Precision Bass has been offered in a myriad of models in its 50 years of existense, including a number of “reissues.”
One of the more intriguing variants was the Elite II, which was introduced in mid-1983, and disappeared when Fender was purchased from CBS in early ’85. While subsequent variants of Precision models would have two pickups, the Elite II was the first to offer twice the sonic output of a normal P-Bass. But the Elite II was a bit more complicated…
The early ’80s saw Fender in a tailspin. Its marketplace viability and quality control were suspect. And though the Elite line’s innovative features were oriented toward serious/professional players, bassists were more interested in the no-frills, reliable setup of classic Fender instruments – as the success of the company’s first reissues (also introduced in the early ’80s) averred.
The Elite lineup included a Stratocaster, a Telecaster, and a Precision Bass Elite I (one pickup) and Elite II (two pickups). All models had active circuitry, as well as white pickup covers without exposed polepieces. The Precision Bass Elite had the classic silhouette of the post-’57 P-Bass, as well as a traditional Precision pickguard profile.
In fact, the single pickup on the Elite I as well as the surrounded-by-the-pickguard pickup on the Elite II are found exactly where the pickup would be located on a standard, passive Precision, but that’s where the similarity ends. What’s more, Elites were not the first Fender basses to feature active circuity – that distinction belonged to the Precision Bass Special, made from 1980 to ’83, and which was supplanted by the Elites.
The Elite II’s second pickup (also a split model) is located by the bridge. The controls include two volume knobs, a tone knob, and two three-way mini-toggle switches; one a pickup selector, the other (as described in Klaus Blasquiz’s The Fender Bass) a “tone assign” switch.
One historical fact that might cause some “who-copied-whom” conjecture concerns the frontline two-pickup bass manufactured at the time by Fender’s nearby competitor, G&L, whose L-2000 was introduced in early ’81, and like the P-Bass Elite II, featured a second pickup near the bridge (compared to the single-pickup L-1000). Standard production L-2000s had knobs and mini-toggles laid out in a configuration similar to the P-Bass Elite II,though their operation was different from Elites.
Construction and hardware on the Precision Bass Elites were also state-of-the-art and included Bi-Flex truss rod neck reinforcement, die-cast tuners (which were “plump”), and a fine-tuning mechanism on each bridge saddle.
The Precision Bass Elite II was an intriguing step for the floundering Fender company in those times, and makes a good utilitarian bass for players who prefer traditional look and feel.
In spite of its innovations and sonic options, the Elite II tends to be unfairly stereotyped with other Fenders from the company’s notorious ’70s and early ’80s period.
This article originally appeared in VG May 2003 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.