Friday, June 1, 2012

1990 Philip Kubicki FCS Ex Factor Bass Review and Comparison to a “Real” Kubicki

Hi there!

I have owned at least 8 Philip Kubicki Ex Factor basses over the years, and have long heard comparisons between the ones that were made in Phil’s shop versus the ones that were made and sold by the Fender Custom shop from 1988 to 1991. Seeing as how I happen to have a 1990 FCS Ex Factor in my possession, I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts on this subject. I am an internet pundit, you know…

But, before I get going, I am going to say that they are all very good basses, regardless of where they were made, and are still a notch above most everything else on the market today.

For starters, the number one difference that know-it-alls like me will bring up is the electronics package. The basses that the Kubicki shop built all came with the 18-volt preamplifier that Phil designed. These are the ones with the 6-position selector switch (including standby) that sound like the thunder of the gods. Most of the Fender-built guitars came with a 9-volt preamplifier that only had 4 tone elections (including standby). I say most, because some of the early FCS basses used Phil’s leftover preamplifiers. The pickups appear to be the same on all of them.

The difference in tone between the two is big, but the 9-volt preamplifiers are not bad, just different. In active mode they are not as aggressive, but still sound nice and are plenty usable for most any gig environment. The passive tones are similar between the two.

As far as playability goes, I have found difficulty in getting a low action on a FCS Factor when compared to Santa Barbara-built bass. The truss rod will not drop the strings as close to the board, so grinding sometimes needs to be done. This one is no exception, but I am not willing to mess with it. Also, I have found that the 34-piece laminated rock maple necks tend to be a bit more reactive to climate changes than the original basses. I have heard this is because Fender did not seal the necks as well. Rumors…

It always struck me that the hardware was a tad cheaper, and the workmanship was a bit less precise of the FCS models, but I am not sure if this was just the power of suggestion. What I find now is that all of the Factor basses I run into have about the same appearance now that they are all over 20 years old, and most had plenty of use over the years.

The soft maple body, poly finish, logos, appearance and ergonomics are the same between the two different manufacturers, so nobody will know the difference unless they see the Custom Shop decal underneath the finish on the back of the headstock.

In conclusion, it really comes down to the action and electronics that make the biggest differences between these basses, so if you are looking for one of these on the used market there is a reason why the Kubicki-built basses have a premium over the Fender Custom Shop basses. Either way you are going to get a great bass, so it is your decision based on what features about these basses are most important to you, and what your budget is. Given a choice, I would pick a bass that was built before Fender got involved or after they turned the reins back over to Phil.



  1. Great info! I know that Phil used Nelsonite
    (a wood preservative) on his necks prior to finishing. That might be why his necks seem more stable.

  2. Great review! I am a kubicki fan myself & have owned 5 kubickis, 1 being early fcs, one 1990 fcs. fcs took over in '89. early fcs basses were essentially "real" kubickis because they assembled real kubicki basses that were left before they took over. You would see some numbered 1286 & above that have no fcs stamp at the back of the headstock because they were kubicki overstock. also the electronics were real kubicki 18 volt 6-way. my 87 kubicki has higher action than my 89 & 90 FCS even with the saddle slammed & the neck as straight. I think my fcs even sounded better than some of my pre & post fender. Funny how rumors can affect people...

  3. where can I buy one?

    1. Hi, my name is Manfred, I have a 1989 early FCS bass, 18 volt, 6 way, very good condition - some marks but nothing too bad. Contact me if you are still interested.

    2. Hi Manfred, do you still have the Kubicki around? please email me

  4. Replies
    1. They come up on eBay fairly regularly. Expect to pay anywhere from $1800 - $2500 for one.

  5. I have a 1990 kubicki in blueburst #2016. It has a Fcs neck but 18v pre amp. It seems to be a hybrid of both fcs and pre fcs.
    I've got a fabulous low action with no messing about and the sound in active boost mode is totally awesome.
    I am looking for a white one, must be an 18v.