The Fender FSR Ash Noiseless Stratocaster Transparent White Blonde Review – Creamy Goodness!

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The Fender FSR Ash Stratocaster Noiseless See-through White Blonde Review! Good enough to own one twice!

So, what is “FSR”, anyway? According to Fender’s web site, FSR means “Fender Special Run.” You can read a bit more here at Fender’s web site. The link opens a new window…. FSR Fender products pop up here and there, generally at major online or brick-and-mortar dealers. Sometimes the extra cool ones (like the ones that Jeff Allen signed) come to hometown dealers, too. I’ve had an FSR Strat or Tele here and there over the years. Sometimes they are just color combinations on the standard stuff, other times; they’re great combinations of great materials that aren’t offered together.

The white blonde Fender FSR Ash Stratocaster with Noiseless Pickups is one of those wonderful FSRs that shouldn’t get away from you if you want an awesome sounding Strat that really fits the bill. Why did I sell off some of my instruments just so I could get one (and then another after someone offered me the right price for my first (customized, too!) one? Read on…

Although zZounds doesn’t offer the blond ash Noiseless FSR Strat, they do carry a HUGE array of Fender Stratocasters. Click here and read all about them! It helps me write more reviews if you buy awesome gear at zZounds. Besides, they have great customer service and return policies!

FenderFSRAshNoiselessStratFactoryImage

Factory image. The colors are a little off, but the idea is about right

Quick Opinion: The FSR Ash Stratocaster with Noiseless pickups and the transparent white blonde finish is superb. The neck is (at least, at the moment) unique, the electronics are awesome, and the build quality is just fantastic. I love this guitar. If you’re looking for a mid-priced Stratocaster that won’t break the bank and will play its heart out, this is definitely one to consider!

This particular FSR Stratocaster has good looks, easy playability, that wonderful ash-body sound, and the quiet power of Fender’s “Noiseless” single coil pickups. Even the pickguard is cool: mint green – like an old friend from the 70s that’s been around for a long time.

The interesting neck, the mint pickguard, the pickups, and the look and feel of the transparent gloss finish on the ash body is intriguing and very playable.

Here’s a quick breakdown of this particular guitar’s features:
* Ash body;
* Transparent white blonde body finish;
* Combination semi-gloss/gloss neck (read on), modern C shape;
* Vintage-style 6-screw non-floating tremolo bridge;
* Maple neck, maple fretboard;
* Traditional S-S-S pickup configuration with two tones and a master volume;
* 5-way blade pickup selector switch (N-NM-M-MB-B);
* Mint pickguard… Cool!;
* Ping-style tuners and old-style string tree on B and high E;
* Synthetic bone nut;
* Fender’s awesome Noiseless hand-wound pickups;
* Nicer Fender gig bag

Sound: If you like a quiet Stratocaster that has the guts to pull off everything from country to blues to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Jeff Beck to Clapton, this guitar is a real contender. Overall, this Strat captures the essence of what a Strat sounds like, but with quieter oomph.

Let’s get into details about what drove me to this MIM Strat in the first place…
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods – a one-piece maple neck and: Ash!

Pickups and Electronics: The pickups are a big part of “the reason for the season” with these particular FSR Strats. The pickups are hotter than vintage, but aren’t super wide-open. They live up to their “quiet” reputation with their AlNiCo magnets, special enamel-coil wire, dressed magnet edges, and the nicely upgraded controls (pots, caps, resistors). They sound great, are nicely balanced, and are truly great at making that “Fender Strat” sound.

The electronics are the upgraded/special set of controls that Fender sells with its Noiseless set kits. The tone pots and volume pot work superbly and sound just fine. All the solder joints are really clean and nicely done. The wiring is well-routed and planned – overall: nice stuff.

I like the traditional CRL-style mechanical blade pickup selector switch. Fender, please don’t switch to those awful PCB switches (like those in the Blacktop Fenders)!

Tone woods Some of the best sounding Fender guitars in history have been ash. Ash has a completely different character than alder or basswood. It has a denser tone (at least, to my ears), and has more definition and ring than alder.

My particular FSR ash Strat sounds warmer and more full than my alder Stratocaster. It has a heavier feel to the shoulder, but I like the sustain and resonance of the ash.

Body wood can be a really personal thing for Fender players, so I won’t take up a stance here – I just want to try to have an objective view of things in my reviews: Ash is a great tone wood, one that does great for rock styles and country styles.

FenderFSRAshNoiselessStratocasterJimPearsonCustomBodyShot

My customized FSR with the 50s Reissue neck, my Jimi Hendrix-style “Gypsied” pickguard, and my Schaller strap locks

Playability This guitar fits the body like a soft cotton shirt, and the overall balance is excellent. The ash body is a little heavier than my alder-body Strat, but not enough that I really notice it. I found that the body feels smoother against my skin than my Highway 1, but not as buttery as my Jimmie Vaughan signature MIM Strat. The body is extremely high gloss, done to the nines. Someone spent A LOT of time getting this one right. When I sold my first one, I found myself pining away for it about a week later… I eventually saved up and bought another during a big online sale.

The feel of the traditional Strat body is a story on it own, with countless thousands of friends out there to testify. It’s a very playable body, comfortable and straightforward. So very easy to reach the front of the guitar… you don’t spend much time thinking about the body’s contact with your arm and ribcage. Simple. Genius.

Vintage-style (6-screw, non-floating) Fender Stratocaster bridges aren’t the most intonation-stable bridges. They require a good setup to stay close in tune for an extended period of play, but still go out here and there even then. If you want extreme tuning stability, you’ll need to go to a stop-tail with locking tuners, or a double locking trem such as a Floyd Rose, Jackson, Kahler, or Ibanez. (There are Floyd-bridged Strats out there…). If you can accept that you’ll have to tweak the tuning keys if you’re a big tremolo-bar-bomber, the vintage-style bridge is fine. When I’m not specifically looking for trem effects while I’m playing, I don’t even put the trem arm in my Strat’s bridge when I play it. To put this into perspective, when I recorded with my American Standard Stratocaster last month (two-point floating trem, Ping-style tuners), I had to stop and tune it several times when I pushed the trem around a bunch for some parts of the recording.

I love the way Strats play. Even though I am a fan of many types of guitars, I’m not sure I’d ever do without at least one Strat in my closet.

Playability: The neck This particular FSR Strat came with a neck that isn’t like its contemporary MIM Standard Strat cousins. The fretboard and headstock face are high gloss, while the back of the neck is a creamy semi-gloss/matte finish. The back of the neck feels a lot like my Fender Deluxe Ash Telecaster’s neck. The front of the neck reminds me a lot of the nicer Japanese Fender necks and the 50s reissue necks made in America and in Mexico.

This (currently) unusual combination of gloss front/matte back is a neat combination. I felt instantly comfortable with it. The neck back profile is a general C “modern” shape and feels compatible with the necks of the Fender MIM Standard models. It’s just thick enough to feel substantial, without feeling like a Jackson speedy neck. The width is quite comfortable, and I find chording is just as easy as picking and arpeggiating. Nice neck.

(Editor’s note: I really like a boat, V, or D neck on Fenders, so I ended up putting a 50s reissue neck on my FSR. A VERY happy eBay member got my FSR’s original neck and found it to be a real winner for him… Necks are like shoes. You like the way they feel or you don’t. NO issues with the FSR’s beautiful neck: I just liked my V neck better.)

Don’t forget to check out zZounds’ selection of Fender Stratocasters

Quality: The build quality of my FSR Ash Noiseless blonde Stratocaster is nothing short of superb. There was only one flaw on the entire guitar: the neck pocket on the bass side has a tiny gap with the original neck, on the edge facing towards the headstock. I don’t think this is a deal-breaker for me. After all, this is not an Eric Clapton Signature Strat or an Eric Johnson Signature Strat. It’s a mid-line animal that was built with LOTS of attention to detail and love from the folks at the Ensenada plant.

FenderFSRNoiselessAshStratocasterDetailBackByJimPearson

The back goodness of creamy transparent blonde. You can just see the grain in this (not my best) picture. The “F” neck plate is my addition: factory versions ship with a plain neck plate.

I couldn’t have found a nicer example of neck craftsmanship, body routing and finish, electronics detail, and fret detail in such a nice mid-priced guitar. Speaking of the frets: they’re very nicely ended and crowned, smooth, and even…

I’m gushing, but then again, this guitar deserves it. I don’t know that every one is this way, but the two I’ve had were excellent examples.

Value: The FSR Ash Stratocaster with Noiseless pickups is about $150 more than the MIM Standard Stratocaster. In my opinion, it is very much well worth it. It’s a strong value if you’re looking for much nicer pickups and much better neck and tone woods. In the grander scheme of Fender guitars, this one is mid-range and has a value that’s more akin to the $899+ “specialty” Fenders like the Player series and Road Worn series

I would have a hard time choosing between this Strat and the much more expensive 50s Player Stratocaster. I like the 50s Player: a lot! But this one is much more affordable and sounds much better! The difference for me? The body wood wins on the FSR and the neck wins on the 50s Player.

Wishes: I do wish these particular FSRs had V-shaped necks. Otherwise, I love them just like they are!

The Fender Deluxe Ash Telecaster (Tele) review: 6 years with a USA-crafted pinnacle instrument!

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Fender Deluxe Ash Telecaster (Tele) Review – 6 years of sweet harmony between player and instrument

I started making music again in 2004, after a decades-long hiatus. By the beginning of 2005: not only had I begun playing seriously again, I was actually teaching myself to record and I was expanding my instrument library by leaps and bounds.

My brother Will has been one of my strongest musical supporters, even from the first time I picked up a guitar at 12 years old. He purchased all my funky little early albums when they released, and continued his support in so many wonderful ways. One day I walked to the front porch step and there was a big box there. He had given me a gorgeous USA Fender with which to make music.

Thank you, Will. “Blondie” will forever be a part of my sound. I’ve since used my American Deluxe Tele to record countless pieces and even gig small venues. This instrument is a part of me, a part of my sound, and a part of the thrill of creating and playing music.

This review is based on more than six years of owning and playing a 2006 Fender USA Deluxe Telecaster. Believe me, my review is completely unbiased and is based on real experience. I’ve played countless hours on this delightful instrument

Fender Deluxe Ash Factory Picture

Fender Deluxe Ash Factory Picture

Quick Opinion: Everything about the Deluxe Ash Telecaster is awesome. It’s a “pinnacle” instrument, comparable to any custom shop or “old school build” Tele I’ve ever played.

Without blushing too much, this instrument is the finest Fender I’ve played in the many decades of my experience. I’ll leave the details to the review. Read on…

Playability: The neck has a silky feel that is not the same as the satin feel of the Mexico Standard Teles and the American Special Telecasters. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s like a perfect balance between silky smoothness and sensual touch. It is almost a gloss to the eye – but doesn’t grab the skin like gloss can (once you begin to play hard or for long periods of time). It’s beautiful tinted silkiness. I enjoy the medium-jumbo frets. They’re not huge, but they’re not the “fretless wonder” either. They’re comfortable and excellent. The neck is a 9.5″ radius. Nice!

I love the hand-rolled edges of the neck. The frets were superbly dressed and in perfect condition. Level, smooth, no jags on the paws as you navigate the fretboard. What more can a guitar player want? It is an extension of my heart’s music – playing out into your ears through that neck. Wow.

Find out more about the new Fender USA Deluxe Telecaster here at zZounds.com

The body feels like a good old Telecaster. Medium weight, perfectly routed on the edges (the blonde version does not have binding, some other deluxe models do), and the picking arm feels right at home on top of that ol’ Ash slab. It’s a standard Tele shape, so it is what it is, just the feel is great from the hand-applied finish.

I do like the bridge. There’s a lot to like with brass three- or six-saddle Tele bridges – but to be honest, this block-saddle bridge works great and intonates well. The bridge is not overly tall and doesn’t often interact with the picking hand.

Tuning is relatively stable. My Deluxe Ash Tele has Ping-style tuners – I personally prefer the vintage Kluson-style tuners, but these work really well and stay in tune as much as I need them to. I think locking tuners would have been good – but to be honest, this Tele behaves in a consistent way even after hours of play. No more or less out of tune than you would get with Ping tuners on a saddle-bridged Tele. The new (as of at least 2012 – don’t know when it started) Fender Deluxe Ash Telecaster has staggered locking tuners on its compound radius neck. Sounds great to me!

Overall, it plays like a dream: partly because of the feel; partly because of the weight balance; partly because it just fits the body and hands like the genius instrument it is: Simplicity and power, all at the same time. No wonder many of the greats still play similar Telecasters.

Vivid Peace's Fender Deluxe Ash Telecaster, 2006

Vivid Peace’s Fender Deluxe Ash Telecaster, 2006

Sound: There are many components to sound quality in an instrument. Like the Gibson LP Studio Baritone, the “sound” portion of this review deserves a little more depth than usual. I’ll explain:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, body, neck, bridge
3) Hand-crafting

Pickups and Electronics: The electronics are about as good as it gets without having a boutique manufacturer custom make pots, caps, jacks, switches, and wire for you. They’re good, solid Fender, the soldering is great, and the wires aren’t cheap stuff. The caps are basic Fender stuff – but they make the right sound – I left mine alone and didn’t touch any of the circuit mods from the factory.

The pickups are stellar. Nicely-wound, pretty much as noiseless as a great humbucker, and give me a satisfying Telecaster sound that can twang, spank, and can rock hard in pretty much any genre I choose to play. It even sounds delightful with plain tubes in warm (not drive) mode in a clean channel or clean model on my computer interface. I’ve recorded extremely hard versions of Clapton-esque drive to metal to jazzy to new age to prog rock to classic rock (sorry, I don’t have country in my repertoire yet – but stay tuned! When I do noodling covering country stuff, this guitar brings it on in DROVES!).

The pickups are Fender’s SCN pickups on both bridge and neck (neat little insignia to let you know…). They’re Samarium Cobalt Noiseless pickups: and they’re an awesome addition to Fenders’ Vintage Noiseless, Vintage Hot Noiseless, and N3 pickups (The current crop of deluxes use the new N3 pickups… you’ll have to get an older model to get the SCNs). These totally flail down the aftermarket noiseless Tele pickups – when it comes to the music I play.

The controls are: master volume, master tone (a no-load tone control – I put these on most of my modded Fender guitars and basses – the circuit completely bypasses the tone circuit when the tone knob is turned all the way to ten).

The S1 circuit is extremely flexible and adds A LOT to the sound of this instrument. With the standard Tele 3-way switching, the S1 switch really adds an “oompfh” setting to the middle switch position. Here’s a look at what you get:
S-1 Switch Down (On):
Position 1. Bridge Pickup
Position 2. Bridge Pickup in Series with Neck Pickup
Position 3. Neck Pickup

Tone woods: I love ash. The other tone woods are good, too, but if I can get a Fender in Ash, it makes my ears happy. The wood is excellent and actually kind of light under the blonde finish (light as in lighter than most ash grains). The snappy maple neck and fretboard of my Deluxe Tele is perfect for sounding “like a Telecaster.” Nicest “slab” guitar in town!

Hand-crafted excellence: Wow: The electronics were done as though it was the last and best Telecaster on Earth. Really. Very well-done, attention to detail, and a good instrument made on a good day at a great factory.

Quality: I think I’ve already alluded to the quality of my Deluxe Tele in the previous paragraphs, so I’ll abbreviate this section of this review.

My Telecaster is the best-made Fender I’ve ever played. It’s on par with my Bozeman-made Gibson acoustic and my two Gibson Standards. They’re truly the pinnacle of simple, playable hand-crafted art. There were zero issues with my Tele. It still plays and sounds perfectly wonderful.

Value: My Fender Deluxe ash Telecaster came with a deluxe G&G USA case, just like the old stuff – just black tolex instead of tweed. I love the case. It’s great for around the house and short trips to small gigs. But I like the case enough to want to take care of it. I do have one other case I use (shared among my Fender Strats and Teles) that is the new SKB TSA-approved molded high-tech case. The newer Deluxes come with the SKB case standard and no longer offer the G&G vintage-style case. In either event, new or old, you get a great case for your awesome Telecaster.

Overall value? They were around $1300 when Will bought mine. They’re now a few hundred more than that. They’re worth every dime, maybe even a little more than $2k. If you’re looking for a bargain instrument, don’t look at customs and deluxes. BUT: if you want a deluxe or custom instrument that is a bargain in its ranks: The Fender Deluxe American Ash Telecaster is at the top of the list: affordable and so very close to a custom-shop guitar in overall execution and quality.

Features: The features. Great! On my particular Tele, the position markers are abalone. They’re a bit fainter than black dots, but I like them a lot. The newer Deluxes have standard black dot position markers… Tomato-tomahto.

In short, the American Deluxe Ash Telecaster earns its name as a feature-rich guitar:
Ash body
That “feels-like-a-thousand-dollars” neck
Excellent electronics and care-made pickups
Superior woods
Flawless finish
S-1 circuitry
Excellent case

Long on features, short on price.

Buy one. Now.

Wishes: Locking tuners. Fender already beat me to it.