Fender breathes new life into one of their more offbeat offerings. By Peter Hodgson
Fender’s ‘offset’ guitars were introduced in the 50s and today they enjoy quite a following, particularly among indie/alternative audiences. Between the Duo-Sonic, Mustang, Jazzmaster and Jaguar (and their various offshoots), these guitars offer something a little different to the typical Stratocaster and Telecaster outlines, and their shorter scale length gives them a slightly darker tone and softer playing feel. The new Offset series (capital O) features two Mustangs (this model on review and the Mustang 90 with two P90-style pickups), two Duo-Sonics (one with two single coils, one with a HS configuration) and a bass. They’re available in a selection of cool colours too.
The Offset Mustang is available in three finishes: Olympic White, Black and Olive. All three share the same pearloid pickguard and covered black pickups. The body is made of Alder with a Maple C-shaped neck and a shorter 24” scale. There are 22 medium jumbo frets and a synthetic bone nut, and the neck is finished in Satin Polyurethane which feels great compared to the sticky gloss finish on my ’62 Strat reissue.
Fender has adapted the design somewhat from the Mustangs of the 60s, most notably by the use of a Strat Hardtail bridge with through-body stringing and bent-steel saddles, instead of the original’s ‘Dynamic Vibrato’ system. Although that system has its fans it also has its detractors, and releasing a model without it is probably going to broaden this guitar’s appeal. Another change: the fretboard radius is 9.5” instead of the traditional, curvier 7.25”, making it easier to bend strings compared to the originals.
The pickups are a pair of traditionally-voiced Mustang single coils. The master volume and tone control pots are mounted on their own little plate and have black knobs which continue the visual theme set up by the black pickups and selector switch and which flows through the fretboard position markers and truss rod adjustment slot. It’s a very visually satisfying guitar. But how does it sound?
THE STANG IS THE THANG
The Offset Mustang has an earthy, full-bodied neck pickup tone which is so great, so adaptable and musical that I’m sure this will be the default position for most owners. The bridge pickup is quite bright, almost Telecaster-ish except a little softer around the edges. When you combine the two pickups, the neck overwhelms the bridge to the point where it’s like adding a little more treble to the neck tone rather than striking a true balance between the two - but that’s okay because that neck tone is so great. This guitar is perfect for overdriven indie/alternative rhythm guitar with a hint of jangle, but it also sits really well with fuzz pedals and it sounds very clear and three-dimensional when played totally clean. It’s also a very able blues and blues-rock machine.
As for the neck shape, it’s a nice ‘jack of all trades’ neck. It’s not likely to be anybody’s favourite neck shape ever but it hits that perfect point where pretty much anyone can pick this guitar up and not feel constrained by it. And the fretwork is very well executed.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a phenomenal guitar for the price: with an RRP of $1,299 you’re likely to find one for a fair chunk less than that, and in terms of fit, finish and sonics it’s a real testament to the quality of guitars coming out of Fender’s Escondido, Mexico plant. It may not be for everyone but it’s a very full-sounding, incredibly playable guitar with an iconic look and a bit of vintage history thrown in alongside the slightly more modern touches.
TOP 5 FEATURES
* Alder body
* Maple neck and fingerboard
* 22 medium jumbo frets
* 24” scale length
* Two Mustang single coil pickups
• Easy playability
• Great neck pickup tones
• Bridge pickup is a little thin
Fender Music Australia
02 9666 5077