The American Ultra Jazz Bass V, put quite simply, is a majestic incarnation of the instrument. It boasts a bolt-on maple neck, solid alder body, maple fingerboard and a beautiful satin finish that is quintessentially Fender. It features a three-band EQ alongside an 18-volt active preamp, which allows you to meticulously sculpt your tone.
I’ll go straight out and say that this is perhaps the most responsive bass I’ve ever played. For me, responsiveness entails three things: string action, string tension, and the speed — that is, the smoothness — of the neck. The action is set just right so as to mitigate any fret buzz, even on the low B string which is sometimes notorious for being a bit of a beehive. The tension is, again, set perfectly, which makes life easier for those industrious fingerstyle players. This perfect nexus of action and tension makes the Ultra Jazz Bass V ideal for slappers and poppers. The 34” neck runs as smoothly and as quickly as a Japanese bullet train, which will help with those Verdine-esque forays into the upper register.
Upon plugging the Ultra Jazz Bass V through my MarkBass rig, I realised I had to get my head around the world of sonic possibilities this bass could afford. This meant familiarising myself with the four control dials, as well as the passive/active tone switch. Basically, there’s your standard master volume dial, as well a treble/bass combined dial with a handy centre detent. There’s also the pickup pan dial, which I found to be an ingenious and incredibly convenient feature. With my own Fender Jazz Bass (a Japanese Aerodyne), I often find myself having to individually adjust both neck and bridge pickup dials in order to achieve the blend I want. The Ultra Jazz Bass V’s pickup pan dial lets you pan between the punchy neck pickup and the growling bridge pickup, making the blending process a whole lot more straightforward. Both pickups are noiseless, meaning that the annoying buzz that comes from winding down one of the pickups is no longer an issue. The last dial allows you to control your midrange and passive tones.
Some bassists may vouch that your standard four-string Jazz Bass doesn’t quite exude the same booming low end as a Precision Bass. This is where the Ultra Jazz Bass V’s active/passive toggle switch aims to subvert this expectation. As I jammed for hours through my Spotify 2019 playlist, I noticed myself switching between the more equilibrated passive tone, and the markedly more robust and bass-heavy active setting, depending on the genre of music I was grooving to. If I was playing funk, for instance, I’d opt for the active preamp (just for that sturdy low-end) while adding a tinge of mid and treble for some extra shape. For any jazz or Latin music, I’d conversely go for a passive, flatter tone, panned in favour of the bridge pickup so as to highlight the melodic prowess of this bass.
At its current price point, the American Ultra Jazz Bass V is not exactly within every bassist’s price range. Also, if you aren’t already slick with five string basses, you may need to make a few technical adjustments (mainly pertaining to RH and LH muting) before going for a bass such as this. All in all, the Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V is one of the most thoughtfully-crafted instruments I’ve had the pleasure of playing. The tonal versatility and sustain afforded by the Fender Ultra Jazz Bass V makes it suitable for practically any style of bass player, provided you can acquaint yourself with the array of sonic possibilities imparted by the EQ and toggle switch. A truly sensational effort from Fender.