There are two approaches to designing vintage-inspired instruments. Some builders make fine tweaks to long-established bass and guitar blueprints, while other luthiers use the shapes of the past as a muse to develop something new with uncanny familiarity. Fano Guitars applies the latter philosophy by producing instruments that reflect the past while applying contemporary appointments. Many of their wares are made to order, but they’ve recently released the Standard line, a culmination of their most-requested guitar and bass design options. The JM4 is the sole 4-string in the series, and it’s a bass that oozes Fano visual and sonic characteristics.
At first glance, the JM4 looks like the love child of a Fender Jaguar and a non-reverse Gibson Thunderbird. Those familiar with the Fano line will recognize the body shape as an adaptation of the company’s popular JM6 guitar. Alder is the body wood of choice, and our test bass is finished with black nitrocellulose lacquer. Six stout screws secure the maple neck and fretboard (rosewood is also available for the latter), and up top there’s a headstock that angles backward at 10 degrees. And thanks to its moderate distressing, our test bass had a broken-in feel and look. Anchoring the strings are Fano’s vintage-style tuners and HiMax HD bridge, which allows for stringing through the body or top loading. The nut is a Graph Tech Tusq unit.
For electronics, the JM4 is outfitted with proprietary FanoBird passive pickups whose aged-chrome covers help preserve the classic aesthetic. Manipulating the signal are dedicated volume knobs for each pickup and a passive tone control.
While the JM4’s charming aesthetics convey a vibe that would be right at home in a vintage Sears catalog, what’s perhaps most impressive is that craftsmanship of finer details is also very well done, from the clean fretwork and smoothly buffed neck to the uncluttered electronics.
Sitting and standing with the JM4 yielded mixed results. Strapped to the shoulder, it didn’t hold its position at extreme angles, but it did rest at a comfortable orientation. However, balancing the bass on my thigh resulted in a bit of headstock dive that might be bothersome on, say, a long stretch sitting in the studio.