I am fortunate to have found myself in the position to own two very awesome basses. The first is my Charvel “No Mod” San Dimas PJ IV (affectionately dubbed “No Mod” instead of “Pro Mod” because it’s been converted to passive, removing the onboard active pre-amp), and the second is my Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass (also a passive PJ IV).
But now, I can’t figure out which one I want to play at any given moment. The challenge is real.
So, while I’m sitting here actively avoiding work, I figured I’d do a little shootout between the two and see if I can figure out which one “wins”. I figured I’ll look at 5 different areas: Look & Feel, Neck & Fretboard, Body, Pickups & Electronics, Hardware.
It should go without saying that all ratings are personal opinions. Your mileage may vary.
Look & Feel
The Charvel is a great looking bass, with its metallic black finish, roasted maple neck, and shiny chrome hardware. It looks like a bass you want to play. But the Fender, on the other hand, with its gloss black finish and ivory bindings, matching headstock, black chrome hardware, stained rosewood fretboard and sexy-ass curves and contours is quite the looker. It not only looks like a bass you want to play, but it looks like a bass you want to stare at longingly, as well.
Point: Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass
Neck & Fretboard
The Charvel has a roasted maple neck and fretboard; the fretboard has rolled edges, a 12-16" compound radius, and a 38.1mm nut, with cream dot inlays and glow-in-the-dark Luminlay side dots. The neck has a satin urethane finish. The Fender has a maple neck with a stained rosewood fretboard; the fretboard has a 7 1/4" radius and a 1.5" (also 38.1mm) nut, with no inlays and regular side dots. The neck also has a satin urethane finish.
I really like both of these necks, they are both great to play. The lack of inlays on the Fender doesn’t bother me at all, I can’t see them when I play anyway. But the Luminlay side dots on the Charvel is a really nice touch. While they both have the same finish, the Fender feels more smooth to me; of course, that could be just because it’s newer. The Charvel’s neck is a bit thinner, though, and the fretboard is flatter… which I prefer.
Point: Charvel “No Mod” San Dimas
The Charvel has a very standard shape, with standard contours. The Fender has a standard Jazz bass shape, but it is thinner and contoured on the sides. It is bigger than the Charvel, and despite the awesome contouring I find the Charvel more comfortable to play; the, I guess, sharper edge on the Fender compared with its larger body size means that my arm has to almost rest on its edge, which tends to dig into my arm if I’m not actively trying to keep it off the edge. Further, when I put the Fender on my leg when sitting, I find it wants to slide off towards the back; it doesn’t want to sit still. The Charvel, however, being smaller with a more rounded edge doesn’t irritate my arm at all, and when I put it on my leg, it just sits there.
Point: Charvel “No Mod” San Dimas
Pickups & Electronics
The Charvel uses DiMarzio DP122 and DP123 pickups, wired passively with volume, volume, and tone controls. The Fender uses standard Fender Precision and Jazz pickups, also wired passively with volume, volume, and tone controls. Both have been shielded to the gills by yours truly.
I definitely prefer the tone of the Fender’s pickups to the tone of the Charvel’s pickups. The DiMarzios sound AMAZING in a mix, but when playing just to play they’re a bit too punchy and mid-heavy for my tastes. The Fender pickups are smooth, just as you’d expect. But… the Fender is much noisier than the Charvel is, even after the re-shielding. I expect that’s because the DiMarzio’s are wax potted whereas the Fenders are not.
With both being of Fender make, the hardware is pretty top notch. Both use Fender open-gear tuners (although Charvel says they’re Charvel open-gear tuners). The Charvel uses a Fender (oops, sorry, Charvel) hi-mass bridge, whereas the Fender uses a standard Fender bridge. The tuners on the Fender are much smoother than the tuners on the Charvel… which might ultimately also be a “new bass” thing.
The Charvel uses shiny chrome hardware, and the knobs have a wee little gold pip in them, which I hadn’t seen before. The Fender has the really cool black chrome hardware, but… I really didn’t much care for the style of knobs that came on it, and replaced them with some black chrome standard dome knobs.
So, looking at the final scores, it appears we have a winner!
Charvel “No Mod” San Dimas: 4
Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass: 3