A Brief Look in the Past
I usually start the reviews straight away with characteristics, but for this legend an exception must be made. However if you are not interesting in the guitar`s development you may just skip several paragraphs to the moment where an actual review starts.
If you are still here, tighten your seatbelt and get ready for a little time-travel. Things started off in Paris in 1951, when Leo Fender, all by himself, designed and made the very first Precision Bass Guitar in his workshop in California.
His idea was to create the guitar that would sum up the result of previous experiments. There were two main inspirations for creating Precision Bass: the developing blues culture of 1920-30s, which started active use of stick-shaped basses, and ancient fret-bass stringed instruments that got no development in their era.
The idea of short and aggressive bass guitar was widely accepted and appreciated. Both the fresh design with cutaways and the idea of having four-stringed instrument inspired musicians to start trying faster and more energetic music.
The commercial success of the guitar was huge. It only took slightly more than year that the release version started being massively manufactured. It was not the cheapest guitar with the price of 200 hundred dollars (it would`ve been roughly 2000 today). Still, the sales were huge.
P-Bass most famous Players
The Rock`N`Roll wave is over. Bass guitars are not that popular any more. The best times of Fender Precision Bass have passed. There are still rock bands, using this type of guitar, but the most popular ones do not exist anymore. It is still worth recalling some of them:
- Arthur Barrow from Frank Zappa. Mostly known for original song names, ironic texts and guitar solos Frank Zappa was rocking in the 70s. Partly, due to the fantastic bass performance.
- Andy Bell from Oasis. Oasis is the band that combined classical rock performances and clean instrumentals. The most famous soundtrack “F*cking in the Bushes” has a huge bass party in it.
Modern guitarists do not use Fender Precision as much as their forecrops used to. Some of them however still pay respect to the classics and can be seen on stage with the first modern bass guitar:
- Michael Balzary from Red Hot Chili Peppers. RHCP is a band that keeps the traditions of old Rock`n`Roll alive. Their style is not as aggressive, but there is still decent amount of bass in tracks.
- Cliff Burton from Metallica. It is not quite correct to call Metallica a modern group. What I actually meant is that the band is still doing live performances and uses classical instruments, which makes it possible to see some high quality Fender Precision Bass performance live.
Mentioning all the talented bassists would have taken way to much time and space, so let us end our historical excursion and go for some real actual facts.
Models and Manufacturers
The commercial success and overwhelming amount of purchases allowed Fender to develop his idea and create lots of different models. In fact, there are 17 different options, manufactures in three countries. Let us take a look at each of them, countries first.
- USA. The first P-Basses were created in the United States. So, they suggest original product of high quality. All the classical stuff.
- Mexico. The Mexican factories are equally as nice as American ones. However they only manufacture limited number of models, usually the most popular ones.
- Japan. It was the country that started spreading Rock`N`Roll culture in Asia. There is not much to say about their factories, as they are almost the same as the ones in American.
Now I am going to name all of the available Fender Precision Bass models. This information is worth knowing, but if you are looking for some solid advice scroll down a little. The advice on the most popular and suitable models for purchasing will be there. But for now:
- American original `50s Precision Bass. The most vintage thing they suggest. Everything in it is just about the old stylish things: the hardware, the case, the four-saddled bridge. It is the full recreation of the very first version. 2 colours are available.
- American original `60s Precision Bass. `60s was the golden age for Fenders` production and Rock`N`Roll. The `60s version is recreation of the upgraded model that was created in 1963. All the vintage stuff comes with it. The guitar has three available colours.
- American professional Precision Bass (There are 2 separate models: right-handed and left-handed). The modern version of the classical bass guitar. Instead of beautiful vintage “sweets” it comes in kit with really useful equipment: tuning machines, rods and nicely-protected case. There are 5 possible colour variations.
- American elite Precision Bass. It is a double cutaway guitar with onboard preamp and varying fingerboard radius. The option for professionals, that comes in 5 colours.
- American professional Precision Bass V. Basically, it is the most up-to-date Fenders` guitar, which comes with all the modern features. Nice if you`re just looking for a decent bass with no excessive features.
- Deluxe active Precision Bass Special. For real Deluxe means flexible. This model has Jazz Bridge pickup and three band EQ. These features make it possible to play different styles. Customization has three colour choices.
- `50s Precision Bass. Unlike its` vintage analogue, this one has no modern adaptations. There are two major differences: reversed tuners and anodized pickguard. Customization is a bit more flexible with three colours.
- Standard Precision Bass. Well, it is just standard. No extra features or super cases. Just the basics.
Not all the models are mentioned in the list. The ones that were not included are: Steve Harris, Tony Franklin, Duff McKagan, Roger Waters, Nate Mendell, Mike Dirnt guitar builds and some vintage variations. They have minor differences, so there is not much to tell about them. Nice customization is their only real feature.
Which one to choose?
The first thing worth mentioning to clear things up is that Fender Precision Bass is not something new guitar players are looking for. Neither are they cheap, nor easy to play. These guitars will not make good learning material.
Among all the available choices, there are three really worth considering. Here they come:
- American Professional Precision Bass. Let us take a closer look at its characteristics. It has alder body with polyurethane finish, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and bone nut.
The guitar has modified version of vintage pickups. They use alnico magnets to make sound warmer, crisper and cleaner.
Another pro is freshly fluted shafting machines. They keep strings tight all the time, creating sustainability of sound and some extra tuning options.
Last, but not the least, it is the only model in the series that has analogue for left-handed guitarists.
- Standard Precision Bass. This guitar has an alder body covered with polyester, neck and fingerboard made of maple and synthetic bone nut. In comparison to its` professional brother, material looks a little dull, but it is still decent and reliable.
The main feature of Standard Precision Bass is being as simple, cheap (still rather expensive) and classy as possible. It has standard design and standard build. There is one “cherry” on the top. It is split coil pickups, which make bass especially clean and powerful.
- Fender `50s Precision Bass. Unless the newer version of vintage Fender Precision Bass is available, I would recommend to stand with this one. The thing is, that they tried too hard to make new product look as old-fashioned as possible, so it has so many vintage stuff, that it looks unnatural.
The `50s Bass looks better and feels more like an original product. It has standard alder body with urethane finish, 1-piece (a really rare thing) maple neck and synthetic bone nut.
It has not many special guitar features, most of them belong to styling: the pickups and the gold-anodized pickup.
Undoubtedly, all Fenders` guitars are instruments of high quality and are a worthy purchase. The options I picked are the ones that are the most valuable. The best of the best.
The alongside delivered Goods
To proof that purchasing their Precision Bass was a correct investment, Fender employees add a lot of “sweets” in the delivery kit.
- The case. The guitar comes inside a case, that is styled accordingly to the guitars` model. It can be used later on as well, to store the instrument and to transport it.
- The manual. It is a usual thing, but for the vintage versions there are recreated old manuals. They look pretty much as if they were delivered straight from the past.
- The guitars` passport. Every Bass is considered to be an original and unique product, so they all have their own passports.
- A strap and a cable. These are not only the eye-catching things, but quite useful as well. They are not the nicest ones the Fender can suggest, but work in a decent way and can help to start playing the guitar right after unboxing.
There are also a catalogue of Fenders` other products, lifetime warranty and some smaller instructions.
Unlike acoustic guitars, bass-ones require accessories to make their full potential work. Fender provides all sort of stuff, produced by the same firm to fit its` Precision Bass perfectly:
- Cables. Fenders` engineers had two keywords to work with: durability and flexibility. So the cables are reliable and com along with lifetime guaranty. Sound quality is decent, plugs are silent and convenient.
- Cases and AMP-covers. The shipping case is nice and will serve for decades, but it might not be the most compact one. There are options for guitarists that travel a lot, and some extra-durable cases as well. AMP-covers however are just usual ones, so you may save a couple bucks, buy buying a cheaper one at your local store.
- Digital tuners, picks, and strings. Honestly, sometimes paying extra money for the brand is not the best option. This is the case, where it is suitable to save a little money.
- Care and cleaning materials. A surprisingly valuable purchase, mostly due to an option to purchase the full kit at lower price. It will serve for a long time and keep the guitar nice and clean.
How it Feels for Simple Players and Pros
Fender Precision Bass has been on stage for more than 60 years. Hundreds of thousands of guitarists, including dozens of professionals have tried it. Here is what they say.
Phil, 26, Amateur, guitar experience – 1 year
- What I needed was a middle-class guitar that would simply do its` job. Fender P Bass seemed a decent decision because of affordable price and great reputation. I received exactly what I needed. Bass-guitar doing Bass-guitar things. Some things in the kit felt like unnecessary ones, but as I started performing outdoors they all came in handy.
Damien, 33, Amateur, guitar experience – 3 years
- I am not a big fan of rock bands, but still I got myself a customized version from Roger Waters. I was mainly attracted by other sort of things though. First of all it’s the body combination of maple wood, polyurethane, black matte colour and SPB-3 mic. All this pieces combined in one guitar make the bass good when unconnected (its clean and melodic) and plugged-in (powerful and juicy).
Customization is the second thing that I was looking for. It was really easy to replace easel, buttons and strings. I managed to reach two goals at once: lower the action to fir my aggressive playstyle and make the guitar completely black.
Nate, 49, Professional, guitar experience – 20 years
- I`ve started using Precision Bass Guitar when the time has come to record my very first studio album. I enjoyed listening to Pink Floyd songs when I was a child, so I didn`t even doubt while choosing my model.
Fender Bass is exactly the thing that helped me get my professional experience. A lot of time has passed, I use more expensive personalized model now, but when it comes to recalling memories of the old good days I take my P-Bass (which I steal am saving) and enjoy its` warm and crispy sound.
Alternative Bass Guitars
Fender Precision Bass is a great model, but there is a lot of worthy opponents to consider. There are different archetypes, different manufacturers and different purposes. Let us find out which models are worth considering as well.
- American professional Jazz Bass. While Precision body type has low action and is suitable mostly for playing aggressive and fast music, jazz guitars have higher action and deeper tones. American Jazz Bass is the product by Fender as well.
- Mustang Bass PJ. Another type of bass guitar, that fits perfectly for playing hardcore music. The most famous bassists using this type are Mikey Way from “My Chemical Romance” and Ricky Fenson from “Rolling Stones”. PJ pickup configuration makes sound thunderous and rich.
- Yamaha RBX. RBX is not the cheapest series either, yet it is cheaper than Precision Bass guitars and is much more suitable for new players. It has more customizable body, easier to play strings and is a mass model, which makes it easy to find support guides in the internet.
Fenders` Precision body archetype is unique in its` kind. No other companies sell or produce guitars of this kind. This is what makes Precision bass the only in its` kind irreplaceable guitar.
Summing Things up
Fender Precision Bass is not the cheapest purchase. It is possible to buy used guitar for 500 dollars or a new one for up to 2500 dollars. Is it worth its` price? It is.
Fender suggests warm and crispy sound, wide variety of customization and adjustment, lots of accessories, lifetime support and lots of manuals. The guitar itself has a warm touch, beautiful form and high durability. It will be serving its` purpose for many years causing no trouble.