Review: Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar Signature Model
The Fender Jaguar is one of Fender’s quirkiest designs. The Johnny Marr Jaguar Signature Model celebrates the best of the Jaguar’s quirks (its twangy tone and wacky floating tremolo) while significantly improving the peculiarities many guitarists find off-putting (namely the confusing control configuration). As a result, Marr and Fender have improved the Jaguar in a way that will win the model new fans while also earning an enthusiastic thumbs up from players who appreciated the Jaguar from the beginning.
The Johnny Marr Signature Jaguar offers several significant upgrades that make this version of the Jag a true player’s instrument. A four-position Tele-style pickup selector replaces the high-pass filter and individual pickup on/off switches on the upper treble bout. The selector lets you choose either the bridge pickup, both pickups in parallel, the neck pickup or both pickups in series. The upper bass bout features a treble boost on the dual-pickup series setting and a high-pass filter switch instead of an on/off switch and tone and volume roller controls. Furthermore, the upper bass bout switches are recessed to prevent accidental switching while playing.
The Mustang-style bridge saddles are heavier than typical threaded Jaguar saddles, and the bridge stays locked in position, whereas traditional Jaguar bridges are prone to slipping downward with excessive vibrato-bar use. The tremolo arm sits higher on the guitar and features a nylon bushing to hold the bar firmly in place. A deeper back contour makes the guitar more comfortable to play, and the neck—based on a 1965 Jag that Marr owns—is wider and heftier than that of most vintage Jags.
The custom-wound Bare Knuckle Johnny Marr single-coil pickups and custom control wiring deliver a satisfying variety of tones that range from percussive twang to a warm roar. The dual-pickup parallel setting has the out-of-phase midrange honk of a Gretsch Duo Jet with DeArmond single-coils, while the series setting sounds like a big, fat humbucker. The pickup selector and switches provide 10 different settings, and all of the tones are good ones.
Like a vintage Jag, the Marr model has a 24-inch scale, but its action doesn’t feel overly slinky, thanks to the extended string length between the bridge and tremolo anchor (which also gives experimental players fun atonal timbres to play with). The floating vibrato bar has a loose action that makes it easy to produce wicked warbles, or you can lock the upward action for deep dive bombs that return to perfect pitch every time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While staying true to the Jaguar’s essence, Fender’s Johnny Marr Jaguar offers numerous performance-oriented modifications that make this guitar the best Jaguar that the company has ever produced.