The venerable P’s latest incarnation brings some modern tweaks, but retains the versatility this classic is known for.
Clip 1: Neck (P) pickup only. Tone dial dimed. Fingerstyle.
Clip 2: Neck (P) pickup only. Tone dial dimed. Played with pick.
All P with some added spice. Great neck.
Tones are not full-bore P tones, so some may not dig the updated sound.
Fender American Performer Precision
If a Fender P bass could talk, it might say something like this: “Hi. I’m arguably the most popular bass design of all time. I have been on too many hit records to count, rocked a bazillion people throughout my history, and I am made in California not far from where I was born. Although I have been through a few mods in my day, including my latest incarnation, I can be identified with one letter and the entire bass community knows exactly what it means.”
Fender has the luxury (and, some might say, curse) of owning the two best-known bass designs in the universe: the Jazz and the Precision. I call it a blessing because of the wonderful history and design of these basses, but also a curse, because with progress comes change. In the eyes of the Fender faithful, change can be the death of a historic design. (Dimension Bass anyone?) Classics doneed to be reworked on occasion, however, and thus the American Performer series was born. We recently tested the Precision in the series to see if it could capture decades of Fender magic at around 1,200 bucks.
You Down With APP?
Out of the included gig bag, the American Performer P feels the same, but, well, different. The neck is a hybrid between a P and a J and has what Fender calls a “Modern C” design, which means there’s no Louisville Slugger or broomstick vibe here.
The instrument’s arctic-white poly finish is fantastic. The other colors in the series include a three-tone burst, Lake Placid blue, and a bright copper-colored metallic finish that Fender calls "Penny." The black 3-ply pickguard offers a cool contrast with a little attitude, although I’d love to see the bass available with a tortoise guard against this gorgeous white finish. The APP doesn’t feel too heavy or cumbersome. Rather, it sort of feels like it hugs you with its belly scoop and light alder body.
The APP has crushing sustain unplugged, and did I mention this neck? The satin polyurethane finish provided just the right glide and slide, and the neck felt absolutely perfect in the back, with no anomalies or uneven spots. The taper on the neck goes from ’50s P to almostJazz at the nut, which provides an ergonomically pleasing experience in that I wasn’t fighting the instrument because of width or depth.
It’s PJ Time!
I plugged into an Eden Terra Nova head with a matching 2x10 cabinet. The APP’s pickups are the Yosemite design, which means they have alnico-5 magnets and are shellac dipped—rather than wax dipped—which, according to Fender, allows the pickups to “breathe” more than wax models. The control layout consists of separate volume knobs and a Greasebucket tone-circuit knob, designed to roll off highs without adding bass.
I started out soloing the split pickup (neck position) with the volume and tone dimed. The punchiness of a modern bass hit my ears, along with a subtle nuance of the vintage vibe P basses possess. I’m not calling this pickup system vintageby any stretch, but rolling off the Greasebucket knob to the halfway point will mellow out this baby to a very smooth yet responsive zone. There is more breath in the Yosemite pickups in that the tones have a slight mwahto them, allowing them to track with this setting nicely.
Keeping the split pickup’s volume up, I eased the J pickup from off to all the way on. And somewhere in the middle of that transition is where its tone kicked in it. So, when using the bridge pickup with the neck, it’s sort of an on or off situation with little to no middle ground.
With all three controls dimed, the APP has a true modern vibe to it. It’s not an aggressive, harsh tone, though it does bring a hair more midrange to the table than other P models I’ve experienced. It’s an articulate punch in the mouth that really takes on a voice of its own. I like that our test model had a rosewood fretboard, since a maple fretboard (standard for the penny and Lake Placid blue finishes) would probably be a bit overbearing for me. I found myself playing this bass a lotand in many different styles, leading me to feel that I wouldn’t think twice about taking the APP to any gig, be it a backyard polka party or a Madison Square Garden show.
Say what you want about Fender’s designs, redesigns, reintroductions, etc. Simply put, the American Performer Precision really impressed. Granted, the bass isn’t a trueP, but the tonal options would make it appeal to just about anyone. If I had to choose one thing that made this bass special, it would be the neck, because it was such a true joy to play. A close second would be the aforementioned tonal variations that are suitable for a lot of different music. This bass was built for everything under the sun, and for a U.S.-crafted instrument with this attention to detail and playability, you’d be hard-pressed to spend the same money elsewhere and get the same results.
Watch the Review Demo: