“Hi how are you going I’m thinking of learning how to play electric guitar”
“Well great you’ve definitely come to the right place, did you have a certain budget in mind?”
“I do, as little as possible”
“Ok no worries, first we’ll start with what kind of sound you’d like in a guitar. Do you prefer the classic rock sounds of guitarists like Angus Young and Jimmy Page or maybe the bluesy tones of Eric Clapton and John Mayer?”
“Not really any of those guys to be honest”.
“Nope. I’m actually really into the warped tremolo arm sounds of Kevin Shields and feedback laden experiments of Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo”
“I’m sorry sir, when these guitars were bought by your heroes they were relatively cheap. The cheapest one I have now is $1000”
For years the budget conscious guitarist has been denied access to some of rocks most iconic guitars – Fenders offset waist Jaguars and Jazzmasters. “But what about the Squier Vintage Modified series and Fender Blacktop series?” I hear you say. Yes, whilst these do host the name of these guitars, they are far from the actual guitars we know and love. They have different bridge setups, pickup configurations and are often without their most well known feature – the tremolo
arm. We often hear stories of the iconic Jag and Jazzmaster players of old picking up these guitars for mere pocket change at thrift stores. These days though guitarists need to shell out $2500 (street price) for the USA Vintage Reissue guitars and even over $1000 + for the Mexican Classic Players and Japanese issue instruments. You’d think then that a budget friendly Chinese made Squier Jazzmaster wouldn’t stand up against its more glamorous siblings. Well then think again…
After already having his own ‘Fender’ branded Jazzmaster, its quite clear in the build quality of this guitar that for Dinosaur Jr frontman and alt-rock guitar hero J Mascis, if he was going to have a Squier branded instrument, it needed to be pretty special. It’s stated on Fender’s overview of the guitar that Mascis has specified the “pickups, hardware and finish”. On this note the vintage white finish with anodized gold pickguard have a much more traditional look to that of Mascis’ previous Purple Sparkle Jazzmaster and the specs of this guitar alike are sure to please those traditionalists out there.
The guitar is equipped with vintage style tuners with split tops for string insertion that hold there tune quite well even when using the tremolo arm. The floating tremolo on this guitar is without the trem-lock switch, which does mean the guitar will go out of tune if a string is broken. In the same vein as the Blacktop and Classic Player Jazzmaster’s the tailpiece is shifted forward closer to the bridge. Whilst this does remove some of the overtones that helped characterize that vintage Jazzmaster sound, it does increase sustain and decrease the likelihood of strings jumping out of their saddles due to the heightened string angle.
This accompanied with the Adjusto-Matic bridge enhance the usability of this guitar which is a huge plus on an entry level instrument. The satin finished C neck plays beautifully and the 9.5” radius and jumbo frets once again do make this guitar a bit more user friendly. Traditionally basswood is a relatively dark sounding timber, however even acoustically this guitar sounds quite resonant. The pickups are bright and lively, not too dissimilar to the ‘hotter’ pickups found in the Classic Player Jazzmasters.
They do lack a little in the low end in comparison to the aforementioned model and are definitely not as warm and vintage sounding as the US model. The difference between the neck pickup and rhythm circuit also isn’t as varied as some of the other guitars. That aside, they are still quite characterful and definitely are more tonally rich and usable in higher applications than the price point suggests.
This is without question the best Squier guitar I’ve played. The Classic Vibe series Strat’s and Tele’s are fantastic but I still question whether they would hold their own in a ‘pro’ environment, this will be no problem here. It feels nicer to play than the Japanese issue Jazzmaster’s and the difference tonally between these and the Mexican Classic Player’s is minimal at best. Whilst the USA 1962 reissues still reign comfortably supreme over the J Mascis Jazzmaster, you also expect they would at more than four times the price.
It’s been a long time coming for a guitar like this and now those who want to experience the unique world of Fender offset guitars on a budget price can. I’m sure Fender are going to be selling these by the truckload and one can only hope there’ll be an equivalent Jaguar model in the pipeline soon as well.
With the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar this year and Johnny Marr and Kurt Cobain signature models being recently released maybe it’ll be sooner than we think. Maybe they’ll honour an Australian. Roland S. Howard anyone?
Review by Gary Milk