Jazzmaster - Lee Ranaldo Signature Review

manufacturer: Fender date: 12/19/2014 category: Electric Guitars
Fender: Jazzmaster - Lee Ranaldo Signature
In my years of playing I've never handled a guitar as beautiful as this one. The sound is really something, and along with the features for me it's simply perfect.
 Sound: 8
 Overall Impression: 7.5
 Reliability & Durability: 7
 Action, Fit & Finish: 8
 Features: 7
 Overall rating:
 8.6 
 Reviewer rating:
 7.5 
 Users rating:
 9.6 
 Votes:
 10 
reviews (2) pictures (1) 11 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 6.2
Jazzmaster - Lee Ranaldo Signature Recently reviewed by: arnaeve, on december 19, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 1200

Purchased from: Fender rep

Features: All vintage. Vintage nut with narrow string spacing, a vintage neck radius, vintage tuners, 3 way pickup selector, no extra electronic circuits aside from volume. Mustang bridge, maple neck, 21 frets, rosewood board, anodized aluminum pick guard. Fenders new wide range humbuckers. Included a case and some pretty dumb stickers. However, there's a few good reasons that these vintage features were abandoned by fender once guitar manufacturing was perfected in later decades and I'll get to that in a minute. // 6

Sound: Neck pickup sounds clean and smooth with extended lows and clear highs. Bridge pickup sounds very "rock" with scooped midrange and a bit of distortion. I rather like both. Don't care for the middle pickup position. Paired with my Vox AC15 C1, this guitar can still be quite bright even with 75% rolloff of my amps tone. Makes me wish it had a tone knob. It's also a very resonant guitar, with all that string length off the back of the bridge. Its cool, but sympathetic vibrations can cause unplucked strings to start ringing. // 7

Action, Fit & Finish: The action has to be a bit higher than I prefer. Since it has a vintage radius neck, notes above the twelfth fret tend to fret-out easily when bent if the action is too low, even after a proper setup. The sweet spot isn't unbearably high, but I prefer lower. Only problem with live playing is that occasionally the high e string will pop out of the mustang bridge during aggressive soloing. It's happened twice on-stage. Otherwise tuning stability is quite good. I make extensive use of the tremolo and it takes punishment pretty well. // 6

Reliability & Durability: The nitro finish is extremely thin on this guitar. There's basically no protection so abuse shows up pretty quickly. I can tell its gonna get beaten up fast. Have had a hard shell fender and a parker fly for 12 years and they are still in better shape than this one after 6 months on the road. No rhythm/lead circuit like a traditional Jazzmaster, but I actually think removing them was a good idea. Most Jazzmaster players I know have those taken out anyway. Strap buttons are fine. But the vintage tuners are way too tedious to restring this guy onstage so keep a backup handy. // 6

Overall Impression: This guitar could have perfectly bridged the gap between Fender's pricey AVRI Jazzmaster, and their lower cost classic player. It's got quality hardware and a reasonable cost at the minor expense of a tone knob and electronics. However it is a very niche guitar and the all vintage specifications really hold it back. I wrote this review for the purposes of informing people what I wish I had known going in, and what I only really discovered once I got intimate with the guitar. And that is, this is a RHYTHM players guitar. If you play lead, you are not going to like it one bit. 

Vintage radius and long scale neck, vintage nut spacing, and thin vintage fret wire all conspire against note bending. Its one of the stiffest guitars I've ever played. It has an absolute maximum bending range of 2 steps over the twelfth fret due I think to how close the strings are together, and it fights you all the way up. Even if you can accept that max note bend range, the string tension is still extraordinarily tight. You've got to have iron claws to pull off fast bending techniques. It's kind of my workout guitar right now... Kind of like running with weights on.  

This is I suppose what Lee wanted.. A stable guitar that could handle his odd gauges and tunings. And that it does quite well. But versatility is not its strong suite. Make sure that's what you want going in. If it is, it's a beautiful guitar. // 6

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overall: 8.8
Jazzmaster - Lee Ranaldo Signature Reviewed by: Just2Rusty, on november 09, 2012
2 of 3 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 1500

Purchased from: Musiciansfriend

Features: This guitar was manufactured in 2010, in the USA. It features 21 Vintage style frets with pearl inlays spanning across a 25.5" rosewood fretboard. Unique features of this guitar include Satin Lacquer Finish, Satin Black Painted Headstock, Single Master Volume with Black Speed Knob, Mustang Style Bridge, Re-Voiced Wide Range Humbucking pickups and a Black Anodized Aluminum Pickguard. The guitar does not feature tone knobs. Which, with this guitar I feel there wouldn't be a use for one anyway. The guitar came with Vintage Jazzmaster case, which included a Strap, Cable, Sonic Youth 'Zine, (Little magazine) Special Jaguar/Jazzmaster String Set, Stickers and about 1000 little manuals and information note things. // 8

Sound: First off, this guitar can generate any sound you desire. The sky is quite literally the limit. Personally I play Experimental or Alternative styles, favoring the music of Sonic Youth (obviously), Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine and bands like that. But I also play Classic Rock, Blues and some Jazz. And this guitar can handle them all quite well. As opposed to the Seymour Duncan pickups of the Thurston Moore model, the Lee Ranaldo has two Fender Wide Range humbucking pickups that are re-voiced to original Vintage specs, so that this Jazzmaster will sound like Jazzmasters did in their 1960s heyday. I run it through my Fender Frontman 212R amplifier, which compliments the guitars warm, clean sounding pickups. But can also scream with feedback and distortion when I want it to. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: The action on this guitar is decent, although I think eventually I might get it professionally set up. Everything else is spot on. Bridge is well routed and all that. So far I haven't noticed any flaws, and I don't expect there will be any. All the frets are filed down perfectly, the finish on the wood was done really well and looks great. Tuners are tight and keep my strings in-tune, even after excessive whammy abuse, nut's great. To be honest I was really astonished with how perfect this guitar is. Everything's really well done. And don't just take my word for it either, if you're within capabilities of playing one of these guitars, do so and dare question me. You'll see that you agree with 99% perfection. // 10

Reliability & Durability: This guitar's definitely solid. I expect it to last a very, very long time. Strap buttons are solid and I could depend on this guitar to last me through any gig, in any circumstance. Don't think I'm being bias either, take it from me. This is a guitar you can really trust. I'm sure if for WHATEVER reason it was to sustain a dropping or something of the sorts it would be hardly damaged at all. // 8

Overall Impression: In my years of playing I've never handled a guitar as beautiful as this one. The sound is really something, and along with the features for me it's simply perfect. I love the feel of the guitar, it's nice and light and the bigger scale body works great for me. If this guitar was ever stolen I'd probably kill myself as there's no replacing it. It's definitely one of a kind. Prior to purchasing I compared this guitar to the Thurston Moore Signature Jazzmaster, and though similar, this guitar appealed to me more, I felt the sound just suited what I wanted with it's re-voiced pickups and the Mustang bridge was a must for me. // 9

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