I had different basses when I was younger, fretted and fretless, 4,5 and 8 (octave strings)- string, all of them from Japanese manufacturers. My first bass ever was an old Gibson Grabber, which was way too heavy and had some other properties which I didn't like. Playing in an semi-professional band during the early 90ies, I finally ended up with Fender; a late 70ies Precision fretless and a Mexican made fretted Jazz Bass. Beetween 1997 and 2011 I've been more into acoustic sound and played 12-string guitar and arabic and turkish luths (Oud and Saz). But last summer I met some old buddies and they convinced me to play rock again. So I had to buy a bass (since my old ones had all been sold in the meantime). I was sure that it should be a Fender again, but a new one costs about 1.300.- € in Germany (which corresponds to 1.650.- $). I have two kids and I'm not Rockefeller, so it had to be a little cheaper than that. After a while I found an Fender American Standard Jazz Bass from 1995 or early 1996 (so it's written on the Fender homepage when entering the serial number) in nearly new condition. The pre-owner had used it only a few times in the studio. The price was 650.- € with case (about 800.- $). The finish is Lake Placid Blue, which I really like. Alder body, maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and strings-through-body.
This bass is of superior quality and manufactured very well, everything is as it should be. And it plays and sounds really great! The string-throug-body design is exactly what I had always missed on my old Fender models - it gives additional pressure to the strings on the bridge saddels which results in more sustain and attack, I believe also that it adds some more brilliance to the sound. The lows are very defined and dry, yet deep and full. The mid range is also very well represented, not to mention the higher tone spectrum. Everything is there, and the serial pickups carry the wood tone of the instrument perfectly, and they do also have enough output. I've never had any problems cutting through the sound of the (very loud) band. Of course they are humming like in the good old times when not both are set to full volume, but that's what it's like with single coils. Nevertheless I prefer singlecols to any kind of humbuckers for bass.
The body is relatively heavy, but it isn't too bad. At least the weight prevents the neck from diving:-) The metal blue finish looks awesome and it's perfectly made.
Neck finish is smooth and good for me as it is. The lacquer coat is relatively thin. As far as I've seen and felt in a guitar shop, the newer ones have a thicker lacquer coat on the neck. I have a strong right hand and like to play with some power, so a very low action is no good for me. Anyway, lowest action possible is not what a Fender bass is made for. But nevertheless the slim neck is fast and easy to play.
I've had the opportunity to play many other basses from friends over the years, some of them considerably more costly and more "modern" than an American made Stadard Fender. But finally I came to the conclusion that a Fender can't be beaten and I can only recommend these instruments to people who like this kind of bass design in general. A genuine Fender has this kind of rock-solid, earthy and "woody" feeling which I have missed on so many other basses.
The Mexicans are surely not bad and good value for the money if bought new. But if you can't afford a new American one - instead of buying a new Mex-made, you'd better go out and find a second hand US model in good condition. The wood, the hardware, the pickups - the American Fenders are definitely the better instruments and a much better deal, believe me.