The Justice: A Twist on the Familiar

From the moment I pulled the “Chronic Blue” Justice from its case, I puzzled over the simultaneous familiarity and oddity of its design. Reverend admittedly dubs the Justice their “take on the classic ‘J’ setup,” and there should be an emphasis on take rather than copy. I’ve played a Fender Jazz since the late ’70s, so I know its nuances well. Like a J bass, the Justice bears a pair of skinny pickups in the neck and bridge positions. On closer look, these are not the usual noise-prone single-coils, but instead have a humbucking rail design and are appropriately named J-Rails. Unlike a J bass, you’re free to blend the pickups to any proportions without inducing hum— the neck or bridge can even be soloed with confidence.

This emphasis on take carries over to some other features. The body is certainly a departure, both in its shape and slab-cut top. The usual J-style design includes a pickguard that’s separate from a metal control plate, but the Justice combines everything on one plastic plate— much like a P-style axe. One of the attractions of a J bass is the skinny nut width, usually spec’d at 1 1/2". Instead, the Justice sports the same nut width as the Thundergun at 1 21/32". And the Volume-Tone-Blend setup is yet another departure from a traditional J bass with its Volume-Volume-Tone arrangement.

Some other design features help out in the resonance category. The bridge (same as the Thundergun) has a solid feel going well beyond the customary bent plate of a J bass. Locking saddles enhance the transmission of energy from the strings to the body, and stringing can go through the body or through the back of the bridge for a somewhat different attack and sound. On the flip side of the body, the neck is attached with six screws—rather than the usual four— also enhancing the instrument’s resonance.

Tone-wise, Reverend once again designed its pickups to work with the characteristics of their locations. They created a bridge pickup that emphasizes highs and mids, and a neck position pickup that covers the lows and less of the highs. In an instrumental blues rehearsal with electric guitar and drums, I favored the sound of the neck pickup with its warm and focused tones. Even though the neck pickup didn’t produce a lot of highs, its note definition made it easy to hear in the mix.

In all, the Justice might be a good choice for a J bass player looking for something a little different—both sonically and visually. And unless you’re a J bass traditionalist, the added benefit of humbucking pickups makes the Justice all the more appealing.

Justice Rating:
Buy if...
you like a bass designed from tradition yet with a take all its own.
Skip if...
you need a bright, aggressive bass, both in looks and sound.

Street $998 - Reverend Guitars -

The Verdict
Reverend has returned to the bass scene after several years with some new designs that build on bass guitar traditions, yet head in new directions without blasting off to another planet. Like their predecessors, these basses bring a quality build with top-drawer components. While they are no longer made in the US, they are set up in Michigan by Reverend veteran Zach Green (look for the “ZSG” in silver ink alongside the serial number on the back of the headstock).

Although their appearance is based on familiar designs, the sound is not. Be sure to give a good listen to the Reverend you’re considering to make sure it meets your needs. The pricing is just on the brink—higher than a typical import, but a little lower than basic models built in the US.