Patterned on a ’50s Esquire, the Echocaster ESQ offers old-Fender attributes in a package that’s competitively priced to other brands in the retro-Tele scene. The ESQ features an alder body that wears a thin lacquer Vintage Blond finish (also available in Black or Bone). Our review model has a single-ply white pickguard (black is also available), and it arrived with the optional aged treatment on the body, which adds $450 to the price.
I wish the glossy neck was aged to match the body, but Echopark’s Gabriel Currie says he prefers that players put their own natural wear on the nitro-lacquer-finished neck, rather than trying to do a one-size-fits-all kind of aging treatment.
Nevertheless, the neck’s girthy C shape feels excellent, and the low action and well-finished frets make it easy to play. The intonation is also tuneful in all positions, helping to facilitate well-focused and sustaining tones even before plugging it in.
For hardware, the ESQ boasts a steel bridge with three brass saddles that surrounds a vintage spec ’56-T bridge pickup with a lacquer-potted coil and steel baseplate. Wound with 42-gauge enameled wire, it has a DC resistance of 8.25k ohms. Volume and tone controls and a three-way selector round out the classic-style electronics. Other old-school touches include a vintage-style string retainer and an aluminum ferrule bar on the back.
Played straight into a Fender Deluxe Reverb, as well a Mesa/Boogie Mark Five:25 driving a 4x12 cabinet, the ESQ sounded ballsy and bright and had excellent cutting power when cranking with a loud band. There’s a bit more volume with the tone circuit bypassed (switch all the way back or all the way forward), but the tone knob is mighty handy when browner tones are needed, especially with distortion and overdrive pedals.
It’s cool how you can use the three-way to mimic the effect of having two pickups. And while the forward position is very dark sounding, with some massaging of the amp's tone settings it does a reasonable job of aping an archtop jazz box, which was probably Fender’s intention back in the day. I liked the middle setting overall as the tone circuit is sweetly voiced and useable through its range, making it easy to sweep from warm, jazzy timbres to a slicing tone that could cut down a tree.
It all adds up to a guitar that is fun to play and does all the cool things a good Esquire should. Crank it up though a Fender- or Marshall-style rig and enjoy the classic honky-tonk and rock-and-roll tones this plank-bodied powerhouse excels at!
PRICE $1,377 direct. As tested with optional aged finish, $1,827. Gig bag included
NUT WIDTH 1.68"
NECK Michigan rock-maple medium-C profile (.082–.088)
FRETBOARD Maple, 25.5" scale
FRETS 22 Jescar medium-jumbo
TUNERS Gotoh vintage style
BRIDGE Vintage spec raw steel with brass saddles
PICKUPS Vintage spec ’56-T
CONTROLS Volume and tone, three-way selector
WEIGHT 7.66 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario NYXL .010–.056
KUDOS Great playability and authentic tones
CONCERNS Wish the neck was aged to match body