Recorded direct into Focusrite Saffire 6 interface into MacBook Pro using GarageBand.
Clip 1: Riff with both pickups engaged, followed by neck pickup only, then bridge pickup only. Tone at 70 percent, slight bass boost.
Clip 2: Slap riff with both pickups engaged. Tone at 70 percent, slight bass boost, and treble boost at 50 percent.

 

Ratings

Pros:
Superb looks, tone, and playability at a guilt-free price point. One of the best bangs for the buck on the market.

Cons:
Minor hardware concerns. No active/passive switch.

Street:
$399

Squier Contemporary Active Jazz Bass HH Review
fender.com



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Squier is a longtime maker of budget-friendly instruments for beginners, but pro players have also taken to these basses and guitars as gig-friendly alternatives to their prized vintage axes. Do a quick search on YouTube and you’ll find many who’ve modified these musical templates to suit their needs or simply celebrated them as value-heavy workhorses. It appears Squier has taken notes on user impressions of their instruments, resulting in their latest line: the Contemporary Series. This reimagining of classic bass and guitar designs gives the original formula a kick in the pants though fresh looks and modern tonal capabilities. One standout offering in the series is called the Contemporary Active Jazz Bass HH.

Black to the Future
It’s not often you see a matte finish on a bass, but the decision to dress the ash body and the matching headstock of our test model in this manner was a good move. The white pickguard and maple fretboard provide an aesthetically pleasing contrast, and the black-chrome hardware enhances the eye-catching formula. (The bass is also available in flat white with a black pickguard.)

If you’re wondering what the “HH” stands for in Squier’s latest, your wait is over: humbuckers! Supplanting the conventional single-coil pickups is a pair of SQR ceramic humbuckers for delivering punchy, modern tones devoid of 60-cycle hum. And manipulating the SQR’s magnets is a 9V preamp with treble/bass boost capabilities and a tone control.

A Squier’s Trials
When I receive a piece of gear to review, I usually always take it out for a show or two so I can examine how well it functions under typical playing conditions. Unexpectedly, the qualities of this particular bass elicited enough trust that it underwent one of the most extensive and rigorous review processes. At the time this review was written, I had used our test bass for 34 shows, five rehearsals, and one tracking session. So, how did this “economy” bass become a go-to instrument during the time I had it?

As alluded to previously, the bass looks gorgeous. Matte finishes are not usually my preference, but I was captivated by the HH’s shape-shifting style. It looked rugged on rock shows, yet sleek and sophisticated for R&B gigs. I wasn’t alone in appreciating the HH’s looks either. It received significant praise from fellow players and audience members.

The bass also earned marks for ergonomics. It balanced nicely when strapped and held its position at a comfortable playing angle. There were minor balance issues when seated, but not significant enough to impact playing technique. Placing the HH in a classical-guitar orientation made it virtually immovable, which allowed effortless traversing of the neck and fretboard.

In addition to delivering tones that fit well for country, rock, R&B, and blues shows, the response and sensitivity of the SQR pickups improved my bass line articulations.

Contemporary shaping was evident on the business end of the HH, as the slim C-shaped neck and 12" fretboard radius invited speedy shifting and a natural fretting hand position. The satin-finished neck provided a smooth surface for the thumb. My only quibble with the Squire’s neck was not so much its design, but the choice of hardware. The tuners felt a bit clunky due to turning inconsistently and varying tension, which made the process a bit cumbersome.

Tone to the Bone
Where the Contemporary HH exceled was in the tone department. Prior to venturing out with the test bass, I experimented with it at home, where the reference rig was a Bergantino B|Amp and HD112 cabinet. Keeping everything flat and the pickups balanced, the HH growled like a Jazz-style bass, but with a wider sonic spectrum. The lows were thicker and punchier, and the highs had extra presence and transients. Soloing the bridge humbucker produced pronounced mid-forward barks, while engaging the neck pickup on its own brought clang and growl with near P-style familiarity. The tone knob helped focus these tones by adding or tempering highs to taste. And while I preferred the Contemporary HH’s tone without any EQ enhancement, the bass and treble boost were helpful when extra booty or bite were required. Boosting both gave thumb-muted bass lines extra punch and clarity, and slaps and pops had the perfect timbre for Marcus Miller disciples.

There isn’t enough room in this review to go into detail about performance experiences with the Contemporary HH, but I can say there were quite a few takeaways that solidified my appreciation of the instrument. In addition to delivering tones that fit well for country, rock, R&B, and blues shows, the response and sensitivity of the SQR pickups improved my bass-line articulations. In some cases, this actually helped me lock in with drummers, tightening our pocket and stabilizing the tempo.

I played the Contemporary HH so much that I ended up draining the 9V battery. Unfortunately, this happened at a show when puzzled looks were directed my way after my sound disappeared. It was easy to replace thanks to the accessible battery box, but an active/passive switch would be nice to have for those unfortunate brain lapses.

The Verdict
A bass that sounds, plays, and looks as good as Squier’s latest is an absolute rarity for $399. After proving its mettle over long performances and in multiple musical environments, I found the Contemporary Active Jazz HH to epitomize the term “workhorse instrument.” I can say with confidence that this new offering from Squier contends with some of the biggest names in the bass market. It’s a must-try for any bassist, and, in my opinion, it’s without question one of the most impressive basses released this year.

Watch the Review Demo: