The Gloriously Insanely Wonderful Fender Classic Player Baja Guitar Review

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Gloriously Insanely Wonderful Fender Classic Player Baja Guitar Review
I have had a few Telecasters in my life, from Chinese Squiers to American Deluxes to almost everything in between (including baritones and even a few oddball parts-o-Teles). I’ve always loved them, and I always seem to be able to come out with a great tune every time I sit down and play Tele time.

I discovered the Baja Tele while shopping for a mid-priced Tele at my local big-box guitar store. I was blown away and even more surprised when I looked at the specs vs. the price: Ash, custom shop pickups and wiring, V neck, smooth tuners, great finishes, and that wonderful Telecaster sound and playability. Wow!
FenderBajaHeadstockFront

Quick Opinion:
Looking for a mid-priced Telecaster (or even just a mid-priced single cutaway electric)? Shop no further. Proceed forth to your favorite purveyor of guitars and buy one before they stop making these!

Just do it. They’re wonderful!

The Fender Classic Player Baja is not currently available at zZounds, but they do have a great selection of Telecasters!

FenderBajaControlsDetail1

Features:
Telecasters are (in general) quite simple. As I’ve said in previous reviews of Telecasters, I’d call them “simple genius.” They sound great, they’re possibly the easiest-to-play guitar available, and they have a sound that can go country, blues, praise, punk, rock, and even new age (with some pedals thrown in). Throw the switch, play the strings, and BOOM – classic sound. From Buck Owens to Bruce Springsteen to Brad Paisley to Jonny Lang and a host of others: The Telecaster has been the axe of the ages.

As Telecasters go, the Fender Classic Player’s Baja Telecaster is quite feature-rich. The features of this guitar, along with its awesome build quality, are easily one of its strongest areas.

A short list of my favorite parts of the Baja Telecaster:
* Solid ash body (my FAVORITE Fender guitar body wood!)
* Vintage-style 3-saddle Strings-Thru-Body Tele Bridge (one either loves the three-saddle or dislikes them. I’m neutral)
* Maple neck and fingerboard with soft “V” shape and satin polyester finish (one of the nicest Tele necks ever made!)
* Custom Shop Designed” neck plate
* 21 Medium Jumbo Frets
* Custom Shop “Twisted” Tele Single-Coil (Neck)
* Custom Shop Broadcaster Single-Coil (Bridge)
* Pickup Switching: 4-Position Blade Switch and 2-Position Push/Push S-1:
* Vintage Style 3-Saddle Strings-Thru-Body Tele Bridge
* Vintage Style Tuning Machines – these are smoother and often easier than the new-school Ping tuners, in my opinion…
* 9.5″ Fingerboard radius
* Scale Length – 25.5″
* Width at Nut – 1.625″

For the money, these are FEATURE PACKED and one the nicest-playing Telecasters made (next to my 2006 American Deluxe Tele).
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.”

FenderBajaBodyBack

Playability
I love the soft V neck. It’s awesome. The honey neck finish is superb on the hands, whether your hands are sweaty and hot or dry and cool – the neck is a true JOY to play and experience.

If you play the Baja Telecaster and really give the neck a shot, you’ll be hooked. Telecasters with much more expensive necks often don’t feel as good as these. Like the Fender Jimmie Vaughan Stratocaster, these are some of the best “sleeper” products in the Fender line. You’ll come for the sound and stay for the playability!

The body: it’s a rounded-edge Telecaster. They feel like they feel, they play like they play. In my opinion, the medium-weight, balanced ash body and maple neck are just fine.
I do like the Telecaster in general: zZounds has a way you can buy your gear and fall in love with it – with a money-back guarantee…
FenderBajaFrontFull

Sound
The pickups are diverse, the switching options are awesome, and the quality of the electronics is outstanding. There’s so very much to these simple pickups and wiring – much more than meets the eye. I’ve been able to over-drive the pickups of my Baja and get some of the nastiest dirtiest blues imaginable, then change amps or models and get sweet twangy single-jangly-coily-ness in just a few seconds. The Baja Telecaster is VERY versatile and truly meets and exceeds expectations in the sound department.

Even if you’re not looking for that “spanky” Tele sound, set up some tubes or an amp model that gets to rockin’ and you’ll love the way it sounds!

The nice density of the ash body is a great alternative to the everyday Fender alder body – and it makes a nice difference if you’re looking for a more “singing” sound… I love ash woods, even on other brands of guitars – and the Fender Baja Telecaster is no exception.

The Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster offers wonderful electronics flexibility. Tons of different sounds from just two “custom shop” pickups!
* S-1 Switch Up:
** Position 1. Bridge Pickup
** Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups (In Parallel)
** Position 3. Neck Pickup (Standard Tele)
** Position 4. Neck and Bridge Pickups (In Series) (Fatter Tone Than Position 2. and More Output Than Position 1., 2., or 3.)
* S-1 Switch Down:
** Position 1. Bridge Pickup
** Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups (In Parallel)-Out of Phase
** Position 3. Neck Pickup (Standard Tele)
** Position 4. Neck and Bridge Pickups (In Series) Out of Phase
FenderBajaHeadstockBack
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.

Fit and Finish
I’ve had two (soon to be three) Bajas over the years since there introduction. Without doubt, the quality is a 10 out of 10. The build, the fit and finish, the quality of the electronics, the neck pocket fit, and the feel and finish of the neck are all just awesome. I’ve not picked up a single Baja that had a glaring issue (even those hanging out at guitar stores for long periods of time).

I could write a volume or two about how well built my Bajas have been, but really, they would just say, “These things are built by real craftspeople who obviously love their instruments and the way they make their instruments.” They’re great. I have never had a complaint about a single one.
Talk about legendary tone! A Fender Baja Telecaster playing through a genuine Fender amplifier is a lifetime of great tone and sound!

Wishes and Wants
I do wish this was offered in both of the blondes (the butterscotch and the sand). Not much of a gripe, or even a complaint. I just love the old school butterscotch blonde look on a Tele with a black pickguard and a maple neck. Thank you, Leo!

I do wish these could come with an optional six-saddle bridge for those of us who are really critical about our tuning. If that’s the worst of it though, that’s not bad! Besides, the tone on the three-saddle bridge actually makes up for the intonation thing!
Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the Wonderful Fender Telecaster – click here! (Visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! It makes a difference when you visit my sponsor and grab some great gear.)
FenderBajaBodyFront

The Gibson MIII Limited Edition HSH 24-Fret Magnificent Monster Electric Guitar Review

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Gibson MIII Radical Reissue Reinvented Electric Guitar Review
One of the staples of recording electric guitar is to have an array of guitars that can make many different sounds without having to unplug and get a different instrument to do it. The MIII is just such a guitar – a tone machine. I like being able to sit down with it and a set of ideas, crank up the tubes and the recording world, and get down to business while the mood and inspiration are hot.

miii1

My MIII fits the bill nicely. I recommend one if you’d like a great neck and versatile sound coupled with the rock-solid tuning stability of a double-locking Floyd Rose-equipped guitar.

Quick Opinion:
I have been looking forward to writing this review. There’s a lot to say! One of the first things that struck me when I unboxed my MIII for the first time was the cool finish. It is very much like the old-car-metallic-poly (yes, it’s lacquer, I’m speaking of ‘look’) appearance of my Gibson Elliot Easton Tiki Bird Firebird… Mine is a RADIANT orange color with the look of the grain under a clear coat. It looks deep, it’s much cooler than other metallic finishes I’ve seen.

My Orange Glow Gibson MIII plays easily, sounds fantastic, and is a pleasure to hold whether sitting or standing. It sounds great, it feels good (like an Explorer’s neck on a double-cutaway body) with stay-in-tune-the-whole-day kind of playability. Nice!
miii4
I think if you’re looking for a shreddy guitar, a quick-playing in-tuning whammying guitar, and want a set neck with a maple fretboard, this is THE choice! More details? Read on for more…
There are customer reviews and more specs for the MIII available here at zZounds.

Features:
The Gibson MIII is very feature-rich with a ton of great specs.
* Nice double-cutaway mahogany body
* Excellent maple neck with maple fretboard, with a profile something like an Explorer with a reversed “Explorer banana” headstock
* 21 degree radius on the fretboard – very comfortable and natural in the hands for bends
* 24 fret heaven – hit that ultra-high E with ease!
* A Floyd Rose bridge and locking nut combination – if only most static bridges had the fine tuners! (Gibson, what about making the TP6 available on production guitars?)
* Tone and Volume knob simplicity: I can reach the volume with my pinky and do volume swells with ease
* The master tone pops up to split the humbuckers into singles
* HSH pickups with a 5-way selector
* A wonderful high-gloss, smooth finish that colors the body and the back of the neck and headstock
* Gold-silkscreened Gibson logo on the headstock
* Those awesome old-school upside-down black fret marker inlays, yeah!
miii9
The pickup selector is a traditional blade-type switch with the following configuration (from neck-side to bridge-side):
** Neck only
** Neck and middle
** Middle only
** Middle and Bridge
** Bridge only

Overall, this guitar is loaded with lots of stuff, buttons, switches, and downright coolness built-in. I think its gutsy of Gibson to have some fun with a maple-fretboarded tone-ripper!

When you combine the popped-up splitting knob with the blade selector, you can get loads of different sounds and strengths from these very versatile electronics.
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.”

Playability
My MIII is a dream to play. I already love Firebirds and Explorers – and the neck is pretty similar in most ways to both… It was like a fun FireExplorerSG with Maple and a Floyd… Nice! I am agnostic as to necks when it comes to the “perfect” neck for me. I love flat necks, fat, necks, medium necks, even the flat/wide neck of a classical – so I’m almost always comfortable when I pick up a quality-made Gibson of any kind. Given that I love my Z-shapes and my banana headstocks, I must say that the MIII felt right at home, despite its funky thumb-bassy-body look.

The fretboard has an interesting feel to it. It’s not glossy like some of the Fender maple necks – rather it is almost “flat” or satin. You can get your pure nickel Ernie Ball “ROCK AND ROLL” strings out and get everything nice and gray from the nickel on your fingers. The neck does have some kind of finish on it (much like the Raw Power SG and Les Pauls a few years back), so the black stuff doesn’t become permanent – but it looks cool when it’s been played quite a bit.
miii3
I have found that using the Floyd with the last two fingers of my picking hand and then sliding down to pinky the volume is actually fairly easy for those who do this type of thing. Even though I’ve gone to using a Morley Steve Vai Alligator volume pedal, I do still love the fineness of a slick volume control knob’s sweep. These are quick and easy because of the metal black knurled knobs. Generally, I carefully swap out my Gibson witch-hat knobs for this very reason (to either knurled or speed knobs) – but the MIII already has it covered!

It’s not too heavy on the shoulder or the leg, and it has a nice general balance to it – the neck sits out a good ways, but the body is bigger and thicker than something like the SG, so it’s not too much of a diver at all.
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.”

Sound
Here is one of the Gibson Limited Edition MIII’s strong points: sound: Gibson has brought back the very cool Dirty Fingers humbucker with a vengeance! It’s as crunchy and broad as the original, with that nice ability to clean up pretty well when you pick softly and dig in a little less. Very nice…

The Humbucker Single Humbucker configuration, combined with the 5-Way blade pickup selector and the coil-splitting tone knob, you get lots of different sounds out of this beast. I have found that the nicely-sized body gives excellent sustain, while not being too heavy. Although you don’t get solid-body Les Paul sustain-for-weeks sound, you do get much better long-lasting sustain than with the traditional bolt-on-neck-Floyd guitars.

I think the locking Floyd system is a great strong suit to this guitar’s arsenal: It stays in tune day-to-day for me, and I like that. I’ve had GREAT guitars with whammys with which I loved recording – but had to stop and tune them over and over again between takes because of their trem systems. This MIII has that beat and then some!
If you purchase a new Gibson at zZounds, qualified buyers can even play as they play with the 12 month select brands (new guitars only) payment plan.

Fit and Finish
My MIII is extremely well made. The finish is bright, smooth, and doesn’t have lots of flaws around the neck pocket and the electronics. I like the way the craftspeople at Gibson did this one. It was well-done out of the box.

I only had to adjust two saddles for intonation on the bridge – otherwise, it was ready to go right out of the box. The fretboard is perfect, the fret ends were clean (not rounded and invisible, but clean, just the same). I think my most recent Les Paul (a limited semi-hollowbody) has the sweetest factory fret ends of any non-bound Gibson I’ve handled. This MIII isn’t on par with that one – it has more edge and end to the feel than the LP.

The case is nicely manufactured, the finish was completely cured and the bridge was nicely adjusted. Opening the control cavity reveals a simply done set of electronics that are neatly soldered and well-grounded.
miii6
Overall, it’s really quite nice from stem to stern.
The new Gibson 2014 models are now in stock at zZounds. Celebrate 120 years of excellence and Legendary Tone!

Wishes and Wants
I really love my MIII. I think the only thing that would have sent me over the top to buy a second one (for more tuning options, like keeping one in DADGAD and one in CGCGCC with thicker strings) would have been if Gibson had taken the time to put the fret-end neck binding on this guitar – black or body color or white… Gibson’s fret-end neck binding is, in my opinion, one of the sweetest features Gibson offers. I love the feel of it when I’m playing – or rather, the lack of feeling the frets when I’m playing.

Maybe, just maybe, a pickguard model with all the electronics behind the pickguard would be cool, particularly if the guitar was wired with the Gibson Quick Connect electronics wiring and changing system. I would love to have a box of Quick Connect pickups that I could use to change things out on the fly…

Otherwise, I love the MIII – they did a great job with it.
Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the wonderful Limited Edition Gibson MIII – 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 Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic Guitar Review!

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic Guitar Review

I love things with strings. Things with strings that make sound… Many times, I can be just as happy sitting with an acoustic guitar (or bass, or mandolin, or…) and play for hours on end. I compose, I wander, I contemplate, I just lose myself in the music. With electrics, I can hear what I’m playing (when not plugged in) and can enjoy the sheer ease with which the guitar comes to life beneath my fingers. I’m not particularly “for” or “against” anything – I love playing things with strings. Yesterday, it was a rubber band and a couple of pencils because I was too hot and tired (from yardwork) to play my instruments.

But when you’re playing an acoustic instrument, the gratification is wholesome and wonderful. Wow. I just love the whole experience of playing an acoustic instrument – and when it’s a great instrument, the experience ceases to be about playing (guitar or whatever) and becomes about a flow of life between my heart/brain and the instruments and back to my ears. When I stop thinking about playing and start living the experience, I get lost in the music. What a joy.
OK, with that little ramble, let’s take a look at a guitar that’s easy to experience that joy – and is easy on the wallet, too!
JpearsonEpiphoneDovePickguard

I needed an acoustic to augment my library which gives me a brighter and louder experience – that’s easy to play and can tolerate odd tunings very well. My budget was just wiped out by purchasing a nice Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio, so I wasn’t flush with cash… I did my research, did a little experimentation and in-store noodling, and settled on the Epiphone Dove Pro.
I am so glad I did. Here’s why!

Quick Opinion:
The Epiphone Dove Pro acoustic guitar is a surprisingly inexpensive guitar that has a great deal to offer. The sound is great, the build quality is top-notch, and it plays like a guitar that costs hundreds more.
Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the Elegant Epiphone Dove Pro – click here! (visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! (And G.A.S., of course! :-))

I generally have my Epiphone Dove Pro out on a stand in the living room – and every guitar player that comes through plays it. All have remarked positively, even those who are die-hard fans of other brands and types.

Features:
The Epiphone Dove Pro has a long list of features for a low-cost dreadnought acoustic guitar. From great tuners, to a solid wood top, to excellent binding and inlays – this is a great guitar.
* Solid spruce top
* Maple neck, back, and sides
* Dovetail (no pun intended :-)) neck/body joint
* Rosewood fretboard
* Parallelogram inlays
* Bound fingerboard, body top and body back
* 25.5” scale (the distance between the saddle and nut)
* Compensated saddle and dove-inlaid rosewood bridge
* Grover tuners
* Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Sonicore sond-hole preamp

The Epiphone Dove pro is listed as Violin Burst – but in truth it is a beautiful orange-y burst with a transparent orange-y back and sides. It’s a beautiful guitar that stands out from the everyday colors seen on most acoustics. I am an unabashed “orange” fan when it comes to transparent finishes on guitars – so it is right up my alley. I love the dove inlays in the very striped bridge and the parallelograms in the fretboard match the look of my Gibson Songwriters to a T.
The Dove comes with a simple and easy pickup/preamp combination from Fishman. The soundhole’s easily-accessed master tone and volume controls work great and are easy to change while actively playing the guitar. Adjustment is like on an electric – you just turn the knob(s) until your ears like what you hear.

Overall, the Epiphone Dove Pro is very feature-rich, very much on par with guitars that cost north of $700 (street value).
You can see more about the features and benefits of owning an Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic here at zZounds.com
JpearsonEpiphoneDoveBodyFront1

Playability
This guitar is easy to play. The neck is a little on the narrow side, so it isn’t giant wide like some acoustics. It has a good “D” shape that helps you grip the neck nicely when doing difficult chords or fret reaches. When you’re holding acoustic strings down for a good while when you are playing, it is nice to get a good grip on the neck. For those with small hands, the neck isn’t too deep a D – it is a good balance for most hands. I’m a person with large hands and slender fingers, so the neck is mostly good with me. The width of the fretboard on my Gibsons is more comfortable – but my Dove feels somewhat similar to the necks on my Seagulls (Original 6 and 12).
The fretboard is nicely finished, so it is easy when playing lots of fretting-hand movement. The string spread of the bridge is just about right, making it fairly comfortable for finger picking, hybrid picking, and flat-picking.

Despite the miles of hard maple in this guitar, it is surprisingly comfortable and relatively light. My Ibanez Artcore guitars are substantially heavier, for comparison. The guitar is easy on the shoulder and easy on the knee – and feels like a good depth for lots of pick-arm and hand work.
The full-size Grover Rotomatic chrome tuners are very smooth and work great. They’re easy to use and do a nice job. The nut (it seems like almost every guitar, these days) works great with a little lubrication such as Lizard Spit or Big Bends Nut Sauce.

Sound
The Epiphone Dove Pro comes strung with phosphor-bronze .012-.053 D’Addario strings. The strings themselves sound fantastic and present themselves with a clean, edgy acoustic sound that is clear and not muddy at all. I’ve played 80/20 bronzes on maples before, and have found that the 80/20 bronzes tend to darken the sound such that the maple-ness of the sound is not as articulate as it tends to be. The phosphor-bronze strings sound just right.

As a dread, the Dove is loud and clear. It does the low notes very tightly and the mid-tones nicely too… The highs tend to be a little tinny when playing in the middle third of the neck on the two plain (E and B) strings. I think this is partly a function of the finish and the glue/joint work. When recording, the first two strings played from 7 to 10 (frets) are often not warm enough – such that I’ll often play up the neck on the D string if I can… I don’t think this is a deal-breaker on this guitar: it’s not a $2700 hand-crafted instrument.

The resonance and sustain are good to very good on the Dove. It sustains like an excellent glued-in neck – but with the highs rolling off fairly quickly on fretted notes. The open-string notes ring pretty well, particularly the 6th-4th strings. The strings on this guitar make a big difference. Dead, corroded strings muffle out this guitar fairly dramatically – when the strings get nasty, the Dove begins to sound like a laminate-topped guitar. I like the D’Addario EXP coated strings and the Ernie Ball coated acoustic strings on this guitar. The feel and sound of these particular strings is no sacrifice as compared to the truly long life you get out of the sound on average. Even those with sweaty or acid hands will see a good length of use from the two strings I’ve mentioned.
Take a look here at zZounds.com.
JpearsonEpiphoneDoveFullFront

Fit and Finish
The fit and finish of my Dove is outstanding. I did not see a single finish burble, and everything fits and sits like it should. Since the Dove appears to be finished in poly, it has a hard and slick finish that puts up with lots of little dings without showing them. The finish doesn’t sound like the resonant quality of a hand-applied lacquer finish – but it doesn’t seem to dampen things too much. The body and neck finish are extremely consistent and smooth. The headstock and neck inlays are actually nicely done: many Asian-made acoustics I’ve handled have lots of dark filler around the inlays. The Dove’s inlays are very accurate in most cases, with only a few very minor filled splinters or routing blems.
The fret ends were nicely dressed out of the box. The overall feel as you traverse the neck is simple and good, with no real issues to be found. I didn’t find any substantial fret leveling issues (if any at all, really). There aren’t any buzzes that appear at unexpected spots. The guitar even plays nicely with .013 strings tuned to a low tuning like CGCGCC. It does play crisply and nicely with standard .012 gauge strings and “standard” EADGBE tuning.

The electronics are attached to the inside of the body nicely and are fairly well dressed. The wires don’t dangle too much and don’t clunk around in the body. The Fishman controls are solidly mounted and work smoothly and easily. The end-pin 1/4” jack works great and attaches positively to the cable.
Please have a look here at zZounds.com

Wishes and Wants I do wish the battery was in a standard battery box attached to the sides somewhere instead of deep in the sound hole. I wonder how hard it would be for Epiphone “Pro” guitars to have that killer fret-end binding one gets on better Gibson electric guitars and basses?

One other thing: Couldn’t we have 18:1 Grovers on our Gibsons and Epiphones? I really like the larger-ratio feel when tuning.
JpearsonEpiphoneDoveBack1

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

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

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.