What is the difference between American made, Made In Mexico, and Japanese Fender basses? They all seem to be the same to me other than the price and location of production. But I am pretty sure it must be a lot more than that, cause why would it have upwards of a thousand dollars difference? I have found a few used MIM and Japanese Fenders for cheap and I am wondering how worth the price they are.
Those are different ranges. Quality wise the Fender ranges work like this : MIA > MIJ > MIM > Squier
(the Squier range still being actually pretty nice)
the price of a used Fender vary greatly depending on the model, the year, and not only the country of production. MIJ Fender are mostly very good, and for MIM Fender it depends, some are good and other are way less interesting. I’d recommend to avoid a pre-2000 MIM. not “very bad” instruments, but too expensive for what they are IMHO.
For exemple, on the current range I’d say that the MIM Player series and the higher end Squier models are very good regarding to their price. (not saying those are the only interesting models)
I have an E series (1984 to 1987) MIJ Fender P.
I’ve read from several sources that during this period the USA Fender Factory ceased production for a move from Fullerton to Corona, and all the parts were shipped to Fuji-Gen for assembly, and all the USA and MIJ guitars from that period are identical.
SPOILER ALERT - I don’t know if it’s true or not, it’s just what I’ve read.
Dating the E series can’t be narrowed to closer than 84 - 87, apart from the fact that I know mine was bought in 1985 so I know it’s either an '84 or an '85.
As for quality and playability, I have a 2000 Made in China Squier Affinity P that I paid £81 for, and it plays just great.
The pickup and tuners are a bit rubbish but the rest of it is great.
In my view they are all good instruments.
Some may need tweaking and replacement hardware to get the best out of them, but the basis of a good instrument is there in all of them.
that’s funny, I have a 84 MIA Fender Stratocaster. to be honnest it’s OK but it’s not the best guitar ever, the 70’s and 80’s were not the better years for Fender, and even the 90’s were not so great (especially for the MIM and Squier range ; the MIA range was OK). the current MIA range is much better. I plan to sell this 84 Strat because its price on the used-vintage-market is much higher than its real value as an instrument, IMHO.
anyway those old MIJ Fender like yours are cool I’ve had one or two in the past.
I’ve heard (and I don’t know for a fact, since I don’t own any) that historically MIJ and MIA vary by year for which is better, and the MIJs are more consistent. Both are top notch.
Also - check out this forum thread: lots of good stuff on this topic there:
There are usually differences that are less obvious at quick glance. Better cuts of wood, different metals in tuners, different pickups, different glues, different oils/varnish, different electronics, etc. These differences are probably more obvious the more experienced you are. There are also construction and quality control differences. Some of what you pay for is also image and exclusivity, which many dont care to pay a premium for.
All that being said, there are numerous stories of people preferring a MIJ over a MIA and sometimes even a MIM over others. Best thing to do is play them if you have the chance and go with what your gut tells you. All Fenders apart from an odd lemon here or there are quality instruments and all are fine to learn with.
I can tell you that I used to play violin and always was interested in why some bows or violins were ridiculously expensive, tens of thousands or more. I had it explained to me that the average violinist probably couldn’t tell the difference from a thousand or so price range. However, to a professional musician, with thousands of hours experience, they can hear that 1% difference and they want that extra edge. I believe that to be the case.
I thought it would be something like this. Thanks for the reply.
by the way and even if there are some exceptions (on very particular models like Custom Shop or special series) I don’t like much Fender pickups. even the MIA ones lacks a bit of personnality in my opinion, that’s why I almost always change them. worth the additionnal cost !
I don’t say that Fender pickups are bad, but they tend to sound and feel a bit cold, all-around pickups without anything special. I prefer something more radical.
sure, we only can talk about general ranges but every guitar and musician has its personnal story for exemple I prefer my 2012 MIM over my 1984 MIA … not exactly the same price tag
all that said, the very good point with Fender is that those instruments are incredibly well designed for a mass industrial production. it means that it’s relatively easy to get “good enough” instruments and I believe that’s one of the reasons why even the low ranges (Squier) are in fact nice instruments. Also a reason why this design (maple bolt-on neck etc…) has been copied by everybody.
Many people say that, but it’s not cast in stone.
I have a 1959 Strat and a 1976 Strat (with the 3 screw micro-tilt neck plate) and I’ll pick up the '76 over the '59 any day.
I’ll also add, that most people who try my '76 want to buy it off me. It’s just so lovely to play.
I may have just got lucky with that one though.
In reply to your subsequent post, the '76 has Bill Lawrence pickups on it.
yes I agree, some are very good. but it’s not the general case. I didn’t wanted to say that EVERY 70/80’s Fender was a bad one. and by the way we can’t say either that every 50/60’s Fender is good.
The MIM holds its own and is actually sounds best to me in a couple spots. The MIJ actually sounds worst to me here, not bright at all and kind of dead in comparison, probably because it’s basswood while the others are ash and alder, but also probably because each time it is right after the USA '77, which almost sounds too bright to me.
But this is just one year of each, with different tonewoods. A lot of factors at play. All are great basses.
Wow thanks for all the advice guys! It’s really helpful. I think I am gonna go try a bunch of MIJ and MIM basses out and see how I like them. Also, the bass I currently use is a yamaha TRBX174 P/J. I have noticed that the jazz pickup creates a buzz or hum when turned on. Is it because its a cheap bass with cheap pickups, or is it because it is a single coil, non humbucking pickup?
Wow holy cow the difference between the 1977 MIA and 1998 was insane. The 1977 felt very hit or miss for me. It sounded great with the tone all the way up and at half (especially with a pick or slapping), but there was still so much tone when it was rolled off. Out of all of them, I think the MIM and MIA 1998 were the most well rounded.
Yeah the MIM and MIA '98 sounded more or less identical to me. The '77 was just crazy, in a mostly good way - I could see people having a love/hate relationship with that bass. I kind of liked it least at first and then grew to love it.