Every Coke has a Pepsi, so the saying goes. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, goes another. And so Fender's timeless 'big four' designs have become the most imitated electric instruments in the world, be they vintage replicas or modernised interpretations.
Many of these inspired-by brands were established during Fender's post-CBS turmoil and through the eighties rock explosion. A quarter of a century later, the best of the imitators are still there, but Fender is now a radically different company: giant, dominant and without doubt producing the best guitars it has ever made.
So when Fender releases a new series, we take note. In this case, the American Deluxe Series has been overhauled with notable build, spec and playability improvements over the previous models.
Considered by many as the most popular bass guitar of all time, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Fender has already enhanced the fabulous Jazz Bass as much as possible.
Well, think again. This Jazz sports some very tasty active circuitry but, unlike the Marcus Miller signature model, here all the control additions are neatly positioned on the 'bell plate', retaining the elegant and uncluttered looks of the original models.
There are some practical tweaks too. The neck joint has a rounded lower heel and shaped five-bolt neck plate for greater access and comfort at the top of the 'board; there's the recently-enhanced bridge that adds both mass and smoothness to this raised-tail design and also the nifty Stealth A string retainer that, as its name suggests, securely aligns the A string.
In passive mode you have the use of the volume control, the blending (pan) pot and a single tone control positioned at the lowest dual-concentric control.
This gives pretty much the traditional Jazz Bass sound and as usual it's the pickup blending that offers the majority of the tonal changes, while the tone control merely enhances or smoothes off the edge.
The noiseless pickups are superb: clean, solid and fruity, they're ready to respond to any tonal whim, which is handy because click that tiny toggle switch and the bass is mainlined with 18-volts worth of energy.
Even with boost and cut on all three EQ controls, the area of sweep is kept relatively tight, so these are ideally suited to finely honing those magical sweet Jazz Bass sounds.
Having a blend control certainly makes it much easier to achieve and recall favourite sounds, but the ability to adjust the level of each individual pickup has obviously gone.
Any player will appreciate the visual and practical modifications here - especially the active/passive controls and excellent pickups. This is a bass designed with today's needs at the forefront and is quite simply exceptional to play. A highly credible, professional level instrument.