Will my first experience with plugging a spec-correct Jazzmaster into my rig inspire me to embrace the instrument or go back to my Strat?
Overview & Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
When I set out to do my Jazzmaster face-off I really had next to no experience with any Jazzmaster-style guitars. Fast forward to a few months later and I cannot put this Squier Classic Vibe JM down! This vintage spec’d and affordable Jazzmaster has a Poplar body with a gloss polyurethane finish in the classic Sunburst variety. The neck is made of Maple, with a classic C shape and Indian Laurel fretboard. 21 frets grace the neck with narrow tall frets that are pretty smooth playing up and down the neck. Classic vintage-style tuning pegs hold the strings through a bone nut as they run down to the classic (and somewhat flawed) offset floating tremolo and Jazzmaster bridge. True to its name, this is designed to replicate the famed ’60s Jazzmasters through and through.
Moving over to the electronics it gets pretty fun for someone new to the Jazzmaster like myself. Two Fender-designed Alnico Jazzmaster pickups have pretty standard 3-way switching and master volume and tone. And then the JM rhythm circuit kicks in. There are two thumbwheels for the neck volume and tone when in the rhythm position, which is the up switch. In my opinion, this circuit seems to add some meat to the neck pickup sound, giving it more volume and body to really cut through the mix.
While I’ve never played a vintage or premium Fender Jazzmaster to compare this to, I think the guitar sounds well above average on its own. It’s a steal for the $400 price tag, providing real versatility and something different that not many other guitars can do. The rhythm circuit was the big winner for me here and I love that you can get this classic Fender sound in an affordable guitar, especially because most Jazzmaster clones don’t even feature anything like it. Clarity was one of the prevailing themes of this guitar, no matter how many effects I threw at it, it just stays crystal clear. Which made me realize two things: 1) no wonder shoegaze/indie rock players use this guitar under a bevy of effects and 2) this guitar is great for recording in a studio or home studio setting. The standard pickup settings, without the rhythm circuit are a bit on the low output end of the spectrum, and they certainly lack a certain richness that I prefer in Fender single coils (Tele, Strat). However, I can see how these unique qualities aren’t necessarily a bad thing if you are looking to use this in specific instances. As someone who switches guitars frequently (different tunings is the main reason) it is a bit annoying to see a steep drop off in volume and body, but maybe I just need a compressor! Overall, it is a clean and clear sounding guitar that seems like it represents all that classic Jazzmaster goodness well, and the rhythm circuit is a real winner!
The narrow tall frets are an interesting feeling off the bat and not something I’m usually too familiar or comfortable with. Fret ends and polishing actually were very impressive and this guitar is well set up out of the box. But I guess this is another one of those things where you have to be expecting/looking for the feel of this guitar compared to just picking up a Tele or Strat and playing. The tuning stability is generally strong, even when you work the floating tremolo a little bit, which makes this a strong candidate for a gigging guitar. What really won me over though was how nicely the neck feels. It’s smooth, well finished, and gives the feel/illusion of being a much more expensive guitar. These Classic Vibes really live up to their reputation as a premium affordable guitar in terms of fit and feel. The nut seems well cut and the tuners don’t seem too cheap or anything, so I assume any tuning issues that occasionally pop up have to do with the bridge and trem system not being Fender’s greatest accomplishment. Nothing a Mastery can’t fix!
Finish & Construction: 8
I can’t say enough about the build quality and look of this Classic Vibe Jazzmaster from Squier. Simply put, it feels, plays, and looks like something far superior to most $400 on the market. It barely was beat out by the phenomenal (but $800) Fano Omnis JM6 that I reviewed in my Jazzmaster roundup. That guitar is really something, so that is saying a lot in my opinion. The finish came without any signs of issues, cracking, damage, etc…and the hardware is well installed, aligned, and feels pretty rugged. This Jazzmaster is definitely capable of taking a beating and I’m pumped to see what kind of mods it may have in its future.
I really like the guitar you get for the money here and this is clear example of why Squier guitars are the highest selling brand in the world. It’s a phenomenal guitar that feels and plays up there with guitars twice the price. You do lose a bit on the electronics side, as these pickups are crystal clear but not as bell-like and rich as some higher grade JM pickups might be. And of course, I’m sure the wiring inside could use a boost from nicer pots, though this will certainly get the job done. Overall, it gets such high ratings because it brings everything about the Jazzmaster down to a nice price. It’s authentic and uncompromising in the design, something that most JM copies from other brands cannot say. Bonus points for being a phenomenal mod platform are also awarded here and this thing feels like it is a Mastery bridge and Curtis Novak pickups away from being one of my go-to instruments. Classic Vibe guitars should not be underestimated and might just be one of the best values on the market for the working class musician. I’m more than pleased to say this Squier Classic Vibe Jazzmaster will be staying on my guitar rack for the foreseeable future and I cannot wait to figure out more ways to use it!
Good for: Alternative Rock, Atmospheric Playing, Garage Rock, Players Looking For Crystal Clear Clean Tones, Jazzmaster Enthusiasts, DIY Modders