#1
What's the difference(s) between a vintage like 60's or 70's model Fender Jazz or Precision Bass compared to the ones of today? I called a local guitar shop that deals Fenders and the owner said that it's basically an issue of how they feel with the neck and such and that the older pickups were probably a little better.
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#2
The differences are going to be pretty small, the design of both P and J has been set in stone since the 60's basically. The major points would be the pickups, the neck radius, and the finish on the body. There's some people who will tell you that anything that's not "pre-CBS" isn't worth having, but those type of people often have based their opinions on stupid personal prejudices, nostalgia, and over-emphasized issues with perceived quality. I've played a vintage P-bass, and I actually didn't care for it at all... maybe it's because I'm used to my MIM Jazz, but I honestly preferred mine.

If Fender (and Ampeg) really went to **** 30 years ago, would they really still be the most popular bass gear manufacturers?
#3
Well, the newer basses are probably going to be manufactured to tighter tolerances, and have minor adjustments made to the design given years of combating certain issues, such as neck warpage and bridge-saddle wandering. The necks now have graphite support to keep the neck from moving from season to season, and it fends off future warpage due to the nature of the Fender trussrod, which compresses the neck lengthwise. The bridges on the new basses are much more solid and stable than in the past. The body finishes are much more durable than in the past. A lot of guys in the 60's wound up with sunburst-colored shirts after sweating too much onstage. The frets are made out of more durable alloys, as roundwound strings have asserted a dominance on the market.

Also, don't believe anyone who tells you that CNC and mechanizing certain processes are bad things. Humans make mistakes. Computers, when set up properly, never make mistakes. The best process involves a marriage of the two, where CNC is best suited for quality, speed, and extreme accuracy, and hand-craftsmanship where it is the best method of achieving the desired result. With this combination, you wind up with the highest-quality bass. A lot of people play down CNC and mechanization because it allows for increased production numbers, so the "coolness" and "rarity" of the bass declines. The truth is that everyone wins- the consumer wins because they get a much better instrument at a lower price, and the producer wins because they can make a lot of them at a reduced cost. If you wanted a totally unique handmade bass, we wouldn't be discussing Fenders in the first place. Should this be the case, you should seek out a reputable luthier or custom shop.

In my opinion, unless you're going for nostalgia (and please don't say you are if you were born in the 80's or 90's), a modern bass will always outdo a similar vintage bass in terms of construction and quality. For example, don't try to compare a 70's Alembic to a 2008 Fender. The lines between vintage and modern get so twisted at that point that it becomes a whole new discussion.

Tonally, the old wood of a vintage piece will contribute to the sound, as it has dried out and is more used to being a bass than a tree at this point. With pickups, I'd say modern wins again. Pickups that are 30-40 years old can tend to have some pretty bad problems, and their output has probably weakened quite a bit over the years due to corrosion, rust, and other issues. If you want a vintage sound, get a new vintage-type pickup, like Lindy Fralins or Nordstrands. They will blow away just about anything else on the market in that category.

To relate a little more to the original question, there will be numerous little differences between the actual instruments, mostly revolving around the neck shape and woods used. A lot of basses from the 50's and 70's used ash for the body wood, something not commonly seen on new Fenders. Most of the old basses used a nitrocellulose laquer finish on the body, whereas the most new basses have a polyurethane finish on the neck and body. The nitro finish has the advantage of letting the wood breathe and aging a little more gracefully, but it will also wear out much faster and be susceptible to moisture and dings/chips.

And I agree with ITFgroove; there is a lot of senseless crap against post-CBS Fenders. However, as mentioned by thefitz on many occasions, pre-anything gear is always trendy and 99% of the time the reasons supporting its superiority are unfounded. Everyone seems to want the first one or earliest version of anything ever made. Pre-CBS Fenders, pre-Fender SWR amps, pre-Gibson Tobias basses and Trace amps, pre-ovangkol Warwicks (superseded by pre-factory Warwicks)...... the list never ends.

If it is good, you like it, and it speaks to you....... just buy it and enjoy it.
"Comedy's a dead art form. Now tragedy, that's funny." -Bender Bending Rodriguez
Last edited by mountaindew88 at Feb 24, 2009,
#4
+1

That was a superbly written response mountaindew88. I completely agree with all of your points.
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#5
WOW that is an amazing responce! That basically covers everything I was wondering about.
G&L ASAT Semi-Hollow
Ibanez SR305 DX
Washbrun XB100 (modified)
Ibanez SW35

Fender Telecaster (MIM)
Orange Crush 15R

Danelectro Corned Beef Reverb
Digitech Hardwire DL-8
#7
Older stock pickups were 100% better than the crap they use these days. Most of what's been said has been said, but There are actually a TON of differances in the Jazz bass line. Not as much in the P-bass line.

Jazz basses went through many transformations, actually. If you want to know specifics, pick a couple of years of basses, and I can tell you exactly what's up with them.

PS. best sound and feeling basses I've ever played were 60's and 70's Fenders with original pickups... although the 65' with duncans was pretty nice sounding, too...

flat out worst fender basses I've played were the 80's models... those are abortions that didn't take.
Fact: Bears eat beats. Bears beats Battlestar Galactica.
Last edited by Thomme at Feb 25, 2009,
#8
Well, the only way you can test to see if the old pickups were better is to test both a set of new pickups and old pickups in the exact same bass. Also, I will say that the old pickups were better when first produced, but after 30-40 years of sweat, corrosion, humidity, and oxidization, well.....

The best pickup you can get TODAY is an exact reproduction of the vintage design. Lindy Fralin and Nordstrand make outstanding candidates.

With Jazz basses, some of the biggest changes were electronic. In 1962 they switched from the stacked-knob v/t/v/t configuration to the v/v/t config we see today. At some point in the 70's they moved the bridge pickup closer to the bridge. As with P-Basses, the neck shape changed a few times throughout the production runs. I really can't think of any other drastic changes that were made, but I'm no Fender historian.

There's so much variation from bass to bass with any Fender production run that you'll find good and bad basses from just about any year. Personally, if I was going to find a Fender for life, I'd look for the oldest one I could find, mainly because of the aged wood. If the electronics sounded like piss, I'd replace them and carefully store the originals. Ala Mike Watt with 90% of his basses.

As a primary touring and general beater bass, I'd want a newer bass with graphite in the neck. Wood is temporary. Graphite is forever
"Comedy's a dead art form. Now tragedy, that's funny." -Bender Bending Rodriguez
Last edited by mountaindew88 at Feb 26, 2009,
#9
Quote by mountaindew88
Well, the only way you can test to see if the old pickups were better is to test both a set of new pickups and old pickups in the exact same bass. Also, I will say that the old pickups were better when first produced, but after 30-40 years of sweat, corrosion, humidity, and oxidization, well.....

The best pickup you can get TODAY is an exact reproduction of the vintage design. Lindy Fralin and Nordstrand make outstanding candidates.

With Jazz basses, some of the biggest changes were electronic. In 1962 they switched from the stacked-knob v/t/v/t configuration to the v/v/t config we see today. At some point in the 70's they moved the bridge pickup closer to the bridge. As with P-Basses, the neck shape changed a few times throughout the production runs. I really can't think of any other drastic changes that were made, but I'm no Fender historian.

There's so much variation from bass to bass with any Fender production run that you'll find good and bad basses from just about any year. Personally, if I was going to find a Fender for life, I'd look for the oldest one I could find, mainly because of the aged wood. If the electronics sounded like piss, I'd replace them and carefully store the originals. Ala Mike Watt with 90% of his basses.

As a primary touring and general beater bass, I'd want a newer bass with graphite in the neck. Wood is temporary. Graphite is forever

you have a very glib view of vintage basses.... The bridges, frets, pickup types and tuners also changed more than a few times in the histories of both basses. The only things that stayed the same were the shapes of the bodies, for the most part.
Fact: Bears eat beats. Bears beats Battlestar Galactica.
#10
Most of the changes only make a major difference if you're a collector. If so, nitpick away, but to most people it really doesn't matter. Granted, there are some people out there... EVH comes to mind, saying that his tone would be ruined if anything other than a 1971 quarter was used to block his tremolo

However, to each his own. I'll stick to Warwicks and leave Fender fact-checking to those more informed.
"Comedy's a dead art form. Now tragedy, that's funny." -Bender Bending Rodriguez