Price paid: £ 485
Purchased from: Guitar Village, Farnham
Sound — 9
I play a wide range of styles from Blues/Blues Rock through to Indie and Alternative. This guitar can definitely not do Blues/Blues rock convincingly but that's not why I bought it. The Jaguar really shines when used for Indie and Alternative music. To quote Johnny Marr, the Jaguar is almost too feminine to attain those growly blues tones. The single coils paired with 1 meg pots give this guitar a really clear and bright tone. Perfect with effects as well and produces a really rich organic tone. On the rhythm circuit (only the neck pickup activated) the guitar is switched to 50k pots. This creates a much darker and broodier tone. Ironically I find this great with some fuzz for lead work but it is also great for rhythm guitar and provides a good contrast to the bright lead circuit. Starting with the bridge pickup on the lead circuit, this is a classic bridge pickup. Bright, trebley, but not too harsh this is perfect for ringing arpeggios and strummed chords. Through a good amp (I play this through a Vox AC4 at the moment) it is also great for lead work. The middle position has a nice pop to it, reminding me of the middle pickup of a strat. I love using this pickup for funk music and it produces a lovely rich tone. The neck pickup is the most intriguing. There are such a wide variety of sounds that can be achieved through this. There are classic neck pickup tones (warm, deep and soft) but it also retains a lot of the bite and snap that the Jaguar is renowned for. Overall the guitar can be a bit noisy (the pickups aren't wax sealed) but the pickup claws negate that somewhat. Idiosyncratic of the Jaguar is its sparkling cleans and this guitar doesn't fail to deliver. The rhythm circuit provides a darker edge to the guitar and is a welcome variation. In terms of matching my playing styles this copes with Indie-rock and alternative brilliantly - think Sonic Youth, RHCP, Arctic Monkeys. For a very old design this feels like a very modern guitar. This guitar does have variety but it's variety in a limited sphere. For any metal heads, blues men or hard rock fans I'd probably Steer clear of the Jaguar. The Jag has been made popular, on the whole, by indie, shoegaze and grunge players and this is where it naturally fits tonally. Although with its sparkling cleans it can do a lot more. It is great with pedals, especially the growly fuzz of my Colorsound One Knob Fuzz, whose tone is dichotomised by the spangly, almost-thin, and crisp Jaguar tone. Also is great with my Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer which provides my tone with a bit of punch to really accentuate those highs and give the mids a bit more kick.
Overall Impression — 10
As aforementioned this guitar is great for Indie/Alternative/Grunge. This guitar has tonal variety - great cleans while also being brilliant with effects - but within a limited frame of styles. The rhythm/lead circuits and the high pass filter (chokes off tone a little) gives so much to play with and you can play around with different sounds forever. For the right guitarist this is the perfect guitar, and that's how I feel. It's definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and the 24" scale length and the round neck (7.25" radius) are going to be awful for some people. For me I love this thing though. The flaws of the bridge make it even more appealing. It's satisfying to have her set up perfectly and when she is in fine working order she's brilliant. I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from buying one of these for the bridge, on the contrary it's very good, it's just that it does require some care and attention. Compared to the bridge on my Telecaster anyway, a guitar which is like an artistic brick. If it were stolen/lost I would definitely buy another. I wanted one of these for such a long time and I couldn't imagine it outside of my arsenal now. For the right player, the perfect guitar. Try one for yourself and see if you're one of the few...
Reliability & Durability — 9
Everything on this guitar seems pretty sturdy except for the troublesome bridge. There's a lot of switches and knobs that you'd think would cause problems but looking at how this thing's been built, true Japanese standards, I don't think there should be any problems. It would withstand live playing when set up properly, but because of that worrying bridge I wouldn't gig without a backup. Basically everything seems fine but the design of this bridge leaves a lingering doubt in the owner's mind. Whether this is justified or not doesn't matter.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The guitar was set up awfully, although I attribute this to the store more than the factory. Firstly the pickups and the action needed adjusting. A further problem, as isn't uncommon on Jaguars and Jazzmasters, was the problem with the fiddly bridge. The bridge saddle height screws would work themselves loose, playing havoc with tuning and intonation. Thus once I had purchased the guitar I applied threadlock to all of the screws on the bridge and after that there was no more buzz/rattle which was unbearable previously. This was a major flaw but easily remedied. I won't be swapping the bridge for a Mustang one anytime soon and even though my pick attack is quite hard I do not find strings slipping off their saddles. Electronically everything is fine and everything else is put on sturdily. The finish is perfect and there were no other flaws. Since the problems with the bridge were down to design, rather than poor manufacturing, and I knew what I was getting myself in for when I bought the guitar I will not mark it down for that. That said caveat emptor, this is a high maintenance guitar. As said above tonally the guitar feels almost feminine and the build seems the same to me. In lipstick red this guitar strangely reminds me of a sexy high maintenance girlfriend; burdensome but ultimately worth it.
Features — 10
Bought this guitar new but having some problem with the serial number so not sure which year. Made In Japan (MIJ) '62 Jaguar Alder body Candy Apple Red (with matching headstock) Rosewood fretboard Maple neck Poly finish on neck and body 22 Vintage frets 24" scale length 7.25" neck radius Floating tremolo 2 single coil pickups Rhythm and Lead circuits with separate tone and volume controls and high pass filter Vintage Fender Gotoh style tuners Got a gig bag thrown in for free (but with broken zips since they'd already given me a discount and knew that I was immediately going to buy a HSC for it). Has a vast array of switches, rollers and knobs to play with so you get a variety of sounds. Definitely a multi-faceted guitar. Full marks.