Will this UK-designed take on the Jazzmaster beat out the Fano and Squier versions I have hanging around?
Overview & Final Score: 7.1 out of 10
The second of two Vintage guitars I was lent for review, this one will be taking part in my Affordable Jazzmaster face-off for Ultimate-Guitar. In a stunning Gloss Black finish, this V65 from their Icon Series has a Maple body, Mahogany neck, and Lignum Rosa fretboard. A traditional 10″ radius alongside 22 Medium Jumbo frets gives the neck a familiar feel. So too does the soft-C profile and smooth gloss finish. A Graphtech NuBone nut provides a smooth, friction free contact point for each of the strings, greatly helping the tremolo system maintain use-ability. Moving on to the hardware, their vintage offset tremolo looks and feels right at home for a Jazzmaster-style guitar. Wilkinson’s WJ44 tuning machines look the part as well, and offer solid stability. While there isn’t the typical Jazzmaster wiring schematic you may no and love, you do get master volume, tone, and a 3-way selector to shape the tone of your dual soapbar pickups.
True to Jazzmaster form, these pickups seem fairly low output but definitely sweet sounding. Unlike a typical JM-style guitar, there is no rhythm circuit to add some depth or beef it up. Despite the quiet soapbars, these P90 pickups are fairly snappy and are great for chords, rhythm work, and atmospheric/ambient guitar playing. They took gain far better than I anticipated, which seemed to breathe some life into this Vintage V65. Even better, the pickups did retain some clarity with a heavy does of Pro Co Rat distortion layered on top. However, the clean sounds really do sound a bit on the thin side when compared to similar style guitars. They aren’t nearly as muddy as the Wilkinson P90 in their V120 I recently reviewed (and really liked) but they also don’t have any balls…To me, this Vintage V65 guitar only thrived when my amp was cranked and my pedal board was adding tons of texture. Overall, it grades out slightly above average in the tone department, because I really loved the distorted tones I got out of it, as seen in the sound demo below. But to be fair, most people turn to a Jazzmaster for clean sounds, which left me wanting a bit more here.
I was very impressed with how smooth the gloss finish was on the Maple neck, which featured some nice wood grain underneath. It supplied a real nice experience up and down the fretboard, especially with the soft-C shaped neck feeling a little thin, which I prefer. Wrapping my thumb around the top was a breeze, which isn’t always the case on some of these JM-influenced guitars. The tuning stability was ultimately solid to above average, but once you start working the tremolo system, you’ll likely have to tune up every few songs. For live playing, it wouldn’t be a huge issue, as long as you are someone who is comfortable tuning up mid show. Overall, the fretwork was solid too, with only a few spots showing signs of any sort of buzz. For the price, I wasn’t expecting perfect playability but if you were to invest in a pro setup for you new V65, I think you’d be surprised how buttery and smooth the neck would feel going forward!
Finish & Construction: 8
Where this Vintage V65 does shine is the fit and finish. I absolutely love the look of the Gloss Black finish, which feels and looks premium even under close inspection. There were barely any signs of quality control issues, aside from dust accumulation (could be from transit) all over the guitar. Likewise, the hardware was really nicely installed and only one of the pickups needed the slightest adjustment to be truly level. So outside of a few truly minor tweaks out of the box, you can expect your V65 Icon Series guitar to be pretty much ready to go. It’s certainly an inspiring guitar to look at, and I found myself picking it up pretty much anytime my eyes caught the reflection off the glossy finish.
At the end of the day, I think this is really solid value for the price tag. It’s only marginally more expensive than the popular Tagima JM copies and is a bit below a Squier Classic Vibe Jazzmaster. I’m fairly confident it also sits somewhere in between them in terms of quality as well. The Tagima may sound a bit sweeter, but this guitar feels and looks a lot more like a high end instrument, which really makes me think this is a few quick modifications away from being a beast of a guitar. Vintage also did a great job making this V65 work as a good introduction to offsets or Jazzmasters for players who may be hesitant to leap into a more expensive take on this design. If you’re looking for your first offset, or want a guitar that has potential to grow with you as a player, this Vintage Icon Series V65 is a great option for around $350!
Good for: Rhythm Guitar Players, Shoegaze, Alternative/Indie Rock, DIY Mods for Offset Guitars, Garage Rock, Introduction to Jazzmasters