For some experienced bassists, the discussion about P-Bass and Jazz Bass can be very short.
Get a P-Bass for the original punch and power.
Use a Jazz Bass for more versatility in your sound, with a brighter, tighter tone. Better yet, put both in your collection and have them ready for different locations and band sounds.
However, if you are going to get just one of these two remarkable icons in the world of electric bass, which one should you choose?
If you want to play with some thump, without making major tone adjustments, the P-Bass is the four-string instrument for you. One of the few pioneers of electric instruments, Leo Fender, introduced the Precision Bass in 66 years ago (1951).
This instrument truly broke ground, since there was no option for the bass player aside from the acoustic, stand-up bass.
- Prices of the Best P-Bass and J-Bass Guitars
- Top 3 Precision Basses:
- Top 3 Jazz Basses:
- Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Between P-Bass and J-Bass
- Wrapping Up: Jazz Bass vs. Precision Bass
Prices of the Best P-Bass and J-Bass Guitars
You can invest in an original P-Bass from one of the few classic-guitar inventories but you could also buy a nice used car for about the same price. For example, a refinished original, 1957 Precision Bass will set you back about $7,000. A 1966 version will be a bit less – $6,000. New, custom-shop versions from Fender come in at around $1,600.
As for the original Jazz Bass, a 1965 original will cost you approximately $7,500, while even the 1975 model brings around $3,000. As with the P-Bass, a new, custom-shop Jazz Bass costs about $1,600.
We also reviewed several budget options for you.
Top 3 Precision Basses:
|Fender Standard Precision Bass (Editor's Choice)|
|Fender Squier Vintage Modified Precision Bass PJ|
|Fender Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ|
Fender Standard Precision Bass (Editor’s Choice)
This is an affordable, professional-level instrument, perfect for the beginning player as well as the bass veteran. You get the classic tone of electric bass with the modern technology of the split, single-coil pickup.
The neck is designed with the usual “C” shape for playing comfort. The Fender Standard Precision Bass has a push-pull switch as part of the tone knob, so you can split the coil to get single-coil tone.
Consider this an affordable version of a music-industry classic. You get the “muscle” you desire with a rich bottom the band will appreciate. This model gives you great design, so you can display style and deliver the performance you need and deserve. Available with maple fingerboard or rosewood fingerboard. Mexico.
- Great sound
- Fast neck
- With one specific bass – bowed neck, bad pick guard
- Needed neck adjustment
The key word in this product title is “modified.” The Fender Squier Vintage Modified Precision Bass PJ, provides plenty of bottom-end punch, like the Precision Bass, but also gives you tonal versatility of the Jazz Bass with the single-coil bridge pickup.
It’s the best of both Fender worlds, so to speak. This bass delivers the great look and feel you expect, with the “C” style neck and rosewood fingerboard.
It comes with a three-ply black pickguard, the classic bridge and vintage tuners. You can get this modified version in one of three colors – candy-apple red, Lake Placid blue and three-color sunburst. Made in Indonesia, this Squier bass can be ordered in a five-string version.
- Good bass for the money
- Sound quality
- Tuners not tight/accurate
- Cable jack defects
When you select the Fender Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ, you’re choosing a good value in bass guitar. You get the classic tone of the P-Bass and the added tight sound of the Jazz Bass, thanks to the standard split single-coil pickup and the single-coil of the J-Bass.
This series comes with a two-color headstock logo, three-play pick guard in black – white – black, and separate volume controls for each pickup. The Affinity PJ is offered in Olympic white, black and metallic red. Imported from China.
- Good bass for the price
- Nice “feel”
- Two pickups = Best of both worlds
- Needed major attention for setup
- Packaging problems
Top 3 Jazz Basses:
|Fender Standard Jazz Bass (Editor's Choice)|
|Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass|
|Fender Squier Affinity Series Jazz Bass|
Fender Standard Jazz Bass (Editor’s Choice)
If you’re ready to move up to a professional-level instrument and the Jazz Bass is on your radar, this will be a great choice. Because it’s designed around the classic J-Bass, it has two single-coil pickups for the clear tone you want. It’s available in a range of vintage Fender colors and also offers reduced hum due to the shielded body cavities.
With the Fender Standard Jazz Bass you get the important technical improvements in a classic design, delivering style, versatile, rich tone and great value for the investment you make. It can be the right bass for players at every experience level.
- Ready to play
- Sound mimics traditional Jazz Bass
- Minor issues with frets/neck
- Pickups lack sound power
As with the modified P-Bass mentioned earlier, the Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass offers great tone, this time with the J-Bass sound of two Fender-designed single-coil pickups.
The tinted, gloss neck has block inlays for a true vintage appearance. In addition, you get the “70s sound” but with the performance you’d expect from a 21st-century bass.
The Vintage Modified was upgraded in 2013 to provide a slightly different look and feel from decades ago. The three-play, black pick guard and knurled control knobs in chrome are a nice touch, as are the open-gear tuners. Imported from Indonesia.
- Great sound for the money
- Solid construction
- Position markers painted on
- Tuner problems
With the Fender Squier Affinity Series Jazz Bass, you get two single-coil pickups for an array of tones, reaching from classic to contemporary. Separate volume controls for neck pickup and bridge pickup give you more control.
Playing comfort is key with quality hardware and well-designed neck. You also get the rosewood fingerboard in this brown sunburst bass. Imported from Indonesia.
- Good choice for someone starting on bass
- Great look; Finish is good
- Excellent tone
- Durability issues
- Loose knobs
- Chip in finish
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Between P-Bass and J-Bass
The P-Bass solved a significant problem bassists were having when they played live – they couldn’t be heard over the sound of amplified guitars. They didn’t have the technology of today, pickups to be attached to their acoustic bass, so players gradually made the change to the Fender product.
The design was similar to the successful Telecaster guitar, though the bass had a double-cutaway. This pointed the way to the Stratocaster guitar, which was to come to the market a bit later.
What’s a Pickup?
The small-but-essential part of the electric bass, the pickup, was a single-coil design originally, though in a matter of six years the company brought out a P-Bass with split-coil pickup for a bit more power and punch.
The instrument was also made with bevelled edges to make it more comfortable to play, while also adding eye appeal.
More changes were in the works for Fender, with the introduction of a new bass design (original name – Deluxe). This was to be a “partner” to the Jazzmaster guitar, with the offset body and two, single-coil pickups.
The difference in pickup design produced a brighter sound, which some players characterize as “more focused.” Some acoustic-bass musicians made the change to the Jazz Bass, but it took a while for players in fusion, disco, funk, reggae and rock to make the switch. Slap-bass technique was a major driver in the popularity of the Jazz Bass.
This newer design also delivered a slender neck, especially at the nut. This was popular with guitarists who sometimes took over the bass role.
In future years, the company moved the bridge pickup closer to the bridge for a bit more snap. Bassists were able to dial in their tone in a way they couldn’t before, even with the P-Bass.
Of course, there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to choosing between these two icons of the electric-instrument world. If you want to deliver the deep-bass sound of soul and have your fellow musicians appreciate the thump of the bottom end, go with the P-Bass.
However, if you must be ready to change tone and style a bit during the gig, the Jazz Bass might be the better choice. In addition, if you are a bass player with small hands, you might try the narrower neck of the J-Bass. Some players even put a Jazz neck on a P-Bas body for the best of both worlds.
Wrapping Up: Jazz Bass vs. Precision Bass
The Fender Precision Bass or P-Bass is now a collector’s item or is played primarily by professionals and semi-professional bassists who can afford to own an instrument from the 50s and 60s. Fortunately for the players of the last couple of decades, several variations of the P-Bass have been made, including the Squier and the Affinity series.
In some cases, the difference in price is based on wood choice for the body, or the attention to detail on the neck and frets. With some basses, changes in electronics separate one series or price range from another.
However, you can generally depend on getting the classic P-Bass sound: deep punch. There’s little doubt the Precision Bass changed the way music is played, but it also changed the way music is heard. The P-Bass is widely recognized for its large headstock, the split-coil, humbucking pickup and the contour body that’s immediately recognized. In fact, this design is often copied (with slight modifications).
You can always depend on the warm tone and good mid-range with the P-Bass. The sound is simple yet effective. But with pickup switching and tone control, you also have sound flexibility.
There’s certainly no clash with guitars when you have the classic Precision Bass in the mix. Most players are happy with the wide neck and the “C” shape, finding it quite comfortable. The P-Bass will cover almost any style.
More Than 50 Years
The Fender Jazz Bass, which some insist should be called the J-Bass, brought the word “versatility” to the bottom line. The tone is sweet and tight. The narrow neck (compared to the P-Bass) makes playing more comfortable for smaller hands and for those comfortable with the feel of a guitar. Two single-coil pickups put a lot of different tones at your disposal.
Of course, the name implies this bass is meant for playing jazz, and it’s great for that. But you can play in a rock band, back up a folk singer, deliver some reggae or just about any other genre, with this bass. If you’re into the “slap” tone, you probably want to stick with the Jazz Bass.
The Jazz Bass followed the P-Bass by about nine years, coming out in 1960. It was originally called the Deluxe model because Leo Fender felt it would be easier to play and would have a brighter sound.
It did become a bass-player favorite during the 1970s, as musicians and listeners sought a funky sound. The bass player also took a step forward on stage with the Jazz Bass, as the instrument took on more than a background/support role.
Rock players such as John Paul Jones and Geddy Lee make excellent use of the Jazz Bass, as did jazz icon Jaco Pastorius. When you need great tone and versatility, this is your instrument.