The Butterscotch Squier Affinity Tele (Telecaster) Review – Couldn’t resist another look!

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The Squier Telecaster Butterscotch Affinity Review. Looks like THE Telecaster!

I’ve written a few reviews on Squier Affinity Telecasters. Why? Well, for a good reason. They’re excellent little inexpensive guitars that are generally very surprising to hear, play, and own. Surprising in an excellent way… I find that people want to know more about them – and huge numbers of searches on the internet (at least, searches for guitar reviews) touch on the Squier Telecaster made by Fender.

I’ve owned several Squier Affinity Telecasters over the past 6 years. The last two years have seen several (buy/play/record/people see them and want to buy them/sell) butterscotch individuals. They’re hard to keep – folks always want to buy mine. I’ve also used them for some nice mods, like Mini Humbucker pickup in the neck, SSH (with the standard bridge, a Strat middle, and a mini humbucker in the neck, Nice!), and standard Tele single-single, but with cool things like split rail humbucker pickups and more. They’re really great little workhorses.

One of the most remarkable things is that the special edition see-through butterscotch with maple fretboard and black 1-ply pickguard combination looks very similar to old 50s Telecasters from a distance. I think it’s brilliant! Telecasters are simple and awesome genius anyway, but to make them look like their ancestors makes that wonderful original look accessible by the general guitar-buying public. My American Deluxe Ash Telecaster and my (at least the last one I had) Squier Butterscotch Affinity Telecaster have some shared DNA. I’m not saying that my American Deluxe and the last Squier were similar in quality, content, and sound, but I don’t take my American Deluxe out for gigs or for throw-around guitar stuff… The Squier is a stunt-double! 🙂

zZounds offers the Butterscotch in a Lefty Left-Handed Telecaster!! Awesome!
zZounds also offers Squier Affinity Butterscotch Telecasters for Righty Right-Handed players! Even at the low price of these Teles, you can still fall in love with your guitar guaranteed! zZounds’ customer service is pretty darn awesome.

Quick Opinion: These are great, simple, nice-sounding guitars that are fun to play and fun at which to look. It’s hard to go wrong with one of these if you’re looking for a very-inexpensive-entry-level guitar.

In particular, the “special edition” transparent butterscotch Tele is nice looking, plays snappy-like, and is usually pretty nice in quality. It’s interesting: sometimes the wood has dark blems in it – very visible on a transparent finish guitar… but, for the money, you just can’t beat it with a (slab body) stick…

These come in a Lefty version, too! That’s awesome news for all those under-represented left-handed guitarists and budding guitar players out there. Great!

Here’s a quick breakdown of this particular guitar’s features:
* Two single-coil ceramic-magnet pickups
* Three-way pickup selector (Bridge, Bridge+Neck, Neck)
* See-through butterscotch blonde finish
* Maple neck and fretboard
* Sealed gear tuners – these look like the Ping-type tuners in Fender Standards… I don’t know if they are genuine Ping, or if they are copies…
* Simplicity

Overall, it’s a Tele… plain and simple and just like a Telecaster was meant to be. Nothing extra, nothing wanting…
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Sound: If you’re looking for the vintage Telecaster sound, this Squier Affinity Tele delivers it pretty well. You’re not going to get built-by-super-cool-people pickups and such, but really, it DOES sound like a vintage Telecaster! A little noisier, a little weaker, and less clarity.

The sound has some “Can-do” parts, and it has some “Not-Really” parts. Read on…
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods – a reasonable caveat

Pickups and Electronics: The electronics in general are standard-issue low-end Asian-made stuff, with a little chicklet tone capacitor/cap for the tone potentiometer and really thin really inexpensive wire for circuitry. The jack is decent enough, probably a little above par for guitars in this price range. They’ll crackle after a decade of light use, sooner with regular use. (Jacks and pots are a quick and easy way to extend the life of the guitar’s electronics for a very long time… For the cost of this guitar, the parts are about or just above par.)

The switch is the little cheap PCB (printed circuit board) three-way blade switch you’ll find in millions of Asian-made guitars (and, even some guitars made elsewhere). It works fine when the guitar is young and the blade hasn’t been actuated much. Give it a decade or even some heavy sweaty use and it will make noise and cause drop-outs over time. This ISN’T a downer for this guitar – it’s PAR for guitars in this price range. I’m just being thorough and noting these things.

Overall? The electronics are about average and sound OK when they’re fresh.

The pickups have simple ceramic bar magnets and are vintage-strength wound. They SNAP, they QUACK, they PLINK, and they TWANG. And they do a GREAT job of it for a guitar that costs less than $200 US (as I write this). They’re TELE all the way, baby!

Downside of these pickups? They’re noisier than MIM-, CIJ-, or USA-issue pickups (noted in all my Affinity Tele reviews to date). The big downside is that they lack the clarity of nice stuff. Compared to other inexpensive single-coil pickups, they sound GREAT. Compared to pickups that cost almost as much as this entire guitar, they’re muddy.

But guess what? Throw some overdrive on it and a nice tube pre-amp, and you’ll suprise a LOT of people with the sound!

Tone woods The tone woods are pretty much par for guitars in this price range. The body tends to be several piece of wood glued together, and there can be dark spots. I have, however, played SEVERAL that were REALLY nice and had two or three pieces of handsome wood. The poly finish is bright, even, strong, and quite stunning. The body wood sounds great in this price range.

The neck wood is a REAL nice feature of these instruments… The necks on every single Squier Affinity butterscotch blonde Tele I’ve owned or played has been even, smooth, nicely shaped (a semi-thick rounded profile – the Tele classic profile), and has been easy on the fretting hand and has that great maple sound, too! I’ve seen the necks from these end up on parts-o-casters with NICE bodies and electronics: the players seem to like them!

Playability Telecasters are simple, even unabashedly so. They are easy to play for folks with small hands, and are medium-weight on the shoulder. I’ve always used Fender, Ernie Ball, or D’Addario 9-42 strings on my Squier Telecasters – and they practically play themselves with these light strings. I’ve started some beginners with Ernie Ball 8-38 to start with, but as soon as they get a little calloused and start having too much buzz, I switch them to 9-42 strings (we lovingly call them “nines”).

SquierTelecasterButterscotchNeckPocketShotJimPearson1

On a side note: if you like the feel of “nines” on your Tele, but you tend to dig in a little when you play, or if you want more SNAP on the bass-side strings, consider a Hybrid set, 9-46. You get the benefits of the light easy feel of a Fender (well, Squier) with its factory-style strings, with slightly heavier wound strings… sort of in the range of shorter scale instruments such as Gibsons with their 10-46s. You can read more about them and purchase them here at zZounds… I like the Ernie Ball Hybrids, but the D’Addarios are really nice, too! I have found, however, that playing “tens” on Fender-scale instruments, including Jacksons, is best suited for hard playing styles – the finesse of lighter styles seems to be best for “nines.” Remember: strings are like jeans: some are more comfortable and best suited to YOU – try different kinds, try different weights. Since the Squier Affinity Telecaster is a fixed-bridge guitar, you won’t have to adjust the bridge for different weights of strings – although you may have to have the neck adjusted (or do it yourself if you know how). For the vast majority of players picking up a Tele, “nines” are just right – that’s why Fender ships them with “nines.”

Playability: The neck I alluded to the neck earlier in my review. I think it’s worth its own conversation… The neck on these is really VERY good. I’ve played $300 guitars with neck that don’t feel as good – in either quality or workmanship. The shape and depth of these necks is excellent. For those of you who haven’t enjoyed a Tele, go to your local G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) retailer and pick one up and play it for at least 10 minutes straight. These necks are very easy to appreciate.

Not to sound like a broken record, but I think the necks on these are easily the best hidden secret of the guitar industry. If you like the broom-handle-y feel of a real Tele neck, this one is very good to excellent. I play LOTS of different guitars each week, so I don’t really play favorites: but when I pick up one of my Telecasters, it’s always something to which I REALLY look forward. Play one – then open up the wallet and take the joy home!
zZounds has Squier Affinity Telecaster electric guitars for sale, and they back up what they sell. Click here to find out more about them and to see their offerings and special deals! (No, a robot or company engine didn’t write this: I did!)

Quality: One of the lovely things about these guitars is that they’re consistently made. Almost every one is very good, most are excellent. I’ve only had two from-the-factory problems with the (many) Squier Affinity Telecasters I’ve owned or played. Both were minor issues that were easily resolved. The solder joints are good, the necks are excellent, the body finish is excellent, the materials are on par for a guitar this price, and the overall execution is good. You might find a lemon in the millions, but frankly, you’d have to try pretty hard to find one.

Value: Fender has only risen the street price of these guitars a little at a time for the past 6 years I’ve been playing them. The cost rise has been almost minimal, given changes in the price of materials and offshore labor… They’re a real bargain. An equivalent guitar (quality, features, playability) is often $50 more with other brands. If you’re looking for value and playability in a very inexpensive package, these are awesome!

Wishes: There’s not much for which to wish on these. They’re pretty great all-around. If ever I had a wish on these, it would be to have some tinting in the neck paint, or maybe just to keep on making them…

Squier (by Fender) Affinity Jazz (the “J”) Bass Review – getting started with an inexpensive bass that actually plays great

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Squier Affinity J (Jazz) Bass long-term review Originally posted March 2006… A few edits here and there, but mostly the original review for this repost

Every guitar player should try playing bass. It’s a blast, and can really teach you something about fret stretches, silencing adjacent strings, and serious hand-strengthening. In another note, every bass player has to have a place to start. Sometimes getting a low-cost bass doesn’t mean having to get a cheap bass!

Jazz Bass, J Bass… You say Fender, I say Phendre.

Quick Opinion: The Squier Affinity and Standard Jazz Bass guitars are actually somewhat comparable to Fender Mexican-made Standard Jazz Bass guitars. The basic features and appointments are almost identical. It stands to reason that the Chinese-made Squiers are slightly less-nice Alder wood, and the finish paint is thicker and harder on the Squiers. However, the impression of the Squier I bought (and have played for more than a year when this was originally posted) is that it is a solid buy, and an excellent bass. Yes, the Mexican-made Jazz basses have nicer necks to an experienced player – but remember that the point behind the Squier Affinity is low-cost and beginner’s playability. Over time, I found that the Affinity is a good starter bass – consistent in quality and sound. If the player finds that he/she wants to play bass more often and has more budget, the step up to the Mexican-made bass is a good place to go…

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Playability: The neck is solid, and is nicely tapered. It is physically similar to Fenders costing much more… The maple neck and rosewood fretboard feel excellent and are easy to play. The bass is comparatively light and is fairly well balanced. The excellent Fender-designed double-cutaway body allows easy, full access to the entire fretboard. As a long-scale (34”) bass, the Squier Jazz Bass is extremely playable and is a joy to use.The bolt-on maple neck/rosewood fretboard comes surprisingly well finished. Only two or three of our guitar’s fret ends were a little sharp. The fret height is very consistent throughout the neck. Note that the Mexican-made Standard does have a smoother finish to the back of the neck – and that the Chinese Affinity Squier bass necks tend not to be arrow-straight (there are other manufacturer countries for different models these days – some with substantially better quality that rivals the Mexican-made basses)
For folks with small hands or less-than-average arm lengths, a full-scale bass like this might be a little tough to play (especially during quick, challenging passes). If you’re not comfortable with a long, 34” guitar, I recommend trying out the Squier Bronco, Squier Mustang bass, or, if your budget can accommodate, a Fender Mustang bass.

Features: The appointments and features of the Squier Jazz Bass are good for this guitar’s price. The pickguard is a well-made three-ply plastic guard (white-black-white on our Red Metallic bass). The pickups are two “vintage-style” pickups (bridge and mid). The guitar features two larger volume knobs and one smaller tone knob. The two volume knobs allow you to choose the tonal variety by selecting the volume for a specific pickup. The tone applies to the entire sound output (the Squier Jazz Bass guitars are passive, in that they have no equalization or boost electronics or batteries on board). As with pretty much every Jazz Bass guitar, the Affinity’s neck is bolt-on. In the case of the Squier Jazz Bass, the neck truss rods are adjustable via an allen wrench in the headstock (no need to unbolt the neck and unscrew the pickguard). The chrome tuners are the enclosed variety, and are fairly accurate – I do like the “open gear” variety used on the up-scale Jazz basses better, but these do hold pretty well to normal play styles. The Squier Jazz uses a round string tree in the headstock for the two highest strings.
The Squier Affinity Jazz Bass has top-loaded strings (means that the strings are not fed through the body, but are fed through the end of the chrome bridge).

Sound:The Squier Jazz Bass guitar has a consistent, vintage sound. The pickups are pretty noisy – a bit more so than standard Jazz single coils, and the output isn’t very strong. The quality of the sound that does come out is all Fender, though. With the right amplification and EQ-tweaking, you can get the Squier to growl, rumble, and thumb-slap-“splank” without too much trouble. If I was to make this guitar my full-time bass – I might take the time to upgrade the pickups to Fender SCNs, or some type of high-output noiseless.

Value: This is a $299 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The sound, quality of make, and appointments are good. Many other low-end guitars have badly twisted/warped necks, poor sound, and extremely cheap parts – the Squier Jazz Bass is very much a cut above the average low-end bass (no pun intended!). You would have to buy a much more expensive Fender bass to get better sound.

Wishes: I really wish these were offered with maple fretboards (a matter of personal preference, yes, but still something that would be good to offer). The pickups really should have more output. I wish these had more consistent necks and more consistent fret-finishing. These should all come with open-gear tuners – I don’t think Fender will lose much (if any) money on using nicer tuners.