ORIGINALLY INTRODUCED IN 1965,
the Villager 12-String stood apart from
traditional flat-top 12s by Guild, Martin,
and others by virtue of its maple neck with
“hockey stick” headstock (the same style
neck used on Fender’s electric XII solidbody).
The original Villager did not have
a cutaway body or electronics, of course,
which brings us to this updated reissue of
Fender’s offering to the folk community.
The new Villager is a sweet looking
guitar with its gloss finish and neatly
applied binding. A tasteful rosette, gold
pickguard, and black dotted bridge pins
round out the cosmetics package.
The frets are lightly polished and
trimmed to near perfection—you can
barely feel their tips as your hand slides
along the fretboard. The synthetic bone
nut is properly set, and that, along with
a compensated saddle at the other end,
makes for very solid intonation. Tuning
a 12 is never a fun job, but the built-in
tuner certainly helps, as does the long
headstock, which allows for easy-to-turn,
The Villager sounded remarkably tuneful
in all positions, which is noteworthy
on an instrument at this price. The
dreadnought body, with its scalloped and
X-braced solid top, pumps out a big clear
sound with lots of upper-end chime and a
deep bottom. This guitar plays quite easily,
too, thanks to its soft C-shaped neck,
low action, and generous string spacing.
The Villager’s Fishman Isys III system
features only a Volume control and 3-band
EQ, but it did a great job of translating the
tonal spectrum through
a ZT Amps Lunchbox Acoustic and a
Dr.Z EZG-50 combo. By setting the Fishman’s
Mid and Treble controls at their notched positions,
and boosting the bass just a touch, the
sounds were warm and balanced, with ringing
highs and good complexity in the upper
midrange. I wish the Isys III had a
phase switch to help mitigate feedback—
which can be problematic at
higher volumes—but it’s still a good
system for this guitar, and certainly
increases its utility in a variety of situations.
The Villager provides a high level of enjoyment
and has enough original-style elements
to make you feel like you’re experiencing a
bit of Fender’s colorful past. It has also been
refined and improved in very smart ways to
suit the needs of modern players. Anyone
seeking a gig-worthy 12-string for a very reasonable
sum should give it a shot.
CONTACT Fender Musical Instruments,
(480) 596-9690; fender.com
PRICE $599 retail/$399 MAP
NUT WIDTH 1.77"
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.3" scale
TOP Solid spruce
BODY Laminated mahogany back
ELECTRONICS Fishman Isys III
CONTROLS Volume, Bass, Middle,
Treble, Tuner on/off
WEIGHT 5.4 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS Fender Duratone
KUDOS Great look. Big, rich sound.
CONCERNS No phase switch.