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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Music General Discussion »

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I am in the market for a new guitar. I know that Jags and Jazzmasters are typically surf, but I want to know more about my options. Can anyone help me?

Gabe
West coast best coast

I think if you help to narrow the scope of your question, you may get assistance that is more relevant to you.

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Gabe, where in Washington are you located? If you can make it to Seattle Mike and Mike's Guitar Bar located in the Fremont neighborhood always has Jags and Jazzmasters to try out.

The Jag - Very full sounding, 24" scale which creates a slinkier tension and allows for great expression of the strings, or allows you to put a heavier set of strings on. Best vibrato unit on the planet.

The Jazzmaster - Great focused sound, 25.5" scale which get a very snappy response. This long scale length also creates a high tension in the strings. Shares the same vibrato as the Jaguar.

Very different guitars, both very good guitars depending on the model. Here is a list from best to worst.

The best Jags and Jazzmasters currently are the AV'65 line. These guitars are what brand new Jags/Jazzmasters felt like in the 60s. Fantastic instruments.

The AVRI line was discontinued in 2012 but are very easy to find used. High quality instruments. Reissues of vintage spec.

Fender 60s Lacquer Line - Brand new line, very affordable for the package you get. Vintage specs. AV'65 pickups!

American Professional Jag/Jazz - The newest line for Fender. More expensive than the 60s Lacquer line. This line attempts to modernize the Jag/Jazz. You know "fix the mistakes". Fretwork and vibrato is nicer than 60s Lacquer but everything else isn't as good. Pickups/Price are what puts the 60s Lacquer over the American Professional.

Japanese Jags/Jazzmasters - Only available overseas but very common in the States. The neck is really a nice piece of wood. These guitars have a polyester finish which different from the Nitrocellulose of the above three lines. Poly isn't for me but is merely a feel thing not a tone thing. These guitars are good guitars. If one owns these for a long time they tend to replace the pickups, replace the wiring, and get a new vibrato.

Classic Player Jag/Jazzmaster - They are okay, you know? A very solid first Jag/Jazz. Nicer parts than the Japanese but not as nice wood.

Squier Jag/Jazz - Can be had pretty cheap used. You are getting a poorly cut nut, a bad bridge, a generic vibrato, okay pickups, poor fretwork, and other inconsistencies. But you know what? You got it for under $300, this is a great guitar for under $300. A setup will make this guitar much better. Bridge and nut, so important...

Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster - Not a good instrument. NOT A GOOD INSTRUMENT. I can't tell you how awful the bodies of these feel. Just crap.

I think I covered them all... Oh, Johnny Marr Jaguar. Very similar to the AVRI lines in terms of quality. Some people think they are AV'65 quality but the fit/finish is not on the same level. The bridge that comes on it isn't spaced properly, that is a BIG problem. And the pickups are not anything special. Slightly better than AVRI but not on the same planet as AV'65.

Well done Jake, thanks for doing that. Cheers

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Last edited: Jun 17, 2017 06:40:20

youngreverb, Welcome to SG101. Smile

1st Class overview from Jake. Thumbs Up

I will mention that similar considerations occur in the various lines for the Strat. Note that in these lines there is a difference between a Classic/Classic Lacquer series, and a Classic Player - they are very different guitars, with the first two a huge leap above the latter. And of the first two, the Lacquer are going to be a bit more expensive but you get a better guitar including the (currently called) Pure Vintage '65 pickups. Their line of Pure Vintage pickups are ridiculously inexpensive and you can add those to a lesser guitar if you go that route; one of those things that really does make a difference, I think they got that one right.

If you can give some more insight as to what you're looking for soundwise, or budget, etc., that will probably elicit some more help. One consideration is that if you can deal with someplace that moves alot of guitars, you will quite often find mint used ones that come back from folks who change guitars like their socks. But you will get the benefit of what was a $2300 guitar when new in the $1300/1400 range. Classic Lacquer series (regardless of model) for even less.

Go somewhere where you can lay hands on & play them. I've "auditioned" several guitars that way with a bunch (up to 11 one time) gathered around me; helped to narrow it down to the handful to actually plug in.

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

Hey Jake - I'm curious about your assessment of the 62 AVRI.

JakeDobner wrote:

The best Jags and Jazzmasters currently are the AV'65 line. These guitars are what brand new Jags/Jazzmasters felt like in the 60s. Fantastic instruments.

From past me to future you

That is the AVRI line which I spoke of above. They are nice, quite nice. Pickups are one step from being as good as they can. They can feel heavy, and the lacquer tops can feel sticky. And the finish can be a little thick. It wasn't like that through the entirety of the AVRI run.

JakeDobner wrote:

Gabe, where in Washington are you located? If you can make it to Seattle Mike and Mike's Guitar Bar located in the Fremont neighborhood always has Jags and Jazzmasters to try out.

The Jag - Very full sounding, 24" scale which creates a slinkier tension and allows for great expression of the strings, or allows you to put a heavier set of strings on. Best vibrato unit on the planet.

The Jazzmaster - Great focused sound, 25.5" scale which get a very snappy response. This long scale length also creates a high tension in the strings. Shares the same vibrato as the Jaguar.

Very different guitars, both very good guitars depending on the model. Here is a list from best to worst.

The best Jags and Jazzmasters currently are the AV'65 line. These guitars are what brand new Jags/Jazzmasters felt like in the 60s. Fantastic instruments.

The AVRI line was discontinued in 2012 but are very easy to find used. High quality instruments. Reissues of vintage spec.

Fender 60s Lacquer Line - Brand new line, very affordable for the package you get. Vintage specs. AV'65 pickups!

American Professional Jag/Jazz - The newest line for Fender. More expensive than the 60s Lacquer line. This line attempts to modernize the Jag/Jazz. You know "fix the mistakes". Fretwork and vibrato is nicer than 60s Lacquer but everything else isn't as good. Pickups/Price are what puts the 60s Lacquer over the American Professional.

Japanese Jags/Jazzmasters - Only available overseas but very common in the States. The neck is really a nice piece of wood. These guitars have a polyester finish which different from the Nitrocellulose of the above three lines. Poly isn't for me but is merely a feel thing not a tone thing. These guitars are good guitars. If one owns these for a long time they tend to replace the pickups, replace the wiring, and get a new vibrato.

Classic Player Jag/Jazzmaster - They are okay, you know? A very solid first Jag/Jazz. Nicer parts than the Japanese but not as nice wood.

Squier Jag/Jazz - Can be had pretty cheap used. You are getting a poorly cut nut, a bad bridge, a generic vibrato, okay pickups, poor fretwork, and other inconsistencies. But you know what? You got it for under $300, this is a great guitar for under $300. A setup will make this guitar much better. Bridge and nut, so important...

Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster - Not a good instrument. NOT A GOOD INSTRUMENT. I can't tell you how awful the bodies of these feel. Just crap.

I think I covered them all... Oh, Johnny Marr Jaguar. Very similar to the AVRI lines in terms of quality. Some people think they are AV'65 quality but the fit/finish is not on the same level. The bridge that comes on it isn't spaced properly, that is a BIG problem. And the pickups are not anything special. Slightly better than AVRI but not on the same planet as AV'65.

I live in Tacoma, so I can easily make it to Seattle. I'd like to get a Jag one of these days, but I'm not that rich.

Gabe
West coast best coast

Badger wrote:

youngreverb, Welcome to SG101. Smile

1st Class overview from Jake. Thumbs Up

I will mention that similar considerations occur in the various lines for the Strat. Note that in these lines there is a difference between a Classic/Classic Lacquer series, and a Classic Player - they are very different guitars, with the first two a huge leap above the latter. And of the first two, the Lacquer are going to be a bit more expensive but you get a better guitar including the (currently called) Pure Vintage '65 pickups. Their line of Pure Vintage pickups are ridiculously inexpensive and you can add those to a lesser guitar if you go that route; one of those things that really does make a difference, I think they got that one right.

If you can give some more insight as to what you're looking for soundwise, or budget, etc., that will probably elicit some more help. One consideration is that if you can deal with someplace that moves alot of guitars, you will quite often find mint used ones that come back from folks who change guitars like their socks. But you will get the benefit of what was a $2300 guitar when new in the $1300/1400 range. Classic Lacquer series (regardless of model) for even less.

Go somewhere where you can lay hands on & play them. I've "auditioned" several guitars that way with a bunch (up to 11 one time) gathered around me; helped to narrow it down to the handful to actually plug in.

Thank you. I'm looking more in the range of under $700; what would be good to try?

Gabe
West coast best coast

youngreverb wrote:

Thank you. I'm looking more in the range of under $700; what would be good to try?

Look for a nice-shape trade-in of a Classic 60's-Series Lacquer. A used Classic 60's (non-lacquer) is easy with that constraint. You may still find a lacquer for that price as the new ones arriving at dealers just took about a $100-150 bump.

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

Badger wrote:

youngreverb wrote:

Thank you. I'm looking more in the range of under $700; what would be good to try?

Look for a nice-shape trade-in of a Classic 60's-Series Lacquer. A used Classic 60's (non-lacquer) is easy with that constraint. You may still find a lacquer for that price as the new ones arriving at dealers just took about a $100-150 bump.

Is the lacquer just for show, or does it actually make a difference in sound?

Gabe
West coast best coast

youngreverb wrote:

Is the lacquer just for show, or does it actually make a difference in sound?

The lacquer has the Pure Vintage pickups. If you can only get a regular one you can just add the PV pickups later, which you'd want to do.

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

I bought a Squier VM Jag. On Jake's recommendation, I bought the Fender 65 pickups. I messed with the bridge several times. I have installed a roller bridge when most might not like but I'm not in the level of player these guys are. I'm old, rank, and an amateur. Smile When I'm messing with it, I sometimes say: Thats the sound! Thats what everybody that knows what they're doing sounds like. Smile All I'm trying to say is there are options according to your finances. Also, welcome to the forum. If you want to learn about instro surf, this is where the teachers are, none better! Smile

youngreverb wrote:

Is the lacquer just for show, or does it actually make a difference in sound?

I don't think lacquer makes a difference in sound. Thickness and rigidity of finish makes a difference. For me, personally, lacquer makes a really big difference in feel. Or rather, poly finishes feel bad. But still, poly is 99% okay. Just a personal preference.

wfoguy wrote:

I bought a Squier VM Jag. On Jake's recommendation, I bought the Fender 65 pickups. I messed with the bridge several times. I have installed a roller bridge when most might not like but I'm not in the level of player these guys are. I'm old, rank, and an amateur. Smile When I'm messing with it, I sometimes say: Thats the sound! Thats what everybody that knows what they're doing sounds like. Smile All I'm trying to say is there are options according to your finances. Also, welcome to the forum. If you want to learn about instro surf, this is where the teachers are, none better! Smile

I think the Squier is my best bet for the price. I've heard that Mustang bridges are the best for them; is this true?

Gabe
West coast best coast

Mustang bridges are okay, not my favorite bridge as the spacing is off on them and I don't like how the saddles sound. You might just want to get the AVRI/AV'65 Jag bridge: https://www.amazon.com/Fender-American-Vintage-Jazzmaster-Assembly/dp/B0055PDLH4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1497757416&sr=8-2&keywords=fender+jaguar+bridge

Should be able to find one used for cheap on ebay/reverb.com

Honestly, you should use the stock bridge until you learn why you don't like it. I used the stock bridges for years until I switched.

JakeDobner wrote:

Mustang bridges are okay, not my favorite bridge as the spacing is off on them and I don't like how the saddles sound. You might just want to get the AVRI/AV'65 Jag bridge: https://www.amazon.com/Fender-American-Vintage-Jazzmaster-Assembly/dp/B0055PDLH4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1497757416&sr=8-2&keywords=fender+jaguar+bridge

Should be able to find one used for cheap on ebay/reverb.com

Honestly, you should use the stock bridge until you learn why you don't like it. I used the stock bridges for years until I switched.

Alright thanks.

Gabe
West coast best coast

Agree with Jake. I went through a period where I blamed something on the bridge that was really my own lack of setup knowledge & not using heavier strings. I did try Fender's IMPORT version of the Mustang bridge (different part #, has string grooves, individually adjustable saddles). But the stock one is quite adequate to the task. The Squier VM (that my Jazzmaster started life as) would get you under your budget ceiling & let you add the good pickups, which is the thing you want to do, in my opinion.
Smile

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

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