Price paid: € 400
Purchased from: Thomann
Features: This looks to be a 2012 made model - made in China. The other Squiers I have bought seem to be Indonesia I think, so I'm guessing this is a recent change? This is a Standard Jazzmaster shape and neck with 21 jumbo frets on a rosewood fretboard. The shape is described as a Vintage C but it seems a bit different to that when playing. It's a chunky neck for an offset Fender guitar - but obviously slimmer than a modern Strat etc. The body is basswood and covered in a very nice Vintage white. The pickguard is an anodized gold colour and all the parts are naturally aged looking. Although this comes with the Standard Jazzmaster/Jaguar type trem set up, the Vintage Jazzmaster bridge is replaced by a Gibson style adjust-o-matic bridge point instead, which makes tuning a lot more stable but does alter the sound quite a bit.
There are two aged cover Fender Jazzmaster pickups, which appear to be slightly hotter than Traditional ones with a bit more bite and punch - this makes them very P90 like, but it doesn't sound quite as dark and jazzy as the original style pickups - but then this is a signature model. The Jazzmaster controls are as normal, tone and volume for the lead circuit with a neck, dual or bridge selector and then the top-bout rhythm circuit switch with independent volume and tone control rollers. The tuners are Vintage style fenders with the string hole in top and the old scallop pegs. They seem very stable and actually better than some of the Fender USA Standards on modern guitars. There are no accessories with this - it may be a Signature model but it's still a Squier by Fender, so it's still sort of budget-level but overall it's hard to see why it's cheaper than a USA Standard. // 9
Sound: I'm pretty new to offset guitars. I'd always played Strats, Telecasters and Les Paul type guitars, with a few semis and Grestch big body type guitars. I always liked the look of Jaguars but didn't know much about them. When Squier started doing accurate Vintage modifieds with all the same controls, rather than those with all the extras ripped out, I went for a Jaguar and instantly loved it. I didn't know much about the difference to Jazzmasters but slowly learnt that Jaguars are 24" short scales and Jazzmasters are the same 25.5" scale as Strats and were intended to be the replacement for jazz musicians.
After loving the Jag I wanted a Jazzmaster to see if the body/rhythm circuit style would be as classy with that longer scale and different pickups. I looked at a few and saw this awesome looking gold and aged white one which happened to be a J Mascis signature model. I've heard a bit of his stuff and it's pretty good but I'm not a particular fan, so the signature wasn't what got me to buy it. It was just better than a stock Squier Jazz, for not much more money and the look with that gold pickguard just seemed a bit "different."
I play in a bad that does a mixture of hard rock and electronic styles and this suits some songs well. I'm playing through a lot of fx and my main amps are a Marshall JVM410H and an Engl E670SE. I'm obviously not looking for a Traditional sound, though I don't always want the EMG hi-fi active sound, so sometimes very different guitars make a showing.
The sound of this J Mascis Jazzmaster is a bit different to a Traditional Jazzmaster. In those the pickups tend to be very warm and dark and, well, jazzy! (makes sense...) but these are a signature setup. The sound is hotter than my Jaguar and the pickups sound very close to the P90s I have on a couple of guitars. Obviously on the rhythm circuit they get very warm and dark, but the lead circuit everything is quite punchy and crunchy but still very even toned.
As they are P90 style single coils it can be quite noisy with a loud hum - but when both pickups are activated it becomes a hum cancelling humbucker effectively, so it does quiet down. The internals are well shielded for a Squier and so it's actually quieter than the Squier Telecasters and Jaguar I have as well. In terms of variety, having the two independent circuits gives you two sounds with one switch, which is great for solos or songs with very different chorus characters. Overall you can do jazzy tones, blues or hard rock/grunge/alternative. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: As a signature Squier I'd say this is clearly well above the very bottom range of Squiers but the sort of mid-ground before the standard Fender ranges. Overall though I think it's very well made for a Chinese guitar and actually better than some US made Strats I've had before.
Apparently the set up is based on J Mascis preferences which I'm not really that aware of. But it does come strung with 10's rather than most Squiers having 9s and it's clearly set up for a harder, higher action. The adjust-o-matic bridge is set quite high - again apparently at the artists preferences. This is probably closer to what a Traditional Jazzmaster would be set up like - although a lot of guys try to use 9s and low action on Jags and Jazzes, they do seem to be a lot more stable and suitable to high string gauges and action.
The finish was excellent. There was a slightly sharp fret at the third and the nut was a bit pinchy on the high e, but these were things I could sort out myself. Overall I've had worse set ups from far more expensive guitars. It's not the most expensive guitar so I was probably expecting it to have a few flaws but I've yet to find anything. Squier have really come on a lot in recent years. It's going to get hard to justify the made in USA prices soon if they keep up the quality control. // 8
Reliability & Durability: I've not had the guitar for more than a couple of weeks so I can't really testify to it's longevity, but I've had the Squier Jaguar which has stood up to regular gigging and recording and seems better put together than some of my pricier guitars. This feels more solid than the Jaguar - though oddly lighter as well (I'm guessing the basswood is just very light?) which given it's a full 25.5" scale I wasn't expecting. The anodized pickguard is probably a love it or hate it thing (I love it personally - I hate boring, tortoise shell pickguards - something out of the ordinary is always good!) It has solid strap buttons as stock but I replaced them with Schaller strap locks because I just tend to do that with all guitars anyway.
I pulled it open just to see and the internals were very neat and well routed and amazingly for a Squier, everything was shielded well and had shielding paint across the pickups. The finish is Bullet proof. The neck is a lot more Vintage finish than some Squiers and the aged parts give it a more Vintage look but they all hold up well. I'd trust this as much as I'd trust a modern Fender. // 10
Overall Impression: Whether you are a fan or not of J Mascis he obviously got a great signature Jazzmaster out of Squier. Unlike some signature guitars it's not a one-trick pony dedicated to someones exact style - you can still play Traditional jazz on this like the early Jazzmasters intended, or you can push it more into the alternative rock territory without needing to upgrade parts etc. A lot of Squiers are well made but you need to upgrade a few parts, often bridges and tuners, to make it really solid. This comes with the upgraded parts like the adjust-o-matic bridge etc so although it's more expensive than a stock Squier, it's still cheaper than an equivalent Fender USA model and equally as good.
I really love having a Jazzmaster. I still like the Jaguar with it's tiny scale and multiple circuit controls but the Jazzmaster is a nice alternative to strats and has a unique P90-esque crunch but the ability to go dark very easily. I don't think I'd even bother with an overpriced US Fender Jazzmaster after this. You may not all love the gold anodized plate on the front which is a very specific look - but if it upsets you that much, you can swap it out and still have a souped up Jazzmaster for about a third of the price of a US model.
This is a great, comfortable to play guitar, that will accept a lot of different set-ups, doesn't need a lot of stock replacements and can handle a variety of sounds, even though it's a signature model. I'd happily recommend it to anyone wanting to branch out into offset guitars, or just wanting to avoid yet another Strat or Tele. And given the price, the finish and appointments are excellent. Yeah, you don't get a case/gigbag/strap or any of the candy you get with a high end signature model - but for the money you save you could buy 2 of these and still pick up hard cases for them with change.
I'm used to hearing P90 style pickups in Gibson guitars, so it's a real treat having the Fender feel and surf style trem set up with some aspects of that Gibson world. Just a great guitar, doesn't matter if you know who J Mascis even is or not. // 9