Squier Affinity (by Fender) Telecaster First year review – played and recorded!

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This was one of my earliest reviews… I had played my Affinity Tele for quite some time, and had even given it to my son for a while. We both loved the guitar… Here’s what I thought when I first reviewed my first Squier Tele (there have been several now…)

Some time back, I was in search for a low-action, fast-neck guitar that could both twang and growl. On top of the need for such a beast, I had a very small amount of cash with which to work. Since I was lucky enough to have a double-humbucking guitar at the time, I really just needed… a Telecaster™. Before I was seriously blessed by my brother’s gift of a Blonde American Deluxe Telecaster™ (thanks, Bro!!!), I needed the use of a Tele™ for more than a year.

Enter the Squier™ Affinity Telecaster!

I went to my usual guitar stores. I played 6 examples of Squier Affinity Telecasters. I tried several different individuals – all of which had been whacked around pretty good as floor models. I was blown away at how this particular variety of guitar felt and sounded. The key here is that the two largest concerns I have when purchasing guitars are: 1) The sound the guitar can make through average amplifiers (I’m on a budget – no $2500 Buddhas here); and 2) The way the guitar as a whole feels when I’m playing it.

I found one particular Squier Tele that I enjoyed a great deal, but it was not the color I wanted, and it had too many sales-floor-bang-ups. If I’m going to buy a bargain guitar, I really want the color I want and I don’t want one that has been whacked up by anyone but me or my son. I ended up settling on taking a chance with an online purchase. Free Shipping and lots of information about the Squier by Fender Affinity Telecaster here at zZounds.com…

Quick Opinion: I really like Fenders, but my budget was really tight this time around. That said, I was REALLY blown away by the quality, finish, playability and sound of this $169 Tele! If I closed my eyes and picked up the Fender and the Squier in succession, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference in MOST respects. The sound is proportionately as good good as in the basic Made in Mexico standard Fender (price to sound). The neck and the pickups of the Fender are better (realistically), but the playability of the Squier is fantastic, just the same!

Playability: The neck is a delightful satin-finish flat-ish “c”-ish shape hard maple two-piecer.
The frets are finished surprisingly well, with only a few end-burrs, and no inconsistency in fretwire height or finish. The frets could have been polished a little nicer – but you can do that yourself pretty easily with the right polishing paper/cloth. The scale is just right – medium. There are no buzzy frets on the example I purchased. The string height is very low, but only exhibits a little buzz – the buzz does not carry out into the sound through the pickups (only acoustically). I decided to leave the string height as-is – and replaced the factory strings (.09 Supers) with Stainless 3350s. After enjoying the sound of the stainless strings, I’ve since gone back to nickel strings because of the heightened fret wear present when using stainless strings (I found that the stainless strings were grooving and scarring the frets much faster than nickel strings… it’s a conscious choice: fret life over a particular sound). The neck is really quick and the strings play out like hot butter! The only drawback is that the neck is a little thin for me (others may find it to be great, but I like to get a grip on my guitar necks).
The weight and balance of the guitar as a whole is excellent. It’s not overly neck-light (as are some Squier instruments), and the feel of the instrument’s construction is solid. The instrument is not as light as an Ash Tele, but won’t cramp your style in hours of spankin’ the fretboard plank. The hardware was finished flawlessly, and the electronics are clean enough.

Sound: Despite the slightly buzzy (normal for $169 guitars) pickups, the output of the pickups is surprisingly strong. If you were to put some Tex Mex Custom shops or some GFS Alnico pups (I’m gonna get some fairly soon myself! They’re a bargain!) in this guitar, it would absolutely scream – for not a lot of bucks. I found that running this guitar through some interesting Line6 guitar models made this guitar really sound rockin’. Played through a Fender tube amp, the guitar sounds fantastic!

Value: This is a $249 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The sound, quality of make, and appointments are top-notch for a bargain electric guitar, excellent. To get a better instrument, you’d have to spend $399. My particular Squier Tele was made in China, but you would have difficulty telling its origin from the excellent build quality. I have since seen the >Butterscotch Blonde version of this Tele – looks great! (Note from re-post: I ended up buying a couple of the butterscotch ones and really loved them!)

Features: This is an excellently-designed instrument. It has the bits needed for daily use and for recording alike. The finish on the body is even and consistent. The neck finish is without remark, and the tuners are remarkably good for this price range… Overall, Telecasters are simple and genius at the same time.

A Small Issue at Delivery: When I received my Squier Tele, the nut had been cut incorrectly at the factory. The slots were not spaced very well, and the overall height of the nut was much too low. The 1st and 2nd strings had a bind-buzz from pinching at the nut, and the strings were way too close to the first and second fretwires. I called the Guitar Center that day, and (as is very much usual), their customer assistance was excellent – they shipped out a GraphTec replacement nut (an upgrade – I don’t (at least at the time I wrote this review) have the tools to slot an OEM Fender nut) immediately at no charge. I replaced the nut on its arrival and have since become a big fan of GraphTec’s guitar nuts. The bending is easier and the intonation stays put longer when I’m using one of their nuts. The nut was a little bit wide for the Tele’s neck, but not enough to get sideways about it – I don’t have a problem with the fact that it is not flush left-to-right.

Wishes: I’m glad to have the GraphTec nut, but I wish I hadn’t had to deal with the problem. A tinted neck would really look nice! They could make this neck a slight V shape like the 50s player Telecaster and wouldn’t cost them a dime, but would sell a lot more Affinity Telecasters!