Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fender Japan Competition Mustang Bass Review


I have only had a few short scale basses over the past 25 years, but each one has been a hoot. This week I picked up a secondhand one from Ishibashi in Nagoya, Japan: a Fender Japan Mustang Bass.

This is model MB98-70 SD CO/OCR, which is a fairly faithful Japanese copy of the 1970 Fender Mustang Bass. These have been available in the US as a limited edition, but not with the competition stripes.

This one has an alder body, sprayed with a lightly metallic candy apple red with cream-colored stripes under the clear coat. It is visually stunning and the finish has no imperfections that I can find.

The 30-inch scale maple neck has a rosewood fretboard and 19 medium-sized nickel frets. The frets are level and are well-finished, and there is no wear, despite this being a used bass. The neck feels tiny with a shallow C- shape profile and a 1 ½-inch nut.

The tuners are a not period correct for a 1970s Fender bass, as they are the smaller ones that come on many of the newer Japanese Fenders. It does use the traditional 4-saddle bridge and through-the-body stringing that the original Mustangs had.

The electronics are a slight upgrade from the original, as this one came from the factory with a Seymour Duncan split single-coil pickup. Remember the “SD” from the model designation? The controls are simple, with a volume and a tone pot.

This Japanese Mustang is a giggle factory to play. The neck is a little small for me, but I got used to it in no time. The tone is (not surprisingly) a little short on low and low-mid tones, but it performs as well as I expected with the minuscule pickups and short scale.

The craftsmanship is first-rate, and this would be a tremendous bass for smaller players or for young folks just getting into the bass guitar. Check one out if you get a chance.



  1. Thanks for the review! I'm a guitar player but played bass for a couple of years, not that long ago. I find these bass beautiful, and I'm located in Japan so it would be easy to pick one, coming from guitar it would feel easier to play than a regular size, right?

    How do you like it after some time? What string gauge do you use? Could it use some in the 0.80 size? Does it need any moods (vintage wire..)?

  2. Hi Yorgos.
    I've been playing one of these for many years now and it's a very easy instrument to play. I really love it.
    It's sometimes a bit tricky to tune up, so it's very important to choose the right kind of strings. I have mine prepared by a professional technician every year.
    I used flatwound strings, medium gauge (you shouldn't use too light a gauge) of the correct length (and they're not always easy to find).
    Enjoy !

  3. Do you still own this Mustang? I’ve been trying to find one exactly like this! I wish they still sold this configuration / look.