Squier by Fender Jazzmaster has always been a bit of an enigma. Generally disregarded as the ugly duckling in the Fender family, it didn’t get much love from anyone except people who weren’t sophisticated enough to know better. For years, people have tried to make the Jazzmaster look like other, more “serious” guitars. Some even turned them into Stratocasters or Mustangs (which might say more about their own deficiencies than anything else).
Well, times are changing. Squier by Fender is becoming increasingly popular among younger musicians and modding your guitar is slowly becoming mainstream – you can buy all sorts of custom parts online and simply do it yourself! As evidence I present these two beautiful woman playing Jazzmasters with Hot Rod DeVille amp (yes, it is my girlfriend on the left and her friend).
It was only matter of time before Squier decided to make an out-of-the box Jazzmaster that doesn’t suck. Enter the Affinity Series Jazzmaster (and I’m not talking about these cheap knockoffs ). Let’s see what this baby has to offer!
I’ve bought mine in Satin Natural at Musician’s Friend for $299 which included hardshell case . You can also get Left Handed version or Black one , which are generally priced same as regular version.
The first thing you will probably notice when you pick up this guitar is how good it feels. At 3.3 kilograms it is both lightweight and well balance. One problem with Jazzmasters and Jaguar is that they feel long and cumbersome but Affinity Jazzmaster does not suffer from this problem at all. It’s one of the few guitars I’ve played that feels equally good when played sitting or standing up. Intonation was perfect out of the box, even though I play in dropped D tuning (yes, drop D).
While a lot of players might want to change bridge saddles to get more precise intonation, most people will probably be unable to tell if their particular guitar has any problems with it unless they have experience with playing other guitars before. In my case, even after switching from cheap Strat copy to LP style guitar , only after constantly playing Fender Standard Series did I realize how far out of tune my other guitar was.
Even though Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster is not a vintage reissued guitar, it does feature many design elements that are clearly inspired by the original designs. For example, while body sides are flat and cut almost parallel to the ground giving Jazzmaster/Jaguar their distinctive look, fretboard has an offset contour which makes it more comfortable when you lay your hand on it. I would definitely rank this neck among the best I’ve played – perfect combination of slim profile with slightly wider “C” shape radius. It’s also really fast thanks to satin finish without being too slippery.
The one-piece maple neck features skunk stripe running all the way through its length. While neck is not as thick as the one on my PRS SE Custom, it’s definitely thicker than Fender Standard Series. I would say that Squier Affinity Jazzmaster has neck profile and heft similar to the neck on Jackson Dinky. It might be a little thicker than what you would expect from a traditional “C” shape but it does not feel awkward at all.
There were no visible flaws or problems with neck pocket or routing, so whatever Squier did to make this guitar they did right! Of course because of its budget nature hardware is nothing to write home about – tuners do their job well enough but there is visible play in them when compared to Gotohs or Sperzels used by more expensive guitars.
That said, it’s worth noting that the tuners are smooth and do not rattle at all even if you try to abuse them by bending strings too far or trying to tune out of the ordinary. As I am used to locking tuners on my other guitars, these non-locking ones took some time getting used to but once you figure out what you’re doing it works just fine.
As for electronics I’m not entirely sure how Fender did their magic, but this is one of the few budget guitars that actually does feature USA made pickups – standard Vintage Style Single Coils with Alnico magnets in neck and middle position. The bridge pickup has noticeably higher output which makes playing legato runs much easier (you can actually hear them ringing out clearly). Tone controls are wired as standard passive setup with the exception of the middle pickup which is reverse wound RWRP to achieve hum canceling in positions 2 and 4.
As for output jack – it seems like Squier engineers wanted to make things easier for themselves by copying Fender design language throughout the whole guitar. While this might be good news for some who like symmetrical look, others (such as yours truly) will probably want to replace jack with a more reliable Switchcraft version. Still, this is one area where you can spend $5-10 and not feel any difference at all because end result will look almost identical no matter what kind of replacement jack you choose. Of course there’s always tonewood debate and while I’m not really qualified to judge tonewoods used on Jazzmaster, I will say that this is certainly one of the best sounding budget guitars I’ve played in a while.
As for weight, Squier Affinity Jazzmaster has almost identical weight to my Jackson Dinky DK2M which is definitely somewhere between Stratocaster and Les Paul. This might put some people off but personally I like how it feels strapped on – not too heavy nor too light, just right!
The original Jaguar/Jazzmaster had an unusual tremolo system with roll posts placed directly under the strings. While that was absolutely fine back in 60’s and 70’s, modern players who want to use tremolo extensively (such as myself) might want to upgrade this system. It would not be a big problem, as there is plenty of aftermarket stuff available for Jazzmaster/Jaguar tremolo but with Fender being the manufacturer Squier has opted to go with more or less stock solution so most modern upgrades will require some work from your side. Of course with a guitar like Jazzmaster it makes sense to invest in a quality bridge and tuning machines anyway so this is probably one of areas where I would have preferred Squier just going ahead and fitting Gotohs straight out of the box.
As can be seen on following picture, neck plate specifies that Affinity series guitars are made in Indonesia while electronics are assembled in Mexico. This is nothing new – budget Mexican Fenders and Squires have been made this way for decades so it’s no surprise that Chinese Squier Affinity series guitars are manufactured in Indonesia just like Indonesian JV/MIJ Fenders. Of course it would be more than fair to ask where all of this leaves China itself – after all, we can rest assured that most South Korean and Japanese parts used on these Indonesian guitars come from the same country as instruments themselves – China!
While I’m not entirely sure why they chose to place “Made in Indonesia” so big on the neck plate, what I know for sure is that there are some problems with necks produced in Asia – they tend to bow over time due to humidity changes. While laymen might think that production process dictates quality of the product, it’s not always the case – in fact, there are plenty of amazing luthiers within USA and Europe who use similar processes such as Asian wood drying facilities or paints sprayed on necks in China. I went ahead and measured popularity of Squier by Fender Affinity Jazzmaster among guitar players and online communities and here is what I found:
If we look at Google Trends we can see that even though this particular model was discontinued in 2006, search interest has been growing rapidly since 2010 when Squier reintroduced J Mascis signature version with a humbucker instead of original single coil pickup layout. It seems like this particular model is also very popular at Reverb .com which is one of biggest musical instruments trading websites on the net. While this isn’t definitely a guarantee for success, it’s probably one of best indicators out there so I would say that Squier Affinity Jazzmaster will sell just fine.
Even though online guitar communities are usually pretty negative towards Fender guitars made in Asia (and rightly so!), average rating on Amazon is very high at 4.5/5 stars with most complaints being related to quality of electronics and tuning stability – things that can be sorted by spending additional $20-30 which absolutely makes sense, if you think about it.
At the end of the day I’ve found Squier by Fender Affinity Series Jazzmaster to be on par with classic American version both tonewise and aesthetically (in my opinion, of course). That being said, I’ve found it to be an excellent choice for guitar players who are just starting out as well as those who want to have some fun jamming with their friends or practice silently in their apartments – especially if they are not willing to pay premium price for American Fender.