Despite numerous attempts to try something different in the realms of bassdom over the years, Fender returns to its Precision and Jazz time and again, and with good reason.
But the new Dimension range of basses may finally prove to break its reliance on the aforementioned historic designs, with contemporary and traditional styling nods coupled with a worthwhile active EQ and pickup switching system to rival those offered by the likes of Music Man and G&L. Sounds enticing, doesn't it?
The translucent violin burst gloss polyester finish gives a vintage appearance from the off, the ash timber grain showing through, and although the three-ply parchment scratchplate has a quirky shape, it fits in with the curvaceous body design and general design context of this bass.
The body dimensions feel familiar, as does the substantial rear and slender front contouring, making the bass very comfortable to wear and get used to. As a five-string bass, there is some obvious neck dive but any balance issues are rectified as soon as the instrument is placed on a strap.
The hand-rubbed oil-finished neck is highly playable, with its asymmetrical C-shaped neck profile, and the 45mm nut width implies a comfortable five- string playing experience. Although the neck isn't thin at the nut like a Jazz, it's far from being chubby or hard work to get to grips with, and with graphite rods installed for improved rigidity, this is a solid neck that is sturdily attached in a tight, five-bolt pocket.
A gloss urethane coat has been applied to the headstock, which also features a more modern Fender logo design, while a bone nut has been fitted along with dual-string trees.
The general standard of finishing is very good indeed: the set-up is wonderful, with no sharp fret ends to be found. White position markers have been used on the front-facing rosewood fingerboard and side facing, and the whole bass feels solid and sturdy. Chrome Fender-produced hardware has been used throughout: the HiMass bridge looks up to the job while the lightweight machine heads operate as smoothly as they should.
The control layout is simple and to the point, with controls for volume, treble, middle and bass (all of the EQ controls offer boost and cut) preceded by a five-way coil selector switch (bridge pickup only, inner coils of each pickup, both pickups, outer coils of each pickup, neck pickup only).
Sounds and Playability
This is one of those instruments that just invites you to get stuck in, its dimensions and natural acoustic tone giving a strong hint that this is a bass to be played... and played a lot!
In terms of playability, it earns plenty of bonus points due to its familiar feel, and at no point does the five-string neck feel like hard work. So plugging in, the 18-volt electronics come into play and it's pleasing how well-voiced the electronics package is compared to some previous Fender circuitry.
The pickups sound very strong indeed: the bridge pickup in particular is quite something, very honky with a healthy smattering of bite. Selecting each pickup reveals a really usable selection of tones and sounds. Adding the other switching options into play illustrates what a varied palette of tonal options this bass has to offer, and we're pleased to say there are a whole bunch of really good active Fender tones to tap into.
Add into the mix a warm solid sustain, plenty of punch which can be easily accentuated using the EQ, and a strong string-by-string display, and we think you'll agree we have a winner on our hands here.
The low B string doesn't get left behind either. Although it may not have the throaty presence that some 35" scale basses can boast, it certainly does the job and doesn't let the side down in any respect, with enough clarity to stand out without being overly woolly.
With the switching options, it's possible to approximate reasonable Precision and Jazz tones - but the real killer option is that there is so much else to call upon, with the EQ accentuating the tones you might be looking for, such as a glassy slap tone or a full-blooded 'humbucker in the bridge' tone, not unlike the basses from Leo Fender's subsequent companies. Time spent getting to know what this bass can actually produce is time well spent.
You've probably gathered that we've taken something of a shine to this bass, and with good reason. We've had reservations about active Fender basses for many years - but we feel that it has finally hit the nail on the head and produced an instrument that addresses every design requirement, aesthetically, practically and sonically.
It will naturally draw some comparisons to its competitors, and justifiably, but at this price and spec, we think Fender has produced a bass that sits perfectly alongside the legendary instruments which it already produces. We just hope players don't dismiss this as another token effort: it really is an instrument worth investigating, no matter what style of music you play.