Instruments Review

The Jackson Spectra Will Satisfy Any Beginner Bassist

A friend recently told me anytime I join a band or start jamming with people, I end up buying a new guitar. Well, …turns out he’s right. This time, though, I’m stuck “slappin’ da bass” as there are already three guitarists. I was borrowing a Fender Precision Bass for the time being while someone else was using my cheap Hartke bass to learn on. However, for this round of bands, I ended up getting a Jackson Spectra JS3Q for about $450CAD.

Appearance

Jackson Spectra

First, just look at it.

Look. At. It.

Jackson Spectra JS3Q

Not every guitar needs to be red or black and this thing covers that requirement in spades. It’s gorgeous. The blue and blonde colouring really make this bass pop and stand out compared to my other instruments. The Canadian Maple Flame Top does have a small downside, though, that can be easily overlooked for most players but maybe a deal-breaker for others: you can clearly see the seam down the center of the guitar where the manufacturer placed the flame top. It’s really only noticeable when holding the bass in a playing position and looking down or when someone is relatively close to the instrument. There are also some finishing issues on the back as it appears that they scratched the blue paint while putting the bolts on. Of course, a slight like this is to be expected out of the Indonesian factories where this was made. There is a tendency to be some finishing flaws on the instruments coming from this region, as there was with my Chapman Ghost Fret. However, there is nothing that takes away from the overall look, sound, or playability of the JS3Q. The white binding along the side of the fretboard was a little dirty and could have used a good cleaning, but this may have been from use in the store as a demo and nothing to do with the manufacturer. None these take away from the bass in any way and won’t really be noticed by anyone watching.

The headstock is also different than the standard Jackson layout. This new one seems to be a much better fit for bass guitars than their normal ones. It just looks odd to only have four strings on the regular pointy Jackson headstock. They’ve also gone with a stylized “J” versus the full Jackson logo. All in all a nice choice for the top of the bass.

Jackson Spectra Headstock

Sound

This is an active bass which means it takes a 9-volt battery to operate fully. It has a preamp built into the guitar that lets you select bass, mid, and treble using the 3 small knobs. It also features the standard volume, tone, and 2-way pickup selector switch. The Spectra uses Jackson’s medium output humbucking pickups. They lack some versatility and using it across genres or playstyles may be problematic. However, it shines with rock or metal runs especially when engaging the active preamp.

Jackson Spectra Knobs

The bass also has a switch that operates like a coil-split on guitars. In this case, he split will switch the turn off/on the preamp making the bass operate as a passive instrument. There is a noticeable difference when switching between active and passive settings as any of the preamp settings are turned off and the volume lowers in the passive mode. However, if for some reason the battery dies while playing, you can simply switch to the passive mode and continue rocking.

Playability

This thing is comfortable to play in pretty much any position. This is partially due to the Spectra body shape and partially to how well balanced the instrument is. Playing for long periods with a band or in a bedroom isn’t going to be an issue. The fretboard is laurel wood. The neck is smooth, quick, and easy to access. The upper frets are easily accessible and there’s wasn’t any concern with any fret sprout cutting hands up while playing. Some of the comparable and cheaper basses did have some issues with the frets sprout the fretboard. Of course, this has a lot to do with the humidity (or severe lack thereof here) than the instruments themselves.

Overall

This one gets 5/6 strings.

Standing out is pretty easy with the looks of the Jackson Spectra JS3Q. The sound may leave a bit to be desired, but it performs admirably in rock and metal settings. It’s a solid entry-level bass, one of the better ones in the price range, and will leave most players who are looking in this price range satisfied and rocking.

The Good

  • Great looking guitar with a blue and blonde burst.
  • Comfortable playing in long spurts.
  • Active options make the tones great for rock or metal.
  • The active/passive coil-split can come in handy.

The Bad

  • Some finishing issues that are to be expected in the price range.
  • Lacks versatility that may not work for all players or if switching between genres.

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