Price paid: £ 60
Sound — 8
When I first got this bass second hand (but apparently never used, it still had all of the protective films on the pick-guard and pick-ups) the guy who owned it had tuned the E string to an upper Z sharp, perhaps he confused tuning a bass with anchoring the Titanic. I slackened off the strings and tuned it up and the sound was truly appalling, like an angry wasp farting in a biscuit tin. I was planning to use the bass as a "project" so I was prepared to chuck the pick-ups in the bin and replace them but it turned out to be unnecessary. I chucked the old strings in the bin and replaced them with an old set of Rotosound strings I had knocking about and the difference was amazing. Either the original strings were crap or they were stretched or a combination of the two. With the "new" strings on it sounds wonderful, plenty of that growl you would expect from any Precision. My only real gripe with the sound is the fact the tone knob seems to do absolutely nothing to the sound. I might get around to changing the pot and cap at some point or I might just twiddle the tone knobs on the amp (Ashdown EB180 by the way). I think it's unfair to award points on the basis of what a mildly abused bass sounded like so I'll score it post string swap.
Overall Impression — 7
As I have said I bought this as a *project* bass and as a friend for my Jazz so to a certain extent my review is a bit skewed by the fact there's not much of the original left apart from the wood and the pick-ups. That said if you think like I do that a bass is a fancy looking plank to hold the strings and the pick-ups together then even in its original form it's more than adequate for a first bass although perhaps a decent set of strings might be in order. I picked mine up second hand for 60 and at that price it was a bargain but at 170 retail I'm not so sure. An extra 100 would put a buyer in to the realms of something quite a bit better like some of the "Modern Player" basses so I'd hang on for one of them or seek out a second hand MIM bass which can be had for around the 300 mark if you look around. I've been playing for about 5 years mainly for my own amusement. I have an Ashdown EB180 combo which could make anything sound good and a Behringer Bass V-Amp Pro which can make anything sound like anything else so the actual "raw" sound coming out of the jack socket is not a huge concern to me. As long as its basic sound is a good place to start from from and, subject to my concerns about the original string, it is, then I would give it the thumbs up but maybe try to get that price down nearer to 100 than 200. Mine is sitting in the corner all shiny and black and to be honest I've spent far more on black hardware than it was really worth but it looks awesome, sounds great, plays beautifully and I'm quite proud of it. Overall... 7/10 seems about fair.
Reliability & Durability — 5
I've only had this bass for a couple of months and most of that time it has been in pieces being pretty much rebuilt from the ground up with all new hardware so I couldn't exactly comment on the "out of the box" durability of the thing. I wouldn't worry about the thing falling to pieces but some parts seem to be spoiling the ship for a ha'peth of tar. The machine heads are held on to the headstock with two worryingly short screws, the strap buttons also suffer from short screw syndrome and the tone / volume knobs don't look like they'd stand much abuse. I'll give it 5/10 on the grounds that at least with a Precision there's not actually that much that *can* break.
Action, Fit & Finish — 6
As it was second hand I can't comment on the set up from the factory so I'll limit myself to what I found for myself. 1) Neck: 10/10 for the fit in to the body. If anything it puts my MIM Jazz in the shade. The actual finish on the neck (if there was any and I'm not convinced there was) was pretty awful and the wood was a bit insipid. Ultimately the finish was irrelevant as it was going to get a respray in a dark tinted lacquer. As I have already mentioned The bass was horribly tuned and the neck was banana shaped with the tension of the strings. When I slackened the strings the neck bounced back to straight as a die without so much as a tweak on the truss rod. One thing that is very noticeable is the difference in size between the frets on this bass and my Jazz. The frets are much smaller (medium rather than medium jumbo?) but it doesn't cause me any problems so... 2) Body: 10/10 for the fit and finish. It's heavy, fits well to the neck and has a lovely gloss black finish which can hold its head high against the finish of any other bass I've ever seen. 3) Pick-ups: Seem to be fine in terms of sound if a bit cheap looking. I've not fiddled with them as I don't see the need to. 4) Pick-guard: Horrible. Why do Fender persist with selling instruments with white pick-guards? Does anybody actually like them? Is it a marketing tool to get people to buy replacements for 40 a go? Oh well... It's black now. 5) Hardware: The bridge is fine and seems the same as any Fender but the rest is a bit shonky. The tuners are weedy and pathetic, the strap buttons seem to be held on with the smallest screws available, the string tree looks cheap and plastic (it is metal it just looks like it's plastic), the volume and tone knobs look cheap and plastic because they are. Definitely minus a few points for hardware but as I intended to replace everything with gloss black items it was all rather academic. I don't think the hardware is likely to affect the sound but it looks a bit naff and I'd have some doubts about its longevity. Does the tone control count as hardware? If it does it doesn't work.
Features — 10
Features? Pretty much exactly what you would expect on any Precision. A big lump of wood with a long lump of wood screwed to it, a couple of pick-ups, some twiddly knobs for tightening the strings (did I mention it had strings?) a thing at the other end to stop the strings falling off, a couple of buttons on the body for some reason. I don't know what they're for but you could probably use them to attach some sort of strap so you can play standing up. In summary... It's a Precision.