Hands-on review: Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster

(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-03-05)

Hands-on review:  Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster

The new Vintage Modified Series by Fender Squier turned heads in the music industry when released this year at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California. The Jazzmaster has much in common with its sibling, the Jaguar, but with some minor variations that should be looked at.

The Jazzmaster features an Alder body, Maple C-Shape neck with a polyurethane finish, 9.5” Maple fingerboard with 21 medium jumbo frets, Stacked Concentric Controls, 3-way toggle switch, Fixed “Top Loader Bridge”, vintage style tuning machines, 1 Duncan Designed JM-101B Single-Coil Jazzmaster pickup with Alnico magnets, 1 Duncan Designed JM-101N Single-Coil Jazzmaster pickup with Alnico magnets, chrome hardware.

My tester was a Butterscotch Blonde Maple finish and had a good feel overall. The body is a little larger than I’m used to, yet it still remained comfortable after several hours of playing. The fingerboard had a great feel due to the high-gloss polish, which I could really appreciate. The only thing that didn’t feel comfortable as I shifted around the fingerboard was that the back of the neck felt tacky due to the polyurethane finish. I wish Squier had used a satin finish here to make the playing experience a little more effortless.

Tuning stability was average for a guitar of this quality, which I expected: I found myself tuning the 4th and 3rd strings more than other guitars. Bending techniques only slightly added to the tuning problem. When I tuned the strings back to pitch I noticed that the tuning machines were a little rough and didn’t affect the string tension as I expected. Getting the strings in tune wasn’t a huge concern, but fine-tuning sometimes was difficult.

The Jazzmaster has a nice “jangly” tone -- I would call it “bright” overall -- and the maple fingerboard adds to this “snappy” sound. On the neck pickup the guitar sounds pretty warm and, despite the maple fingerboard and the fact that this pickup is very “soapbar”-like, I was able to coax a round tone from the guitar. The bridge pickup was very bright -- almost shrill. Rolling off some of the highs helped make it more musical. I found that using both pickups in tandem produced a nice mid-range sound that was very cool. To my ear these pickups offered more midrange than other pickups you would find on a guitar in this price range. This is a good thing if you want to stand out more in a mix, whether live or even in a studio setting and I found myself leaving the 3-way toggle in the middle a lot of the time. Applying some overdrive to the Jazzmaster amplified this mid-range hump and sounded much fatter. The pickups overall weren’t too hot but pulled enough tone out of the guitar to keep me happy.

The volume controls rolled the volume off smoothly with just enough of a decibel range to be musical with volume swells. I could also bring some overdrive into my sound by slightly raising my volume or lowering it to clean up my sound a bit. The knobs also had a textured feel to make this easier. I also liked that Squire used a stacked tone control on the bottom of the volume knob. It’s an 11-position tone dial with a knurled textured feel as well. This would have been perfect for the tone control except the dial felt scratchy when I turned it, which made me want to set it and leave it. A little more work is needed here because the idea is great but I find is slightly falling short to make it an outstanding feature that adds value to the instrument.

The Jazzmaster Vintage Modified Series guitar is a nice addition to the Squire family. These instruments honor a time when music had a different vibe and the Jazzmaster echoes that in it’s feel, look, sound, and value. If you like a bright sounding guitar but don’t want a Stratocaster you’ll have to add this to your list of potentials. You can’t ask for much more for an instrument that costs $299 USD. In my opinion, with an upgrade or two you’ll have yourself a nice guitar that will serve you for a long, long time.

To learn more visit www.squierguitars.com.

John Gorbe is a professional guitarist/instructor from Philadelphia, Pa. Currently he films instructional DVD’s & Software packages for Elmore Music, writes for MGR, maintains a busy teaching schedule and performs with the band 3 Hour Tour. John is a C.F. Martin Professional Artist and is endorsed by a variety of music companies. To learn more visit http://www.johngorbe.info and http://www.youtube.com/johngorbe

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