Fernandez RJB55 Bass
Every few years a new Japanese name arrives on the guitar scene and creates a sensation. Yamaha was the first, then came Aria, followed by Westone and Tokai. Now stand back and watch for Fernandes - a name which followers of the American scene will immediately recognise, and which has finally become available in Britain.
Like Tokai, Fernandes' considerable reputation overseas has been based on their 'replica' guitars. Fernandes models are reckoned, by many who've seen and tried them, to be among the best of all copies, although they aren't cheap. The beautifully produced full colour Fernandes brochure shows just about every guitarists dream model, from vintage replica brand 'Fs" and 'Gs" to an Alembic bass copy which, so a correspondent in the U.S. tells us, is all but identical to the real thing. Many Fernandes instruments feature EMG pickups, quite a few have Floyd Rose trems, there are 'own design' models and even a Ricky bass type spread through a catalogue which is an experience in itself.
One of the first Fernandes models in the U.K. (and one which we snaffled as soon as it arrived) was an RJB55 - a dead ringer for a Jazz bass, apparently modelled on a 1964 original.
Heft the Fernandes onto your shoulder and the first impression is of perfect weight and balance. The body is alder, bolted onto a rich-looking maple neck faced with a fine quality rosewood fingerboard. True to the original, the fretting is of a medium/thin gauge, and the 20 fret neck follows exactly the correct depth, width and profile, being just that shade narrower (and to some more manageable) than you'll find on a Precision.
Our sample model came in a rich metallic red finish - a pretty accurate approximation of 'Candy Apple Red', a colour which also runs over onto the matching headstock. To compound the impression of quality, the finishing standard of both the woodwork and painting looked first class, bearing out the reputation which this brand has gained overseas.
There's not a great deal that anyone can do with hardware on a replica of an earlier Brand F bass - not if they wish to stick to being accurate, at any rate. Accordingly, the bridge on the Fernandes comprises a fairly thin metal plate screwed down onto the alder body, fitted with a direct copy of the original's string fixing through the bridge's backplate. The saddles (again, true to type) are spring loaded and fully adjustable, but they aren't tracked. It's hard to see what Fernandes could have done to improve on the original if they wanted to make a direct vintage copy, but it's not the most advanced bridge design in the world by any standards. Mind you, it's only fair to point out that it is one of the most successful!
The machines, however, are highly geared and of a very good quality, and the black plastic control knobs do the traditional job they have on a Jazz, operating as two volumes and one tone.
The pickups on the Fernandes RJB55 are excellent. They have a healthy output and genuinely get close to the sound of a good original. Confirming our feeling that both the woods and and the construction of the Fernandes were first rate, the sustain and harmonic response were also excellent. Set the tone control off and - especially on the neck pickup - the sound is deep, round and as close to a string bass as this type of electric will ever get; far warmer than the typical Precision sound which is, of course, just as it should be. Use the bridge pickup and the sound twangs and bites with a guttural attack, again, just like the 'real thing'. Blend together the two pickups and the effect of the tone pot, and you've got a far wider range of sounds than you'll get from any Precision or copy, which is one of the two reasons why some players prefer a Jazz type to a Precision. The other reason why Jazz basses score, of course, lies in the overall slimmer neck. This doesn't make it too narrow, but just gives an easier feel with less stretch required.
Of the various copies and replicas of this design bass that we've tried, the Fernandes RJB55 definitely has the best sound. It's also one of the best made that we've found, the makers appearing to have chosen good materials and used them well. It would be a lovely bass to both record with and use on stage - presuming of course, that you like this general type of instrument. If you don't, then at least check-out the other Fernandes models; if this one is anything to go by they should be exceptional.
All of which, naturally enough, brings us to the question of price. At an RRP of £264 the Fernandes isn't cheap, but we've no doubt that the discounters will be getting to work on this figure in due course, and if you can find one with the price chopped then - whatever that offer is - you can at least be assured that judging by our sample, you're being offerred one of best replicas around. Yes, folks, watch out for Fernandes; it looks like that reputation is true.
RRP £264 INC. VAT
More info from PBT Distribution, (Contact Details).
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