Guitar Bank: Fender Jazz Bass Shootout

There’s always been debate about the differences in quality between Fender basses made in different factories. Guitar Bank decided to settle it with a shootout video comparing Jazz Basses built in the USA, Mexico, and Japan with varying materials to make a straight comparison.

Which one do you like the best? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Share your thoughts

  1. always been a fan of the ash/maple combo. love the weight, density and tone of the ash. the mim alder/rw is my #2. basswood being a fairly musical wood, just sounds thin to me. also, too light and not very durable…

  2. The Fender JB USA 2000 and the Fender JB 2007 were the best basses in my opinion, great punch, i like that!!

  3. at first i thought they were all equally great (and they are all great), but the american is a bit punchier – better tone overall. this is the best comparison vid i’ve ever seen. great job. i have to be biased and say that the fender jazz is the best bass ever made.

  4. What they should have done was run the video the first time without saying which bass was which. Too much chance for listener bias the way it was done. Or better yet – run it with the wrong labels first to see if anybody noticed.

  5. personal opinion the made in US ash body/maple neck has the most meat to its sound . wish they would have included the Squire J Bs’ . personally I prefer the Squires, not the affinity line , to the MIMs

    • Bret

      I love the sound of the 80’s MiJ Sen Ash/Rosewood board Squires/Fenders. Just my opinion but the Sen Ash basses have their own characteristics which to my ears are beautiful.

  6. Fender USA JB 2007 and Japanese 1993 were my overall faves. 2007 had punch and definition and a good growly tone. 1993 had a great sound, warm and snuggly. Mexi was my least fave – kinda fat. The 2000 USA had a great slap tone.

  7. Maple USA was the best. There is a difference, more about the wood than the country. I thought the jap one was the worst but to be honest the amp settings can compensate

  8. They all sound like shit
    Fender is the devil they killed genz benz

    • Stu Robertson

      Actually, Fox is, & always will be, the Devil for killing Firefly but totally feeling ya… thank whatever passing deity may be listening for Ebay… just become the proud owner of a Streamliner 600 to go with my Focus 4×10! :) Still love my Chinese made Modern Player Jazz though… even though it, apparently, sucks too much to be included in the comparison! ;)

    • holmsey

      agreed.sold my fender for a lakland much nicer bass imo

  9. I honestly don’t believe there much difference between all of them. What little there is can be compensated for with a slight tweaking of the amp. In my experience, quality is the biggest concern. With the USA models, quality is consistent most of the time. I find that getting a good MIM requires going through a few of them to find the one with the best quality control. But I have to admit that about six months ago, I spent a couple of hours in a Guitar center, trying both USA and MIM models. 2 of the 3 USA models had bad pickups, both of the MIMs and Squire sounded really good but needed a good setup.

  10. The difference is small but big (?). The american bass sounds more punchy than the other two. In my opinion the Mexican jazz bass was a little rounder than the Japan but that could not be true.

  11. The maple American jazz just sounded greater than the others and the Mexican fenders PU’s and circuitry suck!!!

  12. The Maple neck Ash body JB sounded the best to me, Like my 77 P bass the resonance created by the combination of the woods makes me a shoulder weary but greatly satisfied bassist.

  13. A 6 stringers opinion , the USA 2007 gets the prize

  14. excellent demo! super love my 78 fender mij jazz. im-a take it with me to my grave with my rickenbacker. =D thanks for sharing this. =)

  15. USA 2000 was my overall fav, think it handled all styles equally well. Some were better, others were worse, but it did just enough for me in all the categories to come out on top, if only by a very small margin

  16. but whats the price difference? and could a couple of hours with a good bass tech make all the difference?

    • No it won’t. I did that. But I also build my own Fender with Japanese ash body 1970’s maple J neck and Diesel pick ups. This one has become my favorite. Buying a Fender is having a specific sound in your head and play till you find the SOB :-)

  17. Well done. Love to see more demos like this. The ash maple is my top choice.

    • Well, despite the fact that I own MIJ Jazz totaly the same like this one on this test, I think it is unfair to compare maple/ash with baswood/rosewood model. So results are a bit tuned to make USA model the best.

  18. i own tons of basses(Elricks,Kinals are the ones i have kept) and have been playing for 30 years. Own a few very good MIA jazz basses. Just acquired (last year) a used Squier Vintage Modified 70 bass made in 2008 for $170. The bass is stock. It is my go to bass at the moment and i can see that being the case for the foreseeable future. Love it! After setting this baby up properly, it could well be one of the best basses i have ever had the pleasure of making love to!!! KEEPER! and yeah it says Squier….who cares(?)….not this guy. Plays like a dream and getting sensitivity and tones i couldn’t get out of any of the others. 96 MIA Jazz with Ash body and rosewood fingerboard is awesome and gives it a run for the money but there is something about this Squier man. Your tip for the day :) Find a good one…i own three of them since i bought the other one used. I loved it so much that if anything happened to it i wanted to have a replacement. For the money….you can’t go wrong! I had to have the nut cut a bit on the E string professionally and did the rest of the setup myself. AWESOME!

  19. For anything with tone I would take the mexico bass over any of the other ones

  20. For me it’s got to be, based on what I heard alone (no previous bias)
    1. USA 2000
    2. USA 2007
    3. Japan
    4. Mexican

    Although it is very close between the Japanese and Mexican.

  21. The ash body and maple neck has the best tone to me, but didn’t sound a whole lot different regardless of tone control and pickups. The Japan JB sounded clearest with tone control off, and they all were equally good with both pickups and tone control on full.

  22. For me the MIA alder body takes it, I play a MIA 2011 MIA jazz 5 alder body rosewood fret bord. Total tone monster. My go to bass.

  23. The Mexican and Japanese ones were brill…the American one was too top-endy for me and didn’t quite do it somehow

  24. My 99 American deluxe sounds better than any of them !!! I also have Squire 5 string deluxe & it sounds great but is fucking heavy !!! can’t fail with any of these Fender got it right when they made the jazz bass I prefer the deluxe active electronics !!!

    • gepma44

      I agree. I have Two 1999 fender USA jazz deluxe 5 basses one with maple fretboard one with rosewood fretboard. Both have the Mike Scuhr single pole pickups and pre amp. Nothing can touch these basses…nothing

  25. Not trying to be funny at all here, they all sound the same to me… Wow. You could save some money buying a Mexican or a Japanese model in stead of a USA.. But I Knew that anyway.. My 2 Cents….

  26. JB USA 2000> JB USA 1993 > JB japanese 1993 > JB Mexico

  27. My fav’ : USA 2007 & Japan 1993.

  28. of course they have differences, but when youre playing in a live setup a crowd will hardly be able to realise/care about the difference

  29. I preferred the ash/maple USA 2007 model over the others.

  30. Mexico ’95 has a badass groove, has a really great punch and I love how the pitch is never too high nor deep!

  31. Take into account the price difference between basses and it really doesn’t make up for the discrepancy in sound quality. Sure, the MIA might sound a little better but I’d rather not pay almost double cost for a slight tonal improvement and the fact it says MIA on the headstock..

  32. My personal favorite is my recently aquired Modern Player Jazz in Olympic White…it’s a sweet sounding, fast and slick playing, classic feeling Jazz with a sh*tload of added sonic girth that the new-for-Fender humbuckers impart (essentially two classic Jazz single coils spliced together to form a true monster of clear, ringing, bombastic tone)! I know, y’all think it’s not a “real” Fender because it’s made in China (to which I respond BULLSH*T!), but when I compared it to the $1400 American made Geddy Lee Signature ’74 Jazz that was hanging next to it at GC, I liked the/(soon to be) my Modern Player better…it played great right off the rack, its sonic pallette is *massive*, it has awesome singing sustain with it’s Badass inspired High Mass bridge while its alder body and maple neck impart a classic, nasty ol’ growl! and it’s GORGEOUS in its Olympic White finery! And, it all comes in a package that costs less than $500 ($700 if you want the five way vari-tone switch version)…that’s right an honest to God, real deal Fender Jazz with a killer voice of its own, while still paying homage to its classic roots in appearane and overall tone (even with those fat ‘buckers, it still sounds like a bonefied Fender Jazz, just a little moreso IMHO), at a price an average working musician (me) can afford…it’s my de facto number one!

  33. The japanese model had the smoothest all around tone imo. Put some amrrican pups in a mexican and it would sound right there with the alder american.

  34. 2007 USA sound better

  35. Always loved my Japanese Fenders… never, ever wanted a Mexican one :)

  36. I don’t think a youtube video is a good way to compare bass tones. The differences are very subtle.
    Pretty hard to discern tone quality through a pair of plastic computer speakers. At least that’s what I’m using.
    A great bassist can pick up a $100 Squier and sound better than a mediocre bassist playing a $5000 Fedora.

  37. As someone who has just purchased a 2014 Ash American Jazz 5 string I can say I am glad I did , the ash body sounded the best to me

  38. Personally I have a whole collection Fender Basses starting with a 1969 P Bass which I bought in 1969. I never bought into worse or better because with Fender, you never know that is my 40 year experience but I’m a Fender freak. All basses sounded great, as expected. My preference, and it is only two hairs apart, is the USA maple immediately followed by USA Rosewood.

  39. Leo

    I’m listening through some Beats headphones & that Made in Japan (Sometimes seen as “Crafted in Japan”) sounds the best hands down in terms of overall frequency response. Super warm, tight, well rounded. The Ash & Basswood body types sounded great too.

  40. The difference is nothing you couldn’t dial in on any eq on amp! Considering the money difference…

  41. dryvibe

    MIJ for me

  42. David

    This was very helpful. I hope to get a Fender in the near future, so this made picking a whole lot easier. It mattered less where it was from, and more from what it was made. I think my preference would be 1)alder, 3)basswood, 3)ash. And if I had to pick one, a slight edge would go to the USA made alder body, with the Mexico made alder body as an acceptable alternative.

  43. Adrian

    My ’87 MIJ Jazz doesn’t seem nearly as warm sounding as the one in the video.

  44. I`m surprised i actually prefer the japanese and mexican versions. More midrange body in the sound.
    Let`s not forget about the Squier Jazz Bass alternative. Here we have some nice demos of the popular ones: http://goo.gl/Qz3W3t

  45. USA all the way. I actually have a 92 Standard (Mex) Jazz, which I love but the USA has more punch.

  46. Charlie

    I thought the differences were not that huge. They sound different, but the question is what sound do YOU prefer? I like the American bass with the front pickup on full. Nice grind.

  47. Johnny

    My fav is the alder/rosewood combo on the 2000 USA. The only thing is that the 1995 Mexican is not alder, but poplar. IIRC, they didn’t use alder for Mexican bodies until after 2001. Also, the pickups on the 1995 aren’t so great, they weren’t humcanceling and were really microphonic. I owned 2 different 1995 Mexican Jazz basses, and they were pretty good after I upgraded the pickups. A more recent version of a Mexican JB will actually be much closer in tone to a USA JB.

    • trying4firstbass

      Sorry to raise the dead. Which pickups did you go for? I have triple measured my length to be 3.5″ (bridge & neck) but most specs for short are 3.6″? Did you have to route? Thanks.

      • Johnny

        I pickups I used are Fender ’62 reissue pickups, which is what they used to use for their ’62 reissue Jazz. I think Fender calls them “original Jazz bass pickups” now. but they can be found on the used market. MIM Jazz basses prior to 2002 used the same pickup in both positions, which was the neck pickup length, so the bridge pickup route is too short. In order to use the reissue pickups, the bridge pickup route needs to lengthened on the treble side, either by routing or sanding (I sanded).

  48. Frankly, they’re all so much the same. I guess, one has to ask oneself whether the negligible difference is worth paying upwards of $200 for

  49. the JB USA 2000 Alder body has the most integrated sound………..

  50. Mark Mercer

    Oddly enough, there is most likely as much difference among basses of the same origin.. I like open endgrain, heavy wire, and pots, Orange drop,… mostly a ‘Trust’ issue. Then I also prefer a ‘P’ bass..

  51. honestly surprised not to see more love for the ’93 Japanese – nicest tone out of all of them IMHO. The Mex seems to be getting some distortion coming through, the USAs are nice enough… all that said, the Japanese one probably my least favourite in terms of visual aesthetics (a consideration coming well down the list, obviously!)

  52. The USA 2000 stood out the most for me, especially with the slap! It’s amazing how each bass has its own subtle characteristics.

  53. Ian Woff

    Really interesting comparison! The most striking thing is the high degree of similarity between them – all four sound like Jazz Basses (strange that!) That said, though, the 2000 USA was my favourite of the four for it’s superior top end and punch. All four seemed to sound much the same with the tone pot fully closed, but with the tone pot opened up the 2000 USA consistently had the edge, for mine. However, they all sound like Jazz Basses, and just slightly different variations of great!

  54. Wally Messer

    First thought – great bass player. Now, for the basses: depends on the style but basically I tend to prefer to American and the Japanese…one more than the other depending on the style. I don’t care for any with the tone all the way off and don’t care for most styles using only the bridge pickup. I’m guessing that the sounds I prefer have more to do with pickups that any other variation. For me personally, my American Standard Jazz sounds best with Lindy Fralin jazz bass replacement pickups.

    • Ditto on the great player. Hey, who *is* this guy (as Butch Cassidy once said)? Is he in a band, and do they have any songs online? I’d love to hear him play with a group, even if it’s a
      cover band.

  55. Adam

    The USA’s tend to be a bit punchier, I thought the Japanese with rosewood fretboard had the best sound with both pickups on but its probably just my taste. Really I think all this proves is that it’s all in the hands. Cause he made all those basses sound good.

  56. Bill

    American Alder/rosewood #1, MIM Alder/rosewood #2. I think the only difference is the electronics between the two. Tone and punch was a little better on the American bass.

  57. Ken Holst

    Overall, I like the 93 Japanese the best, slightly more than the 2007 USA model. It seemed more balanced but not quite as bright as the USA models. The MIM just sounded a little dark and round for a J bass. Most of this can be compensated for with eq, etc. Also did not like any of them with the tone off, that is P bass country!

  58. Personally, I didn’t hear anything in the video that would make me say Bass X is the BEST of them all. They all have their own inherent characteristics, which is as it should be. BUT I don’t think it should have been a comparison involving different wood combos for each. This is just my opinion.
    EVERYTHING about an instrument defines it’s character, strengths AND weaknesses, all the way down to the finish. A fair comparison can’t be made with different body woods and fret boards. Appoint them all identically and then see how they compare.
    This comparison would be like putting a showroom stock sports car against one with a different body and another with a different motor.
    I think they’re all great instruments. JUST because they are made in (insert country of origin here) that doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse than any of the others. I’ve owned 2 MiA’s. LOVED the one, the other just didn’t have the same pizzazz. And they WERE appointed the same.

  59. David L

    I tried all versions before settling on my Mexico made 60’s re-issue Jazz. Basswood with rosewood neck. I found that, at least in the local store in my area, the Mexico made Jazz had a nicer neck, both dressing and feel. I found that the American made models at our local store did not have as good of a fret dressing as it should have. And for the price difference, the Mexico made Jazz was the best choice for me. I also tried all makes of basses and also found that some of the high end basses of various brands did not have the quality workmanship that warranted the cost. So try out all before you buy.

  60. sanwin17

    1. USA ash maple, 1.2 MIJ basswood rosewood, 3. MIJ alder rosewood and 4. USA alder rosewood. Nice playing too. I also thought a blind demo and one with the drum track muted would have been more insightful. Still, very interesting. Now do the same test with P basses.

  61. With all respect for the ppl that comment. I thik there r a cultural or local tendence to the point of view or hearing.. i can’t found great differences in the colour of tune or punch between American bass or Mexican bass. Maybe the nationalist feelings can bring a logical tendence for choose one of them. Pre-juice inside the way that we hear the sounds.. God Bless u all.
    Greetings from México.

  62. I am hearing more of a difference I think in wood type more than national origin;

    I mean an ash body maple fretboard bass is going to sound different than a alder body
    rosewood fretboard most any day. Plus age can add to a tonal variation, new vs.years older.
    Pickups are pretty close in sound. There was some changes over time with pickups from the 60’s into the 70’s and most models regardless of origin seem to hold close to the basic Fender sound.

    They all sound like close variations on a theme, Fender Jazz Bass.

    I would be happy to throw down with any of them.

    Having said all of that, I would go with the ash/maple combo then maybe the darker one in tone. Is that the mexi?

  63. Brainback

    I definitely like the Mexican one best. Not too trebly, just fine. Excellent for slap. And one thing: the American 2007 is the only one to have a mapple fretboard… that does a lot fort the tone!

  64. Papa John

    My 11 year old Mexican is the real deal. They were only made there and the USA at the time.

  65. Enrique

    Do a bass version of the old Pepsi Challenge; don’t view the screen but only listen.
    It’ll be more difficult than the Pepsi Challenge! Kudos to a fine player and to Fender for a fine assortment of Jazz Basses.

  66. Woody Green

    2007 USA Ash Jazz sounded best to me. Nice lower frequencies and very nice, clear, but not harsh upper end.

  67. Steve

    The MIJ for me. If you pick them up on the 2nd hand market like I do, you can get a nice sounding Fender for not a lot of money.

  68. Anthony

    I hear very little difference. Sound tests tell me nothing about fret work, quality of hardware, how well the trussrod functions, of the quality of the pots and pickups. A lot of cheap basses sound great but will break down fairly quickly.

  69. Carlos Di Giacomo

    In my opinion, the american it’s more playable, if you play slap for example, you cand find that the height between string and body in the american one is really suitable, in the mexican one you can´t pull easily

  70. Bob Thomas

    Go USA….

  71. jeffery

    Ok lets be realistic……first for bass purists….fender is the odds on choice for traditional sound…the cream of the crop ….geddy lee , jacos pastorious among others have influenced a generation …and rightfully so built on the fender sound and for most practical purposes its the right choice but times change, the demands on the working bass players has created a more versitile playing style that a fender cannot provide…want a challenge…..put that limited ’78 jazz up against an ibanez sr series premium bass like a 755 or a btb 1804 and see who wins….it will not be the fender…..nuff said

  72. That USA 2007 sounds a lot like the Mexican Deluxe Special Edition I just picked up. Same wood/neck combo (albeit a rosewood fretboard), but at a fraction of the cost. I picked up mine a few weeks ago for $600, definitely one of the best instruments I’ve ever played.

  73. Tad Louder

    I feel that the Japanese models sound the best to me. I have not been impressed with the US models for about 20 years now.

  74. My own Jazz bass is a Japanese ’65 reissue that I got in 1992, and it still kicks ass. Perhaps I’m biased but the Japanese bass here was my favorite.

  75. I have a MIJ and a CIJ Jazz Bass and a USA Precision. Overall, the MIJ is the best feeling and the finishing quality level is insane. It sounded okay until I put an East pre in. Now it sounds as good as it looks and plays. The USA Precision sounds the best of the three, but it’s a P so go figure. Although the glossy neck is an acquired taste, I am a huge fan of Japanese Fender basses and would totally recommend them over USA. They just need tweaks to get them perfect. USA for sound, Japan for everything else.

  76. Derrick

    Ash Maple for me… but damn you can funk them all

  77. HB

    All comes down to the player …sound starts with the hands…

  78. I had a MIM Fretless Fender J-Bass that I bought used off of Craigslist.It was a fantastic instrument!!!

    It was a beautiful deep purple-ish shade somewhere between Cobalt Blue and the color of Welch’s Grape Jelly.

    It was a treat to play, it weight a TON, but it was one of the best basses I’d ever owned….

  79. The American was sonically the best…….the other two were a “push” but I do think the Japanese model sounded a bit muddy.

  80. I have a 87 Japanese made j bass special (like Duff from gnr popularized) great bass. I loaded it w passive sd quarter pounders and it smokes. The maple jbass was my fav but its also not fair to put that up against the ones w rosewood. The differences in the lines is the quality of the construction. Three things that always take a bass to another level: new pups, a better bridge, and a quality setup.

  81. ash body Maple neck has the best overall tone IMHO!

  82. Mexico 95. My favorite according to the recording above

  83. Andrew

    USA ash body with maple neck for me.

  84. craig

    I can’t believe some of the comments! Both American jazzes all the way!! I wish they were side by side in the video to hear them more directly compared. The Mexican and jap just lacked the growl and definition. When it’s the Americans it’s just there. I own an American Standard, American fsr with ash body and a Mexican. The American Standard is the bomb and so great to play. The FSR is awesome as well. The Mexican is a bit lacking in the fret work but I do love the resonance of the body.