Fender introduced its Paramount Series of premium acoustic guitars last year and received Editors’ Pick Awards from the GP staff. At Summer NAMM 2017 in Nashville, Fender added the Paramount Standard Travel acoustic-electric to the Paramount Series, and we requested a closer look straight away. The PM-TE arrived in a deluxe hardshell case, rather than a gig bag (like most instruments designed with portability in mind.) It’s a clear indication that this traveler is to be taken seriously as a musical instrument, and a peek inside confirmed that notion.
The Paramount Travel does not fall into the travel-guitar trap of appearing like some quirky, dwarf, trail companion. Rather, it meets the eyes as a classy, scaled-down “orchestra” model. The bindings are crisp, and the twin soundhole rosettes help round out the look, despite the bottom piece of Sitka appearing slightly tanner than the upper piece (The PM-TE is also available with a solid mahogany top). The headstock inlay resembles a staff with a kite-shaped head consisting of two silver side wings, and a piece of green abalone shining forth from the middle. Craftsmanship on our review instrument was very good overall, with neat bracing inside and no blemishes apparent anywhere.
Fender’s “open pore” satin finish offers an organic feel and visual appeal, and perhaps facilitates a slightly more open, resonant sound, as the PM-TE does not suffer the boxiness that plagues many smaller instruments. Chords are well balanced, single notes sound articulate yet spacious, and the guitar’s surprisingly full tone flows forth on whatever you chose to play—and this guitar is wondrously easy to play.
The PM-TE’s slim profile neck is extremely accommodating and the easy-action setup facilitates cross-picking patterns, sweeping arpeggios, and fluid lines up and down the fretboard. You’ll find yourself playing lots of licks normally reserved for an electric. The relaxed tension from having a short scale length (23.5") and the low action comes at a cost of some fret buzz, mostly on the middle strings when playing with some force. I wound up using a thin pick and playing with a light touch because the Paramount Travel is wonderfully sensitive and responsive. I also found that playing delicate down-strokes using the thumbnail and letting open strings ring out sympathetically yields delightfully resonant overtones.
The PM-TE is a godsend in close quarters such as a cramped office, but as it is designated a “travel” instrument, I felt compelled to toss it in my Toyota on a trip to Half Moon Bay, California, where we wound up on the back deck of a popular restaurant. When another guitar-playing diner took notice, he and I wound up giving his party of four an impromptu performance. The PM-TE was plenty loud to get a song across, while plenty of other diners were chatting away, packed in tight on a stunningly beautiful and busy Labor Day Weekend. Back home plugged into a Rivera Sedona Lite, the onboard Fishman PM preamp delivered a remarkably accurate representation of the guitar’s acoustic sound at significant volume before encountering any hint of feedback, courtesy of its very useful anti-feedback “Phase” switch. All told, the Paramount Standard Travel is both a stage-worthy travel companion, and a cool guitar worthy of consideration for anyone seeking an easy playing, slightly smaller-than-normal instrument that’s perfect for practice around the house.
PM-TE Paramount Standard Travel
PRICE $699 street
NUT WIDTH 1.69", bone
FRETBOARD Ovangkol, 23.5" Scale
TUNERS Nickel-plated open-gear
BODY Solid mahogany back and sides, solid Sitka spruce top
BRIDGE Ovangkol with compensated bone saddle, ebony bridge pins
PICKUPS Fishman PM with under-saddle piezo (electronics specifically tuned and voiced for body shape)
CONTROLS Volume, Bass, Treble, phase switch, tuner
FACTORY STRINGS Fender Dura-Tone Coated 80/20 Bronze (gauges .012-.052)
WEIGHT 4.5 lbs
KUDOS Sophisticated look. Uber playability. Surprisingly full tone for it’s size. Hardshell case included.
CONCERNS Some fret buzz when played with significant force. No gig bag.