That time I owned a Fender 60s Jazzmaster Lacquer
Enough time has passed to where I can talk about this guitar now.
I've gone into detail before about guitar buyer's remorse and that every dedicated guitar player at some point goes through it. Technically, I've gone through it twice, the first being with my '93 Fender American Stratocaster. This is the second one that I've never talked about until now, the 2016 Fender 60s Jazzmaster Lacquer.
This guitar was bought using what I call the full Fender experience. I ordered this guitar direct from Fender themselves. Didn't even use a guitar dealer. The total cost at the time with all shipping costs and tax included was a grand total of $1,069.99. Oh, yes. Big money was spent on this.
At the time this guitar was bought, only one Fender model was "more Jazzmaster" than this one, the '65 American Vintage (which would now be the Fender American Original '60s Jazzmaster). That one was too much. This one however was not a compromise, as it is the Jazzmaster most fans of this guitar dream of. It has all the American hardware and pickups, and there is full nitro treatment on both the body and neck. In person, this guitar is nothing short of absolutely gorgeous.
I'll explain the positives of the guitar first, then then negatives.
As I just said, this guitar is beautiful. The only color offered on this model is Surf Green, and if you ever wanted to know what a perfect Surf Green looks like, this is it. No picture on a computer screen does it proper justice. You have to see this with your eyes in person to appreciate it fully. Liquid-like color. Absolutely stunning.
The hardshell case that it comes with is also really cool. It's not tweed, but rather that classic black Tolex look with white stitching. Looks fantastic.
In that case, you get all the paperwork, booklets and so on.
Sound-wise, yes, this was a perfect sounding Jazzmaster. It had the exact tonal character of what a Jazzmaster is supposed to be.
The smell of a new nitro lacquered guitar is intoxicating.
And now the negatives.
One of the pickups failed within 3 months of ownership. Fixed under Fender warranty. Bear in mind this guitar is billed as having premium super-duper American Vintage USA-made pickups.
That cool hardshell case? One of the latches was wonky. And the case isn't made in the USA either. It's made in Vietnam.
Locking the case was of course possible, but required some fidgeting to get the key to work correctly.
I could not get used to the fact the neck has to be taken off the guitar to adjust the truss rod. While I didn't have to adjust it much, the fact you have to disconnect a neck yourself on a guitar you paid over $1,000 for will freak you out every time you do it.
The lacquer on the neck, while looking awesome, irritated my fret hand. I couldn't play this thing for more than 20 minutes before skin irritation set in to where I had to put the guitar down.
After a few months, I stopped playing this guitar regularly and only took it out once every few months.
In 2018, I traded it out. I had no regrets about this since I could hardly play it.
Now again, this is the guitar most Jazzmaster players dream about. Full vintage style build, lacquered, 7.25" fingerboard radius, vintage style frets, American pickups, real rosewood fingerboard (it was made before the switch to pau ferro), full case with case candy, the works. This guitar was built just like Fender used to do it in the '60s...
...and I couldn't even play the thing for extended periods of time.
Yes, it had the look. Yes, it had the sound. But the electronics were so-so at best, and the lacquer finishing on the neck felt terrible after 20 minutes of play.
Yes, I understand nitro eventually wears off. It's not worth it.
What most guitar players want, myself included, is a guitar neck with a smooth, unfinished-like wood feel to it.
With nitro, the way to get that unfinished feel is to play the hell out of the thing until the finish literally wears off.
Not only do I not have the patience for that, but I wasn't about to put myself in harm's way just to get a neck that felt correct either. The skin irritation simply isn't worth it.
For me as well as many other guitar players, it's just better to go with a satin urethane finished neck. That finish is the closest thing you can get to an unfinished-like wood feel. My Ibanez GAX30 or AX120 guitars both have this neck finish. Dirt cheap Squier Bullet guitars have this neck finish. All mid tier Fender Player models have it. All Fender American Professional models have it. All Fender American Elite models have it. And there are many other guitars that have the back of the neck finished with satin urethane. There's a reason for that. It works and feels great to the fret hand with no skin irritation.
Does semi-gloss satin urethane look as good as high gloss urethane or nitro? Nope. Never has and never will. That's fine by me because what matters is my playing comfort first and always. The finish that feels right the first time, does not feel sticky, and only requires the most basic of cleaning to keep it feeling great is satin urethane.
5 things I learned
- Never again will I get a guitar with nitro finishing anywhere on it.
- Never again will I get a guitar with a vintage butt-adjusted truss rod.
- Never again will I get a "vintage-correct" guitar build.
- The only hard case worth owning is a flight case if you want something that works right. Otherwise, just use an inexpensive padded gig bag.
- Spending more did not get me a better guitar.
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