We could start with some spiel about how much guitar players get for their money with a Squier compared to 40 years ago, but the brand started out very strong with Japanese-made instruments, and this is one with a price tag of $599, so is not exactly entry-level.
Instead we should focus on the more interesting Squier narrative that’s been unfolding in more recent history: the brand is becoming increasingly distinct in its own right.
In addition to affordable takes on Fender cornerstones, there are plenty of alluring electric guitars exclusive to Squier. And if they can hold their own with the Mexican Fenders, that’s cause for real celebration. We’re here to find out.
The 40th Anniversary models have come in two waves: the gold hardware/block inlay ‘Gold Edition’ example we have here, and the aged hardware/satin finished Vintage Edition guitars, which are more understated. Both sets feature anodized aluminium pickguards.
For us, this Jazzmaster from the former camp is the most visually appealing of the bunch; surely even gold hardware cynics can’t deny this Olympic White offset wears it well. The context of a guitar’s finish matters and it’s interesting to see how gold anodised scratchplate and hardware gives the white more of a creamy look here in combination. It looks regal and very Fender without overstating. The build here is of a standard to match it.
We have to be honest, pau ferro fretboards can be hit and miss for us in terms of aesthetic. The issue has been sidestepped here with the use of the consistently darker Indian laurel – though it’s the same material used for Squier’s entry-level Affinity series. The downside is it looks quite dry, and ours would benefit from some conditioning.
The Fender-designed soapbar pickups hold their own with our Fender guitars in terms of output. The spiky, sometimes brash bridge and warm but defined neck position have a girth in character, especially on the bridge, compared with the traditional Tele, Strat and Jag.
And it can divide opinion, but we’re fans of the rhythm circuit ‘preset’ switch on the upper horn, which can mellow things out quickly by isolating the neck pickup with a different capacitor and thumbwheel tone and volume controls.
Of course, our big question is how well does the tuning hold up with the vibrato unit in action? And that’s where our glee fades a little. It doesn’t take much use to throw it out by quite a margin.
Such issues aren’t unusual for offset fans, and tech attention, a shim or even a third-party bridge upgrade can usually offer a remedy. But for a player who doesn’t know this, or isn’t willing and able to deal with it, it could put them off their purchase. So caveat emptor, but this is still the closest Squier to a true Fender Jazzmaster in the current catalog – idiosyncrasies included.
- PRICE: $599 / £499
- BODY: Poplar
- NECK: Maple
- SCALE: 25.5”
- FINGERBOARD: Indian laurel
- FRETS: 21, Narrow Tall
- PICKUPS: Fender Designed Alnico Single-Coil
- CONTROLS: ‘Lead circuit’ controls (slide switch down): master volume, master tone; ‘Rhythm circuit’ Controls (slide switch up): 2x thumbwheel controls for neck pickup volume and tone
- HARDWARE: Gold-plated six-saddle Vintage-style bridge with non-locking floating vibrato, Gold-plated vintage-style tuners
- WEIGHT: 7.8lb
- GIGBAG: No
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- FINISH: Olympic White [as reviewed], Lake Placid Blue
- CONTACT: Fender (opens in new tab)