Following the discontinuation of the American Standard Series, Fender’s new American Professional series of guitars are a stab at some of the brand’s classic models, but with some notable advances like the ‘Deep C’ neck profile, narrow-tall frets and a brand, spanking new range of pickups dubbed V-mod. One of these revamped classics is the American Pro Jazzmaster in Sonic Gray. Though it is a stunning looking guitar, aesthetics are not the be all and end all, so we took it for a test run to see if it lives up to the American Pro series tag line: ‘these instruments were made to explore the creative space between today and tomorrow’.
The modern ‘Deep C’ shaped neck at first did not seem as welcoming as I was expecting. Its shape is in between the ‘Modern C’ and ‘U’ shaped necks and took a little time to get used to. However, once underway, its benefits became clear. Along with the narrow-tall frets, the maple neck responds well to both bend-heavy lead playing and indie chord bashing, particularly at the high end of the neck. Despite some getting used to, it’s a worthy addition to the Fender range and only adds to the rustic tone of the Jazzmaster.
The V-Mod pickups are the work of the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Pickups developer, Michael Frank. Made to capture a ‘vintage-inspired’ tone, these single-coils are hot, gritty and pack a heap of punch. Clean or saturated in gain, they're super dynamic and responsive. With the bridge pickup selected there was a multitude of tones achieved; and pick placement an inch from the bridge caused sparkling highs and peaking treble, while digging deep directly above the pickup delivered plenty of pop and punch. The neck pickup in turn gave a pure unadulterated creamy tone, which the maple neck had a helping hand in. If there were one reason alone to sway a hesitant buyer, it would be these guys. Fender and Frank have produced a vintage sounding pickup with bite, grunt and a wide dynamic range.
The Jazzmaster-style ergonomic offset-waist body is a classic for a reason – it’s comfortable for players that ride it high or low, so there are no surprises there. What is unexpected is how comfortable resting on the 9.5-inch radius Jazzmaster/Jaguar Bridge is for a right (or left) hand. The stock Jazzmaster bridge is notorious for letting strings slip; a problem heavy pickers and string gauges suffer alike. Even when subjected to battery, the Jazzmaster/Jaguar Bridge held fast.
Not exclusive to the American Professional Series, the volume and tone pots are in an awkward position, and often get in the way when getting a little too tenacious on the strumming front. Wired with a treble bleed tone circuit, with the purpose of retaining high end clarity when rolling back the volume definitely has its positives in high-volume environments, but it’s a feature that will go unnoticed by bedroom bandits.
Hits and Misses
Once familiar with the ‘Deep C’ neck, life’s a breeze. Tonality, playability and comfort are all there and it sounds incredible.
It comes with sturdy pro road case.
The tone and volume knobs aren’t the best.