The Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal: One to Many, Many to One

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The Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal: One to Many, Many to One

I’m a musician and a recording artist. I’ve always been in search of new ways to make sound with my instruments – and new ways to record unique and fulfilling sounds from many different types of instruments. Some things one tries when searching for new sounds is to use effects pedals, another might be using different tubes in a pre-amp or amplifier. There are nice upgrades in guitars, basses, gear, and rack-mounted gear that really change your sound.

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But sometimes, something VERY simple comes along that lets you truly turn your playing and recording on ear. The little tank-built Morley ABC Switch box is a surprisingly versatile tool that really makes your setups incredibly flexible and easy-to-change. This review is about my journeys with my four-year-old Morley ABC boxes (I am buying a second one this week!) and the wonderful things they’ve brought me.

You can see more information about the Morley ABC Switch box here at zZounds, my favorite internet gear seller (my sponsor, too). If you click here and buy stuff, I can write more reviews!

Quick Opinion

Buy one or two after you read this review. You’ll be VERY glad you did!
I am not hard on my gear – but I do use what I own. And when I brought the Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal into my life, it became something I use EVERY day. It started with being a way I could play through three amp stacks at once – and then it evolved into a recording tour de force for my home studio. WOW. Amazing, simple, durable, quiet, efficient, well-made, inexpensive, and downright fun!

Please read on: I’ll tell you why I took the time to write this review and to help spread the word for this wonderful little box from a strong instrument gear brand!

Durability and Ease of Use

I bought my first Morley ABC Switch Box Pedal out of necessity. I wanted to have a few different amps in the house (and later the garage), and I didn’t want to have to have redundant pedal setups or spend time playing with cables when I wanted to go from my Marshall to my Fender to my VOX. As time went on, I was even experimenting with combinations of one, a pair, or all three. This little box makes it all just a click away!

Durability? My first Morley ABC Switch Pedal sat in the garage for a couple of years, with little climate control and LOTS of use from LOTS of different players. Just bring in your instrument (bass or guitar or ?), plug it in to the right-most ¼-inch jack, click a few stomp buttons and you get lots of different amp sounds all at once!

Want to see more about this awesome pedal at the Morley site? Click here.

It’s only a quick change to have three instruments punching down to one amp (not something I recommend very often, folks!) – and all the pushing, pulling, stepping, re-wiring that went on with that little blue Morley box was amazing. In the recording arena, I often have signal that’s 3-to-1 or 1-to-3 when it comes to computer input gear (read below), signal chains, and more. And it still looks almost new, and it works FLAWLESSLY in its fifth year!; This little metal stomp box is amazingly durable. it has taken everything that has been thrown at it and it still is the quietest (heavy-duty metal push-push switch-noise wise) stomp box I’ve ever owned and still to this day creates no discernible circuit noise.

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It’s incredibly easy to use. You have three switchable ¼-inch jacks, A, B, and C. You have one 1 ¼-inch jack on the right-most side of the pedal. The pedal doesn’t care if you want three ins to one out or three outs from one in. It works flawlessly in both directions.

Believe it or not, you can easily daisy-chain more than one of these little ABC boxes and do some pretty amazing things without any discernible signal loss. Just draw your ideal setup on paper, follow the cables with your diagram, and Poof! Many-to-Many signal chains!

Price and Quality

The price of this little blue Morley ABC Switch Pedal stomp box is one of the easiest parts of this review. They’re less than $100 US in most retail outlets. It’s worth every cent and will last pretty much until the next EON (YMMV). The price is definitely just right, although five years later I would probably be just as happy had I paid $125 US or so back then. It’s flawless.

Quality? The Morley ABC Switch Box stomp pedal is made strong enough to withstand the heavy stompers of some local metal-music heads that have used it. It has withstood HUGE temperature fluctuations, endured well-below-freezing temperatures and well above 100 F degree temperatures. it has withstood LOTS of drops (from six feet or so). it has been slammed around in pedal cases, trunks, hatchbacks, and on stages. It has been around cat fur and garage dust and high humidity and low humidity. After a simple wipe-down, it looks almost new, and it BEHAVES as if it was just brand new!

The Morley ABC Switch Box stomp pedal is my OFFICIAL switcher box. I’m good to go for a lifetime with mine!

It really does help me if you click on a sponsored link and buy your gear from my favorite vendor zZounds… Click here to find great gear to feed your GAS!

How have I used mine?

Interestingly enough, the Morley ABC Pedal truly is only limited by your imagination in the ways it can be used. I’ve used mine for two very specific purposes (mainly): playing through 1, 2, or 3 amps (in different combinations) from one guitar at a time (this gives LOTS of tonal variations!); and creating signal/effects/pre-amp chains that send the signal from one guitar through different chains to different inputs in computer recording input devices hosting multiple ¼-inch mono inputs.

In the early days of using my Morley ABC Switch Box, I primarily used it to experiment with and enjoy playing through multiple amps at once. I often played through combinations of a Marshall, VOX, and Fender amps, each with its own pedals and signal chain. It’s amazing what you can do. In addition, when playing one of my Rickenbackers with Ric-o-sound, I was able to have one output jack going to the Morley and the other going to yet a fourth amp.

It’s amazing what you can do with a few amps in your garage, a Morley ABC switch, and pedals with multiple outputs. Here’s a fun one: Guitar in; A to a Marshall with no effects, just clean gain; B to a Fender solid state with a pedal setup signal chained; C to an Electro-Harmonix Sitar pedal with the primary out to my old VOX and the Sympathetic output to yet a fourth amp, an Egnater tube amp I used to own. WOW. Imagine the multiplicity of chorus, phase, special features, and amp sounds coming from one guitar all at once!

More recently, I’ve been using my Morley ABC Switch stomp pedal to broaden and enrich my recordings from my electric instruments. I’ve got two rack-mounted multi-channel computer interfaces and three small effects chains, with three channels running through NICE tubes in good tube preamps. I plug the guitar into the Morley ABC, and A goes through lots of pedals to one tube preamp channel, B goes through a Seymour Duncan Pickup booster pedal to another tube preamp channel, and C goes through a funky old Danelectro chorus pedal into a tube compressor and preamp rackmounted device. All three go to the back of one or both of my computer input channels. Sometimes, to throw in some spice, I have two-channel pedals in my chain: Since my computer input devices are 8+ ¼-inch mono input channels, I actually have the second output of my chorus pedals and my Sitar pedal all feeding to the inputs. In some setups, I’ve got 7 individual channeled inputs from my guitar into my recording.

Most of the time, I’m just running one or two channels through my good tubes for the recordings. It is awesome, however, to make entirely new sounds in my recordings with the simple click (or three) of my Morley ABC Switch.

There are other great Morley products, too! Click here to see lots more at zZounds! They guarantee you’ll love your gear!

There’s another useful way (of the many) to use a Morley ABC: One ¼ instrument input going out to two amps with A and B, C going to a tuner pedal or tuner rack component. The tuner can be on all the time without causing any signal interruptions or noise in the actual amplified channels. Nice!

Wishes and Wants

Honestly, I don’t think I have any wishes and wants on this gear: the Morley ABC Switch Box stomp pedal is JUST RIGHT and is the F-150, the Cadillac, and the Mercedes of stomp-switchers. I like it just like it is.

The STARFISH and STARFISH+ Sturdy Gurdy Instrument Stands Review

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The D&A Guitar Gear STARFISH and STARFISH+ Sturdy Gurdy Instrument Stands Review

I’m a musician and a professional recording artist, as well as a guitar and bass gear enthusiast. Needless to say, instrument stands have been a staple of my life for as long as I’ve been actively playing guitars, basses, dulcimers, mandos, and more. When one is first starting out, often it is a bit extra money to go ahead and get a stand with one’s early/first purchases. We often skimp on cases and stands because we’re focused on the expense of one’s first instruments. With that said, if we continue past the beginner’s stage with our instruments, we find that certain accessories really become requirements. Stands are no exception. One only has to snap the neck on a guitar once to get an idea that leaning the guitar against an amp or on the couch/bed/chair is not the greatest idea we’ve had. Cases become important for storage purposes, but stands serve a far more daily important use.

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As a recording and performing professional, stands serve three primary purposes in my world: someplace (hopefully safe) to place/hang the guitar while I use the computer, the rack gear, or walk away from the recording desk/jamming rug for a few minutes; a very convenient place to leave out my “current” guitars out of their cases so I’m inspired to pick them up and play them whenever I get a spare moment; and an easy-access place to arrange my instruments when I’m doing a gig ( I don’t currently gig often, but this is still a consideration).

For me as an individual, I see two kinds of stands – the basic tubed variety, and the “sturdy stand.” I used the inexpensive foam-covered tubular metal stands (often selling between $9.99 and $19.99) very early on in my career as my primary stand because they were first and foremost affordable. I used these stands almost exclusively because I didn’t think the more expensive sturdy stands were really all that big a deal.

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Stands weren’t all that big a deal a decade ago – until one of my favorite Jazz Box guitars teetered off one of the tube stands and snapped at the headstock. At the point of the broken neck on my Artcore, that $9.99 stand became a VERY expensive stand. Since my transition to only sturdy stands (active and passive), I’ve not had an instrument fall off a stand since…

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For this review, I’d like to tell you about a wonderful type of sturdy stand I’ve had the pleasure of using for the past many months: The D&A STARFISH stands. I’ve hung LOTS of different kinds of guitars, basses, and other instruments on these particular stands and am VERY pleased. Read on to find out more…

Quick Opinion

Both STARFISH instrument stands are very strong contenders in the sturdy stand market! I wouldn’t hesitate to buy more.
I’ve been using sturdy stands from three prominent stand manufacturers for about the last 7 years. The first one was a major expense for my limited budget at $100 (street) – but in the end proved to be a worthwhile investment (I still have that particular stand). Sturdy stands hold the guitar better than tube stands; and they do a better job of supporting the weight of the guitar. These multi-footed broad-based sturdy stands make the possibility of a fall much less likely. The footing and weight of the sturdy stand world is significantly more substantial than the traditional $10 tube stand. And they are worth every cent more…

My STARFISH and STARFISH+ Active stands are the latest in my now fairly large set of sturdy stands. Both my STARFISH stands have held priceless guitars and cheap guitars alike, and are both in daily, non-stop use. If there was something (even small) that I didn’t like about them, they would never hold my #1 LP Traditional or my Hummingbird acoustic or my Brother’s Blondie (#5) Telecaster Deluxe (just to name three of my most important guitars).

I do not hesitate to put my favorite instruments in my STARFISH and STARFISH+ stands – particularly the STARFISH+ Active stand. I’m quite fond of them and would recommend them to any player, whether they are just starting out or are a seasoned decades-long musician.

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Please read my stand safety note at the bottom of this review.

Durability and Ease of Use

The STARFISH Passive and STARFISH+ Active stands are VERY sturdy. They are VERY well-planted. On my short-pile rug, the stands do pretty well. The stand’s materials feel solid and well-done. My two stands have been in VERY active use for many months and still look brand new. All the joints still work great, despite being carted about and thrown into the boots of cars and wagons. The surfaces still have their coating on them, and even the soft surfaces still feel even and well-made. I have not found a crack or flaw in either of my STARFISH stands at this point.

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I’m not overly rough with my gear, even down to the stands, strap, and picks I use. I like my things to last, so I do tend to be reasonable with my gear. With that said, guitar stands get knocked around A LOT when they’re put in trunks or closets or attics or even put out on the floor with a bunch of active musicians. I must say, both my STARFISH stands have held up VERY well. I’m quite pleased with them!

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StarfishPassiveYokeThe STARFISH Passive stand is very easy to use: just take the instrument by its neck, and place it into the STARFISH’s yoke. Make sure you’ve got it in the right place and let it go. With instruments long enough to touch the padding on the five sturdy legs, just put the guitar close to the padding as you release and the instrument nestles nicely against the padding on the front two legs. For smaller instruments like mandolins, dulcimers, and violins, just hang the instrument carefully from its scroll-stock and let go (with short instruments with ANY yoke stand if you “drop” it into the yoke at an angle and let go, it will swing and touch or hit the main rod of the stand. Whether or not the main rod is padded, short instruments can get dented if you are careless with your instrument.

StarfishActiveLockingHeadYokeThe STARFISH+ Active stand is a breeze, and adds an additional layer of instrument security for a nominal extra cost. The overall stand setup of the STARFISH+ is like that of the STARFISH. The biggest difference is the active, self-closing yoke in the STARFISH+ Active. This stand is weight-activated such that a clear pair of “pincers” runs around the neck of your instrument and makes a closed loop under your headstock/scroll-stock. I like this additional security because it is less likely that the instrument can be knocked out of the stand by running cats, dogs, rabid fans, or children. Although nothing is perfect, this is a really great stand technique – put the instrument down and it automatically puts its sleeves around the neck. VERY NICE. The diameter of the sleeve/pincers is pretty big around. I’ve put many different basses and guitars (both acoustic and electric) in my STARFISH+ stand with great results.

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Price

The price of the STARFISH and STARFISH+ in USD is extremely comparable with its competitors from Ultimate and Hercules. The two STARFISH stands are a very strong contender in this market space. I would definitely consider the price point on STARFISHes when making a decision to buy an Active stand or Passive hang-yolk stand.

You can take a look at the STARFISH and STARFISH+ stands here at the Heydna site: http://www.heydna.com/. The stands are available at major retailers, on Amazon.com, and through the http://www.heydna.com/collections/all store site.

How about this for great?

Some instruments aren’t all that great for working with almost any guitar stand. The STARFISH+ Active stand works with several difficult-to-fit instruments in my library:
• The STARFISH+ is the ONLY stand that I have ever used that will hold my double-neck B.C. Rich guitar. It is sturdy, doesn’t rock left and right, and actually holds the guitar in such a way as to not put undue stress on the neck that is in the yolk. In my case, when my double-neck is not in its case, it hangs by the 12-string neck in the STARFISH+
• Few active guitar stands hold old-school (narrow-headstock) Telecasters very well. Some active guitar stands actually don’t close up enough to hold a Tele at all. The STARFISH and STARFISH+ both hold my Teles quite well.
• The STARFISH+ does a fantastic job holding banana-headstock guitars like Explorers.
• My STARFISH+ comfortably holds my Wonderful vintage Maggie Valley (North Carolina) wormy-maple sweetheart lap dulcimer – even with its odd scroll-stock!

 

A note about instrument safety and instrument stand safety

An instrument stand is only as good as the way it is used. If one is careless about placing an instrument in a stand it is likely that accidents will occur with any stand type or brand. There are always environments where stands can’t protect our instruments – even the really good ones like STARFISH stands. As we move on stage or have kids and animals (is there a difference? 😉 ) bolting through the room, we stand a chance to knock over even the best of stands.
Some tips:
• Always place your stand on as flat a surface as possible
• Always place your stand out of the middle of the high-traffic paths of the room
• Always take the extra three seconds to put the instrument in the sand and make sure it’s all the way in the stand and properly positioned – even active stands can’t do their job when the instrument is thrown carelessly into the stand’s yoke
• Make sure you have a firm grasp on the instrument as you place it into the stand or retrieve it from the stand

In our liability-driven world, I must make a disclaimer: use guitar stands at your own risk. I am not endorsing any particular stand or any particular method of using a stand with your priceless instrument. Ultimately, you are responsible for what happens to your instrument.

The Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass Review – Sleek, Slender, Seductive, Sonorous!

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The Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass Review – Sleek, Slender, Seductive, Sonorous!
Fender Jazz Basses were proposed by the founders of Fender Musical Instruments as the “deluxe bass.” The wonderful P/Precision bass was making the scene for electric bass applications all over the world – and Fender wanted to wow the world again with a new design: a new way of thumpin’ the house!

The Jazz bass was introduced, with its slinky offset body, simpler and (on some models) slenderer neck at the nut, and its two powerful single coil pickups. Where the original P bass gave us thunder and thump, the Jazz gave us something new: GROWL with the thump and the boom!

The Aerodyne bass was introduced a few years back as an alternative, more comfortable, and even a little more versatile Jazz bass – made by the master craftspeople of Fender Japan. It got sexy flatter smoother edges, body binding, a color-matched headstock, and a pair of pickups: one Jazz, one Precision.

I love the Fender Aerodyne. I’m getting ready to buy my third – I’ve missed the ones I’ve sold in the past and it is time to put that sound back in my recordings!
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Quick Opinion:
If you’ve played Jazz basses before, you’ll remember the wonderful offset feel of that big body and monster scale neck (but with the easy slim-width neck at the nut). It’s nice to have that big monster thumpin’ out the sound. But when you pick up an Aerodyne for the first time, you think: Wow, that’s comfortable! And, you get that nice P/J pickup combination that suits even more playing styles – thunder, thump, growl, or all three!

I love this bass. As I go through instruments for my recordings, one thing I always find myself looking forward to is the chance to play an Aerodyne again. I like the simple basic Jazz, whether it’s standard, American, Special, Deluxe, or even Squier J: but the Aerodyne has a special place in my heart.

When my mom’s dad died many years back, a little extra cash came my way as a gift from him: This funded my very first Aerodyne Jazz. It was named “Charlie” (granddad’s name), and it served me well! I would love to still have that particular Aerodyne. It was the bomb.

Looking for a versatile full-scale bass that really sounds great and is probably the most comfortable bass in the business? The Aerodyne might just be for you!
The Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass is rockin’ at zZounds! My Sponsor and favorite Vendor!

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Features:
Compared with the Fender Standard Jazz Bass, the Aerodyne is a “deluxe” when it comes to features. It has the general feel and appearance of a typical Jazz, but the sleek and slender body is a real plus: and the alternative pickup combination is a really nice change-up from the everyday Jazz.

At the risk of being a bit simplistic: This bass is a REAL sleeper in the Fender backline!

The CIJ Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass is interesting and different in many ways from its other Fender cousins:
* The US issues have black bodies with a matching black headstock (Japan and possibly other countries also have a nice wine color and possibly others)
* Basswood body for somewhat lighter shoulder-hanging
* Urethane black paint with cream/antique color binding on the body
* Maple neck with a satin urethane finish
* A rosewood fretboard that’s stained darker to match the overall black appearance of the bass
* A 7.25″ fingerboard radius
* 1.5″ nut width
* Smokey dark chrome metal appointments
* A four-saddle bridge
* A Fender Standard Jazz single coil pickup in the bridge position
* A Fender Standard Precision single/split coil pickup in the middle position
* A front-of-the body Strat-style input jack and plate
* No pickguard and no fretboard markers (there are dots on the top side of the neck)

I am not only an affiliate of zZounds, I’m a major fan and customer. I really like their zZounds Guarantee “30 days to try out your dream guitar.”
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Playability
As a guitar player and a bass player, I love the way it feels to pick up different instruments and enjoy the differences between the character of each instrument. Some artists love an instrument to be the same all the time, others like variety. I’m in the second camp. With that said, the Fender Deluxe Aerodyne Jazz Bass is a REAL treat to play, even for those who like to play one instrument and stick with it. They’re a real bargain and a real value – one that’s so playable it makes you forget that your fingers are dancing over a huge long piece of wood with telephone pole wires (how a guitar teacher once described “playing bass”) strung on the front.
I do like the Fender Jazz Bass in general: zZounds has a way you can buy your gear and fall in love with it – with a money-back guarantee…

The Aerodyne Jazz is easy to play. It has that “Stratty” feel to the body shape, yet its slenderness helps you forget that the Jazz is much larger than a Stratocaster in every way. The neck is divine, the body feels good against the skin, and the satin-ish finish of the back of the neck is easy on the fretting paw when you’re sweating up a storm on stage (or even in a studio).
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Sound
Here’s a great thing (among many) about the Fender Aerodyne Bass: The sound is fantastic and is pretty flexible.

There’s one master tone knob that controls tone output to the jack, and one volume knob each for the two pickup assemblies. You use the two volume knobs as a blender mechanism – thus no need of a pickup selector switch. Want more growl and highs? Turn up the bridge Jazz Bass pickup. Want less highs and more warm thump? Turn down the bridge a good bit and turn up the Precision pickup set all the way. Want both? Just turn them both to 11!

If you purchase a new Fender at zZounds, qualified buyers can even play as they play with the 12 month select brands (new guitars only) payment plan.
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Fit and Finish
Seriously? The Fender Aerodyne Jazz is one of the best made Jazz basses on the market and easily one of the best basses I’ve played of any brand. I am very peculiar about the sensory experience of my bass guitars (sound, smell, look, AND feel). The Aerodyne never disappoints! The neck finish is just right: not too slick and not too grabby.

The neck fits great, the wiring is simple and well-done, the overall finish of the bass is clean and simple, and the Aerodynes I’ve played have all been made with consistency that is enviable in the manufacturing world. The finish of my most recent Aerodyne had no orange peel, no spray knots near the neck pocket, and was hard as a rock and slick as new glass. Very nice!

A killer combination: A Fender Aerodyne Jazz playing through a genuine Fender amplifier is a lifetime of great tone and sound – bringing up the Backline for ages to ages in the future!

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Wishes and Wants
I love the Aerodyne as it is. The only thing I’d love to see is Olympic white and a great metallic candy apple red version here in the US…
Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the Wonderful Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass – click here! (Visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! It makes a difference when you visit my sponsor and grab some great gear.)

The Fender Fretless Standard Jazz Bass – A Review of a Timeless Sound in the Hands

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The Fender Standard Fretless Jazz Bass Review – Warm Bassy Goodness. Can you say “MWAH?”

Into each bass player’s life a little fretless should come. For many of us, when we lay our hands on it for the first time, we never stop thinking about which tunes would sound great with the ultra-warm mwah of a fretless bass with great googly-moogly flatwound strings (tape, metal, whatever sounds best to you). I went on a journey of discovery in 2006 after playing a fretless Fender Jazz for the first time (I had been tinkering with bass playing on and off since I was a teenager.) I felt strongly enough about the importance of a fretless in my sound library that I went to great lengths to order a special one from Fender. My Fender was special in that it was a 2006 diamond anniversary edition, and that they put together one with the color I liked (none of the online dealers offered Oly white at the time – although Olympic white has been offered off-and-on over the years prior and since). I received my new, freshly-assembled Jazz pretty quickly and took it home to play.

FenderFretlessJazzBassFretlessDetailByJimPearson

What followed was nothing short of revolutionary and enlightening.

My Fender Fretless MIM Jazz came with a lovely buffed and polished flat rosewood fretboard, a slick and (really) perfect Olympic white poly candy shell, great basic MIM electronics, and those heavenly Fender flatwound Jazz strings. zZounds offers the Fender Fretless Jazz at a competitive price. Read here for more details and specs. Shameless plug alert… The gig bag was thin and light, but it got the bass to my house in the factory box OK. If you’re not worried about the finish of your Jazz, the gig bag makes an excellent strong carry bag. NOTE: Some current models may not come with a Fender gig bag. I was happy enough with my Jazz that I went out and bought a Fender plastic hard shell case for it. The setup was pretty impressive, the intonation was decent and the string height was about where I’ve kept it in the years since.

The Fender Fretless Jazz bass is a bargain, an excellent player, and a permanent fixture in my sonic library. Here’s why:

Quick Opinion: The Fender Fretless Jazz bass is an extremely well-made instrument with a great sound for everyday playing and recording. The body is that excellent rounded-corner easy-on-the-body-and-arm shape, with a standard long-scale reach and traditional old-school Jazz controls. It plays effortlessly, sounds great, and is a bargain in the grander scheme of basses.
FenderFretlessJazzBassBodyBackByJimPearson

There aren’t a lot of low-to-mid cost fretless basses out there in the new-instrument market… so the market is a bit limited for profitability’s sake. With that said, I think it is important that quality instruments remain in the retail stream with an on-going view into the market. Bass players will often (at least) try fretless basses during the maturation of their skills. With some, fretless guitars and basses are a curiosity, with others, there is a need to get that “upright bass fiddle” sound in some situations. Still, with others, a fretless is the only way to go! (Jaco Pastorius, anyone?) I am glad Fender continues to produce MIM- and USA-made Fretless Jazz basses. I know I will be holding on to “Polar” as long as I have hands to hold it.

Here’s a quick breakdown of this particular guitar’s features:
* Rosewood fretboard
* Thin light-colored strips in the fret locations for those of us who still have to look at the fretboard (;-))
* Everyday Jazz MIM electronics and pickups
* Poly paint offered in several opaque colors (varies from year to year)
* Reliable open-gear butterbean large-button tuners
* Factory-issued Fender Flatwound strings

zZounds has satisfaction guarantees – I have received excellent sales and service from them for my own guitars. I’ve bought a lot of my gear from them. Shameless plug to help me keep the site going: if you buy stuff from them, it helps me write more reviews!

FenderFretlessJazzBassBodyFrontByJimPearson

Sound: Part of the Fender Fretless Jazz sound is its strings and fretless-ness, part of the sound is the guitar’s materials and workmanship. You can put cheap round-wound strings on your fretless and get cheap sounds with an ability to play glissandos and scoops – and the guitar will do its best to sound like a traditional Fender jazz. You can put high-end tape-based flatwounds on the fretless and it will sound like a million bucks. The pickups are “vintage” strength and sound as they should, if a little quiet for low-powered solid-state amps and DI applications.
On the whole, the Fender Fretless Jazz sounds great. Here is more detail…

Here are some of the components of the Fretless Jazz sound:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, neck woods
3) Strings and fretboard/fingerboard

Pickups and Electronics: Opening the Fretless Jazz’s cavity shows a pair of ceramic-magnet single-coil Fender Jazz pickups, standard CTS-type potentiometers, a basic burgundy-colored chicklet tone capacitor, and a Switchcraft jack. The pickups are wired in parallel, and each has its own volume control. There is a master tone control on the circuit.

The pickups are low-output vintage-sounding pickups. The Jazz allows you to blend the sound of the pickups by turning one and/or the other down/up with its individual volume control. There is no pickup-selector switch – the volume control gives you flexibility and dial-in sound. I played my Fretless Jazz with wiring as-is for the first 5 years I owned it. I’ve used it for countless recordings and small gigs, so I can attest that it really sounds like a nice traditional Jazz sound. I have found that great 15″ speaker cabinet(s) and a tube pre-amp REALLY bring this bass to life. If you’d like to record with it, I recommend finding a nice tube pre-amp to put in between your bass and the DI or computer recording interface. My recordings are so much warmer with tubes in-line.

As a side note, after 5 years, I did decide to do a little upgrading… I wired in a series/parallel switch and installed a factory pair of genuine Fender “Original Jazz Bass” Alnico pickups. The factory sound of my Jazz was awesome. My re-worked Jazz is now a real tour-de-force for rock, funk, jazz, classical, and new age.

FenderFretlessJazzBassHeadstockBackByJimPearson

Tone and Neck woods: Here’s a bit of something that most bass players might find interesting: Fender doesn’t list the body tonewood for its MIM Jazz basses in its on-site specs any more. I am not an authority on this, but I suspect that this gives Fender the flexibility to use the tonewoods it chooses (without having to update specs or guarantee content). Most Jazzes I’ve seen with materials listed were either alder or basswood. (Note that many special edition or FSR Jazz basses will state explicitly that they have ash bodies – my favorite.)

For the Fender Fretless Jazz bass, I think that either the alder or basswood body types sound great. I don’t actually know what wood my Oly White Fretless Jazz has as its body. I just know that I like the sound of it. I have known and heard of Fretless Jazz players who buy a bass with the neck they like and search out a specific body wood and color, then put the two together in a sort of a FrankenJazz (JazzenStein?). I can understand doing this… but know that if you “just want to have a great sounding bass that’s fretless”, the factory Fender Jazz bass is awesome.

The neck: The neck is a nice hard maple one-piece chunk of wood with that awesome narrow Jazz nut width. It feels great, it transfers string sound great, and is a pleasure to play. Fender takes care to create a great 9.5″ radius rosewood fretboard for the player. The surface is buffed to an almost shiny extent on most of these I’ve played. Mine looks as though it has been coated (although it hasn’t). It feels awesome, is pleasing to the touch, and is a real joy to play.

Strings and Fretboard/Fingerboard Most (not ALL) manufacturers ship their fretless basses with flatwound stainless or nickel strings – Fender is no exception. There are two primary reasons for using flatwounds (or tape-wounds) on a fretless.
1) The sound: the sound is the reason for the season, the color of the sky, the raison d’ etre. Flatwounds lend themselves to bass sounds in general, but really make the sound of a fretless Jazz.
2) Fingerboard life: On fretted basses, round-wound strings are pretty rough on the steel/nickel frets. Active bass players who use round-wounds on their basses will always see divots in their fret wires after a time – it is a fact of life in the life of most basses. Fret metal is pretty tough stuff: imagine what it would do to the much softer wood of a fingerboard. Using round-wounds on a fretless bass might give you a sound you are after, but doing so will definitely carve grooves in your fretboard. If you choose to go with cheap round-wounds to save money, you will end up with a chewed-up fingerboard.

The rosewood fingerboard offers a rich feel and sound experience that most players find enjoyable. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, the excellent fingerboard is an integral part of the experience and sound.

Fender Fretless Jazz Headstock frontby Jim Pearson

Playability I’ve played many different manufacturers’ fretless basses, both acoustic and electric. I must say that my experience with my Jazz is the most enjoyable and memorable. It’s predictable, easy-to play for anyone that can reach a 34″ scale bass neck, and even works with those with small hands. The neck is just right. The body is just right. The fretboard is invisible to my hands – I just let the music flow from my soul to my ears through this bass.

For those of us (like me) who still feel insecure when we play a fretless – and want to nail the intonation of a note from the finger attack, the lines for the fret markers are awesome. They take the crazy out of “where is C#?”. On one hand, the lines are a crutch – I encourage you to learn to play the neck without looking at it – on the other hand, the lines are comforting. I’d rather have them there than not – but if I played every day for a living, I’d learn the fretboard without my eyes. Let the music flow from your mind and soul and build up muscle and music memory…

zZounds has a good selection of fretless Jazz basses, including the Standard (MIM) Fretless Jazz.

Quality: My Fender Jazz Fretless Bass was made extremely well. The neck pocket is pretty decent, the finish of all the items is flawless, the components feel and sound good. What’s not to like?

I have found the tuners to be reliable and solid. The finish on the neck and body are both excellent. The fretboard is awesome. The wiring was clean and well-done. The bridge placement was nearly spot-on. The pickups sounded just as they should. Over all, I have not found an issue with my bass in 6 years.
FenderFretlessJazzBassPickupBridgeDetailByJimPearson

Value: Fender’s Fretless Standard MIM Jazz bass is underpriced. The street price of the Fender Fretless Standard Jazz is less than East-Asian-made fretted basses from a variety of manufacturers. The quality, however, is well above those same basses. The MIM Standard Jazz Fretless is comparable to something that would be like an American Special in overall quality – but at a price that is actually pretty low. Whether you buy a new Fender fretless or buy one on the used market, they are a bargain. Really.

If I were blind-pricing Fender’s Standard Jazz Fretless compared to $799 Chinese basses from some of the popular mass-market makers, I’d say this bass should street-price at the same level or a little more.

Fender Fretless Jazz Fretboard by Jim Pearson

Wishes: I wish there was a maple fretboard version – I have no idea if it would sound different, but when I see Fender, I think maple fretboard. It would be nice to continue to offer traditional colors such as Olympic White, Black, and Wine.