Squier Paranormal Jazzmaster XII: What is it?
The term "paranormal" means something that's far beyond the scope of typical scientific reasoning, a fitting name for this hit series from Squier. Each guitar in the Paranormal range defies all logic and understanding, as we can't quite get our heads around how these guitars can be so well made, so cheap and so freakin' cool - it must be witchcraft.
While the range encompasses everything from Tele/Strat mash-ups, P-90 loaded classics and a couple of bold new takes on old Fender favourites, the guitar we're looking at today is the Squier Paranormal Jazzmaster XII.
Using the best parts from both the Jazzmaster and Electric XII as its blueprint, this new offset builds on what's come before while making the concept of a Fender 12-string accessible to a whole new generation.
Featuring a duo of Fender-Designed alnico single-coil Jazzmaster pickups, a hybrid string-through-body/top-load bridge, a graphite-reinforced C-shape neck and a retro-inspired hockey stick headstock, Squier has gone all out to prove you shouldn't need to compromise on sound, playability or aesthetics when choosing to purchase a more affordable guitar.
Squier Paranormal Jazzmaster XII: Performance and verdict
From the moment we pulled this inexpensive 12-string out of its cardboard tomb, we knew it was special. The build quality here is stunning. The finishing is on point, the set-up was just right, and there were no marks, dings or issues to speak of - so we're off to a great start.
Now, 12-string guitars don't have a particularly great reputation when it comes to playability. That's understandable. The extra strings require the neck to be enlarged, and this, in turn, can make the guitar more difficult to hold - and that's before you think about the extra tension.
Luckily, Squier has managed to keep the Jazzmaster XII on the right side of playable, with a C-shape neck that doesn't feel a million miles away from a chunky vintage offset. Better yet, this maple neck is graphite-reinforced to ensure it can handle the extra pressure from the additional strings - and it certainly works, as this guitar feels solid as a rock.
The rather quirky hockey stick headstock sits proudly at the end of the neck. This is not exactly a common sight on a Fender instrument, so its presence may alarm casual fans. That said, we think it completes the look and brings a certain retro charm to this Squier instrument. However, it does have a downside - extra weight.
Unfortunately, our example is a little neck-heavy and does have a tendency to topple over if left to its own devices. This isn't helped by the sea of machine heads that populate the peghead. Now, while the machine heads are serviceable, they aren't the most responsive, so if you want this guitar to be a serious studio companion, you may want to invest in a more robust set.
Danelectro DC59X12: This lightweight Danelectro delivers a genuinely massive sound thanks to its dual lipstick pickup in the bridge position and angled single-coil in the neck - and better yet, it's also super affordable!
Rickenbacker 360/12: 12-string electric guitars don't come much more iconic than the stunning Rickenbacker 360/12. Beloved by everyone from The Beatles to The Heartbreakers, The Byrds to The Smiths, this guitar has gone on to garner legendary status, and you'd be a fool to say it's not well deserved.
Okay, that brings us to the sound of the Squier Paranormal Jazzmaster XII. The tonal engine of this jangle machine is a pair of Fender-Designed alnico single-coil pickups. These Jazzmaster-style pups more than deliver the sharp, bright and articulate tone you'd expect from a guitar of this nature.
As you can imagine, this guitar can handle clean, strumming guitar parts in its sleep, with a full-bodied tone that is brimming with harmonic content - but, wait, it can do a whole lot more than that.
We actually loved the sound of the JM XII through a distorted amp. The octave strings ring out while playing Jack White-inspired riffage, creating a halo above the notes that turns a mediocre riff into something special. So if you've never tried a distorted 12-string, you really should crank the gain and let rip - you'll be pleasantly surprised.
For us, the Paranormal Jazzmaster XII comes into its own as a studio tool. Many great songs have relied on the twinkly sound of a 12-string to bring an added sense of depth to a track. Everyone from Southern heartbreaker Tom Petty to goth icons The Cure and musical chameleon David Bowie have used this legendary style of guitar to create some of the greatest hits of all time.
Obviously, none of the songs we recorded with our trusty Squier have quite become hits - well, not yet - but the extra sonic pazzazz brought to the table by the 12-string guitar has certainly elevated our simple demo mixes to a whole new level.
We aren't exaggerating when we say Squier has knocked it out of the park with this new release. Yes, we have a couple of little niggles with this budget 12-string - mainly the slightly ropey tuners and a small amount of neck dive. Still, the tremendous sound, effortless playability and spot-on finishing massively outweigh these minor grievances.
In fact, we fell in love with this quirky Squier so much we ended up buying the review model directly from Fender, just so we could keep our hands on it. In the few weeks we've had it in our possession, it has ended up on countless demos and has provided the spark of inspiration for many new songs - so for that reason, we'd say it has more than earned its keep.
MusicRadar Verdict: For us, the Paranormal Jazzmaster XII perfectly showcases everything great about this stellar series from Squier. Not only is this guitar fabulously made, but it also offers players a unique sonic voice - and an affordable way to bring some of the iconic 12-string jangle to any track. If we were to nitpick, we'd prefer higher-grade tuners, and the neck is a little on the heavy side, but at this price, these are very minor grievances.
Squier Paranormal Jazzmaster XII: Hands-on demos
Squier Paranormal Jazzmaster XII: Specifications
- Body Material: Poplar
- Body Shape: Jazzmaster
- Body Finish: Gloss Polyurethane
- Neck Material: Maple
- Neck Shape: C
- Scale Length: 25.5" (64.77 cm)
- Fingerboard Material: Laurel
- Fingerboard Radius: 9.5" (241 mm)
- Number of Frets: 21
- Pickups: Fender Designed Alnico Single-Coil
- Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
- CONTACT: Fender