In recent years, Fender hasn’t been afraid to step out of their comfort zone when it comes to body shapes. Unlike many of their rival brands, Fender has done a lot of experimenting with unusual layouts loosely based upon some of their classic designs, with varying degrees of success.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review we’ll be taking a look at one of their flagship Mexican made contemporary models, the Fender Noventa Jazzmaster. It features a design that incorporates elements from several Fender favorites, so we were extremely curious to see how it stacks up against those more traditional models.
If you’ve been curious about this unique looking guitar, you’re not alone – carry on reading to find out what we learned.
Who Is This For?
The Fender Noventa Jazzmaster is a guitar that’s best suited to players who consider themselves to be intermediate or above. Sitting at over $1000, we’d find it hard to recommend to new players who are looking to get started, but for working musicians, it still represents good value.
As for playing style, contrary to the name, we wouldn’t actually suggest this model for jazz players, or anybody looking for a good clean guitar. In fact, due to its trio of raucous MP-90 pickups, we think that this is a guitar that’s best suited to punk, grunge, and hard rock styles.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The test model we received for this review was finished in the famous “Surf Green”, a color that we think suits this body well. It was paired with a mint green pickguard that complemented the main color really nicely. If you’re not into the Surf Green, it’s also available in both Walnut, and Fiesta Red, too.
There’s no choice of fretboard on the Noventa Jazzmaster, unfortunately, so depending on which finish you go for, you’ll either get a laurel board (on the Walnut finish), or maple (as on the Red and Green finishes). Again, the maple board looked great together with the Surf Green, so we had no complaints here.
The body was made with Alder, and at just over 8lb, it was something of a middle weight. The Jazzmaster body is one of Fender’s bigger styles, so this wasn’t much of a surprise.
We enjoyed the bolt on maple neck. It had the ever popular Modern C profile, a shape we’ve really come to love at KGR. It was slim, comfortable, and really made this feel like a player’s guitar. Its fretwork was well finished too, with a good polish on the crowns, and excellent beveling on the edges.
Those familiar with the standard Jazzmaster will undoubtedly recognize the traditional Fender floating trem system. This style of vibrato tailpiece works well with the Jazzmaster, so it was good to see it in use here.
Unlike a traditional Jazzmaster, however, it had a Tune-O-Matic style bridge. We found it hard to determine if it had any impact on tone or sustain vs. the standard barrel style setup, but it was definitely a step up in terms of ease of adjustability. As many Jazzmaster players like to shim the necks on their guitars, it’s good to know that intonation adjustments would be made all the more easy.
Electronics-wise it was outfitted with 3 MP-90 pickups, which not only added a unique aesthetic, but they also added a ton of tonal variety, too. Not only did it have 3 pickups, it also boasted a 5 way selector switch.
Performance / Sound
Starting with playability, we found the Fender Noventa Jazzmaster to be comfortable in pretty much every position, seated or standing the offset body and ample belly carve provided great ergonomics that made it a joy to play. A word of warning, that this is physically quite a large instrument, so smaller players may have a different experience.
Getting up and down the neck was no real issue. As mentioned earlier, the Modern C profile was slim and comfortable, and this translated to a smooth playing experience. Its 9.5” radius was a nice middle ground, too, bridging the gap for those who play lead and rhythm.
Reliability-wise, this Jazzmaster was pretty solid. Tuning stability was good, even with a hefty dose of trem use, and the vintage style tuning machines allowed for tiny adjustments.
As for tones, this was one of the most unique Fenders we think we’ve ever had in to test. First of all, the MP-90 pickups, which are effectively Fender’s take on a Gibson P-90, are unusual in and of themselves, purely because it’s not a style that the brand often uses. Secondly, there aren’t a great many guitars on the market that make use of a 3 P-90 (or variant thereof) setup, so paired with the 5 way selector, we got a huge range of cool tones.
The most noticeable difference with these pickups vs. a Strat was that they were noticeably thicker sounding. Obviously not humbucker thick, but still much fuller in the mid range, which gave them the signature growl that this style of pup has become famous for.
Up in the neck it was warm, and quite rich sounding, but with a nice biting edge that made it a great position for chunky power chord rhythm work. The middle position gained a little brightness, and in the bridge, it was straight up gnarly. With the selector in the 2 or 4 positions, we did get some relief from the 60 cycle hum, and even a little quack, which sounded a lot like a Strat with a rolled back grease bucket tone circuit.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Fender Noventa Jazzmaster isn’t necessarily going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but fortunately we have some great alternative options for your consideration:
Fender Player Jazzmaster
The Fender Player Jazzmaster is the entry level version, but is still made in Mexico, to the exact same standards. If you’re not a fan of the MP-90 sound, and you’d prefer something with a humbucker, this is a great choice. It’s a little cheaper than the Noventa, plus it comes in a wider range of finishes, too.
Fender Kurt Cobain Jag-Stang
Again, if the Offset Fender body style is something you’re into, but you’re not sold on the Jazzmaster, we really recommend taking a look at the Fender Kurt Cobain Jag-Stang. Aesthetically, this model just screams grunge, and between its single coil neck pickup, and the humbucker in the bridge, offers a completely different range of tones that some may find more versatile than the MP-90 setup on the Noventa.
Final Thoughts on the Fender Noventa Jazzmaster
The Fender Noventa Jazzmaster was a lot of fun to play. The pickup arrangement was something we hadn’t come across on another Fender model, and really added to the intrigue factor. Granted, we found the pickups to be a bit noisier than a typical P-90, but for grunge and punk we didn’t mind this too much. If you’re planning to record, this might not be best choice, but for high adrenalin music in a live setting, this is a guitar worth considering.