The Company Line
Fender is honoring its rich heritage with yet another example of taking a previous model to a new level. The original Mustang Bass was originally introduced in 1966 as a companion to the Mustang guitars, though as a single-pickup model. The pickup was kind of shaped like the P-bass pickup in this bass, but with smaller oval segments, instead of the larger rectangular ones. It did, however, have a fully intonating bridge (separate saddles for each string) and a mute function. It was the last original Fender bass designed by Leo Fender (in 1965).
The finish was done in solid colors (nitrocellulose) until 1968, when Fender began using the more modern and durable polyester finish. In 1969, they were released with “competition” finishes, including racing stripes. Sunburst finishes were also added, eventually. The bass stayed in production until 1981, when it was discontinued, and then reissued by Fender Japan in 2002. Fender later reintroduced the Mustang as a Squier product in 2011. In 2013, Fender launched three new Mustangs in the “Pawn Shop” series, which were made in Mexico. The bass we have in for review was introduced as a new model at the 2016 NAMM Show, and it is the first dual-pickup model of the Mustang, adding the newer P/J pickups and a selector switch.
The “slab” body of this bass is on the thin side, made of alder, and finished in durable Olympic White polyester gloss. The bass has a 30” (short) scale, with 19 “medium jumbo” frets and a maple “C”-shaped neck. The neck is held on by a classic 4-bolt plate, just as the original was. Our review bass shipped with a rosewood fingerboard sporting a 9.5” radius, with white marker dots, and a 1.5” synthetic bone nut. However, in light of the increased regulation regarding the use of rosewood, current production Mustangs will ship with a pau ferro board. The tuners are chrome (normal operation). The bridge is classic plate-style, fully intonating (though no mute function on this model, as it was never popular on the original, and most typically removed). The pickups on this bass are “Vintage Style” Precision (split-coil) and Jazz (single-coil). The controls are volume, (passive) tone, and a 3-position pickup selector switch (neck, both, bridge). The truss rod adjustment is happily accessible at the headstock, so no removing the neck to adjust relief. The strap buttons are the classic cone shape, in chrome. The bass is sold without a case or gig bag.
Fit and finish
The finish is good – I can’t find any significant flaws – and the neck pocket is a good fit. The fret level is good, but I’d like to see a bit more rounding on the fret ends and fingerboard. That said, it’s as good as anything else in its price range. It’s a pretty simple instrument in the grand scheme of things, but it’s made very well. I really can’t find anything to complain about.
On the gig
This bass weighs in at a paltry 7.3 pounds! The light weight, combined with the short scale, makes this completely effortless to play and shoulder. Speaking of which, when I first took this bass in for review, I had shoulder issues due to a recent surgery (which I hadn’t fully recovered from). The shortened reach and lighter weight made possible gigs where I would have otherwise had to cancel or pass on. While the original Mustang was thought of as a beginner or student instrument (especially for younger/smaller people), this bass is actually quite gig-worthy. It doesn’t feel “cheap,” at all. It won’t replace my Jazz or Precision bass, but I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers, either.
The slab body doesn’t have a contour, but on this small of an instrument, it doesn’t bother me. The neck profile is nice and thin for a “C” profile, so that was quite comfortable, too. Despite the short top horn, it balances well on a strap. All the controls and mechanics (tuners/bridge) work well, except I did have a minor issue with the switch not making proper contact a time or two. In fact, in general, I’m not a fan of the pickup selector. I’d much rather have dual volumes or a blend/pan control. I’d also like to see a hum-canceling J pickup, because with a single-coil, you get the single coil buzz in two out of three pickup positions. This is because the neck pickup is already hum-canceling, so the bridge can’t use it as a hum canceler, like on a J-bass. That said, I’m generally a fan of the single-coil sound, so given a decent environment to play in (from a noise perspective), it does sound good. The bridge pickup is a little thin when fully solo’d, but if you back the tone control off, it fattens up a bit. It’d be nicer to be able to blend just a touch of neck pickup in, but with the selector switch, that’s not possible. The neck pickup is nice and big/fat. It certainly has that P-bass woody/earthy tone. Finally, the bass feels surprisingly “alive” all the way up and down the neck. I didn’t expect this on a short-scale instrument.
The Bottom Line
The most important aspect of this bass is its scale length. Personally, I am far more used to 34”- and 35”-scale instruments, but I know that 30”-scale basses seem to be making a bit of a comeback. In addition to the different feel when playing a short-scale bass, they do sit in a mix a little differently, as well.
For those who prefer (or just enjoy) short-scale basses, the Mustang is no toy. It plays just fine, sounds good, and is worth every penny Fender asks. Although the Mustang is based on a somewhat limited classic model, with the updated pickup configuration, it covers a lot more musical and tonal ground than its predecessor.
SIDE PANEL INFO
|Manufacturer:||Fender Musical Instrument|
|Fingerboard:||Pau ferro (our review bass had a rosewood board) with white plastic dots|
|Bridge/color:||Fender Vintage, chrome|
|Nut (Guide):||Synthetic bone|
|Knobs/color:||Vintage style, black plastic|
|Control cavity cover:||n/a|
|Pickups:||Precision (split-coil) neck, Jazz (single-coil) bridge|
|Controls:||Volume, Tone, 3-way switch|
|Body Finish:||“Olympic White” Polyester|
|Neck Finish:||Satin clear Polyester|
|Number of Frets/Positions:||19|
|Strings:||Fender USA NPS (nickel plated steel)|
|Gauge:||.045, .065, .085, .105|