Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar
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Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar

Vintage Modified Jaguar, Electric solidbody guitar with JZ/JG body from Squier in the Jaguar series.

jaymes.moore 07/18/2014

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar : jaymes.moore's user review

« A magnificent guitar, but not straight out of the box... »
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To really understand the appeal of this guitar, you have to know the story behind the Fender Jaguar. It has a unique and tumultuous past much like the underground musicians who have embraced it over the years. The Jag, as it is affectionately known, was introduced by Fender as the streamlined, retro-futuristic follow-up to the Jazzmaster and was marketed directly to the rising Surf Rock movement in the early 60s. While it enjoyed a great deal of success around this time, the rise of Blues and Classic Rock by the end of the 60s saw the Telecaster and the Stratocaster reclaim their thrones. As a result, resale values for the Jaguar and Jazzmaster plummeted as they were ultimately discontinued.

Falling out of favor with popular music, the Jag would have a resurgence in the late 70s and early 80s during the rise of Post-Punk. Artists like Jonny Marr and Rowland S. Howard made them their signature instruments. This trend continued in the late 80s and early 90s, as their lower prices attracted startup underground bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, before ultimately become a defining instrument of Shoegaze by My Bloody Valentine. Since the turn of the century, it has continued to be an icon of Indie music with ever-growing popularity.

Because of the Jag's resurgence over the past two decades, vintage models have become as expensive as comparable Teles and Strats, whose "collector-item" status has stripped away much of that underground appeal. The Jag's pedigree has also been tampered with by the introduction of several modified variations over the last 10 years. Therefore, finding a vintage-spec, untouched Jaguar at a reasonable price that you wouldn't feel bad modifying has become impossibly rare.

This is the unique void that the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar fulfills! Though built at lower-cost factories in Indonesia, the design and build diagrams seem to follow the vintage specs very accurately. As a result, many American Vintage Reissue parts made by Fender are directly swappable. Combined with good initial build quality, this means the Squier Jag is the perfect platform for customization and personalization.

So we know that this guitar is affordable, surprisingly well-made and easy to customize, but what about out of the box? This is the one caveat that might cause a lot of people to overlook these guitars. Firstly, the setup in most examples I've seen has been atrocious. While the frets seem to be finished nicely, the nut, bridge, neck relief and intonation should all be thoroughly addressed. In doing so, the ludicrously light .09 strings should be swapped for at least .11s (remember this is a short, 24" scale guitar, so don't hold back on loading up some heavier strings!). I replaced the strings immediately with D'Addario's Heavy-Top/Medium-Bottom strings (.11-.52), which are ideal if you occasionally play in drop tunings. I then replaced the bridge with a standard Fender Mustang bridge, which facilitated my ability to intonate the guitar properly. However, I ran into issues with the nut being too high. Surprisingly, it was not on the thicker lower strings that were a snug fit, but on the lighter, higher strings where their shouldn't have been an issue. I don't have access to proper nut files, so I'll have to one day take this to a luthier for proper adjustment. In the meantime, I have to endure a few sharp notes now and then when playing near the first and second frets. Also, because of the problem with the nut not being cut correctly, it is difficult to assess how well the tuning heads stay in tune.

Aside from the setup having to be readdressed, I found the pickups to be more than adequate. Sporting Seymour Duncan's name, these pickups are wound a little hotter than vintage spec but certainly have more life and character than comparable Japanese-made Fender Jaguars. They also sound more period-correct than their closest rivals, the Mexican-made Classic Player Jaguars. However, the controls and switches are certainly of lesser quality. The tone control for example on the rhythm circuit broke and spins freely, so that will need to be replaced. Being a project-guitar, I plan to replace most of the switches and knobs with AVRI components.

Like the Japanese-made Jags, the Squier also features the vintage floating tremolo in its original position. However, the Classic Player and the 50th Anniversary Jags have been altered and their tremolos have been moved closer to the bridge. This to me is the most crucial element of the Jaguar and ultimately the reason why I decided against the Classic Player series Jags. Because the pickups of the Jaguar are essentially Strat pickups with additional shielding, their signature sound comes more from their other design components, particularly the tremolo. Even when not in use, the distance between the bridge and the tremolo allows for immense string resonance, which is an effect that is dampened when the tremolo is moved closer to the bridge. This resonance is crucial as it gives the guitar a natural reverb that is essential for driving the splash of a Fender spring reverb in surf rock and for the expansive tone when combined with alternate tunings in shoegaze and indie rock.

With some adjustments made, the Jag is a breeze to play. The shorter scale makes it effortless to explore the fretboard and the pick-up circuit combinations allow for a variety of different tones. The upper rhythm section, with its warmer tone is perfect for vintage jazz sounds or as a compliment to it's more aggressive tones in a recording situation. The Lead Section will probably see the most mileage. The Neck PU is great for rhythm and blues lead and the pick-ups together have that signature, Strat-like sparkle with the added resonance of the tremolo. Combined with the mysterious third switch on the lead section controls, which actually triggers a capacitor that serves as a high-pass filter, you can achieve really crisp, sparkly chord voicings that are ideal when combined with spring reverb or modulation effects.

Surf Rock Clip: https://en.audiofanzine.com/embed/audio/473506

Blues Clip: https://en.audiofanzine.com/embed/audio/473508

The bridge pick-up packs a more modern punch and can be used to great effect with overdriven riffs. The high-pass switch can also-really help clean up the low-end when using heavy distortion.

Distortion Riff: https://en.audiofanzine.com/embed/audio/473509

In any pickup configuration, the guitar responds equally well to riffing in unorthodox or dropped tunings.

Drop D Riff: https://en.audiofanzine.com/embed/audio/473507

The bottom line is that at this price-point, the Squier VM Jaguar is unbeatable. It may seem a profound statement, but from the point of view of a purist, it's closest competitor is the Fender American Vintage Reissue Jaguar, at 10x it's cost. The Classic Player Jags are heavily modified from the originals and the Japanese reissues are infamous for their anemic pickups and in both cases they are more than twice the price of the Squier. Ultimately, with some additional investment into upgraded components and a thorough setup, the Squier VM Jaguar is a magnificent guitar that is easily deserving of a Fender badge on its headstock.

Pros:
+Affordable Price
+Ability to easily upgrade components with those from other Fender Jaguar Models
+True to Vintage Spec Components and Design
+Surprisingly good build-quality and beautiful finish
+Great sounding pick-ups that are more than acceptable until a more substantial upgrade is made

Cons:
-Poor setup from the factory
-almost unusable vintage bridge that should be immediately replaced by a mustang bridge
-cheap, plastic electronic components that will likely break and need to be replaced
-no locking mechanism for the tremolo
-the "Squier" name on the headstock