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Guitar of the week #89 - Fender American Professional Jazzmaster

Fender American Professional Jazzmaster

You know I just had to give my 2 cents about this guitar.

In a strange turn of events, Fender has decided to have guitars labeled as "Professional" to be one step above American Standard whereas previously it was one step below.

I'll explain.

There was a time not-so long ago when a Fender USA "Professional" Stratocaster was $999, which was lower than the American Standard. And "Professional" only applied to the USA Strat and nothing else.

Now things are different. "Professional" now refers to several models. Aside from the Fender American Professional Jazzmaster (which is what this article is about), there's the American Professional Stratocaster, American Professional Telecaster, American Professional Jaguar, American Professional Precision Bass and American Professional Jazz Bass.

As regular readers know, I'm a Jazzmaster guy.

Would I buy the Fender American Professional Jazzmaster?

No.

But you might want one for the reasons I don't want one.

Maple fretboard option

The finish shown above is Sonic Gray, which appears to have a kind of a steel blue-ish look to it. The three other finish options are 3-Color Sunburst, Mystic Seafoam and Olympic White.

Sonic Gray and Mystic Seafoam come with the maple board. Olympic White and 3-Color Sunburst come with a rosewood board.

I'm not a fan of maple fretboards on Jazzmasters. It makes the guitar look cheap. There are rosewood board options, but still, that maple... nah.

"Deep C" shaped 22-fret neck

I've not a clue what "Deep C" means other than "chunky". That I don't mind. What I do mind is the 22-fret nonsense. That has no place on a Jazzmaster.

Mustang saddles

This is something I really don't like. It's a response by Fender to accommodate to players who don't know how to wield a Jazzmaster correctly.

Treble bleed circuit

This indicates to me that this Jazzmaster does not have 1meg potentiometers in it but rather 500K or 250K and is voiced to sound more Strat-like. True? I don't know for sure, but the fact the treble bleed circuit is in this guitar strongly suggests it.

Single circuit with pickup selector moved to the top horn

This is basically what makes this guitar a no-sale for me more than anything else. The dual circuit design is gone, replaced with a single circuit, and the pickup toggle moved to the top horn...

...which is the worst place Fender could have placed it. A very common complaint by Jazzmaster and Jaguar owners is that the up/down circuit toggle keeps getting whacked by mistake to the point where tape has to be put over it to keep the player from hitting it accidentally.

And what does Fender do? They put the switch exactly where players said it shouldn't go.

That was a seriously dopey design decision...

...but I do see they tried to position it so the player won't whack it. If you examine the toggle placement closely, it's purposely placed about 1 inch lower than the up/down circuit selector would be. Not only does that look weird, but I don't think it will do anything to prevent players from hitting it when they don't want to.

That 3-way toggle switch should have kept its original position on the bottom horn. There was no need to move it. Fender literally fixed a problem only to create a new one by moving that switch.

Did Fender get anything on this guitar right?

Yes.

The "Vintage Style Floating Tremolo" (which is actually vibrato) now has a screw-in arm.

The vibrato system is the correct space from the bridge instead of that short-spaced bridge with the Adjust-O-Matic crapola.

"Witch Hat" knobs are standard, and those look cool.

Pick guard is mint green and other plastics are aged white. Both are good choices for the Jazzmaster.

Truss rod is Bi-Flex, a notable improvement over the old truss rods.

Frets are narrow/tall style, which a lot of players prefer.

Nut width is wide at 1.685". This is quite noticeable over the standard 1.650".

This is a modern Jazzmaster

The American Professional Jazzmaster is what players asked for. They hated the original saddles, so Fender put dopey Mustang saddles on it. The vibrato arm kept falling out, so Fender made that screw-in. The guitar is voiced to be more "civilized". It's also designed to be easier to use by having just one circuit instead of two.

But again, this is not a guitar I would buy. It's just too un-Jazzmaster for my liking.

Fender fortunately still makes the '60s Jazzmaster Lacquer that, while Mexico made, is "how they used to make 'em", warts and all.

And of course there is the Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster, which is very close to how they used to make 'em, save for the fact the body is basswood, it has a modern neck with 9.5" radius fingerboard and modern medium jumbo frets.

The American Professional Jazzmaster is a good guitar, but has too much changed around for me to ever consider trying one out, much less buy one.

I do list it as a guitar of the week because again, it does feature several things players of Jazzmasters have been requesting for some time.

On a final note, I'll just say this. Everything that scared people away from Jazzmasters has been attended to by Fender for the American Professional model. Even though I don't like it personally, it is a very user-friendly guitar.

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