Fender Precision Bass
The Fender Squier Series
Welcome, welcome, welcome to the new range of Fender guitars. You may have heard about the recent launch of Fender's American Vintage range. OK, so you've been in a deep slumber along with at least 51% of the population. If that is the case, then now must be the right time to wake up because Fender have an even newer range of vintage guitars called the Squier Series (pronounced Squire) and this time they are made in Japan, in what must be an unprecedented move for Fender. Prices for the range vary from a measly £198 for a replica of a 52 Telecaster to a not so high £230 for a replica of a 1962 Stratocaster. This has to be good news for the guitar business which is not exactly having its greatest year on record.
And now down to business. The model that I'm going to review for you here is the last of the six models in the Squier series that it's been my pleasure to play this weekend. On the chopping block today is this beautiful creature that I have in my lap. It's a copy of a replica if you like, of the 1962 Fender Precision Bass, mooted by certain parties, myself included, to be just about the best year for this model.
For a Fender, the writing on the head-stock is a little odd and is about to become even odder. Let me explain. The wording reads 'Fender Precision Bass, Made in Japan, Squier Series'. Now the latter appears where you used to find the words Original Contour Body, but according to Fender distributors CBS, the wording on all Squier Series models in the future will read something along the lines of 'Squier Series, Made in Japan, for Fender.' This may or may not have the effect of putting off a small percentage of the population who would like to read the word Fender in its usual distinctive, large script, but is intended to simplify telling the difference between the all-American Fender and this new Japanese job. Anyway, I'm sure Fender have sound reasons for doing this. One side effect of all this is that all of these pieces, which constitute the first batch outside of Japan, are destined for the status of 'Collectors Items'. Cost of the new Squier Series Fender 62 Vintage Precision Bass is £222, whilst the maple neck version weighs in at an even more modest £213.
Visually, it's a veritable stunner with a return to those beautiful tortoiseshell scratchplates, and the most gorgeous 3-tone sunburst finish. Now I've never been a fan of 3-tone sunburst finishes, preferring the more ethnic 2-tone variety, but this time somebody up there has got it right. Quite recently one manufacturer produced a finish that was described as suckburst, this is definitely not one of those.
The body, according to my information is made from 2 pieces of alder, and as Precisions go it's a reasonably heavy one. Probably the worst thing about the bass is that it's neck heavy which is a matter for concern. The 57 maple neck Precision in this series balances perfectly, so I'm sure something could be done about this one. The body contour is perhaps a little sharp, but it does feel very comfortable and enables one to get very involved with one's instrument, which is surely what it's all about.
Strings on this bass are not Fender and nobody seems to know quite what they are. One thing's for sure — they're very, very heavy.
The neck is one piece hard maple with the standard rosewood fingerboard, it's really quite nice. 1962 Fender necks were amongst the flattest and thinnest necks and this one keeps its promise until you move below the fifth fret. It's still a goody though.
The frets number 20, they are well polished Fender style thin frets and the fretting is a treat. I wish more were like this. The neck has a slight camber and the action is a bit stiff which I put down to these dreaded heavy strings. There are white dot inlays up the side of the neck and again on the fretboard itself. They've been styled in a matt plastic so that they look, to all intents and purposes, like the old clay dot markers that Fender used between 1959-1964.
Necks on the whole of the Squier Series have been stained to look just like the old ones (give that man a geisha voucher immediately) and Fender have gone back to the old style of truss rod adjustment here, so now it's available at the bottom end of the neck. It's not a Micro-Tilt action and the actual neck fit is splendid. Machine heads are the large Kluson type in the clover leaf style and they seem to hold in tune very well.
The nut is white plastic, the single string guide is circular, and suddenly I'm reminded that these guys are on top of it. Between the years 1959 and 1962, all Fender rosewood fretboards were finished off at the nut by a convex curve that extends into the head-stock, and that's just what they've done here on this 1962 replica — Hooray! Another acknowledgement that Fender have remembered their history, is the extra third strap button at the rear of the headstock.
Electronics on the 62 Vintage Precision are passive, with just the one tone and one volume control with the familiar, knurled steel barrel knobs. The split pickup is black and it's not an American Fender pickup, it's Japanese.
Bridge set up consists of a solid looking anchor plate but hey, where's the bridge cover gone? Come to think of it where's the hand rest gone? What a liberty! And they've had the cheek to drill two holes in the scratchplate where the handrest used to be. Funnily enough a thumb rest and screws are provided as an extra in the case, but no holes have been drilled for it.
There are 4 bridge saddles with individual 2-way adjustment for string action and harmonics i.e. the two grubscrews to raise or lower each string, and a spring loaded bolt to adjust string length.
Right now it's switch on time and for this test I'm going to be using an Ohm GB60 Graphic Bass Combo, courtesy of the chaps down at the London Rock Shop (who are open on Sundays).
The pickups on this bass prove to be the warmest in the range, and are very mellow indeed. If anything a slight edge is missing with the tone control turned all the way up for maximum treble response, but I'm convinced that this has more to do with the strings than the pickups themselves. Chord-ing on this instrument is a sheer joy and the neck feels like it was built with a job in mind — it's very workmanlike. Soundwise the 62 Vintage Precision has lots of power in the pickups without ever having to sacrifice clarity for sheer power, that's good in my books.
Basically, this is a very fine instrument, though I have to admit that I prefer the 57 maple neck Precision in this series. Again I think it has more to do with the strings that come fitted to this 62 model than the bass itself. Both of these basses are going to appeal to the full time megastar, super-stars, professionals, musos, semi-pros, closet bass players and beginners, which should help to jolly along the sale of these Fender instruments no end.
The whole range of Squier Series guitars and basses are a boon, or should it be a boom, to the music industry, and I for one am very impressed by Fender's efforts in producing these instruments.
A minor point here, none of the Squier range come in cases and when I asked the Fender distributors chairman and managing director, Ivor Arbiter, about this, he replied, "Initially there will be no case". Without presuming too much, there is obviously a slim chance that there will be a free case with every one of these guitars and basses in the not too distant future. Why not? Even the Fender Bullet series which is aimed down market, has a hardshell case included in what is a much cheaper instrument than the Squier Series. We shall see.
The Fender Squier Series guitars are distributed in the U.K. by CBS, (Contact Details).