Fender Musical Instruments Corporation Fender(R) Blacktop Jazzmaster(R) HS Electric Guitar - 3-Color Sunburst (0148400500)
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A different take on Fender's flagship electric guitar
Written: Apr 15, 2012
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Mix of vintage and modern Fender features.
Cons:Some players may find the vintage frets too small.
The Bottom Line: This isn't your surf-only, grunge-only Fender Jazzmaster and should be strongly considered for most musical applications calling for an electric guitar sound.
After the Stratocaster, Fender decided to look into the Jazzmaster of the late 1950s to take over as their flagship electric guitar. While a great guitar in its own right, it never reached the popularity of the top selling Stratocaster or its older sibling Telecaster models.
While a few different users gravitated towards the Jazzmaster with its unusual but beautiful offset contoured solid body and surplus of wide range controls, it didn't hit prime time until the 1990s Seattle grunge music scene. While the popularity of the Jazzmaster rivaling any other model was rather short lived, it was the catalyst which brought back heavy guitar sounds back to popular music with the likes of Nirvana utilizing the Jazzmaster to many top hits and many northwest region copycats.
Today, it makes sense for Fender to offer a version of the Jazzmaster at prices comparable to the Standard Stratocaster and Standard Telecaster lines in and around $500 dollars. For $550, the Blacktop Jazzmaster has modern components of a Standard Series Fender that is made in Mexico along with some vintage appointments seen on their Classic and Vintage lines of guitars.
Alder offset body with vintage sunburst finish
Maple neck with 21 fret rosewood fretboard and vintage frets
Modern 9.5" inch flatter radius fretboard
Vintage Fender spaghetti logo on headstock
Vintage style Jazzmaster neck pickup, designed by Seymour Duncan
Modern, aftermarket style bridge humbucker, designed by Seymour Duncan
Black amp style volume and tone knobs with three way switch on black pickguard
Vintage Jazzmaster tremolo with Adjusto-Matic bridge
While the vintage correct Fender Jazzmaster has two single coil pickups with many controls to shape a lot of single coil and humbucker-like sounds, the Blacktop Jazzmaster approaches versatility in a simpler way. With just a standard Gibson style three way switch and only a master volume and master tone knob, the guitar has two very different pickups.
In the bridge is a Gibson style humbucker reminiscent of an over-wound Gibson PAF humbucker. This guitar tone is characterized by a full and rich "honk" known by lovers of the humbucker sound. This pickup design blends well with increasing amounts of distortion and is usually more popular for harder rock in the bridge position.
The neck pickup is a Fender single coil concept with its very tinny surf tone with a twang similar to a Stratocaster but with a little extra midrange thrown in. While it lives well in a clean setting, it also has a unique and popular distorted tone in its own right. The middle position on the three way switch allows for a blend between the traditional Gibson bridge pickup sound and the straight ahead vintage Fender Jazzmaster voice.
It's hard to rule out any style of music on this electric which has both single coil and humbucker tones. While the name of the guitar is the Jazzmaster, it can work with any style of music.
While most trems these days are a variation of a Fender Stratocaster bridge or a locking nut and fine tuner version of a Floyd Rose, the Jazzmaster tremolo utilizes a design which is great for roots rock and roll. It does not have the range a Floyd Rose has or its tuning stability, but like a similarly old school Bigsby tremolo, it is a good way to subtly enhance one's sound. It has a real smooth descent reminiscent of the best songs from the surf music era in the 1960s.
Bold Black look:
With its black controls, switch, truss rod hole, and three layer pickguard, this guitar looks like it fits in modern rock. The bridge humbucker makes it ready to shred with the loudest of them and it was wise for Fender to make this guitar look as dark as possible. This guitar also comes in a very appropriate gloss black finish.
Fender chose to use an easier and more modern flat 9.5" inch radius neck, but the vintage thin frets and having the neck reach just to 21 frets makes it feel more like an older Fender. Some players may not find this guitar as fast or comfortable as the typical strat or tele in the Standard Series line, but the craftsmanship is good enough that most players should be able to excel on this instrument.
Based on the very affordable street price coupled with some more expensive vintage appointments incuding American made Jazzmaster bridge, the Blacktop Jazzmaster is a five star guitar.
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