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.

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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.

Fender USA American Jazz 4-String Bass Review – about the first of a few I’ve had, but still my FAVORITE

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Originally published October 11, 2006 – my first USA Fender and maple-fretboard Jazz. Wow, if I could go back in time and get this one back. The S1 circuit on this one was a gem, and the play/action/sound was something I’ve not seen just exactly the same – ever since…

Fender American Jazz Bass Review

There are many good and extremely good manufacturers of bass guitars in the world today. We have the luxury to access a huge variety of basses in all price ranges, lots of different styles and sounds, and a mind-boggling set of choices to make when shopping for a bass guitar.

When I set out to purchase a definitive bass for the majority of my bass playing (and recording), I wanted to have a great sound, a sound that fits many styles of music, and in a guitar that doesn’t require a second mortgage to own. I took several months to play lots of different basses from different manufacturers, and in lots of different price ranges. Although a musician like me wants to have lots of tonal/playing options for his guitars, I need a solid cornerstone instrument for my bass sounds: The Fender American Jazz fits the bill in a huge way. Our Fender American Jazz (“Count Bassy”), will be a member of the family – and a treasured heirloom for many years to come.

Quick Opinion: The Fender American Jazz bass is well-rounded, sonically rich, ultimately playable, and a joy in terms of playing comfort. If you need a long-term bass guitar – one that can fit almost any musical style – The American Jazz is just the prescription the doctor ordered.

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Playability: I played about a dozen bass manufacturer brands before settling on an American Jazz. After long days of playing many basses, the American Jazz felt at once comfortable and effortlessly playable. The particular Jazz I purchased felt like playing an old favorite guitar of many years (just shiny, clean, and new).

The neck is the signature for a Jazz bass – a great taper, an effortless profile, and a satin finish that always feels effortless (even when your hands get hot and sweaty). The neck and body profile make for easy access to the entire fretboard range. As a bass player who loves to use the entire fretboard, the Jazz feels right at home. It is obvious that the person who finished my particular Jazz neck paid attention to even the tiniest of details. (However, see my note at the end concerning the fret wire ends.)

The balance of the body and neck is outstanding for a full-scale (34”) bass. Even though my American Jazz is a tiny bit biased weight to the neck, it never becomes an issue for playing long hours in my home studio. The comfortable body contours for your ribcage and pick/thump/pluck hand arm make the guitar fit to the player like a glove.

Playing our Fender American Jazz bass is a comfortable and enjoyable experience. It’s easy to look forward to recording and playing sessions when one has one of these basses to play.

Features: Another place the American Jazz Bass shines is in its feature set. The vast majority of passive basses in this price range give you tone, volume, and some nice cosmetics. The Fender gives you nice cosmetics, and gives you the wonderful S1 switch. The S1 switch gives you additional sound choices, and can add lots of real-world punch to your sound to cut through even a big, loud band.
My only concern with most passive basses is that it is very difficult to get lots of bass frequency (without sending your equipment/recording gear way into the clip-red-range). The balance between signal volume and punch is a difficult thing to achieve, especially for recording. The S1 switch and the wonderful advanced-magnet pickups in the American Jazz make the search for sound MUCH easier to play, hear, and EQ.

The pickguard is a classy three-layer guard. The neck is a fabulous piece of maple (I chose the maple fretboard for its playability, sound, and looks). The tuners are accurate, easy to use, and simple to maintain. The included Fender hardshell case is wonderful for protecting your Jazz baby.

Sound: I could write a short novel about the sound of the Fender American Jazz bass. (Hey Fender, do you want me to write one?) There are lots of styles of music in the world, and there are lots of wonderful-sounding basses out there from a variety of manufacturers (even several different sounds from Fender). By far, the sound of the American Jazz bass fits more styles and sound qualities than any other bass I’ve had the pleasure of playing (followed closely by the Jazz’s cousin the Fender American Precision bass).

The sound is warm when you need it, it’s very vibrant and broad when you tweak it, and there’s not much out there that can growl, sizzle, spank, bite, or punch better than the American Jazz. The Jazz is loud (for a passive bass) without being intrusive, but can take a lead tone in an R&B or rock tune very easily.

The sound of my American Jazz has inspired me to compose and record duets for bass, and has led me to intuitively play melody and counter-melody with the bass.

Value: The Fender American Jazz bass is well worth its cost, if not even a little more. The combination of quality, playability, and signature sound make the purchase of a Fender American Jazz a purchase you will long enjoy.

Wishes: My particular American Jazz plays like a dream – however, the ends of the frets have not been nicely dressed. I’m accustomed to American Fenders having all the little details done without compromise. If you run your hand down the edge of the fretboard against the edge of the fret wires, you can feel sharp, jagged edges. I used some fret polish paper to take a little of the bite off the edges of the wires – but they’re still not as clean as my American Telecaster.