I'm a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
The Fender Precision Bass
The Fender Precision Bass is a classic among classics. It’s heritage dates back to the very dawn of the electric bass guitar, and it has remained one of the top choices for bassists in just about every genre you can imagine. Its punch and power has set the standard in metal, funk, jazz, country, blues and rock.
Like all American-made Fender guitars, the American Standard Precision Bass is a high-quality instrument worthy of the attention of professional bassists. It’s also a little expensive and, while nobody would argue it isn’t worth the asking price, some of us just can’t afford it.
So, Fender gives us the Standard Series, Made-in-Mexico instruments intended to capture that classic Fender vibe for significantly less coin. Fender has Standard versions of the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazz Bass and more. And, of course they give us a Standard version of the Precision Bass. Typically, these instruments come in around half the price of their USA-made counterparts.
While Standard, Mexican-made Fenders are technically intermediate instruments, they have a good reputation among advanced and even professional musicians. Some players just like the idea that they can spend less and still get a great bass. Others like a good bass which they can modify and add their own fingerprint. Still others just like the idea that they can bring their Mexican P-Bass to a gig and not worry so much if it gets stolen or smashed up.
Fender is one of the best bass guitar brands in the world, and they make solid gear for all levels of bassist. Which bass you play is a personal choice, and you shouldn’t let gear snobs convince you there is anything wrong with Mexican Fenders.
This article will help you decide whether the Mexican Precision Bass is a good choice for you, or if you are better off saving your pennies for the American version.
Fender Player Series Precisions Bass
At this point it is worth noting a few interesting things going on with the Fender MIM lineup. Fender has upgraded their MIM guitars and bass guitars, and the new lineup is called the Player Series. Across the board, Fender Player instruments features some upgrades and compared to the older Standard guitars.
The Player Precision Bass features a pau ferro fingerboard instead of rosewood, an upgraded pickups and an improved body shape. It is still Mexican-made, and it continues to bring us the same bang for the buck as the Standard Series.
The rest of this article will cover the old Standard Precision Bass. You can still get them new, they are still outstanding bass guitars for the money, and I still highly recommend them. However, you’ll want to compare the Standard Precision Bass to the new Player Precision Bass and decide which you think is a better option.
Mexican Fender Quality
When comparing the Made-in-America (MIA) Fender Standard Precision to the Made-in-Mexico (MIM) version the first question on most bassist’s mind concerns quality. Rightly so, as the very fact that the MIM Fender is a less-expensive version of the American bass suggests it must be inferior.
On a paper this is certainly true. American Fender instruments are the flagships of the company, and all of their cutting edge research and design goes into making them the best they can be. When you play an American-made Fender, you should expect an excellent instrument.
However, since Fender sets the bar so high, we then need to consider the word “inferior” in this context. MIM Fenders cut some corners on tonewood quality and components, and they are built across the border in Fender’s Mexican factory. So, why would anyone expect such an instrument to compare to MIA Fenders, some of the best basses in the world? It really isn’t a fair comparison.
To put it another way, while Mexican Fenders may not rival American Fenders when they go toe-to-toe, they are superior to other basses in their price range, and that is their true competition.
On the other hand, while the specs may say otherwise, many bassists feel, if you are willing to look around a little, you can grab an outstanding MIM Fender that stands up to any MIA instrument. Who is to argue? A great bass is in the eye, and ear, of the beholder.
Many players feel, and I tend to agree, that tone is in all your hands. An amazing bass guitar only takes you so far and the really great players know the sound is about them, not their gear.
Practically, what this means is that spending more does not necessarily mean better sound. Eventually, it all comes down to you. And the same holds true for the MIM Jazz Bass, another Mexican Fender you might consider.
The Fender Precision Bass Has Been Around 60+ Years!
Mexican P-Bass Specs and Construction
Like many affordable instruments out there, you’ll find all kinds of rumors and legends about what really goes into the making of a Mexican Fender. For the most part, people seem fixated on the wrong questions.
Worrying about how Fender chooses which basses get which bodies, or which components they choose to ship to Mexico, or how many pieces of wood a basses’ body is made out of sort of misses the point of the MIM line.
When it comes to expensive American-made instruments these are valid questions, but for the Mexican Standard Series we are probably better off saving our sanity and not worrying about what Fender puts into the secret sauce.
On paper, the specs for a Mexican Precision Bass are very similar to the MIA version:
- Alder body with maple C-shaped neck: Typical Fender tonewood profile. Note that the body paint makes a slight difference. MIM Fenders get a polyester finish, which some players believe sacrifices a little tone.
- Maple or Rosewood fingerboard: Your choice. Maple is bright and crisp. Rosewood is warm and sweet. Later years used Pau Ferro, like the Player Series. It’s a subtle but significant difference.
- Split Single-Coil pickups: A single pickup does it all, controlled by one volume and one tone control.
- Chrome hardware: Vintage-style bridge, open tuners, chrome P-Bass knobs.
The MIM Precision Bass is a great value, a solid budget choice compared to the American version and at the top of basses in its price rage. But none of that matters if you don’t like how it sounds and plays, right?
More on the Fender MIM Precision Bass
MIM P-Bass Sound and Performance
Now we arrive at the point in the article where I stop telling you about facts and get into some of my opinions. For starters, I’ve owned many Made-in-Mexico Fenders, both guitars and basses. While there are some irregularities in their quality control here and there, the MIMs I’ve had in my collection were/are all excellent instruments.
As far as build quality, I have never found them lacking. In fact, while perhaps not quite as comfortable, they are as easy to play and as reliable as any MIA Fender. Check for imperfections coming out of the factory, but if everything is in order all you need is a good setup and you’re in business.
The quality of the components are not quite as high, so you may find yourself swapping out a jack or pot sooner than you would with an MIA Fender. That’s a positive thing too, because you can take a screwdriver to your bass without feeling guilty about messing up a stock MIA Precision Bass. Change the pickups, the pickguard, add a high-mass bridge or whatever. Feel free to mod the heck out of it.
As far as sound goes, the Mexican Precision Bass nails the tones you expect out of a P-Bass. It is important to remember that this is a single-pickup, passive bass. It’s good at that punchy, powerful, growly tone the P-Bass made famous. If you need a bass capable of more modern tones you may want to think about something like the Ibanez SR Series.
Otherwise, if you know the P-Bass sound is what you want, you will get it here. Compared to an MIA P-Bass, I’d say the main advantage of the American version comes down to depth and texture. Discerning earns will hear the difference, but if you pair your MIM Precision with a quality amp few people will know or care you aren’t playing an American bass.
Is the Standard Precision Bass for You?
So where does this leave us? Here’s my opinion:
There was a time with MIM Fenders were among the best bass guitars under $500. Those days are gone, but they are still good bargain. American Fenders are great instruments, among the best in the world, but for many players they just don’t make sense when they cost twice as much as MIM Fenders.
If you are an intermediate-level bassist, a working pro, a basement hobby bassist or a guitarist looking for a quality bass you should strongly consider the Mexican Precision Bass. It is affordable, it sounds, looks and plays better than you’d expect and it allows you the freedom to make modifications as you see fit.
For intermediate players the MIM P-Bass is a stepping stone between your starter bass and pro-level gear. It is good enough to use in a band and will stay with you for decades, but it is also affordable.
Working bassists in bands may prefer the Mexican Precision for gigs, leaving their MIA Fenders safe at home. No worries about your beloved MIA Fender getting smashed up or stolen, and you’ll still sound great.
You'll also want to compare the Standard Precision Bass and Jazz Bass. They are two classic instruments, and each has a unique vibe.
Some players like to start with an MIM Fender and swap in their choices of pickups, hardware and electronics until they have a custom instrument that still ends up costing less than an MIA bass.
If any of this sounds like you, strongly consider the Made-in-Mexico Precision Bass before dropping the cash on an MIA Fender.
All that said, if you have the funds and you know you can’t settle for anything but an American Standard Series P-bass, by all means that is what you should get. They are among the top bass guitars in the world for good reason. For some players nothing else will do, and I can understand that too.
Thankfully, for the rest of us, there is the Fender Standard Made-in-Mexico Precision Bass.
Mexican Precision Bass Poll
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Angus on April 07, 2020:
I have a MIM Standard Precision bass, have had this since 2017 sounds loud, and has the low growl that I like from this model.
I've had in the past s Rickenbacker 4003, I no no comparison, but I prefer the MIM Fender for sound and use this mostly for recording and gigs.
The sound you get is truly awesome,
Thom on September 25, 2018:
I've got a MIM p bass , MIA j bass , and recently a Squire 70s modified j bass.....I love the p bass for that classic growl and the MIA is great....but the Indonesian made j bass is an incredible instrument. Best bang for a buck I've ever had. Way to go Fender
John on November 05, 2017:
For the price of a USA made Fender, you can get one built by a very well known respected Luther nowadays. I would buy a MIM without question. There is nothing at all apart from the Made In USA logo that deserves double the asking price. Lakland, made in USA $1500, Sadowsky made in USA $1800. Why a Fender? These big companies are loosing the plot.
NickB on August 15, 2017:
I have a Mexican P Bass (pristine condition, £85 from a pawn shop!) and the stock pickups were worse than terrible. £12 bought a pair of split humbuckers from Amazon that were, clearly, very cheap but vastly superior to the originals. That mod' and some heavy flatwounds gave me a machine that I will NEVER part with. Oh, yes, the jack socket was utter rubbish too.
Michael James (author) on June 19, 2016:
Thank Geoffrey! If you're looking to get back into bass the Fender MIM is a great choice. Good luck!
Geoffrey Allen on June 19, 2016:
I have to get a bass, I play guitar really. I used to have a precision copy, real rubbish but great to play, especially after I changed its rather odd two-pick up thing for a single Mighty Mite P arrangement. I used this through a Fender Bassman, dream sound, great to play, looked like sh*t. Long gone.
I'll try some basses, starting with Mexican P basses, see if I can find one that feels right - that's what matters, some just "don't fit my hand", some do. Maybe change the pick up and strap buttons, I know the bridge is "Old school" but it never bothered me on the copy I had.
I have to say that your W/site is grade "A". Thank you for that.