The original Jaguar Bass, introduced in 2006, had Jazz Bass feel with Jaguar-style controls.
By Jeff Owens
The Jaguar Bass guitar was 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 original 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. Here's an explanation of what all those switches, wheels and knobs do:
First, the first models of the Jaguar Bass had two pickups, each of which can be turned on and off. On the rounded lower horn is a chrome plate with three slider switches. 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. 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 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. 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 was a lot going on aboard the original iteration of Fender's Jaguar Bass (the current Standard Jaguar Bass and Troy Sanders Jaguar Bass models are different), but if you take the time to familiarize yourself with all the controls, you’ll find that it all added up to one of the most tonally versatile Fender basses ever made. And it looks really cool, too …