It would be easy to look at these guitars and say to yourself, “Just what the world needs: another Strat and another Telecaster.” But if you dismiss these instruments so cavalierly, you do so at your own peril, because they are not exactly what they appear to be. Allow me to explain…
AMERICAN STANDARD STRATOCASTER
Fender improved the trem system’s bridge block for increased sustain and resonance.
Anyone who has ever studied Led Zeppelin Presence (and that would be a lot of us) has a soft spot in their heart for blue Strats. That is, after all, what Jimmy Page played on all the whammy bar tunes on that album. Although it is admittedly a different shade of blue, this offering from the folks at Fender instantly made me want to play “For Your Life,” which I did.
This Strat feels broken in and comfortable right out of the box. The fretboard has what Fender calls “hand-rolled edges.” (Remember when Gary Brawer told you about the luxurious comfort of rolled fretboard edges?) It adds up to a guitar that feels much more like a vintage instrument even when it’s brand new. All the care that Fender took in selecting the various bridge components seems to have paid off in the form of a big acoustic ring and sustain. First position chords sound huge and middle of the neck riffs come off loud and punchy. Because of the fairly curved radius, big bends high on the E and B strings exhibit some acoustic fretting out, but it didn’t bug me through an amp.
The amplified tones possess everything you want in a Stratocaster. The Fat ’50s pickups sound big but still have the ability to cut and jangle, with the neck pickup being particularly delicious. The trick that this Strat has up its sleeve, though, has to do with the bridge pickup and specifically the bridge pickup’s Tone control. You read that right: Addressing what I consider one of the almighty Strat’s few blind spots, this guitar’s rear-most Tone knob works on not just the middle pickup but the bridge pickup as well. Hallelujah! The one pickup that really needs some high-end roll off now has it. And because it’s the Delta Tone No-Load pot, there is a detent when the Tone knob is all the way open and that takes it completely out of the circuit, so you have all the zing and brightness you could want. But rolling it back to even 7 or 8 makes for a much fuller and more rock-approved bridge pickup tone. Likewise with the bridge/middle combination. If you want “Sultans of Swing” snap and pop, it’s there, but if you want a more Beck-ish level of girth to that tone, you can access it easily. I had my Strat modded to include a bridge Tone knob decades ago and for my money it makes for a much more flexible, practical instrument. Kudos to Fender for offering that option here.
Aside from the Delta Tone, there aren’t too many surprises here. The whammy is smooth, has plenty of range, and was reasonably easy to keep in tune. The frets are clean and polished, and the playability is great overall. I tend to favor a slightly chunkier neck, but that’s a personal preference. When you combine the tone and feel with the beautiful cosmetics, you’ve got a surefire winner here. Well played, Fender!
PRICE $1,299 street
NUT WIDTH 1.685”
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25 1/2” scale, 9.5" radius
FRETS 22 Medium jumbo nickel silver
TUNERS Deluxe staggered cast/sealed
BRIDGE 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with bent steel saddles, elongated string slots, and copper-infused high-mass 100 percent metal bridge block
PICKUPS Three Custom Shop Fat ’50s single-coils with Delta-Tone No-Load circuit
CONTROLS Master Volume, Delta Tone (bridge and middle pickups), Tone (neck pickup) 5-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS Fender Bullets 3250L NPS, .009-.042
WEIGHT 7.48 lbs
KUDOS Excellent Strat tones. Flexible electronics. Sweet cosmetics.
AMERICAN STANDARD TELECASTER
The rear Tone knob works on both the bridge and middle pickups.
Let’s be honest: On the one hand, this is just another Tele. And that’s a good thing. You want your country-approved twang and Led Zeppelin I bark? It’ll do that—with a great feel to boot—and if that were all that it did, this would still be a killer guitar. But a closer look reveals a couple of less obvious features that are worth delving into.
First the ergonomics. This Tele rocks a newly contoured body that is super comfortable to play. If you’ve ever had your ribs bruised on a three-set gig, you will instantly get why this is a beautiful thing. It hugs your body in a warm and natural way, allowing all the acoustic resonance to transfer. The neck has a gorgeous C-shaped profile that fits your hand nicely without being too big, and like its Stratty sibling, has those hand-rolled edges. It’s a little bit like you picked up a grizzled veteran’s workhorse Tele that he has done a thousand gigs on. It feels like how a Tele should feel, and isn’t that what we all want?
Then there’s the tone. As noted, this guitar can do the pre-reqs of any Tele worth its salt. Country double-stops feel silky smooth and chickenpickin’ licks have everything short of salmonella. On the rock side, the Broadcaster bridge pickup brings a heaping helping of top-end bite to the party, lending great detail to arpeggiated chords and superb cutting ability to single-note lines. The neck pickup is warm and full and will do the
The American Standard Telecaster’s controured body promises super-comfortable playing.
Tom Morello funk-rock thing through a crunchy amp as well as the Ed Bickert jazz trip through a clean one. The middle position is super versatile, working for pop clean tones, bluesy riffs, and a lot more. Both pickups benefit from the Delta-Tone No-Load Tone circuit. Fender says bypassing the Tone control provides greater midrange and output but to my ears it really brought out the treble response in this guitar. That can be a great thing when you set up an amp specifically for it, because there is an incredible clarity to the tone, adding snap to the low notes and zing to the highs. I did find it a little tricky to switch between this guitar and my P-90 or hum-bucker-loaded guitars because of the Tele’s pronounced top end. Rolling the Tone knob back just a touch was enough to mitigate this, however.
There’s a reason Telecasters have been on so many famous recordings and stages. This one, with its comfy feel and sparkly tones will definitely remind you why. If you haven’t checked out a Tele in a while, this might be a good time.
PRICE $1,299 street
NUT WIDTH 1.685”
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25 1/2" scale, 9.5" radius
FRETS 22 medium jumbo nickel silver
TUNERS Deluxe staggered cast/sealed
BRIDGE 6-saddle Tele-style with bent steel saddles (with elongated string slots for increased resonance and sustain) and stamped 5-screw mounted brass plate
PICKUPS Custom Shop Twisted Tele (neck) and Custom Shop Broadcaster (bridge) with Delta-Tone No-Load circuit
CONTROLS Master Volume, master Delta Tone, 3-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS Fender 250L NPS, .009-.042
WEIGHT 7.38 lbs
KUDOS Classic look. Updated feel. Clear, punchy tones.
CONCERNS Bridge pickup may be overly bright for some applications.