I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but this bass, a brand new Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass V, was my birthday present.
Ever since I was in Maui this past spring I’ve been thinking about buying a Fender Jazz. I’ve spent a fair piece of my musical life feeling rather blasé about Fender basses. But after spending a week playing one I got to realize why the Jazz bass is one of the most popular basses ever made. — It’s just a great all around bass.
Initially, when I started looking at Jazz basses I figured the basic American Special would be a good starting point. I’d previously had a Squier fretless Jazz and a Fender fretless Mexican Jazz. Each time I played a higher model (more expensive) Fender the quality and sound just got better. (Well duh!)
Trying to pick which Jazz to buy can be a challenge. On the current Fender website there are no less than forty three Jazz basses running in price from $279.99 to $2899.99. And of course each of those 43 models comes in various colours and many also have a choice of fingerboard woods. That’s a lot of choices!
In general, the product line is divided in to Squier basses (Asia), Fender basses (Mexico) and American Fender (California). There is also signature models and beyond the 43 there’s also custom shop.
Within the American line there is Special, Standard, Deluxe and Vintage. At first glace you might not notice any difference, but there are distinct differences. Between Special and Standard the most apparent difference is the traditional versus high mass bridge.
Leo Fender’s original bass bridge was basically a stamped and folded piece of sheet metal. As with many of Leo’s designs it was simple, effective and easy to work on. The high-mass bridge is cast metal and also allows for through body string installation. This is intended to increase sustain.
Another important difference on the Standard is the inclusion of the SKB hard shell case. This is one tough looking case and well worth the increased price if you’re thinking of doing any serious gigging.
Going to the Deluxe models the biggest difference is the large square fretmarkers, bindings and active electronics.
My choice of the Deluxe model was based on the versatility of the active electronics and the large fretmarkers. I’ve often had problems on stage with my Warwick due to its lack of fretboard markers. (Where the heck is the 12th fret?!)
The electronics on this bass make use of the best of both active and passive electronics. A small toggle switch allows for selecting either active or passive mode.
In active mode, you have what you’d expect with active electronics. Master volume, pickup balance and a three band eq.
In passive mode you get the traditional Jazz bass control configuration. Well almost. Instead of two volume controls and a high pass tone control, you get master volume, pickup balance and the tone control. Essentially the same, but I think the old way has more tonal variation. Or at least is more intuitive.
But overall I think the electronics are right on. This bass also features Fender’s N3 Jazz pickups. Claiming to be noiseless and supposedly better. Whatever the pickups and preamps and such are, this bass sounds great. I played it for several hours through my Markbass CMD 102P with a Behringer BDI21 amp modeller and believe me you can get tons of great sounds and lots of tonal variation wit this setup.
I also wanted the 5-string model and was told that the B-string responded better in active mode. So this was yet another argument for picking the Deluxe.
I’ve been playing 5-string for a number of years and there are pros and cons over both 4-string and 5-string. 4-string is just easier to play, but with 5-string you also have the option of playing low parts higher on the neck.
But the 5-string neck is bulkier. So there are trade offs, but 5-string is just more versatile. I love being about to play those low D’s without having to go to drop-D tuning.
One of the cool features of this bass is the addition of strap locks. I’ve almost dropped my Warwick a number of times as the strap popped of the horn strap button. This bass comes with the locks pre-installed. You just have to attach the locks to your favorite strap and, voilà, chances of dropping your bass… 0.0001%
The choice of colour, for me, is a bit off the beaten track. I’m not (or wasn’t) really crazy about white. I actually really like the “candy cola” red that Fender offers. But deciding on white was precipitated by my guitar player, John. We’ve been talking about having matching white instruments. Our violinist plays a white violin with ebony finderboard and black accents. John is looking to buy a white Tele with black pickguard. So it will all look really cool on stage. I have to say though, after buying this and seeing a few pictures of me playing it, I think the white looks fabulous. Don’t you think!?
Many thanks to my guitar player, bandmate and friend John Haynes for this extravagant but very much appreciated gift. I just love this bass!
To everyone else, no you can’t be his bassplayer!