Squier Vintage Modified Precision Bass PJ$299 street, squierguitars.com
As the only bass we’ll be working with in this DIY round, this Squier Vintage Modified Precision PJ has a lot of pressure on it to bring home the bacon. Thankfully, the $299 instrument is actually quite good.
I’d have no problem recommending it to anyone in need of an affordable backup or a replaceable touring instrument. I love the color and the weight, and I was even rather impressed with the sound of the stock electronics. It plays pretty great, too. Honestly, if there weren’t a whole to-do about mods for this issue, I’d probably just leave it be. But where’s the fun in that?
The mods for the PJ were all pretty straightforward. The Babicz bridge is hugely popular with bass wizzes because its hefty aluminum construction and double-locking saddles tend to improve both sustain and intonation. But it’s also a hit because it uses the same five-screw pattern as the original Fender Jazz and Precision bass bridges, making it a no-brainer swap because it doesn’t require any extra filling or drilling of holes.
The only area where I hit a snag was fitting the new full-size tone pot at the lower tip of the pickguard. Standard Precision basses have two knobs—a volume and a tone—with a pickguard-mounted output. But since our Squier Precision PJ has two volumes and its tone knob is located where the P’s jack would normally be, the PJ’s output jack is mounted on the side. Unfortunately, the jack also isn’t far from the tone control, which means its inner portion comes quite close to the tone pot.
Photo 12 — Before using a pin router to slightly expand the PJ’s control cavity to accommodate a larger, higher-quality tone pot,I marked the pickguard outline and the area that needed to be trimmed with a marker and masking tape.
On the bright side, using a pin router (80-grit sandpaper and a little elbow grease will work, too), I was able to remove enough wood from the cavity (Photo 12) to fit the upgraded tone pot. Even so, there wasn’t enough room to fit the sweet—but also very large—.047 µF Emerson capacitor (Photo 13). I had to substitute a thin metal-film capacitor instead.
Photo 13 — Although expanding the control allowed the tone pot to t, the output jack was too close to accommodate the hefty Emerson capacitor. I had to swap it with a metal-film cap.
From there, things got easy again. The upscale Nordstrand pickups fit perfectly and wired up incident-free—though I was thankful for the “Where Does the Small Gray Wire Go?” info sheet, as I was in the process of asking that very question the moment I saw the wire. That’s some thoughtful customer service, right there!
For its price range, the Squier Vintage Modified Precision PJ was already an impressive bass, but after these mods it became something quite different. It’s louder, more authoritative, and sounds positively enormous. Sure, it still has that vintage Fender bass midrange with the P pickup soloed, but the Nordstrand pickups excel when used in tandem. The bass now straddles vintage and modern sounds with ease, and it’s also dead quiet no matter which pickup you favor. It loves fuzz, too!