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Return of the Squier Jazzmaster


I acquired another Jazzmaster to replace the one I traded out. Yes, I know you have questions. I have answers.

Okay. This is going to take some explaining.

Rise and fall of the original Jazzmaster

In November 2013, I bought a Squier Jazzmaster and kept it all the way up until late August 2015 where I traded it out for a Telecaster.

The question you have right now is why I traded out my red Jazzmaster, and the answer to that is simple. I wore out the frets just from playing the thing so much, although this could have also been due to the Dunlop strings I was using, which might have been fret-wreckers for all I know. As I talked about recently, I've since switched to Fender strings due to quality issues with the Dunlops.

Rise and fall of the Telecaster

I traded out the Jazzmaster for a Squier Affinity Telecaster in Metallic Red. Due to its very skinny 1.60-inch nut width (the normal nut with is 1.65-inch,) I could not get along with that guitar. I thought I could, but that just wasn't happening. My wrist would hurt playing that thing. Not good. Had to go.

Rise and fall of the Stratocaster

Since I had the Tele for under 30 days, I traded it back for full store credit, then ordered up a black-on-black Squier Vintage Modified '70s Stratocaster. This is a guitar that did have a 1.65-inch nut width, and I thought going back to a Strat would be the proper thing to do.

Even though I paid the tech at Sam Ash to modify that Strat to get tone control on the bridge-only pickup setting (which worked fine, by the way,) I could not get along with that Strat's tone. The best way I can describe it is "muddy" sounding. My 26-year-old Squier II Stratocaster has pickups with way more treble response to them.

Since I had that guitar under 30 days, I once again go back to Sam Ash, traded out that Strat for full store credit and ordered up another red Squier Jazzmaster. I had learned my lesson, should have just bought another Jazzmaster to begin with, so that's what I went with.

And yes, this means I lost money by spending cash on the in-store tech doing that tone control mod since that wasn't an original part of the guitar sale. While I didn't lose a bunch of money, still, it's money lost I won't get back.

Enter the second Candy Apple Red Jazzmaster

A few days go by (the guitar was in the warehouse and they had to retrieve it,) then the guitar arrives at the store. I go to look at it. It's almost correct, but the top horn wheel controls are sunk in too much. This is not correct and I know this for a fact, given my first Jazzmaster absolutely did not have this problem. This new Jazz was the same guitar, same build origin (Indonesia,) same series (Squier Vintage Modified.) Nothing should have changed, but those top wheel controls were messed up.

I tell the store to order up another red Jazzmaster, but the guitar in that particular finish is backordered and will take 3 weeks before another shipment shows up.

I ask if they have a Sonic Blue they could get. The store says yes and can have it in 2 days.

Since waiting 2 days is a lot better than waiting 3 weeks, I tell the store to order up the Sonic Blue Jazzmaster.

Sonic Blue vs. Candy Apple Red

This is where things get really interesting.

The Sonic Blue Jazz arrives, and I go to the store to inspect it. Also in the store is that same Candy Apple Red Jazz with the messed up wheel controls; it was still there.

What I decided to do was try both guitars in the store, side-by-side. Even though the wheel controls were messed up on the red one, I wanted to try both anyway (if I really wanted to, I could have fixed those wheel controls myself with aftermarket parts.)

Were the wheel controls on the blue Jazzmaster sunk in as well? Yes, but slightly less than the red one. However, they're high enough to where I can operate them properly for the most part, so it's not a bother.

I park my butt in front of an amp and go back and forth between both guitars for about 10 minutes. Then I grabbed the little wrench tools the guitar comes with and made minor bridge and saddle height adjustments, then tested both again for probably another 20 minutes.

Never in my life had I tested any electric so thoroughly in a store before taking it home. But this time I did because I didn't want to have to come back to the store yet again for yet another return.

The Sonic Blue Jazzmaster was the winner here for 3 main reasons.

1. Much lighter in weight.

The red Jazzmaster was a bit of a boat anchor. Heavy. The Sonic Blue Jazz for whatever reason was much lighter. Almost Stratocaster-like in weight. I'm guessing the red Jazz was about 8.5lbs and the blue Jazz about 7.75lbs or close to it.

2. Better neck - after bridge and saddles were adjusted.

There were 2 bad frets on the red Jazz that caused fretting out. Not good. But the blue one had action that was a bit high. However, after lowering the bridge and saddles slightly, the blue one was better and did not have any frets with problems like the red one did.

3. Better nut cut

The 1 string on the red Jazz had a little bit of that sitar-like sound going on no matter where the height was set, indicating an improper nut slot height for that specific string. The blue Jazz did not have that issue.

In the end, the Sonic Blue Jazzmaster was the better guitar, so that's the one I took home.

Same as I remember, but better

Even though I've the same model as my first Jazzmaster, this one is better because I know the guitar a lot better now.

For example, Jazzmasters and Jaguars are buzzy; that's just the way they are. Even for expensive models like the Johnny Marr Jaguar or '65 Reissue Jazzmaster, they will buzz because it's part of the guitar's character. To expect a buzz-free Jazz or Jag is foolish. What I have now that I didn't before is experience with the Jazzmaster. This means I know when the guitar is buzzing too much.

I know now is that the sound of big Jazzmaster single-coils is a force to be reckoned with, because when I went without it, that sucked.

I got my first taste of big singles with the Epiphone Les Paul Special I P90, and liked it. While the P90 is not the same as a Jazzmaster pickup (there are several significant differences between the two,) that guitar gave me enough confidence to try out a Jazzmaster later, enough to eventually purchase one.

When I traded out my Jazzmaster, I quickly realized that the sound from Stratocasters and Telecasters just isn't the same. All the midrange in my tone was gone. Strats and Teles have their place, to be sure, but skinny singles just don't compare to big singles.

I could have switched guitar brands and went with Epiphone as they have most guitar models with P90s that are affordable. If I wanted a Jazzmaster-like sound with a Jazzmaster-like vibrato system out of an Epiphone, the Wildkat is it. Totally. But as you'll see from the price tag, it's priced a few ticks higher than a Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster is.

I could have also jumped ship over to Gretsch if I wanted a solid-body with "jangly" tone. The G5435T with Bigsby, while not exactly cheap (it's the same price as a Fender Mexico Standard,) it does have the vibrato I like and the Filter'Tron pickups. Those aren't singles, but still sound great.

As you can probably tell by now, Squier Jazzmaster is the only guitar of its kind at its price point that is able to do what it does so well. If you go with any other option, you will spend more for less. And believe me, I've looked around and examined the options.

It's good to have a Jazzmaster again.

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