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Squier (by Fender) Affinity Jazz (the “J”) Bass Review – getting started with an inexpensive bass that actually plays great

Squier Affinity J (Jazz) Bass long-term review Originally posted March 2006… A few edits here and there, but mostly the original review for this repost

Every guitar player should try playing bass. It’s a blast, and can really teach you something about fret stretches, silencing adjacent strings, and serious hand-strengthening. In another note, every bass player has to have a place to start. Sometimes getting a low-cost bass doesn’t mean having to get a cheap bass!

Jazz Bass, J Bass… You say Fender, I say Phendre.

Quick Opinion: The Squier Affinity and Standard Jazz Bass guitars are actually somewhat comparable to Fender Mexican-made Standard Jazz Bass guitars. The basic features and appointments are almost identical. It stands to reason that the Chinese-made Squiers are slightly less-nice Alder wood, and the finish paint is thicker and harder on the Squiers. However, the impression of the Squier I bought (and have played for more than a year when this was originally posted) is that it is a solid buy, and an excellent bass. Yes, the Mexican-made Jazz basses have nicer necks to an experienced player – but remember that the point behind the Squier Affinity is low-cost and beginner’s playability. Over time, I found that the Affinity is a good starter bass – consistent in quality and sound. If the player finds that he/she wants to play bass more often and has more budget, the step up to the Mexican-made bass is a good place to go…

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Playability: The neck is solid, and is nicely tapered. It is physically similar to Fenders costing much more… The maple neck and rosewood fretboard feel excellent and are easy to play. The bass is comparatively light and is fairly well balanced. The excellent Fender-designed double-cutaway body allows easy, full access to the entire fretboard. As a long-scale (34”) bass, the Squier Jazz Bass is extremely playable and is a joy to use.The bolt-on maple neck/rosewood fretboard comes surprisingly well finished. Only two or three of our guitar’s fret ends were a little sharp. The fret height is very consistent throughout the neck. Note that the Mexican-made Standard does have a smoother finish to the back of the neck – and that the Chinese Affinity Squier bass necks tend not to be arrow-straight (there are other manufacturer countries for different models these days – some with substantially better quality that rivals the Mexican-made basses)
For folks with small hands or less-than-average arm lengths, a full-scale bass like this might be a little tough to play (especially during quick, challenging passes). If you’re not comfortable with a long, 34” guitar, I recommend trying out the Squier Bronco, Squier Mustang bass, or, if your budget can accommodate, a Fender Mustang bass.

Features: The appointments and features of the Squier Jazz Bass are good for this guitar’s price. The pickguard is a well-made three-ply plastic guard (white-black-white on our Red Metallic bass). The pickups are two “vintage-style” pickups (bridge and mid). The guitar features two larger volume knobs and one smaller tone knob. The two volume knobs allow you to choose the tonal variety by selecting the volume for a specific pickup. The tone applies to the entire sound output (the Squier Jazz Bass guitars are passive, in that they have no equalization or boost electronics or batteries on board). As with pretty much every Jazz Bass guitar, the Affinity’s neck is bolt-on. In the case of the Squier Jazz Bass, the neck truss rods are adjustable via an allen wrench in the headstock (no need to unbolt the neck and unscrew the pickguard). The chrome tuners are the enclosed variety, and are fairly accurate – I do like the “open gear” variety used on the up-scale Jazz basses better, but these do hold pretty well to normal play styles. The Squier Jazz uses a round string tree in the headstock for the two highest strings.
The Squier Affinity Jazz Bass has top-loaded strings (means that the strings are not fed through the body, but are fed through the end of the chrome bridge).

Sound:The Squier Jazz Bass guitar has a consistent, vintage sound. The pickups are pretty noisy – a bit more so than standard Jazz single coils, and the output isn’t very strong. The quality of the sound that does come out is all Fender, though. With the right amplification and EQ-tweaking, you can get the Squier to growl, rumble, and thumb-slap-“splank” without too much trouble. If I was to make this guitar my full-time bass – I might take the time to upgrade the pickups to Fender SCNs, or some type of high-output noiseless.

Value: This is a $299 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The sound, quality of make, and appointments are good. Many other low-end guitars have badly twisted/warped necks, poor sound, and extremely cheap parts – the Squier Jazz Bass is very much a cut above the average low-end bass (no pun intended!). You would have to buy a much more expensive Fender bass to get better sound.

Wishes: I really wish these were offered with maple fretboards (a matter of personal preference, yes, but still something that would be good to offer). The pickups really should have more output. I wish these had more consistent necks and more consistent fret-finishing. These should all come with open-gear tuners – I don’t think Fender will lose much (if any) money on using nicer tuners.

5 thoughts on “Squier (by Fender) Affinity Jazz (the “J”) Bass Review – getting started with an inexpensive bass that actually plays great

  1. I just bought an affinity j bass, private sale, paid $160.
    What a nice surprise, sounds and plays great,deep purple finish is beautiful , a 2010 model, open tuners, and I love the neck! My other bass is a 1971 P bass, in a blind listening test or recording, I don’t think most could tell them apart. I plan on adding a tortise shell 3 ply pick guard and upgrading the strings. Fantastic sound and value, undervalued to say the least!

  2. I got my J-bass in 2011, it’s Chinese and I love it. I restrung it with med-lights and it’s plently loud. It still does have closed tuners, but for what I paid for it I can’t complain at all. It’s my first bass and I don’t think I could have done much better, I would recommend it for sure. -KWM

  3. After years of playing mostly Ibanez basses exclusively and growing tired of them (GSR100, 1984 x-series destroyer, BTB405), I decided to try out some of the more traditional basses. When I picked up a Fender Jazz at the local GC, I had an epiphany – this was my perfect fit! I could play for extended periods in the first position without hand fatigue, I could feel my way through notes without looking at the fretboard, and it was ultimately the sound I was looking for…only problem is that I didn’t have the $1000+ to spend. After looking through CL, I found a Squier Affinity J for $80. It was in great shape, pots worked, and everything was intact. The action was so high that you could shoot arrows with it, but I bought it anyway, since I have setup tools at my disposal. After leveling and crowning the frets, adjusting the truss rod, and shimming the neck (the necks on these sit pretty low, which makes the strings sit high at the heel end), it plays extremely well. A few weeks later, I shielded the body, upgraded the bridge, and pickups, and it’s now a killer sounding instrument that I would take to any recording studio without any shame whatsoever. These may be entry level instruments, but they can be made to be on par or better than the MIM Fenders with a little elbow grease and a little cash. Plus, you can find them on CL super super cheap! If you want a cheap bass to experiment with fret leveling, pickup shielding, and basic setup procedures (there are tons and tons of tutorials out there on the web), pick one up! You just might end up with a very solid backup bass for under $200

  4. I got a good one for $100.00 plus shipping totaling $132.00. It has open tuners.
    S/N#: CY140709816, Black finish with three layered pick guard in white.
    I like it. I’m not a pro and I play a guitar mostly so the bass is just a diversion. It’s all good enough for me. I don’t really go out much in public to play. It’s used and has a few belt buckle nicks that don’t bother me at all.

  5. I got a good one for $100.00 plus shipping totaling $132.00. It has open tuners.
    S/N#: CY140709816, Black finish with three layered pick guard in white.
    I like it. I’m not a pro and I play a guitar mostly so the bass is just a diversion. It’s all good enough for me. I don’t really go out much in public to play. It’s used and has a few belt buckle nicks that don’t bother me at all.

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