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Current state of Fender basses
Old 4th May 2020
  #1
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nomoreflakes's Avatar
Current state of Fender basses

What do you think about the quality of current Fender basses? Are they any good or is it best to look for second hand earlier issues? I'm particularly interested in a good bass for recording. If not Fender, what would you recommend?
Old 6th May 2020
  #2
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 

I think the quality of current Fender basses is, at least in one sense, exactly the same as it's always been...which is to say, inconsistent.

iow, regardless of whether Fender basses now are better than they were in the (insert your favorite decade) they still exhibit enough variation that it behooves the potential buyer to try a bunch and pick the one that feels/sounds best. You can't blindly grab a Jazz Bass off the rack at Sweetwater and expect it to be as good as
...well, any other Jazz Bass that you blindly grab off the rack at Sweetwater. Some of them are dogs, some of them are gems, and you'll never know which is which just by looking at the date stamp or serial number. This has always been true of Fenders.
Old 7th May 2020
  #3
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I will discent on this.
Whereas Fender's instrument quality was declining in the late 70's and was at its low throughout the 80's 90's early 2000's, they really improved the quality and the consistancy since 2008. Big improvement in 2012. In my opinion, a lot of Fenders made after 2012 are quite good. They all featured the custom shop pickups which are nice and deliver get an authentic vintage sound.

Post 2012 Fender Basses are a safe bet.
For example on my 1996 Am Std Precision, I had to change the pickup that sounded way too scooped and polished compared to a 60's Precision.

Interestingly, I also love the Squier Classic Vibes. Check out Ed Friedland's demos on Youtube.
Old 7th May 2020
  #4
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nomoreflakes's Avatar
many thanks for your input
Old 7th May 2020
  #5
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standup's Avatar
I have gigged with a 70s Precision for years. When I started to realize how much it would cost to replace it, I switched to a Reverend. The Reverend is a different beast, sounds different with P/J pickups, but it’s not an obvious slouch compared to my “vintage” Precision (vintage in quotes bc it’s not a 63 vintage precision or anything like that). They are different basses, but with Reverend the quality is there.
Old 8th May 2020
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by numero6 View Post
I will discent on this.
Whereas Fender's instrument quality was declining in the late 70's and was at its low throughout the 80's 90's early 2000's, they really improved the quality and the consistancy since 2008. Big improvement in 2012. In my opinion, a lot of Fenders made after 2012 are quite good. They all featured the custom shop pickups which are nice and deliver get an authentic vintage sound.

Post 2012 Fender Basses are a safe bet.
For example on my 1996 Am Std Precision, I had to change the pickup that sounded way too scooped and polished compared to a 60's Precision.

Interestingly, I also love the Squier Classic Vibes. Check out Ed Friedland's demos on Youtube.
Actually, the worst period for Fenders in general was from about '68 or '69 and the late '70s. That when the CBS bean counters were doing their worse. Quality control was in the toilet. Pickups sucked and tended toward microphonics. Necks were often made from improperly cured wood that warped, often beyond repair.Every possible cost-cutting measure was instituted.

Of course, as always, Fender did manage to make a few great instruments but they were a small minority.

Fortunately the worst of them were so bad that they did not survive. And a great many of the unpotted pickups they were making in that period have since been potted aftermarket.I still don't trust them, since coil winding was so spotty, despite the use (or perhaps because of the use) of automated winding machinery. The 3-bolt tilt adjust neck mount reduced neck to body coupling with an adverse effect on tone.

I've seen necks with sideways twists or washboard warps.. Bad, bad, bad!

The best Fenders were pre-1965.
Old 13th May 2020
  #7
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foldback's Avatar
I'll point out that IF you do just grab a Fender bass off the rack at Sweetwater AND you happen to get one that you think Sucks, you can send it back.

I've bought A LOT of gear from Sweetwater and they've been great about returns. They've always helped me get the gear back to them, all I have to do is pay the shipping.

I've bought my favorite shred guitars from Sweetwater and they were RIGHT out of the box.

I've spent days traveling around Florida, hitting guitar stores and trying out instruments, only to find substandard pieces with sticky stuff on them.

My Martin D-35E is an off the rack Sweetwater guitar. I tried that after spending an entire day in the music district(s) around Hollywood CA. Worst Martins I ever played were hanging in Guitar Center and Sam Ash.

Sweetwater does spend time with all the instruments over $299, it's not a luthier setup but they check them out and eliminate duds.

For pro rates Sweetwater luthiers will install bone nuts and upgrades on new guitars so you get something "a cut above" when your new axe arrives.

I have 60+ guitars in inventory. Only a dozen or so came from Sweetwater but not a single one has been a dud.

I'm just a satisfied Sweetwater customer. I've got cancer and I'm currently liquidating inventory on Reverb.

Good luck and good music to all!
Old 16th May 2020
  #8
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Kronos147's Avatar
I am a very proud owner of a 2011 American Standard Jazz and a 2014 American Standard Jazz 5.

I purchased the Jazz 5 off of Reverb. It arrived as one SAD puppy. I almost cried and almost just put it back in the case to return it. Instead I started working on the setup.

Damn, it's a nice bass now!

I saw the Jazz (4) on a wall of a local shop while looking for a 5. It played so great I saved up and went back to see if it was still there. Yep. SCORE!
Old 16th May 2020
  #9
I haven't been impressed by what I have come across recently.

I was thinking it was about time I owned a 'real' Fender and was looking at a Jazz Bass. I went into a guitar shop that I have bought plenty of gear from over the years, and tried out about 4-5 different US jazz basses ranging from 800-1500 and was not impressed with any of them enough to consider spending that sort of money on them. Maybe they were just dogs. The cheapest one might have worked out with a change of pickups, but I don't know. Probably just inconsistency.

I remember a guy I knew buying a top of the line US jazz bass about 10 years ago and it was one of the best basses I have ever seen or played since. So they are out there. Somewhere.
Old 20th May 2020
  #10
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patshep's Avatar
i picked up a mim jazz bass a while back, it must be late 90s, beat up and ugly, but it sounds awesome and works well... i actually have to adjust the intonation today so i'm glad i was reminded... fender quality seems fairly good across the board, the other leo companies seem to do better, g&l are amazing and cheap on the used market, and music man makes pretty good basses too, with very good craftsmanship and electronics
Old 20th May 2020
  #11
I played some Fender P basses hanging in the shop over the last couple of years and some of them felt very sweet indeed. The ones about 1500$ I suppose. Some of the road worn ones felt particularly nice funnily enough. I'll be getting one in a couple of months. Maybe not the road worn kind but one of the P's. Will just have to play them until I find a goodun.
Old 20th May 2020
  #12
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by patshep View Post
the other leo companies seem to do better, g&l are amazing and cheap on the used market, and music man makes pretty good basses too, with very good craftsmanship and electronics
It's pretty much a consensus amongst any bassists I've ever discussed this with: G&L and MusicMan are not only better instruments but they're also more consistent than Fenders. And MusicMan got even better when Ernie Ball took over, a real rarity in most industries!
Old 20th May 2020
  #13
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Never liked the consistency of Fender anything. Hopefully they've dragged themselves into the modern world, the only way is up IMHO! I remember trying to find a playable US Strat for one of the guitarists in my band (late 80s/early 90s can't remember). Myself and the other guitarist went down tin pan alley and picked up every US Strat one after another from shop to shop, "strum" put it back. waiting for one to ring and vibrate nicely - didn't even bother pluging them in. When we found guitars that passed the strum test, we'd then try playing up and down the neck without them choking - we found one - that was his guitar - and it was bloody brilliant! I have no idea how many guitars we went through - many dozens, it took best part of a day to find a good one.

I own one Fender bass from my collection of around a dozen basses, a late 70s fretless P-Bass with 80s Jap electronics and I only bought it coz I got it cheap. Never could put up with trying to find a decent one! Ibanez, Yamaha, Bass Collection, Musicman – so many other manufacturers could knock out decent consistent quality instruments – many at lower price-points – why couldn’t Fender? Maybe they can now – perhaps things have moved on, although I’m so prejudiced against Fender from past disappointment I never bother picking one up when I'm in a shop! Perhaps old Fenders are good now because they’ve been gradually fiddled with until they're good!
Old 21st May 2020
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
Myself and the other guitarist went down tin pan alley and picked up every US Strat one after another from shop to shop, "strum" put it back. waiting for one to ring and vibrate nicely - didn't even bother pluging them in. When we found guitars that passed the strum test, we'd then try playing up and down the neck without them choking - we found one - that was his guitar - and it was bloody brilliant! I have no idea how many guitars we went through - many dozens, it took best part of a day to find a good one.
I know exactly what you mean in terms of finding guitars that resonate and feel alive. I did a similar thing in a vintage shop going through Martin, Gibson, and other expensive acoustics, and the only one I liked in the whole shop was this funky old Kay 12-string they were asking £200-300 for. For me, that has always been why I have bought guitars and basses almost exclusively secondhand, as they have been 'broken in' to some degree.

I don't know if this is a Fender thing exclusively though (I doubt it), but the majority of new guitars in the shops don't sound right or feel right to me. That said, I have played a few Duesenbergs, Guilds, maybe one or two others that sounded good brand new.
Old 22nd May 2020
  #15
Gear Head
 

I don't know John, I have a 69 Jazz Bass and a 69 Bassman …. they don't suck....
Old 26th May 2020
  #16
Gear Nut
IMO they are more consistent now than they have ever been since I started playing (in the 1990s.)

I own Rics and Fenders. IMO Fender makes some of the best Fender-style basses for the price. And they hold their resale value well.
Old 26th May 2020
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by eigentone1 View Post

I own Rics and Fenders. IMO Fender makes some of the best Fender-style basses for the price. And they hold their resale value well.
What price or price range though? I'm playing a P-Bass I put together with scavenged parts that cost about £130 including the strings. I would be willing to take the Pepsi challenge with pretty much any squier or Fender that can be had for up to at least £500. That doesn't seem like great value for money to me.
Old 26th May 2020
  #18
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Yuri Kogan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by eigentone1 View Post
IMO they are more consistent now than they have ever been since I started playing (in the 1990s.)

I own Rics and Fenders. IMO Fender makes some of the best Fender-style basses for the price. And they hold their resale value well.
In this country Fender basses don't hold value well at all. Quality is ho-ham
Old 26th May 2020
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gideon K View Post
What price or price range though? I'm playing a P-Bass I put together with scavenged parts that cost about £130 including the strings. I would be willing to take the Pepsi challenge with pretty much any squier or Fender that can be had for up to at least £500. That doesn't seem like great value for money to me.
Great "can do" attitude! Must be the best £130 guitar in the universe!
Old 26th May 2020
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
Great "can do" attitude! Must be the best £130 guitar in the universe!
I dunno if I would go that far at all. I'm not saying it's a great bass. I may have got lucky finding a reasonable bit of wood for the neck and body. My point was more that off-the-shelf basses are not much to get excited about from what I have come across personally.
Old 26th May 2020
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gideon K View Post
I dunno if I would go that far at all. I'm not saying it's a great bass. I may have got lucky finding a reasonable bit of wood for the neck and body. My point was more that off-the-shelf basses are not much to get excited about from what I have come across personally.
The best (cheapish) off-the-shelf basses I ever played were the (original Jap) Bass collections in the early 90s (still got a couple I bought new then) they are pretty much worthless secondhand. Warwicks were always good - but pricey, stupidly sold my Streamer 2 in 2003 after being made redundant - best bass I ever played. At the cheap end Ibanez and Yamaha guitars are usually playable - Peavey too at a push. I think my (only) Fender is playable because it's a fretless - you can get away with murder (neck wise) with fretless basses!
Old 26th May 2020
  #22
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uOpt's Avatar
If you want a regular P, J or P51 bass I recommend the AVRI series, especially 2000s.
Old 26th May 2020
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by eigentone1 View Post
IMO they are more consistent now than they have ever been since I started playing (in the 1990s.)
Yeah, they are overall, fairly consistent, when comparing apples to apples.

Problem is that there are so many models of Fender basses, from many sources, with so many different collections of hardware, you really have to make sure you are comparing the same thing.

Add to this, the horrid state of consistency with big box stores regarding setup and overall condition, and comparing becomes even more difficult. Go in to GC, and the "new" bass you pull down might have been sold and returned and abused five times already for 29 days each time. And none of the stores go through inventory setting up.

You're not going to find this with higher end Lakland, Music Man and such, because GC doesn't carry them, and the people who sell them are far more discriminating.

One bad component can yield an instrument crap. I bought a Squire Bullet Strat for €120, and it was horrible to use until I changed the tuners. Now, I use it regularly, and I have a maple cap '69, a few American Strats from 90's, and some other good ones. But this Bullet is simply a great Strat.

Manufacturing is ridiculously consistent these days, with CNC and all the automation. Guitars and basses were much less consistent in years before automation, even the "golden years." But we now miss that one amazing instrument, because they are all basically a clone of the one before and after it. But you do have to set them up the same, and replace any funky hardware on the lower-level models.
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