Fig. 1: Jaguar Bass lower horn. The neck pickup (left) and bridge pickup (center) on/off switches are in the “on” position. The pickup series/parallel switch (right) is in the “series” position.
Fig. 2: Jaguar Bass master volume knob at top and master tone (passive treble roll-off) below. Master tone works in both passive and active modes.
Fig. 3: Jaguar Bass upper horn. The active/passive switch at right is in the “passive” position. The active bass cut wheel is at left; the active treble cut wheel is at center.
The Jaguar Bass guitar is a very cool instrument and a recent-era addition to the Fender family. Introduced in early 2006, it immediately set the bass world on its ear with its ’60s-esque styling, versatile tonal range and fast Jazz Bass feel.
And with a total of eight onboard controls—four slider switches, two inset control wheels and two standard knobs (just like its 1962 ancestor, the Jaguar guitar)—it also introduced bass players to the most elaborate control layout ever presented on a Fender bass guitar.
To bassists accustomed to straightforward two- and three-knob volume and tone control schemes, the Jaguar Bass and its wealth of bells and whistles might seem like something straight out of Mission Control. Indeed, as Bass Player magazine noted in its 2006 review of the instrument, the Jaguar Bass “has an unusual and versatile electronics system that gives it its own identity.” The BP editors also wrote, “What’s with the field of switches and knobs? At its heart, the Jaguar’s electronics are similar to a Jazz Bass’s, but with a lovably quirky—or head-scratchingly complex—layout.”
Actually, it’s not that complex. Allow us to explain what all those switches, wheels and knobs do.
First, the Jaguar Bass has two pickups, each of which can be turned on and off. On the rounded lower horn is a chrome plate with three slider switches (Fig. 1). The first switch is the on/off control for the neck pickup. The second (middle) switch is the on/off control for the bridge pickup. These two switches make it possible to mute the bass’s output without turning the master volume knob down; you can simply turn the pickups off. Careful though—you don’t want to accidentally switch the pickups off with a sweep of your hand while playing aggressively.
Second, the pickups can be used in series or in parallel. That’s what the third slider switch on that chrome plate does (Fig. 1, at right). With this switch in the up position (toward the strings), the pickups are in series, which delivers a bit more output and hence a bigger and louder sound. With this switch in the down position, the pickups are in parallel, which delivers more of a classic Jazz Bass sound. The series/parallel slider switch only works when the bridge pickup is on or when both pickups are on.
The two large rotary knobs near the input jack (Fig. 2) are master volume and master tone (passive treble roll-off, more precisely).
The chrome plate on the upper horn has a single slider switch and two inset control wheels (Fig. 3). The switch selects active or passive electronics circuits; passive in the down position (toward the neck) and active in the up position. The adjacent inset control wheels are active treble cut and active bass cut, and they function only when the switch is in the up (active) position. The passive master tone knob near the input jack still works when the bass is in active mode, which allows even more tonal possibilities.
So there’s a lot going on aboard a Jaguar Bass, but if you take the time to familiarize yourself with all the controls, you’ll find that it all adds up to one of the most tonally versatile Fender basses ever made. And it looks really cool, too …