Squier Classic Vibe Series Basses
Squier Guitars, squierguitars.com
Originally published in Guitar World, February 2009
As a budget-conscious sibling, Squier has been cranking out less-expensive versions of classic Fender instruments since 1982. Some of those earliest Japanese-built Squiers are fetching a pretty penny these days. Why? Because they were excellent instruments, and players who couldn’t get past the Squier name on the headstock lost out on some great axes.
Since then, Squier has continued to build solid quality, intro-level instruments—mostly stock Fender designs, with a few unique models thrown in for variety. But this year, with the release of the Classic Vibe Series, Squier has taken a big step forward and backward. The three basses that make up the series—the Jazz Bass ’60s, Precision Bass ’50s and Precision Bass ’60s—look, play and sound great, and their under-$500 price tags will fit the tightest budgets.
You've seen these instruments before—a Fifties-style single-coil Precision, a Sixties split-coil Precision and a Sixties Jazz—but what sets these models apart from their predecessors is the attention to detail and materials. All three have basswood bodies, bolt-on maple necks (tinted for a vintage look), 20 vintage-style frets, classic cloverleaf open tuners, the new, an improved HiMass bridge, and pickups with Alnico5 magnets (another big step toward nailing the vintage tone). The quality of the fretwork, neck pocket, finish and nut slots is far above what you would expect on instruments in this price range.
The single-coil Precision Bass ’50s has the contoured body of the 1953 Precision (rather than the slab body of the 1951 original model), the oldschool Tele-style headstock and a Lake Placid Blue finish that is just plain sexy. The nut width is 1.65 inches and the maple fingerboard has a 9 1/2-inch radius (as do the other models in this series), and the neck has the big, chunky feel fans of this model love. The tone is wide, open, round, and surprisingly bright, but with a simple turn of the tone knob, you’re knee deep in chocolate goodness. Compared head-to-head with my Japanese-built Fender 1951 reissue, this bass more than holds its own, and at half the price.
The split-coil P-Bass is undoubtedly the most-copied bass on the planet, and for good reason—it set the ideal for what a bass should sound like: thick, defined, punchy and growling. The Classic Vibe ’60s Precision nails that tone, with style. The Sonic Blue finish is sweet, and the excellent quality dark rosewood fingerboard and tinted neck give it the look and feel of a vintage piece. I put this one up against my own well-played 1988 Fender Precision, and frankly I was stunned at how close they were in tone and feel.
The Jazz bass has long been a favorite for its slimmer neck and dual-pickup design, and again, Squier totally cops the sound and feel of this stellar ax with its Classic Vibe Jazz Bass ’60s. This bass gives up no clues to its price range. The combination of Olympic White finish and three-ply tortoise-shell pickguard is a favorite, and the dark rosewood board, narrow frets and modern “C” profile make for a pleasing fit in the hand. With both pickups up full, this bass has the complex tone of a great Jazz bass: a well defined bottom, a natural mid scoop and tight top end. Soloing the neck pickup brings out the fatter, hollow tone of the Fifties single-coil P, and rolling off to the bridge pickup delivers classic burpy, Jaco tone. I stacked this baby up against my Custom Shop ’64 Jazz, and despite the fact that my bass has flatwound strings (a significant factor that made this comparison harder), the Squier did itself proud.
I know all this praise may seem hard to believe, but watch the video on this month’s CD-ROM, in which I compare the Squiers to my personal axes, and then judge for yourself. As far as I’m concerned, with a few minor changes, these instruments would be indistinguishable from their more expensive counterparts.
THE BOTTOM LINE
For a beginning player, you can’t do better for the money than Squier’s Classic Vibe Series basses, and even a seasoned pro can appreciate the sound, look and feel of these economical axes.
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