Fender American Professional Jazz Bass & Precision Bass

You’ve met the guitars, now meet the new Standard for bassists as Gareth Morgan checks out Fender’s 2017 American Pro Series…

Fender American Professional Jazz Precision Bass
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In times past, the words ‘upgrade’ and ‘Fender’ in the same sentence could give some cause for concern. Bassists and guitarists who love their Fenders don’t necessarily want the objects of their affection messed with. We love the way they look and sound.

Thankfully, recent times have shown Fender is determined to preserve the aesthetic, with upgrades confined to hardware, electronics and invisibles such as truss rods. When Fender announced the American Standard Series, first seen in 1987, was to be superseded by the American Professional Series, we at Guitar & Bass had high expectations.

American Pro Jazz Bass
Our review Jazz Bass comes with its sexily offset, twin-cutaway alder body enveloped in a classy Olympic White finish with a three-ply Mint Green pickguard. Playing comfort is catered for by a forearm chamfer on the upper-rear bout and a ribcage offering on the flip side at the waist. It’s all reassuringly familiar and the standard of workmanship and finishing is excellent.

The maple neck is kitted out with Posiflex graphite support rods for greater stability, the slim C profile feels ultra-comfortable in the hand and is an enticing prospect. As well as white dot position markers, the rosewood fingerboard carries 20 nickel frets in the new narrow tall configuration which, says Fender, is “especially effective for bending notes and playing chords up the neck with perfect intonation”.

The new V-Mod single-coil Jazz Bass pickups pair alnico V and II magnets

Fender rings the changes with the tuners, a set of four Fender Lightweight Vintage-Style units along the top edge of the headstock. These have a fluted shaft, which forces windings downwards, keeps them tight and helps promote a sharper and more consistent break angle over the nut for better tuning stability and more sustain.

Fender has fitted the HiMass Vintage bridge utilised on American Standard models, with top-load or string-thru capability and just a little more substance than the regular ones. The strings are guided onto the fingerboard at the headstock by a bone nut, which ups the vintage credentials, promotes a balanced tone and will last for ages.

Electronics are traditionally passive, but the pickups are a pair of new V-Mod single-coil Jazz Bass units. They’re a modification of the previous vintage design, utilising alnico V magnets on the treble side and alnico II magnets on the bass side for vintage warmth married to crisp clarity. The controls number two volumes and a master tone.

As well as being a real joy to play, the AP Jazz exudes all of the familiar tonal qualities – enhanced by the new V-Mod single coils – and first impressions of the new fret configuration suggest a fraction less extraneous noise.

Twin-pickup mode with the tone flat-out has the Jazz bursting with colourful harmonics, which help imbue the E string’s pleasing thud with an aggressive growl. The midrange is well balanced and exudes decent punch, and highs are clean and crisp without being overly zingy or brittle sounding. Chopping back the tone softens note edges so, whilst still punchy, they’re a little more polite, although too close to full cut it’s, as always, woolly and indistinct.

The Precision’s HiMass Vintage bridge has top-load or string-thru capability

With the neck pickup, it’s a raspier, earthier affair with P Bass leanings – you still get lively, growling lows but there’s fractionally less body to the midrange and the highs are less open. The bridge pickup exudes the usual burpy tone with a slight nasal edge and plenty of snappy definition; there’s enough bottom end to make it practical without recourse to your amp’s EQ.

American Pro Precision Bass
Introduced in 1951, the P Bass preceded its Jazzy sister by nine years. The new American Pro version looks just as businesslike as it ever did with its even oval rear bouts, forearm (and ribcage) chamfers, slim waist and offset dorsal fin horns. The new and rather sumptuous Antique Olive finish is a welcome addition to Fender’s colour library and adds depth to the classic vista.

The P Bass also has the same three-ply Mint Green pickguard, albeit in more expansive form. Its maple neck is kitted out with Posiflex graphite rods, and utilises the ’63 P Bass profile, which Fender says with some justification is “considered by many to be the gold standard of bass neck profiles”. It’s ultra-comfortable in the playability stakes, but not quite as slim and fast as the Jazz, which is a standard element in the build DNA of the P Bass.

The neck is similarly capped with a rosewood fingerboard bearing standard white dot markers and 20 narrow tall nickel frets. As well as better intonation, thinner fretting points produce cleaner notes, less encumbered by extraneous clicks and squeaks. The tuners are Lightweight Vintage-Style and the bridge is a HiMass Vintage unit with top load or string-thru capability. To complete the set, the delineation between fingerboard and headstock is also a bone nut.

As well as passive electronics, the P Bass features a newly designed pickup, namely a V-Mod Split single-coil humbucker with the same mix of alnico V and alnico II magnets. As ever, the controls are simply one volume and one tone.

This is, quite simply, a really good-sounding P Bass. Wind up the tone and the reward is a fat bottom end with pleasing growl, combining aggressive intent with harmonics-laden clarity. The midrange errs on the darker side, which induces a raspy punch with plenty of stature.

The highs, whilst plenty well-realised with excellent clarity, are nowhere near as explosive as those produced by the Jazz, and feel a bit compressed if you lay into the D and G strings. Be reassured, though, that the thinner strings have plenty of body and are practical for melodic groove playing.

Backing off the tone induces more thud-oriented results, blurring note edges a fraction and creating a tone that sounds progressively more controlled. It’s a great take on a winning formula.

Key Features

American Pro Jazz Bass
• Price £1,509 inc hardcase
• Description Solidbody bass. Made in USA
• Build Alder body, bolt-on maple neck with 20 narrow tall nickel frets on a rosewood fingerboard (maple an option). Fender Lightweight Vintage-Style tuners and 4-Saddle HiMass Vintage bridge, chrome hardware
• Electrics Passive with 2x V-Mod single-coil Jazz Bass pickups.
• Controls 2x volume, 1x master tone
• Left-handers Yes, £1,569
• Finishes Olympic White, 3-Colour Sunburst, Black, Sonic Grey
• Scale length 864mm/34”
• Neck width 39mm at nut, 56mm at 12th fret
• Neck depth 19mm at first fret, 23mm at 12th fret
• String spacing 10.5mm at nut, 19mm at bridge
• Weight 4.1kg/9.04lbs
• Contact Fender EMEA, 01342 331748 www.fender.com

Key Features

American Pro Precision Bass
• Price £1,509 inc hardcase
• Description Solidbody bass. Made in USA
• Build Alder body, bolt-on maple neck with 20 narrow tall nickel frets on a rosewood fingerboard (maple an option). Fender Lightweight Vintage-Style tuners and 4-Saddle HiMass string thru or top-load bridge, chrome hardware
• Electrics Passive with 1x Fender V-Mod Split single-coil pickup
• Controls 1x volume, 1x master tone
• Left-handers Yes, £1,569
• Finishes Antique Olive, Olympic White, 3-Colour Sunburst, Black
• Scale length 864mm/34”
• Neck width 42mm at nut, 57mm at 12th fret
• Neck depth 21mm at 1st fret, 24mm at 12th fret
• String spacing 11.5mm at nut, 19mm at bridge
• Weight 3.9kg/8.6lbs

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