Regular readers will likely have seen our review of the Fender Limited Edition Sandblasted Jazz Bass in BGM 120. Its partner in crime – a Precision bass subjected to the same treatment – is next up on the review bench. Retailing at £1342.80 – the same as the Jazz – this is a similarly hefty investment. As such, this Special Edition is more likely to find a new home with the seasoned professional rather than the first-time buyer.
This is a gorgeous looking P-Bass: the crimson red sandblasted body is of course the main attraction here, its appearance enhanced through its pairing with a black three-ply scratchplate and maple fingerboard. The chrome hardware is just the ticket for this combo, beautifully offsetting the dark intensity of the body finish. The sandblasting itself seems deeper and more extreme on this instrument compared with the Jazz bass we reviewed: across the top bout of the instrument the grooves are wider and deeper, giving the body the feel of something that’s less like an instrument and more like something you’d find in a sci-fi movie. It has a soft satin finish, making it really quite tactile: you’ll doubtless spend plenty of time running your hands over the finish, like I did. In terms of hardware, the bass sports standard issue Fender components, with an American Standard Alnico V Split Coil P-Bass pickup.
In hand the bass feels great: weighing in at a touch over 3.6kg, it’s probably the lightest Precision I’ve played and as a bonus, the slim C-profile neck feels slimmer than expected and is quick and easy to get around. Fretwork was excellent across the fingerboard and the neck was firmly seated and unmovable. The factory-set action was set a little low, resulting in a fair amount of string buzz, but this was a quick and easy adjustment to make. Aside from this, my only gripe was the control knobs: these are plastic and felt very insubstantial to me. I’d much rather have seen some metal knobs in use here, particularly on an instrument costing well north of a grand. Reoving the scratchplate revealed a clean and tidy cavity with neat wiring, so nothing amiss there.
Sounds and Playability
If you already know what a P-Bass is capable of, there’ll be few surprises here: with the tone control all the way open, the bass has a delightful grunt to it that just begs to be attacked with a pick. Indeed, doing so reveals another pleasant quirk of the sandblasted finish: despite its appearance it feels very smooth under the forearm while picking. Slapping sounded great with the same setting, although as you’d expect, it’s more of an old school slap vibe – think Freddie Washington’s tone on Patrice Rushen’s ‘Forget Me Nots’ and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
Rolling off the tone control yielded a pleasing fingerstyle tone that would suit most conventional situations. Like most players familiar with the Precision, I often vary my fingerstyle tone by moving my picking hand rather than messing with the tone control. Moving my hand up closer to the neck gave me a fatter, more rounded tone that was Jamerson-esque, while moving it back to the bridge thinned things out slightly, adding a little more bite, though without the nasal edge that you’d get from a Jazz bass playing in this position.
As stated earlier, the word that kept coming to mind when I was playing was ‘grunt’. I don’t know if’s the hard-as-nails finish or the colour scheme, but I had the most fun with this bass rocking out with a pick. Songs by the Stranglers, Rage Against The Machine and Green Day all sounded right at home on this bass, as you’d imagine it would. One for the rockers, maybe?
One minor criticism: as I said in the Jazz review, at this price point I’d expect to see a hard case, but as with its partner, only a soft case is included.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with this bass. It doesn’t quite have the range of tones that the Jazz offers, although this is not unexpected given the single pickup and single tone control. It fares well with all techniques and styles but as I said, it’s really begging you to rock out with it. At £1342.80 it’s going to be a hard sell in my opinion, as far cheaper alternatives exist. That said, if you already know what to expect from a P-Bass and want something that’s unique to look at, this could be the one for you.