Fender has been busy on the Precision Bass front recently, releasing the splendidly all-black Mexican-made Roger Waters signature (see review April 2011, Vol 22 No 7) and the equally tasty 60th Anniversary bass reviewed in June, Vol 22 No 9, which played like a dream and impressed us with its old-school appointments.
Being die-hard (but not blinkered) P Bass fans, we were very happy when another one touched down at G&B. The Classic series already boasts a cool 51 Precision and a 50s model, plus a pair of gorgeous Jazz basses, namely the 60s and 70s Classics, and these are now joined by the 70s Precision Bass.
So what distinguishes this new Japanese-made model from its peers? The answer lies in the details. First up, the maple neck which comes only with a maple fingerboard: theres no rosewood option is finished in glossy urethane and is carved to a wonderfully slim shape contour, making this one of the fastest (and, as such, un-70s-like) Precision necks we've encountered in recent times.
Strategically positioned amongst the 20 narrow vintage-style frets are period-correct black Jazz-type block markers that start out as chunky oblongs at the first fret and gradually slim down towards the higher registers. It works well on an aesthetic level.
Black fretboard binding is another 70s detail; at 4mm in width it's a dominant feature and one likely to divide opinion. Again, we're digging the look, especially as nothing in the currently offered Precision Bass range has chosen to utilise this particular feature.
The third detail is a black thumb rest that sits just forward of the neck above the E string. In practice, these are fairly redundant they can obstruct slappers, even though Precisions aren't usually the first choice for those who engage in such practises and while most of us anchor the right hand in the area at the bottom of the neck occasionally for tonal purposes, most won't position it there for any great length of time.
Still, the rest is only secured by two screws and it%u2019ll be no trouble to remove.
Four Fender-stamped open-gear tuners with big buttons line the top edge of the time-honoured headstock, which is decorated with an authentic 70s-style Fender logo.
Flip it over and you'll discover a chrome neckplate with an stamp and a skunk stripe up the neck, both features leaning in a 70s direction. The precise shade of the three-tone sunburst, while gorgeous, isn't really 70s, but the three-ply black-white-black scratchplate is reminiscent of the latter part of the decade and it creates a neat, almost three-dimensional effect.
The body is constructed from alder and it follows the regulation curves and carves to the letter. We'd quite like to have seen Fender aping a common 70s mod by adding a chunky Badass bridge, but this has the regular slightly flimsy unit, now called the vintage style four-saddle bridge. Still, it's always done a pretty good job for both P and J basses.
Certain of the newer models, the Roger Waters bass being a prime example, use non-Fender pickups (Seymour Duncans, to be precise) but this one is loaded with a nominal split single-coil Precision Bass pickup hooked up in time-honoured fashion to one volume and one master tone.
Fender says that the Classic Series 70s Precision authentically evokes the era when our first bass rocked with more versatile use than ever, from prog to punk and metal to funk. In reality, if you like the sound of a Precision Bass in its many-EQ'd forms in the style of music you're playing, then it's the right bass for the job. But it's also true that the tone offered by a classic P has become one of the industry standard sounds and this one just does the job.
So, plug it in, select full throttle on both controls and you get the big, fat earthy growl that can't help but put a smile on your bass face. There's plenty of harmonic life, giving you all that familiar belligerence.
The bottom end fills up space and sounds like it means serious business, and the midrange is dark but not muddy there's bags of zing, and bashing out grooves as varied as old school James Brown or modern metal is highly satisfying and fun. It's also nice and even across the fretboard, and the D and G balance snappiness and fatness in a usable manner. The top end is clean and clear it isn't as fizzy as a Music Man or as open as a Jazz Bass, but there'9s plenty of cut and bite available in a slightly restrained, classic Precision Bass manner.
You can shift the focus to the fundamentals and soften the sound by rolling back the Tone control. There are only about three real variations softer, spongy and woolly with the first two being the most practical for occasions when your bass needs to blend in a little more or when your job is to rumble and fill space.
Rolling back Tone also sweetens up the higher registers and makes this bass an attractive proposition for playing melodic grooves or even, heaven forbid, taking a solo.
Just when you thought that the Precision couldn’t get any more stylish, along comes the CS ’70s.
There’s something very smart, in a Saville-Row-suit kind of way, about this bass; the block-marker fingerboard, black three-ply scratchplate and neck binding detail break up the old familiar design. It also sounds the business, with everything you’d want from a Precision at the tip of your fingers.
The problem for Fender is that they have so many variations on the P-Bass that the discerning punter is liable to simply go for the cheapest, and the CS ’70s is not the cheapest.
This would be a shame: we think this is one of the best recent versions, so if you’re looking for one, sod the budget and check it out. That’s an order, by the way.