Kurt Cobain Jaguar review by Fender

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.2 (97 votes)
Fender: Kurt Cobain Jaguar

Price paid: $ 824.48

Purchased from: Twin Town Guitars - Minneapolis, MN

Sound — 9
Be aware that the Super Distortion has a lot of low end. I'm used to bridge humbuckers being more mid-heavy such as on my SG. My complaint here is that when the strangle switch is not engaged (when it's clicked upwards) there's very little tonal variety between the bridge and rhythm pickups, which is odd. It's because the Super Distortion is so bassy and the PAF is going to be bassy anyway due to its position. You'll need a good amplifier to distinguish between the two and how the PAF is slightly more open and clear while the Super Distortion is just a little more immediate. With the switch engaged (clicked downwards) they become very very distinct. The PAF sounds more like a single-coil neck pickup, bright and jangly, and the Super Distortion just gets really ballsy. It gets very biting and aggressive. You can get thrash and black metal tones, chugga chugga punk pop tones, ripping leads, etc. To me it seems like you can basically leave it on the Super Distortion at all times and use the strangle switch to go between warm and bright instead of changing pickups. The PAF is a very nice sounding humbucker though. I just wish the Super Distortion was a little bit less bassy because it makes riffs sound a bit boomy and muddy - think of the sound you get when playing through a Big Muff on high gain through a rhythm pickup. It's sludgy and heavy but not very articulate. True to form, it is a very grungy tone. Thankfully this can be tweaked instantly by hitting the strangle switch for someone interested in playing faster leads. One curiosity to note is that it has two tone controls - one for when the strangle switch is on and one for when it's off - but the one for when the strangle switch is on works when it's off as well, although in a different way from the one intended for when it's off. Confusing? They both do separate things. The tone dial that is the silver knob by the cable jack removes highs, some lows, and keeps mids. The one that is the sideways black knob on the top wing of the guitar cuts highs and drastically cuts volume. I find this knob to basically be useless and I always use the silver one by the jack. I currently play in a dark electric folk group and I've just done a few gigs with it and been very satisfied after previously using a Stratocaster which is basically the king of tonal variety. I wouldn't have bought this if it couldn't get many tones. I can be jangly, mellow, bright, loud, aggressive, all very quickly. I'm not in to one-dimensional guitars that can only achieve one sound, which might be a stigma about this guitar. It's more tonally diverse than you might think. It just has a lot of quirks to figure out but once you understand them you can get a surprising amount of tones for a guitar with two humbuckers.

Overall Impression — 9
I understand that this is one of the higher quality instruments from the Mexican factory. A few people have told me that with this instrument, the fact that it was made there is basically entirely irrelevant. The replica job on it is stunning. I bought this from a store that had two of them in and I compared them and they looked identical. The pickups are even slightly rusted and everything. I had a PRS SE Custom stolen from me and got $400 from the insurance company (ALWAYS INSURE YOUR GUITARS). I was in the market for a used 62 AVRI Jazzmaster in sunburst but I figured I'd be waiting an eternity before one turned up in my area for less than $1000. I had to have an offset guitar. This was used at a local store for $900 and one random day they had a sale and I got $75 off it. It was hard to convince myself to pay so much for a guitar that wasn't American made but that's largely irrelevant since the replica job was done by the best people at Fender and the electronics are DiMarzios - that's the main thing. A lot of people buy MIMs and replace the electronics with American pickups so it's essentially an American, but this has aftermarket pickups on it anyway so where it's made is much less relevant. I would say in many aspects it sits between a Fender and a Gibson. Fender feel and look, near-Les Paul tone. Lots of low end but with the flick of a switch it can get bright and go from jangly to aggressive. Yes, Nirvana are one of my favorite bands, but this is more than a collector's item. I wouldn't pay so much money for an instrument that doesn't actually serve many purposes. Even someone who isn't a big Nirvana fan should be able to appreciate this due to its iconic DiMarzio pickups paired with the Jaguar electronics which give a truly impressive amount of tones.

Reliability & Durability — 8
The worn finish on this guitar was appealing to me because I don't feel bad thrashing around on it. I don't like new glossy instruments. This is made to be grunged with. Keep in mind that Kurt had a personal guitar tech around him at all times so that's why he was able to play so hard - this isn't some indestructible guitar or anything, but it is very solid.

Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I bought it used and it looks like it had been set up. I played a new one as well and the action was uncomfortably high. A lot of well known guitarists like Stevie Ray and J Mascis prefer high action though. Mine has action at a decent height and was intonated well. Everything seems to be set up in a solid way. I was hesitant because it is made in Mexico and although I absolutely love my 1994 MIM Stratocaster to death I'm always a little wary of the quality control. I like that it has the Tune-O-Matic bridge because you don't have to worry about the strings jumping the saddle - I tested out a Blacktop Jazzmaster (MIM as well) and its old-school style bridge was an absolute atrocity. I've been using the tremolo arm a lot which can sound very nice but does have a tendency to send it slightly out of tune so be careful when you use it - the tiniest amount of pressure will provide a nice little bend. No need to press very firmly at all.

Features — 10
Exact identical replica of Kurt's main guitar during the "Nevermind" era. It has been cited as "the most important and notable instrument in Nirvana's history". A classic DiMarzio Super Distortion on the bridge. DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary on the neck. Both very highly acclaimed and respected pickups and they're the two that were in the original Jaguar. Big fat neck with a binding and a Stratocaster style headstock with spaghetti logo. Very physically heavy instrument, almost as heavy as a Les Paul. My Stratocaster feels like a toy next to it. One volume and tone control when the strangle switch is not engaged, two volume and one tone when it is engaged. I always appreciate having two volumes and two tones whenever I can so this is a bit limiting when that capacitor is not engaged, but it's true to the replica so therefore it's not an issue.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    Thank you for the review. I purchased one but the NOS version. Love it. Awesome guitar. My first Fender Guitar. I was worried about the MIM part but when I started playing it...forget about it! Rock On!