ago, looked great, played pretty well and sounded ok. Had it set up, changed the pick ups and pre amp. Now it’s an absolute beaut. Not sure I’d pay the prices new though. 

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16 minutes ago, jonnybass said:

Picked up a CS custom classic a few years ago, looked great, played pretty well and sounded ok. Had it set up, changed the pick ups and pre amp. Now it’s an absolute beaut. Not sure I’d pay the prices new though. 

Especially if you then need to spend £250 on pickups etc to get it sounding right. This is my point really. For the cash that you have to spend, and even for the man hours going in to the build, surely you want it to sound good... I know that's a lot down to the beholder but really! 

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I think the big thing that people miss with these kind of topics (and you can substitute Fender Custom Shop for any other high-value instrument) is that sometimes, some processes and finishing points are just more expensive or require expensive expertise. For example, having a person making the parts instead of a machine. Simple econimics, it costs more. Choosing quartersawn wood for the neck means you have to pick a cut of wood that is statistically more difficult to get from a batch, and it costs more. Does it deliver that same % increase in the quality of what you hear? Definitely not. A nitrocellulose finish is much more difficult to get right and requires expertise, more costs etc etc

So without going too much in to every part, skill and process that makes the CS basses far more expensive (and different in terms of specification) than say, a MIM Fender, Sire etc, it’s just an economic thing and I think that’s why a lot of people wonder what THEY get out of spending the extra cash. I suppose it’s a bit like fine dining. If you don’t really buy in to the subtleties of what the CS offers (more expensive period-specific clay dot inlays would be a great example!) then you’re right, it probably doesn’t seem worth the extra spend :)

Edited by skej21
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It should be totally perfect for the money they ask. There’s enough cash to set it up perfectly before it leaves and enough £ for great sounding authentic pickups that you don’t want to change … imho and the pickups are 90% of the sound 🍿🤔

Edited by Geek99
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1 minute ago, Geek99 said:

It should be totally perfect for the money they ask. There’s enough cash to set it up perfectly before it leaves and enough £ for great sounding authentic pickups that you don’t want to change … imho

There is no way to produce a perfect product that sounds great to everyone. Personally I don’t like the sound or look of Brian May’s guitar. Several hundred thousand disagree with me.

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12 minutes ago, Geek99 said:

It should be totally perfect for the money they ask. There’s enough cash to set it up perfectly before it leaves and enough £ for great sounding authentic pickups that you don’t want to change … imho and the pickups are 90% of the sound 🍿🤔

Depends what you want as “authentic” or “great sounding”… the amount of people who buy vintage ‘authentic’ spec basses it’s traditional wiring looms etc and then complain about 60 cycle hum shows exactly why Fender can never ‘get it right’ for all people. Same with people who buy ‘authentic’ spec basses with nitrocellulose finishes and then complain that the ‘neck is sticky’! 
 

If you based your views on someone that tells you Fender CS basses aren’t great because of those kind of reasons above, it’s not an accurate/objective assessment of Fender’s quality or technical ability to replicate what is essentially a 70 year old bit of technology (with all the downsides that brings), it’s a reflection of how a person’s expectations are often misaligned with reality from the start.

Its like paying £1000 for someone to build a period-specific Super Mario Arcade machine and then being disgruntled that “for that kind of money” it’s not available in 4k resolution, doesn’t have a controller with full triggers and dual analog sticks to control it and so on.

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6 minutes ago, tegs07 said:

There is no way to produce a perfect product that sounds great to everyone. Personally I don’t like the sound or look of Brian May’s guitar. Several hundred thousand disagree with me.

Yes, okay… 99% perfect. but if you CS order a passive custom shop instrument and then immediately add a pre amp, something is wrong 

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