Review: Feiten Blues Pro, Classic Pro, T Pro, and Signature Elite

January 10, 2014

THE HIGHLIGHTS OF BUZZ FEITEN’S musical career are well documented by his recording and/or performing work with a ton of artists, including Paul Butterfield, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, the Rascals, Bette Midler, and Greg Allman. He is also the inventor of a specialized tuning system for guitars, and has now ventured formally into the guitar business with a line of solidbody electrics that includes the Blues Pro, Classic Pro, T Pro, and Signature Elite on review here.

These models all share some basic characteristics, including alder bodies that feature 16 small chambers and have tops of swamp ash, spruce, sugar pine, or flamed maple. Top-loading nickel-plated steel bridges with six adjustable saddles are used on all models except the T Pro, which is similar but incorporates a pickup mounting plate. On some of the models the saddle height-adjusting screws stuck out far enough to feel prickly, but Feiten informs us that they are now using shorter screws to alleviate that issue.

Feiten designed humbucking and stacked single-coil pickups feed Volume and Tone controls and a pair of switches: a 3-way blade selector along with a mini toggle that puts the bridge humbucker’s coils in series or parallel (the T Pro does not have this function as it uses a stacked single-coil in the bridge position). All models feature high-grade electronic components (Alpha pots, CRL/Oakes pickup selectors, Thorsen minitoggles, Sprague caps), though the control cavity interiors are not shielded.

Feiten guitars reflect the basic T-style template, although the bodies are not identical in shape to a Telecaster’s, and their necks are noticeably thicker—measuring .950" at the nut and 1" at the 12th fret—and feature a headstock- adjustable 2-way trussrod. The necks are carved to a comfy vintage C shape and have a fretboard radius of 14" and a scale of 25.5". If you like vintage-style Fender Strat and Tele necks, but wish for more girth, you will love what these necks have to offer. If, however, you prefer something slimmer, you may want to consider the slightly more svelte “Modern C” neck, which specs out at .880" at the first fret and .980" at the 12th.

Across the board these guitars play amazingly well, and that has much to with their setups. The slightly wider string spacing (2 5/32" at the bridge instead of the traditional 2 1/8") keeps your fingers from feeling cramped, and having the high E string set inward a bit makes it easier to grab and less likely to slip off the neck. The low action over 22 polished and carefully shaped 6100 nickel-steel jumbo frets further enhances playability, and—as would be expected from a guitar with Feiten’s fingerprints on it—the intonation is sweet and tuneful.

Another common trait of Feiten guitars is their exceptional resonance, which is partly due to the fat neck and chambering inside the body, but is also affected by the proprietary bridge, and even the slightly wider notches in the bone nut. Feiten’s efforts to maximize vibration throughout the guitar pay off, and you can feel the liveliness when playing these guitars acoustically—all of which have different sonic signatures due to the woods chosen for their tops.

All this translates to the amplified realm too, where the Feitens sound very vibrant, offering a balanced blend of fatness and slice, and responding well to variations in picking attack. The different models all have their personalities, of course, and here’s where choosing one over another gets a little tricky. The Blues Pro and Classic Pro are excellent rock guitars with their ballsy bridge humbucker tones, but switch from Series mode to Parallel and the sound gets clearer, the output goes down a bit (though not as much as when splitting the coils of a typical humbucker), and you’re suddenly in an optimal mode for crisp rhythm playing—especially with the bridge and neck pickup combined. Sweet jazz tones are also just a click away via the neck pickup’s warm and detailed voice.

The Blues Pro is the hot-rod of the bunch, as it takes an edgier and more aggressive sonic stance courtesy of its humbucker’s exposed coils and maple top. Players seeking more buttery tones will appreciate the rounder timbres of the sugar-pine topped Classic Pro with its covered humbucker, which softens the punch a bit while still delivering plenty of stringy shimmer when you lay into it. The fancier Signature Elite with its bound maple top and abalone fretboard inlays falls somewhere in between: a tad brighter than the Classic Pro, but smoother and mellower than the Blues Pro—and wow, what a looker!

The closest to a classic Fender plank is the T Pro, which packs a hum-cancelling single-coil mounted in its bridge plate. The lovely spruce-topped model we tested kicked out bright, punchy tones as you’d expect, but thanks to a bridge pickup that sounds more like a narrow humbucker, the T Pro pushes easily into gutsy distortion and serves up a palette of rich rhythm and lead tones in the dual-pickup and neck settings. As with all the Feitens, the Volume pot preserves the clarity when you turn down and the Tone control’s voicing provides useful textures throughout its rotation, allowing for everything from dark jazz tones to twangy country bite to heavy rock grind. I found the T Pro to be a particularly inspiring guitar that can deliver what’s needed for a wide variety of applications.

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, Buzz Feiten has applied the “build a better mousetrap” philosophy as it pertains to guitar making by focusing on the quality of the woods, electronics, and hardware; doing everything possible to enhance resonance; and making sure they play extremely well. The convergence of Feiten’s skills as a player and his tireless devotion to tone and ergonomics has resulted in a line of instruments that offer more of everything that guitarists appreciate about classic American bolt-neck guitars. Bravo!

MODEL

CONTACT buzzfeitenguitars.com

BLUES PRO

PRICE $2,395 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT WIDTH 1.7" bone
NECK Two-piece quartersawn Northern maple, Vintage “C” contour
FRETBOARD Maple, 25" scale, 14" radius (rosewood also available)
FRETS 22
TUNERS Die-cast, 15:1 ratio
BODY Alder with flame maple top (also available with swamp ash, sugar pine, or spruce)
BRIDGE Custom nickel-plated top-load design with 2 5/32" string spacing.
PICKUPS Buzz Feiten design BF-120 humcancelling single-coil (neck), BF-109 exposed-coil humbucker (bridge).
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector, Lead/Rhythm switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.64 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Top-notch construction. Excellent playability. Broad tonal range."
CONCERNS None.

MODEL

CONTACT buzzfeitenguitars.com

CLASSIC PRO

PRICE $2,095 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT WIDTH 1.7" bone
NECK Two-piece quartersawn Northern maple, Vintage “C” contour
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25" scale, 14" radius (maple also available)
FRETS 22
TUNERS Die-cast, 15:1 ratio
BODY Alder with sugar pine top (also available with swamp ash, spruce or flame maple top)
BRIDGE Custom nickel-plated top-load design with 2 5/32" string spacing.
PICKUPS Buzz Feiten design BF-120 humcancelling single-coil (neck), BF- 109 humbucker (bridge).
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector, Lead/Rhythm switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.64 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Top-notch construction. Excellent playability. Broad tonal range.
CONCERNS None.

MODEL

CONTACT buzzfeitenguitars.com

SIGNATURE ELITE

PRICE $3,295 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT WIDTH 1.7" bone
NECK Two-piece quartersawn Northern maple, Vintage “C” contour
FRETBOARD Maple, 25" scale, 14" radius (rosewood also available)
FRETS 22
TUNERS Die-cast, 15:1 ratio
BODY Alder with bound flame maple top
BRIDGE Custom nickel-plated top-load design with 2 5/32" string spacing.
PICKUPS Buzz Feiten design BF-120 humcancelling single-coil (neck), BF- 109 humbucker (bridge).
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector, Lead/Rhythm switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 8.02 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Top-notch construction. Excellent playability. Broad tonal range.
CONCERNS None.

MODEL

CONTACT buzzfeitenguitars.com

T PRO

PRICE $1,995 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT WIDTH 1.7" bone
NECK Two-piece quartersawn Northern maple, Vintage “C” contour
FRETBOARD Maple, 25" scale, 14" radius (rosewood also available)
FRETS 22
TUNERS Die-cast, 15:1 ratio
BODY Alder with spruce top (also available with swamp ash, sugar pine, or flame maple top)
BRIDGE Custom nickel-plated top-load design with 2 5/32" string spacing.
PICKUPS Buzz Feiten single-coil (neck), G-121D hum-cancelling single-coil (bridge).
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.63 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Top-notch construction. Excellent playability. Great range of meaty single-coil-style tones.
CONCERNS None.

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