The Gloriously Insanely Wonderful Fender Classic Player Baja Guitar Review

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Gloriously Insanely Wonderful Fender Classic Player Baja Guitar Review
I have had a few Telecasters in my life, from Chinese Squiers to American Deluxes to almost everything in between (including baritones and even a few oddball parts-o-Teles). I’ve always loved them, and I always seem to be able to come out with a great tune every time I sit down and play Tele time.

I discovered the Baja Tele while shopping for a mid-priced Tele at my local big-box guitar store. I was blown away and even more surprised when I looked at the specs vs. the price: Ash, custom shop pickups and wiring, V neck, smooth tuners, great finishes, and that wonderful Telecaster sound and playability. Wow!
FenderBajaHeadstockFront

Quick Opinion:
Looking for a mid-priced Telecaster (or even just a mid-priced single cutaway electric)? Shop no further. Proceed forth to your favorite purveyor of guitars and buy one before they stop making these!

Just do it. They’re wonderful!

The Fender Classic Player Baja is not currently available at zZounds, but they do have a great selection of Telecasters!

FenderBajaControlsDetail1

Features:
Telecasters are (in general) quite simple. As I’ve said in previous reviews of Telecasters, I’d call them “simple genius.” They sound great, they’re possibly the easiest-to-play guitar available, and they have a sound that can go country, blues, praise, punk, rock, and even new age (with some pedals thrown in). Throw the switch, play the strings, and BOOM – classic sound. From Buck Owens to Bruce Springsteen to Brad Paisley to Jonny Lang and a host of others: The Telecaster has been the axe of the ages.

As Telecasters go, the Fender Classic Player’s Baja Telecaster is quite feature-rich. The features of this guitar, along with its awesome build quality, are easily one of its strongest areas.

A short list of my favorite parts of the Baja Telecaster:
* Solid ash body (my FAVORITE Fender guitar body wood!)
* Vintage-style 3-saddle Strings-Thru-Body Tele Bridge (one either loves the three-saddle or dislikes them. I’m neutral)
* Maple neck and fingerboard with soft “V” shape and satin polyester finish (one of the nicest Tele necks ever made!)
* Custom Shop Designed” neck plate
* 21 Medium Jumbo Frets
* Custom Shop “Twisted” Tele Single-Coil (Neck)
* Custom Shop Broadcaster Single-Coil (Bridge)
* Pickup Switching: 4-Position Blade Switch and 2-Position Push/Push S-1:
* Vintage Style 3-Saddle Strings-Thru-Body Tele Bridge
* Vintage Style Tuning Machines – these are smoother and often easier than the new-school Ping tuners, in my opinion…
* 9.5″ Fingerboard radius
* Scale Length – 25.5″
* Width at Nut – 1.625″

For the money, these are FEATURE PACKED and one the nicest-playing Telecasters made (next to my 2006 American Deluxe Tele).
I am not only an affiliate of zZounds, I’m a major fan and customer. I really like their zZounds Guarantee “30 days to try out your dream guitar.”

FenderBajaBodyBack

Playability
I love the soft V neck. It’s awesome. The honey neck finish is superb on the hands, whether your hands are sweaty and hot or dry and cool – the neck is a true JOY to play and experience.

If you play the Baja Telecaster and really give the neck a shot, you’ll be hooked. Telecasters with much more expensive necks often don’t feel as good as these. Like the Fender Jimmie Vaughan Stratocaster, these are some of the best “sleeper” products in the Fender line. You’ll come for the sound and stay for the playability!

The body: it’s a rounded-edge Telecaster. They feel like they feel, they play like they play. In my opinion, the medium-weight, balanced ash body and maple neck are just fine.
I do like the Telecaster in general: zZounds has a way you can buy your gear and fall in love with it – with a money-back guarantee…
FenderBajaFrontFull

Sound
The pickups are diverse, the switching options are awesome, and the quality of the electronics is outstanding. There’s so very much to these simple pickups and wiring – much more than meets the eye. I’ve been able to over-drive the pickups of my Baja and get some of the nastiest dirtiest blues imaginable, then change amps or models and get sweet twangy single-jangly-coily-ness in just a few seconds. The Baja Telecaster is VERY versatile and truly meets and exceeds expectations in the sound department.

Even if you’re not looking for that “spanky” Tele sound, set up some tubes or an amp model that gets to rockin’ and you’ll love the way it sounds!

The nice density of the ash body is a great alternative to the everyday Fender alder body – and it makes a nice difference if you’re looking for a more “singing” sound… I love ash woods, even on other brands of guitars – and the Fender Baja Telecaster is no exception.

The Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster offers wonderful electronics flexibility. Tons of different sounds from just two “custom shop” pickups!
* S-1 Switch Up:
** Position 1. Bridge Pickup
** Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups (In Parallel)
** Position 3. Neck Pickup (Standard Tele)
** Position 4. Neck and Bridge Pickups (In Series) (Fatter Tone Than Position 2. and More Output Than Position 1., 2., or 3.)
* S-1 Switch Down:
** Position 1. Bridge Pickup
** Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups (In Parallel)-Out of Phase
** Position 3. Neck Pickup (Standard Tele)
** Position 4. Neck and Bridge Pickups (In Series) Out of Phase
FenderBajaHeadstockBack
If you purchase a new Fender at zZounds, qualified buyers can even play as they play with the 12 month select brands (new guitars only) payment plan.

Fit and Finish
I’ve had two (soon to be three) Bajas over the years since there introduction. Without doubt, the quality is a 10 out of 10. The build, the fit and finish, the quality of the electronics, the neck pocket fit, and the feel and finish of the neck are all just awesome. I’ve not picked up a single Baja that had a glaring issue (even those hanging out at guitar stores for long periods of time).

I could write a volume or two about how well built my Bajas have been, but really, they would just say, “These things are built by real craftspeople who obviously love their instruments and the way they make their instruments.” They’re great. I have never had a complaint about a single one.
Talk about legendary tone! A Fender Baja Telecaster playing through a genuine Fender amplifier is a lifetime of great tone and sound!

Wishes and Wants
I do wish this was offered in both of the blondes (the butterscotch and the sand). Not much of a gripe, or even a complaint. I just love the old school butterscotch blonde look on a Tele with a black pickguard and a maple neck. Thank you, Leo!

I do wish these could come with an optional six-saddle bridge for those of us who are really critical about our tuning. If that’s the worst of it though, that’s not bad! Besides, the tone on the three-saddle bridge actually makes up for the intonation thing!
Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the Wonderful Fender Telecaster – click here! (Visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! It makes a difference when you visit my sponsor and grab some great gear.)
FenderBajaBodyFront

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

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

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…
zZounds has satisfaction guarantees, excellent shipping, and I have really liked their customer service. I’ve bought a lot of my gear from them. Shameless plug to help me keep the site going: if you buy stuff from them, it helps me write more reviews!

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…

The mighty Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone Review! Get down low without breaking the bank!

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone Review! An affordable giant down low!

I love this guitar. I am so glad I bought one! Read on.

I’ve been playing lots of very distinct sounds and ideas in the past couple of years. It’s great that I’ve been able to use such a diverse array of instruments from guitars to basses to keyboards and even some folk instruments and meditation instruments…

FenderTeleBlacktopBaritoneJimPearsonFullFront

The Fender Blacktop Tele Baritone in all its glory

But sometimes you just need something that adds more richness to recordings. It’s well enough to use guitars and basses – but what about something that layers sounds in between? Here’s where 8- and 7-string guitars come in, and my favorite mid-voice: the Baritone.

The baritone guitar is an interesting animal. You get the neck feel of a 6 string guitar – just longer. It doesn’t have the width of a 7-, 8-, or even 9-string guitar’s neck. It feels right at home to the traditional 6-string guitar player – just a little further to the left (or right, for my left-handed friends). I personally love just about any of the extended-range guitars including the old Fender Bass VI – very nice. But sometimes, you just wanna get low without having to deal with a different feel.

Baritones are generally like a thin-necked 7-string minus the high e. It’s important to note that the interpretation of “Baritone guitar” has many permutations. Some feel that 7-strings (and more) are baritones. Some feel that it has to be a 6-string guitar with a longer scale. Yet others feel that putting telephone wires (humor me here… laughter is great) on a standard 6 and just tuning the guitar down a bunch. My definition is really more simple: a long-scale 6-string tuned the next “string” lower – generally starting on a low B below the “standard” low E of a traditional 6. I’ve played Baritones from LTD/ESP to Fender to Epiphone to Gibson and Agile. I’ve liked them all.

Fender is no stranger to the Baritone business, with adaptations of the Bass VI, the Jazzmaster Baritone, and even the wonderful Jaguar limited edition HH Baritone guitar all being great guitars that give Fender some wonderful credibility for making a long scale low-tuned beast.

FenderTeleBlacktopBaritoneJimPearsonBodyShotPickupDetail

HSS with a crunchy humbucker and two Tele pickups. Nice!

Back to the subject: This review is about a new Blacktop Fender Telecaster in long scale Baritone tuning. WOW. Love it. Read on… I’m keeping mine for a good long while.

Please visit zZounds and get more information as well as pricing info about the awesome Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone – click here! (visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! (And G.A.S., of course! :-))

Quick Opinion: The Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone is a winner.
Simple and easy-to-play design? Telecaster with a long neck: check!
Diverse sound pallette – more so than the standard HH config? HSS with Tele neck pickups in mid and neck with the humbucker being hot rock: check!
Nice long scale with a great neck: Telecaster at 27″ 9.5″ fretboard radius, medium-jumbo frets, maple neck (the back of the neck, anyway) with a nice finish: check!

This grandaddy-long-legs Telecaster is a scream to play and really sounds great. There are a few things about it that I wish were different – but overall, these guitars are a major buy… well-priced, nicely executed, fairly high quality, and sounds like it’s a nice chunky rock and roll machine! This Fender Baritone is easy to play – just like a Tele should. It’s fun, interesting, and feels good in the hands.

How low can you go!? If you play metal and need something metal-y, I like the Fender Baritone Telecaster – it has a lot of spunk. Of course, for metal, you could always paint it flat black and use bright orange duct tape to attach a pointed cap on the end of the headstock to make it monstrous :-). Have fun, play guitar!

FenderTeleBlacktopBaritoneJimPearsonFretDetailShot

Really nice: Blends of gloss, buffed natural, and metal. Nice!

Playability: The Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone plays like a dream when it comes to playing baritone guitars. The neck is easy, the body is familiar and simple, and the strings aren’t massively bigger (but enough that you know it). It’s oddly satisfying to handle that big long neck with the thicker strings. It’s chunky yet very comfortable feeling. The overall guitar somehow seems to feel “more substantial” when you are playing it. In some ways, the neck-to-body balance seems to be just right. If you’ve felt comfortable with a Tele before, this guitar is not a big stretch to which to make the leap.

I guess I had one issue with the playability of my Blacktop Baritone Tele: tuning. The Ping tuners work fine, smooth, and consistently. But their tuning ratio is too close/low to be useful on a thick-stringed baritone. When you’re trying to get the Tele Bari in tune enough to play with others or to record, you spend a LONG time hair-touching the tuner buttons trying to get them into tune. Not a picky thing here: a real issue. If you tweak the button just a little bit, it can go almost a quarter-tone out of tune on the low B and low E strings. Solution? Either use a tuning crank (and some care) to slowly adjust the button, or put in tuners that are 16:1 or better 18:1 (I could be wrong, but I believe that the current tuners feel like 14:1). I did the tuning crank for about a week. I got frustrated spending too much time tuning and re-tuning (the Pings didn’t hold tune once set) – and bought a set of locking 18:1 in-line mini Grovers. Tuning baritones is still a challenge, but these tuners cut my tuning times into half. I have nothing against Pings – but I just wish they had a larger/wider ratio on any of my Ping-tuned Fenders.

Sound: The sound of the Fender Telecaster Blacktop Baritone is substantial. It’s rock-oriented and can handle country and alt styles as well. The stock pickups (like the Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone) aren’t generally well-suited for super-clean styles like New Age and Jazz. You can use the neck pickup in combination with the middle pickup to get a nice noise-canceled Tele sound – just remember that it is a Tele – it’s not rich and broad like a humbucker with AlNiCo magnets… I have gotten some nice single-coily cleans with my Fender Tele Baritone – albeit that the tones can get a little snappy… snappy is not always a bad thing!

A short note: I’ve discovered that my Telecaster Baritone sounds best through a bass amp or a guitar amp coupled to a/some cab(s) with 15″ speaker(s). I’ve played my blacktop through Crate, Peavey, Marshall, and Bugera guitar tube amps and cabs – without a doubt: the Tele Baritone sounded great through my bass amp; it sounded woofy and too muddy through a guitar amp with 12″ speakers. For more, read on to the “sound” section of this review.

FenderTeleBlacktopBaritoneJimPearsonBack

There are many components to sound quality in an instrument. Like many of my more recent reviews, the sound section deserves a little extra detail. In this case, I’ll write about:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, body, neck, bridge
3) The Telecaster body as a choice of shapes

Pickups and Electronics: For this review, there is a bit of a mashup of “sound”, “quality”, and “value” wih respect to the pickups and electronics in the Blacktop line of Fender guitars, including the Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone.

From the ear’s point of view, the Blacktop Telecaster Baritone sounds like a rock-and-roll favorite for the future. Guitar players will look for these in decades to come, particularly if Fender doesn’t continue to make them year after year. This guitar rocks. It knows how to grumble and growl, it can scream and yell, it can blanket you with a wall of sound through a tube amp with some big speakers. I’ve found that this guitar’s electronics work MUCH better through a bass amp or a big-wattage head through a cab with several 10″ speakers or a 15″ speaker. No doubt, my little 2×10 Behringer 450-watt garage amp smacked out the Baritone tone like a champ! My Marshall sounded good with it, but only through the Behringer’s speakers – and not my Peavey 4×12. Keep this in mind: The Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone does exactly just the right stuff… we just have to think about how we play baritone guitars in general – my comments are about my experience – not shortcomings of a particular guitar or amp…

The pickups have a huge strength and two weaknesses. The pickups are economically-made, and they are muddy in many amplification settings. They do gain definition with the right amp and even with DI computer input or something like a Line 6 TonePort. The strength? They sound GREAT when you put them in the right place.

The electronics are a surprise. Gone are the everyday solid CTS (or similar) high-quality pots, the burgundy chicklet capacitor, and the time-proven mechanical blade switch (like a CRL or an Oak). Now? The really, really cheap bargain-bin pots, an unknown quality cap, and the super-cheap circuit board flat ultra econo-switch. I’m not thwacking Fender for doing this: the Blacktops are cheaper than Fender Standards when it comes to street price – but grrrr: They could be STANDARD Fender stuff without killing profit. I think these guitars sound pretty good overall, but I was truly saddened when I popped open the control cavity and pickguard. Fender could have done better. Sad face. I popped in a Fender OEM volume pot, a nice push-pull 250kOhm tone pot (for 7-way switching), a Fender OEM tone cap, and a real Fender OEM mechanical blade 5-way pickup selector switch. It sounds AWESOME now – and I’m lovin’ my Fender Baritone being a Fender.

The Factory electronics of a Fender Blacktop Baritone Telecaster

The Factory electronics of a Fender Blacktop Baritone Telecaster

I do like the simplicity of the wiring as it comes from the factory, though:
Positions, starting from the bridge:
1) Bridge only, full humbucker
2) Bridge and middle, birdge still in full humbucker mode
3) Middle only as a single coil
4) Middle and neck in humbucking mode (quacky, but warm – LOVE me some Tele!)
5) Neck only as a single coil

Tone woods: The tone woods of this Telecaster are on par with the Fender Standard Telecaster. I am pleased with the overall sound, resonance, and weight of the guitar. You can count on it for consistency in manufacturing detail, and it sings nicely when you play.

Why Telecaster?: Why not? Baritones work well with most standard guitar shapes and configurations. The Tele Baritone sounds good because of many things, not the least of which is because of its slab-o-genius body. I like it. It sounds nice, especially with the swimming-pool-esque rout under the pickguard: the Telecaster lends itself to a certain sustaining resonance. That’s one of the MANY reasons why I love having them around.

Shameless sponsor plug 🙂 To be honest, though, zZounds has a great return policy and a love-your-gear guarantee that’s hard to beat. They price-match, too.

Quality: My Fender Telecaster Blacktop Baritone is extremely well made. It came out of the factory box without a single flaw or problem at first, and I was extremely pleased to wipe it down, tune it up, and start playing. I do think the bridge could have been seated a little bit further towards the lower bout tail – it would be easier to set the intonation.

I did have one problem after a week: The neck pickup stopped working. The PCB cheap switch was the problem. When I put in standard Fender stuff (including an OEM Standard switch), the neck pickup issue went away. I can now play all 5 positions with glee. Works great! (And, now that I have modified my Bari, the neck pickup is independent with a push-pull – that way I can get neck + bridge and neck + middle + bridge sounds, too.)

I had to set the intonation on the saddles – a step almost always necessary on production-line guitars (why is that, anyway? Can’t a factory person at least do the 12th fret harmonics setup?). No worries. Five of 6 saddles adjusted the intonation into place. The sixth ran out of room on the spring – I can’t get it any closer than 10 cents unless I clip the spring or change the saddle in some way. Overall? It does fine.

The fit and finish is flawless. it looks like people who really love guitars built it (and, I think they do). The feel of the finish on the neck and body are excellent, the fret ends were nice and simple – no jagged edges on frets. The fretboard is nice and smooth – none of that cheap rough stuff you see in economy guitars.

The Ping tuners (if they are indeed still made by Ping – they look like standard everyday Ping Fender two-pin tuners) are good tuners overall – but they don’t work well for this baritone (see the “playability” section of this review). The quality is excellent, though. I love the traditional old tiny simple thin string tree for the g and high b strings.

The neck pocket was sweetly dressed, and when I put on my trademark “F” Fender OEM neckplate, I found the fit to be paper-smooth and just the right tightness. I also found the neck shape to be something I love. It’s thicker than a regular standard or USA Tele neck, but not excessively so: the neck grinder did an excellent job at the factory.

Value: This guitar is a bargain. It is just about impossible to find a decent baritone 6-string in this price range, new from the box. With only two foibles (neither of which is a red x to me), this guitar performs and sounds and plays like many guitars in the $799 street price range. The Fender Blacktop Telecaster Baritone sells for (as of this writing) $549 street, and occasionally $500 on sale here and there on the internet.

I think the price makes this guitar extremely good in the price-for-value ratio. I would buy a new one again if I was in the market. As of this writing, there aren’t very many used ones in the used marketplace, so only time will tell if they do a good job of keeping reasonable value after purchase.

FenderTeleBlacktopBaritoneJimPearsonFullBodyShotFront

The Amp knobs are a nice touch. A new classic cool - even in its first incarnation

Wishes: Fender: Please use real CRL-style switches, CTS/CGE-quality pots, and the good old burgundy chicklet cap. Also, please find a way to use tuners with a wider and bigger tuning ratio. It would be nice if the bridge were seated about a 1/4″ more back on the body for better intonation setting.

Oh: and Olympic white with a tinted maple neck/fretboard, please? Maybe for 2012/2013 model year? I would buy an Oly white with maple/maple in a heartbeat!

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

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

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.