Fender Standard Made-in-Mexico Precision Bass Review
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 builders 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.
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.
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.
MIM Fenders have proven themselves over the years, and if anything they have only gotten better. No need to dissect your bass in order to decide if it is worth it or not. Just play and listen and let that be your guide.
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. 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:
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.
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
What is your plan?
Need to learn more about bass guitar so you can choose the right instrument for your needs? Or, maybe you are just trying to kill some time at work or school. Either way, here is more stuff for you to read:
- Along with the Precision Bass, the Fender Jazz Bass makes up Fender’s legendary bass guitar duo. Both are awesome choices, and maybe the Jazz is a better fit for you.
- Need some help deciding between the Jazz and P Bass? This articles lays out the differences and similarities between these two Fender classics.
- Gone are the days when a new MIM Precision or Jazz Bass could be had for under half a grand, but there still some amazing instrument out there in this price range.