Charvel JP Bass
Made In: Japan
Specs: Poplar body, one-piece maple neck, ebony fretboard
Electronics: Jess Loureiro Classic P & J pickups, Noll TCM-3 preamp
Controls: Volume with push/pull preamp bypass, pickup blend on the first stacked pot. Bass and Treble cut and boost on the second stacked pot. Passive tone, mid cut and boost on the third stacked pot.
This one was in pretty bad shape when I got it, and it had quite a few owners before I laid my hands on it, but I suspected there was a hidden gem within. It’s a rare enough model, but there are even fewer with the “lawsuit” headstock. I’ve seldom encountered junk among 80’s or 90’s MIJ instruments and this one was priced nicely enough to be worth a gamble. I traded two Boss pedals and a set of tuners for it, which felt like I was robbing the guy, but he seemed happy enough. Originally, these came with a 22 fret rosewood board. However, at some point, someone had the rosewood replaced with an ebony fretless board with an additional overhang. The original Reflex active pickups and preamp were there, but the shaft of the tone pot had been broken. The stock bridge had been replaced with a good Gotoh unit, but it was a big bridge with a thick baseplate and, coupled with the fret removal, meant the action could go nowhere near low enough to make it a decent player. It was also installed slightly off-centre, which was irritating, rather than an inconvenience. It just didn’t all work as a package and I can understand why it changed hands so much, as it was.
First, I set about addressing the action. I bought a very decent no-name brass bridge which allowed me to get the action down to a reasonable level. I wasn’t entirely enamoured with the sound of the Reflex pickups, so I installed some of Jess Loureiro’s pickups in combination with a Noll TCM-3 preamp I had removed from the Hotwire. It’s a very nice preamp with a huge amount on offer in a traditional three-knob Jazz format. I still wasn’t happy though. The neck is very thin, almost like an Ibanez SR neck, but it’s the width of a Precision at the nut. The ebony fretboard is also thinner, I’d suspect, than the rosewood board it replaced and, to me, it was just too skinny. I didn’t want to give up on it, though, so I had it fretted with 6105 narrow and tall frets.
This proved to be the key transformation, the additional fret height putting enough bulk in hand to make it comfortable over extended periods of playing. It all clicked into place. It’s a wonderful player with enough tonal scope to go from thumpy traditional tones to almost Warwick-like active growl. The Noll preamp, which had been such a let-down before, finally showed what it’s capable of when paired with Jess’ fantastic pickups. The neck is fast but has meat. It’s a bass for all occasions, a one-trick pony it is not, and I’m really delighted with it now.