Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar guitar review
Before I tried the 70s Stratocaster at Sam Ash over the weekend, I saw they had a Surf Green Squier Jag in stock. So I tried it out.
This was actually the second time I ever played a Squier Jag. The first one, also from the same store, sucked. And the reason it sucked is because it wasn't set up at all and the bridge saddles were completely set up wrong. However, this one was in much better shape. While it wasn't perfectly set up, it wasn't all out-of-whack like the first one I tried before was.
So anyway, on to the review.
Does Squier's Surf Green actually look like Surf Green?
This is actually a question that's more important than most people realize.
Surf Green, be it by Fender or Squier, sometimes isn't green but rather a sky blue with a hint of green in it. You will see some guitars labeled as a Surf Green color where upon seeing it you will say, "That is not green at all; that's blue!"
This is the second Surf Green Squier Jag I've seen in person, and yes, it is definitely a proper Surf Green and not that light-blue-pretending-to-be-surf-green thing.
Solid. Everything worked flawlessly. Not a bad knob or switch to be found.
24.0-inch short scale goodness. But the funny thing about a Jag is that even though you know it's a short scale, it doesn't feel like one. And I think that's primarily due to the offset-waist body that pushes out the neck slightly further compared to center-waist construction.
Everything was fine on the neck. Frets were proper, tuners were proper, finish was proper and it all worked very well. No obvious flaws found.
The Jag is based on the Jazzmaster shape. Very comfy. Plays right sitting or standing, just like the Jazzmaster.
Wonky Jaguar controls
Okay, this is where I have complaints about the Jaguar. It has nothing to do with the quality of build (which was spot-on and good) but rather just how the Jag operates.
The Jaguar has a rhythm circuit on top of the body with its own dedicated volume and tone wheels. When selected, only the front neck pickup is engaged, and there's a capacitor in the top circuit that cuts off some treble. This is exactly the same way the Jazzmaster rhythm circuit works. No difference whatsoever, save for the fact the pickup set is different.
In the lead circuit, which are the bottom controls, that's where things get weird, because first-time Jag players would have no clue what to do.
On a Jazzmaster, the bottom lead circuit is easy to figure out. Volume, tone, 3-way pickup selector. Easy.
On a Jag's lead circuit is volume, tone and 3 on/off switches. If you look at the above image of the guitar, from left-to-right it's tone circuit switch, rear bridge pickup on/off, front neck pickup on/off.
That first switch is traditionally known as a "strangle switch" on a Jag. When used, a capacitor is engaged that bleeds away bass frequencies and makes the sound of the guitar "nasal" and "honky".
Believe me, you will know when you have the strangle switch on in the lead circuit, because the tone will "honk" right out. Is that tone usable? Depends on what you play.
The other two switches are really easy to figure out. Rear pickup on/off, front pickup on/off.
First-timers to the Jag are never told what these switches do. And don't bother asking the sales guy at the guitar store, because he won't know either (he also won't know how to operate a Mustang either).
Here are my complaints about lead circuit Jag controls.
- It's almost too easy to hit that strangle switch by mistake when playing.
- Fast-switching between pickups isn't easy. In fact, it's really difficult.
- The fact the switches are black (on all models) and vertical makes it a bit difficult to know which switch position you're in even when directly looking at them in a brightly-lit room.
The neck is ridiculously "fast" because of the 24.0-inch short scale. You can seriously race on this thing.
Some people say the short scale makes the strings really floppy. That wasn't my experience. I felt just fine playing the stock 9-gauge string set it comes with from the factory...
...although I would admit I'd probably put 10s on it or at least light-top/heavy-bottom 09-46 like these just for my playing style. And if you play 10s now, you'd probably install 11s, which is fine because the Jag can handle them without a problem.
Once you get used to Jag controls, yeah, she sings; the guitar has a ballsy output because of the way its electronics are. Chords ring out true, but of course note decay rate (which you known as "sustain") isn't that of, say, a Telecaster because Jazzes and Jags aren't known for that sort of thing.
Great guitar all around. My only real knock is the lead circuit controls. But then again, all Jags with a standard control layout have that oddball on/off switch thing going on, so it's just something you have to get used to.
It's also a super-comfy player and holds tune well. But of course it is largely built to original vintage spec, so it has the multi-groove string saddles just like the Jazz does, meaning it doesn't take well to wild, heavy picking without literally knocking the strings out of the saddle grooves.
The Squier Jag is a cool guitar, I dig it and will eventually grab one. But as much as I like Surf Green, I think I'd go with a sunburst finish instead. Why? There's a lot of blank space in the middle of the pick guard due to the skinny pickups, and the sunburst has a tortoise shell guard that visually fills that space up better. Same guitar, just a different look that I'd prefer.
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