Friday, June 20, 2008

New MIM "Classic Player" Jaguars and Jazzmasters

My Jazzmaster posts have been surprisingly popular, especially with beginners, and are actually bubbling up higher in Google searches now that they're linked from various other sites. Guess there's kind of a dearth of info on these guitars out there! They're certainly not as popular as Stratocasters or Les Pauls, even though they are great guitars. So I figure I may as well continue fishing for more page views trying to satisfy that audience. Introducing: the brand new Classic Player Jazzmasters and Jaguars!

Just wanna know my opinions of them? Feel free to scroll down. Otherwise, keep reading for more info.

As experienced players know but beginners likely don't, the Jaguar and Jazzmaster are similar to the point that many people who know the offset guitar line talk about them in the same breath. The Jaguar has different pickups, somewhat different electronics and a short-scale neck - otherwise, they are pretty close to being the same. The stock tone and sustain is slightly different, but beyond that, most people who play these just make their choice based either on looks (the Jaguar's got more chrome, but smaller pickups) or on the neck scale. The Jaguar is better for people with smaller hands. I have freakishly long fingers and monstrous hands, so I prefer the long-scale Jazzmaster. (I'm playing a Jag HH above because that's all the store that I went to had.)

Since the early 1990's, Fender has offered reissues of the original vintage Jazzmaster and Jaguar models under their "American Vintage Reissues" ("AVRI") line. These are pretty expensive - around $1,400 - and they have all the same intricacies, quirks and kinks as the original models did. Same threaded bridge saddles, same complicated tremolo system, same rhythm circuit, same bottom of the neck truss rod access (requiring the neck's removal to adjust), same proprietary "soap bar" pickups on the Jazzmaster (and custom pickups on the Jag that look like Strat pickups but aren't). These guitars are made for heavy strings, lest your strings fall off the thread in the bridge saddle and potentially break, or at the least throw you out of tune. They're also a bit harder to set up than a Strat or Les Paul. Many guitar techs don't even know how to do it.

For all these reasons, the AVRI models have never really expanded the line's fan base. These are real guitarist's guitars, kind of an acquired taste - they're not that accessible for people just starting out. But the people who love them love them for what they are, quirkiness included.


Fender Japan has been selling their own line of fully licensed Jazzmasters and Jaguars for around 20 years too, loosely based on a 1960's design but not as close to vintage as the AVRI's (nor really intended as "reissues"). They're colloquially known as "MIJ" or "CIJ" models, depending on what year they were made/what's printed on the neck. I own a CIJ Jazzmaster. These are cheaper than the AVRI's and are still basically vintage-correct in most of the important ways. They were a good alternative to the AVRI's for a while, but Fender USA's been clamping down on imports lately. That caused a lot of us offset fans to wonder if something was up.

Feature Rundown
Enter the officially-imported line of Mexican-made offset guitars in a line called the "Classic Player" series. These are about the same price as a Japanese model - around $800 - but unlike the CIJ guitars, they have some pretty major revisions over the original vintage design:

1. The bridge is an "adjust-o-matic" - Fender's version of the tune-o-matic. It's a far simpler and more traditional bridge than the vintage/AVRI/CIJ floating bridge.

2. The tremolo/tailpiece is closer to the bridge. This has the effect of increasing the break angle over the bridge.

3. The neck radius is a flatter 9.5, which is more common in modern guitars than the 7.5 radius in the vintage, AVRI and CIJ models.

4. They have an increased neck pocket back angle, which is supposed to increase sustain.

5. They have different pickups intended to be "hotter".

They are also finished in poly, which is the same as the Japanese models but different from either the vintage or AVRI models. They won't wear the same way as an American version of these guitars, and the neck feels different with a glossy finish.

There are other minor changes in the wiring and electronics, and the new Jag HH (not to be confused with the older CIJ Jag HH/Special) completely lacks a rhythm circuit. It's replaced by a simple kill switch.

My Opinions
I got the chance to briefly try out a new Jag HH at my local Guitar Center a few days ago. Unfortunately, I only got to play it acoustically - but I'm not sure plugging in would have told me much, because the HH model uses humbucking pickups and they'll sound significantly different than a standard Jag anyway. But I still got a good feel for the guitar, and that should translate to any of the new Jazzmaster/Jag models. My thoughts:

* The neck looks and feels a lot like a CIJ model. Same finish, and personally I didn't notice the difference in the neck radius. Some might, though.

* The weight is inconsistent between guitars - I tried two, one fairly light, one ridiculously heavy. Definitely try before you buy.

* The hardware looked to be good quality but I am not convinced (as some others are) that it is AVRI hardware. For one thing, the only thing that really even could be is the trem plate - everything else is either totally different or it uses some obviously different parts. The trem plate to me did not look AVRI-ish, although I admit I could be wrong about that. It didn't look CIJ-ish either. I believe it is a Mexican design and production. Here's a photo - note also that the tremolo lock button is chrome, which is different from the AVRI's:

* There was not much resonance in the two guitars I tried. I don't think the wood they're using is very good (which would explain the weight issues too). I could barely hear myself playing acoustically. Good Jazzmasters and Jags are practically as loud and full as a real acoustic guitar when playing un-amped (albeit a pretty poor quality acoustic guitar). That's one of the advantages of that big body combined with the long break behind the bridge (and probably the bridge itself). The new models sound dead by comparison, and yeah, that usually translates when you're playing electrically too.

* Cosmetically, the sunburst model I saw looked good. Better than some recent AVRI or CIJ bursts I've seen. Nice color, nice finish. However, both guitars I looked at had strangely contoured edges that don't blend smoothly. I drew this picture to illustrate the difference between the MIM and AVRI/CIJ models:

This is very subtle, and I admit I'm probably being a little nitpicky. But the contours are definitely different than other Jags and Jazzmasters. I took a photo of the white one I looked at from the side, although it's hard to really see anything weird in this picture.

If you look closely at the horn (closest to the camera) on the right side of the photo (towards the top of the guitar), you can see a little of what I'm talking about - the curved edge is sort of abrupt, it doesn't blend smoothly. You can also sort of see by the shading on the side of the horn that there's a sharp edge all the way around.

* Generally, I felt like the quality was pretty good but was a step below the Japanese models, which themselves are a step below the American models. The fit and finish is not quite there - the pickguards are really thin, they don't line up perfectly with the chrome plates (see below), there's a bit of a gap in the neck pocket, the fretboard wood is very light, the weight is inconsistent, etc. Just in terms of fit & finish, I wouldn't call these top quality guitars. They're not bottom-feeders either, though. I could live with one, but you are giving up something for the lower price vs. an AVRI.

The bottom line, though, is that I feel like the changes made to these guitars sap all the character out of them. They play like generic guitars. The default factory strings are pretty light - like a Strat, not like a Jazzmaster - and the bridge and trem position are obviously intended to make that possible. The tone is different because of the trem placement (the strings themselves are shorter from the nut to the trem) and because of the bridge, and of course the intentionally "hot" pickups would make a difference too. (Ditto for the humbuckers in the HH, which aren't very Jag-like at all - though this is not a new concept anymore.) The neck radius, while I didn't notice much difference, is also more like any number of modern-day guitars.

Basically, these are Jaguars and Jazzmasters for people who like the way these guitars look but don't like the way they feel or sound. So, now you have an option for a guitar that looks like a Jag or Jazzmaster but really isn't one, at least not in any traditional sense. I suppose they're also more accessible to beginners, who don't have to learn a whole new system just to be able to work their guitar.

They're cheap enough and attainable enough that they'll probably attract some new players. But if what you're looking for is a vintage look and sound on a budget, I'd still advise checking eBay or Ishibashi's U-box for a used (or even new) Japanese model. (Ishibashi is not nearly as intimidating as it looks. Be sure to click the link that says "For Overseas Customers".) Even after upgrading the pickups, you'll still be right around where you would be paying for a new Classic Player model and you'll have a guitar that's very close to AVRI level. You'll never really get there with a Classic Player, which are actually routed differently than the AVRI's or CIJ's.

I'm actually a little disappointed that Fender would do this. I'm all for expanding the fan base of these guitars, but not by neutering what makes them what they are. The quality I can live with - hey, for $600 less than an AVRI model, you're going to give up something - but that's why we have the CIJ models. Certain modifications I wouldn't mind either. If people are scared of the Jazzmaster bridge, for example, why not throw a Mustang bridge on there at the factory? It could always be changed out to a real Jazzmaster bridge if desired - they're interchangeable. That's not so easy with an adjust-o-matic.

I feel like the concept behind these guitars is misguided. If you're considering one of these guitars, I want you to really think about what it is that you like about them and how you play. If you've been thinking about a Jazzmaster or Jaguar because some band you like plays them... well, they're not playing these. They won't sound or play the same. If you just want to save some money, buy a CIJ. I would only recommend one of these guitars if they both fit your budget and you're specifically looking for the features that are unique to these guitars - which happen to be the same features that make them the most generic of all of Fender's offsets.



  1. Anonymous5:22 PM

    I plugged a MIM JM in and it sounded more like a JM than either of the CIJ JMs I've played. In fact, it sounded fantastic, and better than a CIJ JM with Lollars. Try plugging one in before rendering a verdict.

  2. I have plugged a JM in since originally writing this post. The pickups on the MIM JM are basically P-90's and are not even *intended* to sound like a JM. Fender themselves say in their own press release that they *don't* sound like a JM pickup (I didn't make up the "hotter" quote - that's from Fender themselves). If they sound like a real JM to you, then I don't even know what to tell you. You may as well say a humbucker or a Lace Sensor sounds like a JM - they're just completely different pickups.

    What did you actually plug it into, and did you have a vintage, AVRI and lollar-upgraded CIJ JM there to do an a/b/c/d?

    My verdict is rendered. These are not Jazzmasters.

  3. Anonymous5:51 PM

    They're more like a modified JM pup and they're supposed to be hotter, not totally different. Normally, a hotter pup would be a turn off, but these had plenty of chime AND body. I dislike humbuckers and, God help me, once owned lace sensors, so don't worry; I don't need you to tell me anything.

    I played through a Virbolux RI, which are brittle but give me a reasonable baseline for comparison (I've been using a blackface for the last few years and had a client who did a good job of breaking in a VR RI). There were no fancier JMs around, but given that every CIJ/MIJ I've every played--including the one with Lollars--left me cold, the fact that I played this one for 30 minutes in a Guitar Center of all places tells me it sounded better.

  4. This debate ends here - you're free to continue it on any number of threads on

    The pickups are using a Jazzmaster bobbin but are designed and constructed like a P-90. See here:

    Pictures and a good explanation there.

    In addition, all of the other major modifications to these guitars affects their sound. Different bridge, different trem placement, even the lighter stock strings alter the sound (easily changed, of course, but you were playing .009's in the store).

  5. Anonymous3:14 PM

    You describe the guitars as being very quiet and lacking resonance. Well , I have a Guitarist (leading UK guitar mag) with a review of the current CIJ Jag and Jazzmaster. They quite categorically say that unplugged, the acoustic resonance is nil, but "plugged in the Jazzmaster has a marvelous strummy sound". You wouldn't know this unless you plugged it in. As you're recommending the CIJ guitars over the Mexican models, in terms of quality, I think it's only fair to point out that according to Guitarist,they exhibit the same acoustic characteristics of the Mexican models.

    I'm a different anonymous!...peace...

  6. Ok, a couple things:

    1. The post you're all commenting on is regarding a Jag HH, which uses humbucking pickups and is going to sound pretty much like any other Jag HH (these are not new), whether they be MIM or CIJ. I am not sure how much more clearly I need to say that I have since played the MIM JM plugged in. It doesn't sound like a Jag HH and it doesn't sound like a Jazzmaster.

    2. Presumably Guitarist mag is supported in part by Fender ads. My blog is not. Make of that what you will.

    3. I'm not sure what a "marvelous strummy sound" even means. First I've heard a guitar described in that way. What do they say it sounds like when they're not strumming?

    I'm going to make this quite clear. The CIJ and MIM Jazzmasters DO NOT sound the same. The AVRI and MIM Jazzmasters DO NOT sound the same. The vintage and MIM Jazzmasters DO NOT sound the same.

    They are built differently, they are designed differently, they use different parts (for example, CIJ's and AVRI's use Gotoh tuners; MIM use Ping). THEY ARE DIFFERENT GUITARS.

    Even Fender themselves say the same. They are quite clear about the differences in both design and sound, they describe it as a "fatter tone with more output" (this is from Fender's own site). Fender's making up for the deficiencies in the wood with the hotter pickups.

  7. Anonymous5:57 PM

    Well,whether or not Guitarist mag is supported by Fender ads my point was about the lack of acoustic resonance in both CIJ and Mexican Jags/Jazz's not about whether they sounded like the original models. The "marvellous strummy sound" was their description of what a nice sound they got when the guitar was plugged in ,( as opposed to the dead unplugged sound), and the pickup selector was in the middle contrast to their CRITICISM of the lack of resonance, which they wouldn't make if they were that scared of losing revenue. I didn't say they sounded the same as the original spec,I was commenting on the perceived quality of Mexican v Japanese. Mind you, lots of offset users use a buzzstop ( I've just watched some very capable surf guitarist playing his AVRI fitted with said device on Youtube), so the new model, with its increased string rake saves doing what many people do anyway do the hotter pickups. I really like the sound of a good Jazzmaster. However I had in 1978 a bound neck block inlay Jazzmaster , quite collectable now, but to be honest it was complete rubbish.


  8. I probably came off as a bit annoyed in my last reply, and I apologize for that.

    Your 1978 Jazzmaster, as nice as it probably looked, was at the height of Fender's quality control issues in their post-CBS purchase days. Poorly-sized neck pockets, "thick skin" finish, etc. That's not the era anyone's talking about when talking about a "vintage" Jazzmaster. I sure wouldn't kick a 1978 JM out of bed, but I wouldn't doubt that *any* of the current JM models are better quality than a "real" 1978 Fender JM, including the MIM's.

    I don't trust any magazine that says a guitar lacks resonance when unplugged but sounds "marvelous" when plugged in. At best, they're reviewing pickups, not a guitar. And any time you read a criticism that is so fundamental, but the review ends positively... that doesn't seem suspicious to you?

    A guitar with no resonance is just not a very good guitar. You can stick some "hot" pickups in it that'll do all the work and pick up the slack, but anyone with a CIJ or even a vintage guitar could easily do the same thing, and our guitars would still sound better because they *also* have better resonance. But they wouldn't sound like a Jazzmaster, they'd sound like a Jazzmaster with hot pickups.

    That lack of resonance also means that changing the pickups out to a real JM pickup on an MIM still won't get you a guitar that sounds like a real JM.

    Whatever people like is up to them, if these guitars take off in popularity and people go nuts for them, I don't really care. My only point is that they are different from real Jazzmasters (by which I mean JM's built to basically vintage specs). And it's noticeable, in both feel and sound.

  9. Anonymous9:51 AM

    You did come across as a bit tetchy but it's your blog!
    Anyway, before I disappear back into the internet ether for ever....Yes I agree with you about the acoustic resonance of a guitar. I wish I still had that Jazzmaster ..if nothing else I could probably sell it now and buy a new AVRI for the same money. I sold that guitar and got a hard tail strat finished in groovy "antigua" ( I think that's what it was called)..a sort of beige grey burst. I thought it looked great but in hindsight I realise it was hideous to behold! This was also god awful..completely dead sounding. It only confirms the stories of late 70's fenders. Having said that, my mate had a Telecaster Deluxe bought around 1977...thick poly on the neck etc..what a cracking guitar! I wish I had that now. So there are some good ones from that period. On the plus side, the release of the MIM jazz's seems to have made a dent in the CIJ prices, at least over here. Maybe I'll get a Japanese Jazzmaster and stick some active EMG's in it and a Floyd Rose....( that's a joke!!!!)


  10. You probably could have sold your 1978 and gotten an AVRI with money left over! Although I don't know how much AVRI's sell for where you are, but over here they're about $1,400. Even a '78 would sell for more than that (usually around $2,000).

    I actually like antigua guitars but it is definitely an acquired taste. I like it in part *because* of how sort of nasty it is. It's just very different. Although supposedly it is a finish that Fender came up with to hide body edge flaws on the Coronado - this was when their production quality was really going downhill. But they then used it on other guitars in the 1970's.

    Anyway, sorry again about sounding like kind of a dick up there. I thought you were another MIM proponent basically here to try to argue with my experiences.

    oh and by the way, not that I'd ever actually use EMG pickups, but I was surprised to learn that David Gilmour mods all of his Strats with them!

  11. Anonymous11:15 AM

    ....well...I've nearly gone!...yes, Gilmour does use EMG's but in my mind I associate them will hair metal!
    I know what you mean about Antigua being so ugly it's good. I can't say that I feel that way about it( it certainly has a nice 70's vibe) but that's certainly how I feel about Gibson Firebird VII's. So mad/bad it's brilliant!
    AVRI's are out of my league, price wise. For some reason imports are priced at 1 dollar to 1 pound instead of 2 dollars to the pound which is what the exchange rate is around. It means that they cost around $ 2600 +...OUCH!

  12. Anonymous11:02 AM

    hi, just wanted to say i agree with you jeff, MIM Jazzmasters are not of the same quality as USA,or CIJ jazzmasters.

    I currently own a CIJ 62 reissue jazzmaster (candy apple red/matching headstock etc)and think its fantastic,sounds excellent, been playing guitar about 7 years so am fairly new to the game, but seeing as jazzmasters always been my fave guitar, i looked at these more closely than any other guitar.

    MIM jazzmasters are awful, no professional would play with one of these "pavement,sonicyouth,dinosaur jnr bloody valentine etc" but all 4 of these used a CIJ/MIJ models before "hmm says something..", as of course the american models,fender usa just wants people the usa people that is to buy mexico, as they make more profit from this than jap imports, CIJ models are very close to usa models, with expection to maybe "depending on taste" a change of pickups,so they want people to fork out for the usa models as they more expensive, or have a cheaper MIM model,it isnt fair but thats life,maybe 5/10 years MIM models will be on par or better than jap models, depends on how much fender usa decide to carry on the investment in mexico factorys.

    a happy jazzmaster fan from uk!

  13. Anonymous2:12 PM

    Wow, I've just read all your stuff and it's really confused me. You see I'm drawn to the brashness of the MIM Jazzmaster, as well as its aggressive warmth. I tried out an Elvis Costello a couple of weeks ago and whilst being clear and warmly resonant, it didn't cut through as the MIM. Are you saying that the MIM is just not the same thing,are we being sold something that should have a different name, the quality of the body wood could never sustain the depth of expression a professional would expect(A long, three-part question there, sorry)? Should I buy one or save for another year? J D

  14. Yes, I am pretty much saying you're being sold something different in the shape of a Jazzmaster. The Elvis Costello is basically an AVRI with a different finish, so it's pretty close to how a vintage model would have been built. The way it sounds is going to be very close to an original vintage Jazzmaster. You've heard both and you know the Classic Players sound different. You seem to like the sound of the Classic Players better, in which case you should probably buy one.

    I originally wrote this post several months ago and my feelings have probably mellowed a little now, in that it's not that I think Fender should just shut down this production line anymore. These guitars are here now and they're not going anywhere, so the question of "should Fender really be doing this?" that I was asking originally is kind of moot anyway now. I feel like, the AVRI's are $1,400 and the Classic Players are $800, and if someone wants to save some money and/or just likes the sound of the Classic Players better, then that's totally fine.

    But it is a different guitar, and I still think people should know that. Different wood, different features, different construction, different pickups, electronics and wiring. If you like the way it sounds better than the Elvis Costello or AVRI, though, then you should probably get whatever guitar that makes you happiest.

  15. Anonymous6:32 PM

    Thanks, that's cleared things up in that I've understood something about what Fender are doing, going for a market that is perhaps a little distant to the traditions established. Thank you very much for your reply.

  16. Anonymous12:36 PM

    I've been playing my MIMJazzmaster now for three/four weeks and I just love it: agressive, warm and cutting.

  17. Anonymous6:17 AM

    I had an AVRI Jazzmaster for a year. Kind of a love/hate relationship. Loved its look & feel (shape-wise), but hated playability (7.25" neck radius -> high action or no bends above 12th fret, bad bridge (which I replaced with a Mustang bridge, but the low E still popped out sometimes, ...). I ended up selling it, and ordered a MIM JM yesterday. I'm pretty confident it'll suit me better.
    All the comments about real artists not playing MIM's etc, are rubbish IMO. Who's to tell? A lot of 'em played CIJ/MIJ models, which aren't that great either. And Adam Franklin of Swervedriver DOES play a MIM JM. See proof pics at And don't forget that back in the eighties, Mascis, Ronaldo, Moore, Shields etc mostly played JM's 'cause they could buy 'em cheap. They never would have paid the rediculous amount of money for an AVRI if they could buy a MIM model at less than half the price, that they didn't have to mod themselves anymore.
    I don't like the fact that in the whole offsetguitars community, 80% talks of MIM JM's as crap. Whereas in Europe, they cost less than half of an AVRI, have NO flaws regarding the bridge, have a modern neck radius, and you don't need freakin' 0.012 gauge almost-acoustic strings to keep 'em in place. What's there not to like then? Different pickups? Right. +1. But will they be that bad? I doubt it. They'll be far better than the CIJ/MIJ ones, that's for sure.
    No offense though, to no one, really. I'm a Jazzmaster fan. And if the MIM should fail me, I'll keep you updated!

  18. All the comments about real artists not playing MIM's etc, are rubbish IMO. Who's to tell?

    Not sure what you mean by this. When I wrote this post, the Classic Player line had just been released. You're saying a bunch of artists somehow have been playing pre-launch Classic Players all these years and there was just no way for any of us to tell?

    And Adam Franklin of Swervedriver DOES play a MIM JM. See proof pics at And don't forget that back in the eighties, Mascis, Ronaldo, Moore, Shields etc mostly played JM's 'cause they could buy 'em cheap.

    They originally got them because they could buy them cheap. They certainly have no need to continue playing them now for that reason. They play them now because they discovered that they were great guitars, so they continued buying them even after the prices rose.

    I saw both My Bloody Valentine and J Mascis only a couple months ago. Neither were playing Classic Players.

    I don't like the fact that in the whole offsetguitars community, 80% talks of MIM JM's as crap. Whereas in Europe, they cost less than half of an AVRI, have NO flaws regarding the bridge, have a modern neck radius, and you don't need freakin' 0.012 gauge almost-acoustic strings to keep 'em in place.


    Look, I don't know how many times or how many different ways I have to say this.

    Let me put it this way. Say you've got a really hot girl. You love the way she looks but you hate her personality and you think she's kind of a bitch. So you say to your friend "man, I'd be all over that if she just had a lobotomy." What are you really saying? Do you really like that girl?

    People should play whatever they want. But to explain why 80% of the offsetguitars community talks about the CP's the way they do, it's hard for a lot of us to sit there and listen to people first berate everything that makes a JM a JM in the first place, say the Classic Players are so much better because they change all those things, then claim to be a Jazzmaster fan. What exactly are you a fan of to begin with, if you pretty much hate all the things that make a Jazzmaster what it is?

    You should play a CP if that's what you like. But there's no point trying to convince some of us who have loved Jazzmasters for what they are for years that the changes made in the CP's are "improvements".

  19. Anonymous1:26 PM

    Okay Jeff,
    the first thing about 'real artists' playing MIM's was more a response to another comment to your post ("MIM jazzmasters are awful, no professional would play with one of these" etc.) So in no way meant as a comment to your post, sorry for not being clear.

    Second: you're right about that part too (the 'cheap back in the 80's thing'). My mistake for sure. But still I think few play stock Jazzmasters... A lot of mods to be noticed with the pro's too. I don't think any of the mentioned artists uses the stock bridge.

    And third: I still feel there's a lot of ground for discussion here. If all the stuff that you say makes a JM so loveable, then why are there tons of threads on about modding JM's? 'cause apparently, only few really like them the way they come (and used to come) off factory. Swapping pickups in CIJ's (and AVRI's too), swapping bridges on both of them, taping bridge posts, shimming the neck, etc (althoug that's pretty much it). I think that all Fender tried to do here, is changing some of these things to simply improve the design of the guitar. No one really loves the stock JM bridge, I think you have to admit that. Moreover, what can be wrong with the trem unit being placed closer to the bridge? You would have a point if this would reduce the capacities of the trem, but I don't think that's the case. Fender also angled the neck pocket, since all JM necks are shimmed afterwards anyway. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
    The less resonating body you mention almost for certain has to do with lesser quality woods. I don't like that either. But (although I've never played one) I can't believe that they use better woods in MIJ/CIJ's than they do now in the MIM's. I could be dead wrong here, admitted. But it would surprise me.

    That's about it for now. Again no offense! I think my bottom line is that if JM's would have been like the MIM's from the start (okay, better woods and pup's), no one would have disliked 'em for that. There just wouldn't have been anything about 'em to dislike. Please note all this is just my two cents...
    Merry Christmas!

  20. But still I think few play stock Jazzmasters... A lot of mods to be noticed with the pro's too. I don't think any of the mentioned artists uses the stock bridge.

    Mascis uses a Mustang bridge because it's what he's used to - his first Jazzmaster had a Mustang bridge so that's what he developed his style of play on.

    Kevin Shields does use the stock bridge at least the majority of the time and he has said it's at least somewhat responsible for his sound.

    And third: I still feel there's a lot of ground for discussion here. If all the stuff that you say makes a JM so loveable, then why are there tons of threads on about modding JM's? 'cause apparently, only few really like them the way they come (and used to come) off factory. Swapping pickups in CIJ's (and AVRI's too), swapping bridges on both of them, taping bridge posts, shimming the neck, etc (althoug that's pretty much it).

    First, there are different kinds of mods. There are mods done because there's some sort of flaw with the guitar, there are mods done to bring a modern guitar closer to vintage, there are mods done because a person likes everything about a guitar except *one* thing, and there are mods done because frankly the guitarist in question doesn't know how to fix things properly and just says "fuck it".

    Pickup mods are *usually* done to bring a modern guitar closer to a vintage sound. Sometimes a JM player will change a pickup for some other specific purpose, like he wants to create a Jazzblaster or something. But I honestly have never, ever seen a case where somebody will change a vintage set of JM pickups to a modern single coil set permanently. It just doesn't happen, because people covet that vintage sound. I'd say 99% of pickup mods are players of modern JM's trying to get closer to that vintage JM sound.

    Most bridge mods are players that don't know how to deal with the stock bridge, so they just change it. *Some* bridge mods are because the guitarist really does play too hard for the stock bridge - I'm not saying that's impossible. What I am saying is that there's nothing wrong with the JM bridge - it was designed for a certain play style and the only mod it might *need* under all but the harshest playing conditions is the Loctite fix I mentioned in another post.

    My guess with taping bridge posts is that it's at best unnecessary and at worst harmful. I think most people do it to try to combat buzz, but that's not usually where the buzz is, and the better way to combat buzz is with Loctite. Taping your posts can keep the bridge from moving, which breaks the design of the tremolo.

    Shimming the neck is not a "mod", the guitar is designed for it.

    No one really loves the stock JM bridge, I think you have to admit that.

    I don't admit that, and I disagree with it. For one, *I* love the stock bridge, so I could never say "no one" loves it. For another, Kevin Shields. Elvis Costello. I'm sure there are plenty of people. If you look at all the photos of Jazzmasters ever posted on, only a small percentage I've seen have replaced bridges. Obviously a lot of people play these guitars with the stock bridge and do just fine.

    Moreover, what can be wrong with the trem unit being placed closer to the bridge? You would have a point if this would reduce the capacities of the trem, but I don't think that's the case.

    You lose the harmonics behind the bridge. That is one of the big selling points of the floating tremolo and bridge design, and it's one reason why Jazzmasters sound the way they do.

    Essentially, you are installing a buzz stop. And ask about how popular *that* mod is on offsetguitars and why. (Yes I know, Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher use buzz stops sometimes - I never said they were perfect!)

    Fender also angled the neck pocket, since all JM necks are shimmed afterwards anyway. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

    This is probably the one change in the Classic Players that I can agree with. (The CIJ's have it too.)

    All I am saying is that the Classic Player series are different guitars from a regular Jazzmaster. You might like them better, which is fine. Other people don't. Just like you might like a Strat and I might be a Les Paul guy (I'm not, but just saying). What I don't like is Fender claiming these guitars are the same as other Jazzmasters but with "improvements". They're not improvements, they're just differences, and taken as a whole they really create a whole different guitar.

    And as for people that do a million mods to their guitars, I agree with what you're really saying there, which is that at least some of those people probably bought the wrong guitar to begin with. I don't really see the point in buying a guitar you're going to mod a hundred different ways. All I've done to my CIJ is change the pickups to Duncan Antiquity II's and loctite the bridge, and it is pretty much perfect as it is. (Someday I will shield it a little better, to get it closer to what vintage JM's had.) I have seen people on the offsetguitars forum who want to change so many things that I have actually asked "why did you buy a Jazzmaster?" So, I guess those people can just buy a CP now... but that doesn't change the fact that I think the guitars are just in different categories.

  21. btw, when I talk about a "vintage sound" up there, I'm of course talking about it as a personal thing... however they perceive that. Not that there's some absolute way to quantify what a "vintage sound" is.

  22. Anonymous5:13 AM

    Say if Fender would have equipped the original 62 JM with a Mustang bridge with adjustable saddles. And now, 46 years later, they would design a *new* bridge, with treaded rod-like saddles, on which you can place your strings spaced the way you like it. Do you honestly believe that anyone would exchange their 'original' JM Mustang bridge with one of those? I don't think you can say you do. The mere fact that you have to put loctite on the saddles proves that it's not a good design at all. And I believe that the only reason people hold on to it, is to not to deviate from the vintage JM design, without there being another reason to (soundwise nor playability-wise). I can't believe anyone can hear the difference between a JM with stock bridge + loctite, and a JM with Mustang bridge.
    Apart from this I tink I have to agree with you on all other issues. I think I would have liked to see Fender build a US Jazzmaster, with the same specs as the AVRI (wood, finish, pickups,...), but with a different bridge (Mustang-like would do) and with a 9.5" fretboard radius, to allow a lower action. And I truly believe that they would sell more of those than of their AVRI series. I too would have bought one of those, instead of a MIM. I know the thinskins come close, but they're hard to get by in Europe.

  23. I don't know how we got into Mustang vs. JM bridges. I don't really have anything against Mustang bridges except that they are less functional than JM bridges (no saddle height adjustment, no string placement options), so I wouldn't want one myself. But I am not a big fan of tune-o-matics at all. If you were to switch your question around and ask whether anyone would change out a tune-o-matic for a JM bridge, then I think the answer is yes. In fact, I have seen people do it - people who have bought modified JM's with TOMs and wanted to switch back to the stock bridge because they liked it better.

    But these "what-ifs" are kind of pointless because a lot of what's happened with the JM bridge have been kind of happy accidents. Like I said, Kevin Shields credits the bridge partly for his sound, and I'm not going to argue with that - but if he'd been playing JM's and Jags with a different bridge, he just would never have known what he was missing. So would he have switched if this situation had been reversed? Probably not, because he wouldn't know any better. But he seems happy enough to keep his JM bridge now that he knows what it does.

    As for loctite, come on. This takes 2 minutes and costs $2. You're going to complain about that? And what makes it necessary is the saddle height adjustment. Mustang bridges don't need it because they are just less functional. (Though Mustang bridges still buzz at the posts occasionally, from what I've read.) Simpler designs are more reliable all else being equal, but some people do want the extra functionality that comes with more complex designs even if it comes at the expense of reliability. It's like, if you're shopping for a computer, sure some people can get by with just a Netbook. But a lot of people want a full-featured machine.

    Anyway, I can't really understand it when somebody thinks spending 2 minutes and $2 on maintaining their guitar is too much to ask. (This isn't a "mod", it's just maintenance, making sure the screws don't move.) You may as well say the Jazzmaster sucks because you need to change the strings every once in a while. You're a guitarist, you should enjoy working on your guitar! I feel more of a personal connection to my guitar(s) whenever I work on them.

  24. Anonymous8:59 AM

    It's not just the buzz that makes it a badly designed bridge. The strings popping out is what makes it bad in my opinion. And I don't mind spending two minutes of work and $2 on maintaining my guitar.
    I too didn't like my Mustang bridge because the saddles aren't height adjustable (that's why I said Mustang *with adjustable saddles*).
    I do (did) enjoy working on my JM, up to the point where I found out that the bended notes fretting out were due to the vintage 7,25" radius and action to my liking. But off course that's not a Jazzmaster exclusivity (most vintage RI Fenders have that radius), and it's not fair of myself to 'blame' just the JM for it. I guess I'm just glad now that I'll have a JM with a 9,5" radius. I don't mind the TOM at all, and the pickups, I'll just have to wait and see. I'll let you know how I feel about it when it arrives.

  25. I'm sure you will like it. And you should enjoy it. Everybody's got different tastes. The MIM's are obviously not for me, but it sounds like you won't have any problems.

  26. Anonymous11:30 AM

    Wow, so many comments about something that really draws people in. I wrote a while ago about the CP MIM jazmaster i bought ten weeks ago. i still love it because it radiates energy and a clear, bright sound, and I appreciate its strengths and limitations. It says 'play' and sounds sweet and close, and it works very well andd feels and looks very good. Definitely worth the money and more.

  27. Anonymous10:42 PM

    I just wanted to make a small comment about the Jaguar HH classic player you test drove for this post. The rhythm circuit was not merely replaced with just a kill switch. The roll knobs are actually adjustable coil taps for the humbucker pickups. It basically allows you to adjust both pickups between a single coil and full humbucker mode. I didn't know it when I played one myself until I saw it on youtube. Actually a pretty ingenious idea for that guitar consider many, not all, players barely use the rhythm circuit. I have enjoyed your posts which actually helped me install my jazzmaster pickups into my custom Jagmaster guitar. Thanks.

  28. Thanks for that clarification - this was just an unplugged initial tryout so I didn't really get to mess with the switches. I wrote that based on something I'd read elsewhere.

  29. Anonymous2:10 AM

    can you still play a-la-mbv with this new screw in trem arm?

  30. I actually don't know about that, but I would assume so. Guitar Center doesn't keep the arms out for their guitars so I didn't get to use it. If you want a definitive answer, I would ask at - a few guys there have these guitars.

  31. Anonymous11:03 AM

    Which one do you reccomend?

    Jazzmaster CIJ
    Jaguar Classic Player HH
    Jaguar Classic player
    Jaguar CIJ

    I have BIG think of that...
    Thanks a lot

  32. Anonymous12:15 PM


  33. Anonymous7:25 PM

    dude , i have a MIM red classic player jaguar, play it with my twin reverb amp, very good sound ,clean , sharp , nice tone,very satisfied and happy with it, a friend of mine has a vintage 62 jaguar , and we did the test , compared both in every way, they sound diferent of course, but he has buzzing problems with his , i dont , also mine has a louder , more clear and brighter sound than his, and he has problems with the strings staying in place with the saddles, so try one!! , really,and oh yeah , dont forget to plug it in , try it with a fender65 twin reverb amp , i dare you,. i love my Fender classic player Jaguar , glad to own one! Nice!!

  34. Anonymous4:21 AM

    I just bought a new MIM Jaguar and really like it. It was setup like garbage when I got it, but after swapping the strings for a set of .12s, adjusting the truss rod, bridge and pickup heights, and properly adjusting the trem, it sounds and plays very nicely. Proper setup with any jag/JM is crucial and often misunderstood. The "new" bridge is definitely welcome, as the whole strings popping out of the saddles problem was due to the fact that the vintage bridges were designed with heavy flatwound strings in mind, and also the Fender Mute feature which is useless for most modern players anyway. I am having problems with a lot of hum, which is definitely way more than is acceptable even for single coils, which I'll hopefully be able to fix by lining the innards with some cooper tape. The overall quality easily surpasses that of the MIM strats and teles I've played and owned, but there are the little wood and finishing imperfections you'd expect from MIMs, which can be seen through the sunburst finish, and are
    hidden under the red finishes. I also have a small issue with the where the fretboard tapers behind the nut, the shaping is very inconsistent and the low E actually contacts the tapered rosewood behind the nut which bothers me. I'll have to take a sander to it. All being said, I only paid $370, and at that price it is a really fine guitar with some really nice bright tones. Mine is on the heavier side, and is not as quiet unplugged as the one you played. As a side note, Fender lists the trem arms as "screw-in" for MIMs but mine has the traditional push-in trem arm. Thought that was a bit weird.

  35. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I've had a string of Jags and Jaguars, here's the rundown:

    2 different 90's JMs, CIJ - weak pickups, not great fretwork, electronics tended to have issues

    2 AVRI JMs - sounded great, lots of variation between models, much better fit & finish.

    1 90's CIJ Jaguar - nice guitar, chimey and sweet, used it for everything and it worked well.

    another 90's CIJ Jaguar - POS, horrible neck, crap pickups, made of cement

    2 AVRI Jaguars - one is pretty sweet, a bit thin at times, but nice handling. The other had very thin pickups and a so-so neck. Both had manufacturing defects that would be unacceptable if purchased new

    I've test-driven the MIM's. Don't like the neck radius. Pickups didn't sound as alive as I would have liked. Necks, bodies, hardware are Mexican quality, enough said.

    Overall, I've never had an issue with the stock bridges on AVRI JMs, but AVRI Jags are always giving me fits. I replaced one of the CIJ JMs with a mustang bridge, which worked well. Part of the problem is running .10s, but that's a personal problem.

    I also find that I can't have just these guitars as the only guitars in my arsenal. I have a CIJ 72 Tele thinline that rocks and covers my ass when I need a middle-of-the-road rock sound.

  36. Anonymous12:55 PM

    How resonant are the Japanese Jazzmasters compared to the Mexican and American ones?

  37. Bluez Guitar6:29 PM

    Only by plugging in the HH Jag, would you have been able to use the coil tap feature and hear the big difference between the pickups used single coil as opposed to Humbucker. This option opens up a huge variety of sounds not offered by the "originals." Too bad - You missed out on a great chance to actually play one.

  38. I have to disagree with almost everything you said here. I played one in a shop recently and they are totally different to anything I have ever played. You also bang on about humbuckers not being right for them but forget to mention next to the killswitch are two rollers, one for the neck pickup and one for the bridge. These change each pickup from a humbucker to a single coil and every stage in between so the variety of tone out of these things is beyond belief. I've got to say, I think this review was dominated by guitar snobbery.

  39. Also, is it not kinda laughable that you're doing a review of an electric guitar without plugging it in?


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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