Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster: The Greatest ‘Offset’ Guitar Rivals

Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Fender’s Jaguar and Jazzmaster models are not something that you see every day. Although they’ve both been present on the market for quite a while, they’re not as widespread as, let’s say, Stratocasters and Telecasters. Nonetheless, they still have their following and are actually becoming more popular as time goes by. However, which of these two instrument models is, objectively, better?

Here’s what we’ll cover in this Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster comparison:

  • Main Specifications
  • Pickup Configuration
  • Controls
  • Hardware
  • Design
  • Playability and Performance
  • Versatility
  • Price & Value for Money
  • Pros & Cons

Ready? Let’s get started…

30-Second Summary: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

So when it comes down to Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster, which one should you choose? Here’s a quick overview:

  • Go for Fender Jaguar if you prefer having more options and a smaller guitar. The instrument comes with a shorter scale length and is usually more popular among punk and new wave players.
  • Go for Fender Jazzmaster if you’re into the offset stuff, but still feel like having those more “conventional” Fender guitar features. It has slightly less versatile tone-shaping options compared to the Jaguar, but it’s still a very potent guitar.

1. Main Specifications: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Build Materials

Although overall very similar, Fender’s Jazzmaster and Jaguar have some of their own distinctions. Some of these things can be noticed with the choice of build materials. Both features solid bodies, but Jaguars are almost exclusively made out of Alder.

Meanwhile, Jazzmasters can be a bit more versatile with the choice of body materials. Sure, most of it is Adler, but they can also be out of mahogany in some cases. Additionally, Fender has also made some Jazzmaster with ash bodies.

Necks, on the other hand, are exclusively maple ones. The fretboard choice, however, is a bit more versatile. A certain portion of Jazzmasters come with maple fretboards, while other options also include rosewood and Pau Ferro.

On the other hand, Jaguars rarely ever came with maple fingerboards. These days, they usually come with rosewood and Pau Ferro ones.

Overall, there’s not much difference in the choice of materials. And if there is, we’re talking about the same level of tonewood quality.

Scale Length

Talking about these two famous “offset” models, one of the most interesting things is the difference in scale length. The Jazzmaster model is older, so from the beginning, it had Fender’s standard scale length of 25.5 inches.

On the other hand, the Jaguar model was originally intended as a cheaper alternative to the company’s popular models, as well as a way to “steal” some of the Gibson players back in the 1960s.

Ultimately, it came with a 24-inch scale length, something that remained to this day. There have been some baritone models with 27-inch and 28.5-inch scale lengths, but these are pretty rare.

Fretboard Radius

Original versions of Jaguars and Jazzmasters differed with their fretboard radius measures. Jaguar has traditionally been made with a fretboard radius of 7.25 inches. Whereas the Jazzmaster has always been made with somewhat flatter fretboards, measuring at 9.5 inches. However, a lot of the modern Fender Jaguar guitars also come with 9.5-inch fretboard radiuses.

But at the end of the day, there’s no “better” or “worse” choice here, just what feels better in your hands. If you want a guitar with a fully vintage-oriented feel, we’d recommend some of the Jaguar models, like the Vintera ’60s variant.

There have also been some Jazzmasters with a 7.25-inch fretboard radius. However, these aren’t that widespread.

Number of Frets

While we’re at it, it’s also worth mentioning that both the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar traditionally come with a different number of frets. As mentioned, the Jaguar model was one of Fender’s attempts to win over Gibson fans.

One of the traits was the additional 22nd fret, as compared to Fender’s traditional 21. Jazzmasters are most often made with 21 frets, but there are some rare models with 22 frets.

Neck Profile

Finally, we have the neck profile. However, as it usually goes, these things change over time. Both Jaguar and Jazzmaster models and variants have had different profiles. Jaguars have traditionally been known for the ’60s-style “C” profiles.

Meanwhile, the Jazzmaster had its own variant of the classic “C” shape. These days, however, they’re pretty similar in this regard, often even identical. The only differences that might be noticed are on those completely vintage-oriented Jaguar and Jazzmaster models.

Main Specifications Winner: Tie

2. Pickup Configuration: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Pickup Configuration: Fender Jaguar

Ever since its inception, the Fender Jaguar model has traditionally come with two single-coil pickups. It was pretty much like on classic Telecaster guitars, although there are some differences (we’ll get to that later).

As years went by, Fender began implementing a standard dual-humbucker configuration. Exact pickup models differ, but you can find the dual-humbucker configuration on some of the variants, like the Kurt Cobain signature model.

What’s also interesting is that there are models with a humbucker in the bridge and a single-coil in the neck position. These days, you can find both cheaper (Fender Player) and high-end options of the Jaguar model with this configuration.

Pickup Configuration: Fender Jazzmaster

As far as Fender’s Jazzmaster guitars go, their traditional setting also includes two single-coil pickups. However, these are completely different from classic Fender stuff.

Here we have two “soap bar” single-coil pickups. They look pretty similar to Gibson’s well-known P-90 pickups, although they’re made in a completely different way. Known as Jazzmaster pickups, their polepieces are magnets, while P-90s have magnets below the coil.

What’s also interesting is that Jazzmaster pickups have a very wide winding. As a result, the tone is a bit “beefier” compared to regular single-coil pickups, although it still keeps most of the clarity.

Although Jazzmasters almost exclusively come with these two pickups, there are also some other variants. For instance, some have three JM pickups, while you’ll also find those with two humbuckers, like the Jim Root signature model.

Pickup Configuration: Bottom Line

To be fair, if we’re talking about pickups, both Jaguars and Jazzmasters are pretty interesting. These days, you can find all sorts of combinations on these guitars. However, for the purpose of this comparison, let’s focus on their “standard” formations.

Jaguar’s two single-coil pickups are an interesting formation, making it sound similar to your average Fender Telecaster. However, there are some differences (which also include controls and electronics, but we’ll get to that) which make them a bit more “nasally” in output.

Jazzmasters, on the other hand, have two Jazzmaster pickups, with their output being very similar to old Gibson Les Pauls with two P-90 pickups. This adds a more “beefier” twist to the tone and might just make them a bit more versatile.

Look, the choice here was very hard, as both of these guitars have exciting and unique pickups. However, we couldn’t help but give this one to Jazzmasters, mostly due to their sonic versatility.

Pickup Configuration Winner: Fender Jazzmaster

3. Controls: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Controls: Fender Jaguar

Now, things get pretty weird, and interesting, with Jaguar and Jazzmaster controls. It takes no more than a glance to realize that these guitars are completely different compared to what we’re used to seeing.

The Jaguar’s “classic” formation includes two separate circuits called “lead” and “rhythm.” The “lead” one is the brighter-sounding one and includes both pickups. Meanwhile, the “rhythm” circuit brings smoother tones and only includes the neck pickup.

Engaging the rhythm circuit means that you’ll have to use separate volume and tone controls, located on the bass side of the body. The main volume and tone controls on the treble side are disengaged.

The regular “lead” circuit allows you to individually switch both pickups on and off. Additionally, there’s a third switch called the “strangle switch” that cuts the mids from your tone, creating those “squeezed” or “scooped” kinds of tones.

Of course, some newer versions of Jaguars are more straightforward and include options with 3-way or even 4-way switches.

Controls: Fender Jazzmaster

Just like the Jaguar, the Jazzmaster comes with rhythm and lead circuits. However, there are no individual pickup switches, but rather a simple 3-way switch, along with master volume and tone controls.

The rhythm circuit, once again, uses only the neck pickup and comes with its own volume and tone controls. The tone also gets a bit darker and “beefier” compared to just selecting the neck pickup within the “lead” circuit.

Controls: Bottom Line

As you can see, both Fender Jaguar and Fender Jazzmaster models come with unique controls. Although conceived back in the old days, these unusual controls are what some players are looking for these days.

These might be a bit complicated, but you’ll still have a lot of options to play around with. But which one is better?

Once again, it was a tough choice, especially because both guitars are so interesting. However, in this category, we can’t help but have the Jaguar as the winner here. The controls may be a bit weird, but the guitar brings so many tone-shaping options.

Controls Winner: Fender Jaguar

4. Hardware: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Hardware: Fender Jaguar

Considering the fact that Fender’s Jaguar originally came out in 1962, its tremolo system was very revolutionary for the times. Firstly, the bridge comes with six individual saddles. However, they’re constructed in such a way not only for better intonation, but also to allow a smoother transition of strings over the saddles.

This, of course, works in combination with the “floating” tremolo tailpiece. It’s nothing like your Floyd Rose tremolo bridge, but it still allows dual-wielding action, going both up and down in pitch.

The tailpiece is essentially a flat metal plate, with slots for strings. Underneath it, we have a mechanism that allows this dual-wielding action. The solution is simple and elegant, and yet it still keeps things effective.

Even to this day, Jaguars are known for their unique sound of vibrato bars. However, some simpler models also come with fixed bridges, although these are pretty rare.

 

Hardware: Fender Jazzmaster

However, all these traits that we saw on the Jaguar have essentially been “stolen” from the original Jazzmaster design. As it’s probably obvious by now, these instruments do seem very similar. When it comes to the bridge system, these are two identical designs. You can expect Jazzmasters to work pretty much the same.

Hardware: Bottom Line

With all that said, there’s essentially no difference between the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar bridge and tailpiece design. There’s even the same identical bridge lock concept.

The only difference that you may notice comes down to different price categories. But in almost all cases, both Jazzmasters and Jaguars are the same when it comes to bridges and tailpieces.

There might, however, be some differences with tuning machines. However, in the practical sense, you won’t notice any difference at all, unless you’re super-focused on some details.

Hardware Winner: Tie

5. Design: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Design: Fender Jaguar

Since the beginning, the Jaguar has been conceived as a budget-friendly alternative to some other Fender models. It was also mostly copied from the already established Jazzmaster model traits.

The body shape design is identical, or almost identical, to that of Jazzmaster. These guitars are referred to as “offset” guitars. It’s a loose term that aims at the instrument’s unconventional and asymmetrical shape, which looks a bit “off.”

Although not a strictly aesthetical trait, a shorter scale length makes Jaguar look a bit different. It’s a smaller instrument and it may look different compared to a Jazzmaster in your hands.

The pickguard is a bit unusual, technically coming in two pieces. There’s the metal part that covers the volume and tone controls on the treble side of the lower bout.

It’s also worth noting that Jaguars come with a standard Fender headstock, just like the one you see on Stratocasters.

Design: Fender Jazzmaster

Of course, the body shapes are pretty much the same. The same could be said about the headstock design. However, there are a few traits that make Jazzmasters different.

Firstly, we have the scale length, which makes the instrument look a bit different. Then there’s also the issue of controls, with Jazzmasters having fewer switches on the pickguard.

The pickguard is also different. The Jazzmaster has a 1-piece pickguard, which covers all of the controls.

Design: Bottom Line

Although very similar, the differences in the design can be noticed. Aesthetically-wise, they have some distinctions. But which would be better?

Sure, this is a personal preference, making it really hard to say what’s “better” or “worse.” However, here we chose Jazzmaster as the winner.

Jaguar is kind of “all over the place” with its controls and everything else. Additionally, they usually come with cheaper finishes compared to Jazzmasters.

What’s more, most players would like a longer guitar, so there’s another thing that just might be a slight turn-off with the Jaguar. Therefore, we’re giving this one to the Jazzmaster.

Design Winner: Fender Jazzmaster

6. Playability and Performance: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Playability and Performance: Fender Jaguar

What’s interesting about the Jaguar model is that it’s fairly popular with punk players. However, the guitar is conceived in such a way that it allows some virtuosic a very comfortable playing experience. This is mostly due to the shorter scale length, which is also very useful for anyone who has smaller hands.

Although controls are very useful, having so many switches and knobs all over the place may be distracting, even uncomfortable. They’re most certainly very useful, but it’s somewhat of an “overkill” and, according to some, a nuisance.

Playability and Performance: Fender Jazzmaster

On the other hand, we have the Jazzmaster that has the classic Fender guitar feel. Firstly, the scale length is 25.5 inches, the classic Fender configuration. Secondly, the neck feels just a bit different, although this can depend on the exact model variant we’re talking about.

Another thing that brings it closer to regular Fenders is the maple fretboard if the exact variant has one. This brings a different feel to the instrument that many Fender players like.

Although Jazzmaster’s controls aren’t as versatile as those on the Jaguar, it’s still a pretty potent guitar. In fact, if you ask us, it’s a more “balanced” situation.

Playability and Performance: Bottom Line

Since a lot of the features are the same, almost identical, playability and performance between Jaguar and Jazzmaster models are similar. Even the bridges and dual-wielding tremolo tailpieces are the same.

While we’re at it both instruments are great in this regard. Although an old-school design, these tremolo bars are pretty useful and stable.

But if we’re comparing these two, we can’t help but notice that the Jazzmaster feels a bit better. Having that classic Fender feel, as well as simpler controls, the guitar just feels more “right” in your hands.

So this is yet another category where the Jazzmaster wins. It’s not like it’s significantly superior to the Jaguar, but you can notice a clear difference in this category.

Playability and Performance Winner: Fender Jazzmaster

7. Versatility: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Versatility: Fender Jaguar

As already discussed, one of Fender Jaguar’s biggest advantages comes down to its controls and features. With the option to individually turn pickups on and off, along with the “strangle” switch, you get six different combinations.

Then there’s also the option to use pickup switches as the so-called “killswitch.” With the Jaguar, you can even do some of those wacky Tom Morello kind of effects.

And this is all on the lead circuitry alone. With the rhythm circuitry, you can get some of those darker tones which are super-useful for blues and jazz.

But at the same time, the guitar is usually popular only in punk, new wave, and alternative/indie rock circles. Which is really a shame, since it’s capable of way more than just that.

Versatility: Fender Jazzmaster

Then on the other side, we have the Jazzmaster. If you want a simple answer, the guitar is just slightly less versatile compared to the Jaguar.

But this doesn’t make it a bad choice in any way. The instrument is still very potent and can handle a lot of different settings. What’s really interesting is that Jazzmasters found more use than Jaguars, which is probably due to their specific pickups.

Versatility: Bottom Line

If we’re comparing these two models, it’s obvious that they’re almost identical to one another. This also goes to their overall versatility.

However, we’re presented with a very difficult choice here. In the practical sense, the Jaguar is a bit more versatile in this direct duel. However, Jazzmaster just finds a lot of use. In fact, it’s even more common among guitarists compared to Jaguars.

Therefore, we decided to call this one a tie. Sure, you can technically do more stuff with the Jaguar. But in the practical sense, it kind of “evens out” since the Jazzmaster gets things done pretty much the same way.

Versatility Winner: Tie

8. Price & Value for Money: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Price & Value For Money: Fender Jaguar

From the very start, Jaguar was intended as a cheaper alternative to other Fender models. Additionally, it was also intended as a cheaper guitar to take away Gibson fans in the 1960s.

These days, Jaguars are still cheaper, although just a little bit. It’s not like they’re budget-friendly guitars, but they’re a pretty great deal for the price. You get a genuine Fender guitar at a reasonable price.

Price & Value For Money: Fender Jazzmaster

Jazzmasters might be just a bit more expensive on average compared to Jaguars. However, as it usually goes for Fender guitars, these are also fairly reasonably priced.

There’s a lot of different stuff when it comes to Jazzmasters. Even the “standard” configuration comes within a few different price categories. But, to be fair, each of them is valued properly. If there’s an expensive variant, then it’s definitely worth it.

Price & Value For Money: Bottom Line

If we were to travel back in time and go to the 1960s, we’d probably be able to give you a different answer. However, these days, Jaguars and Jazzmasters are equally valuable.

There are plenty of variants of these two models. And honestly, each of them is worth the price within their respective price categories. To put it simply, you can’t go wrong with either of them.

Price & Value For Money Winner: Tie

9. Pros & Cons: Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster

Fender Jaguar Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Not very expensive, great deal for the price
  • It’s a fairly versatile instrument
  • It’s possible to get some great tones out of it
  • Comfortable, easy to play
  • Simple dual-wielding tremolo system

Cons:

  • Having so many controls may feel a bit confusing to some
  • Some guitar players may not like the shorter scale length

Fender Jazzmaster Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Genuine Fender feel and tone

  • The pickups make it pretty interesting
  • Simple dual-wielding tremolo system

Cons:

  • Although simpler than the Jaguar, its controls may feel a bit confusing to some

Conclusion & Takeaway

To summarize our findings in this Fender Jaguar vs Fender Jazzmaster comparison, here are the winners for each category:

  • Main Specifications – Tie
  • Pickup Configuration – Fender Jazzmaster
  • Controls -Fender Jaguar
  • Hardware – Tie
  • Design – Fender Jazzmaster
  • Playability and Performance – Fender Jazzmaster
  • Versatility – Tie
  • Price & Value For Money – Tie

Overall: Fender Jazzmaster

These days, both Fender Jaguar and Fender Jazzmaster variants are mostly popular among specific groups of guitar players. These are usually punk and alternative rock players.

And it’s kind of weird since these guitars are very potent and come with a lot of tone-shaping options. Sure, the design might not sit well with everyone, but it’s what they’re well-known for.

However, it seems that Jazzmaster gets a bit of an advantage here. This is mostly due to its more “conventional” Fender traits and a bit of a simpler control layout.

While these instruments are both awesome, there are just some slight advantages with the Jazzmaster. At the end of the day, the choice is up to you, but the Jazzmaster might just, objectively, be a better option.

Product Links:

Fender Jaguar

Fender Jazzmaster

Products Comparison Table:

Spec / Feature

Fender Jaguar

Fender Jazzmaster

Body Shape

Offset

Offset

Body Material

Alder

Alder, Ash

Neck Material

Maple

Maple

Fretboard Material

Rosewood, Pau Ferro

Maple, Rosewood, Pau Ferro

Scale Length

24 inches

25.5 inches

Pickup Configuration

Two single-coil pickups

Two JM single-coil pickups

Number of Frets

21 or 22

21