Fender has made Telecaster-based acoustics before, but not like this! Words by Peter Hodgson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
There have been hybrid acoustic-electric guitars for a heck of a long time now. But unlike, say, the Fender Telecaster, which Leo Fender pretty much got right in 1952, the electric-acoustic hybrid didn’t come right out of the gate in its fully realised, final form. And that’s why so many brands have so many different takes on it. It’s clear that chucking a piezo element in an electric guitar’s bridge saddle doesn’t cut it for many players – particularly those who lean more towards ‘acoustic with the occasional need for electric’ rather than the other way around.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
This brings us to Fender’s new Acoustasonic Telecaster. The silhouette is 100 percent Telecaster, as is the bolt-on neck and the two knobs and a blade switch control layout. But this is much more than just a Tele with an acoustic pickup built in. It’s a complex instrument that happens to have an extremely simple user interface, so you can pretty much just close your eyes and find a great sound without having to know precisely how that sound is being generated.
But for those tech geeks who like to know that stuff, here’s what’s happening: there are three pickup systems at play: a Fishman under-saddle transducer, a Fishman Acoustasonic Enhancer (an internal body sensor), and a Fender Acoustasonic Noiseless magnetic pickup. An acoustic engine co-designed by Fender and Fishman gives you ten different acoustic guitar body style and wood combinations, while a mod knob selects and blends the voices. And the guitar features what Fender calls the Stringed Instrument Resonance System (SIRS), a patent- pending combination of inlaid top and modern electronics optimised to make this instrument feel and sound like a lively acoustic guitar despite its smaller body size.
It resonates and sustains like a real acoustic guitar, and is surprisingly loud in unplugged tone (although naturally leaning towards the treble side of things) given its much thinner body profile.
The body is mahogany with a solid Sitka spruce top inlaid, and the neck is mahogany with an ebony fingerboard, 22 frets, satin urethane finish and a 12-inch fingerboard radius. There’s a bi-flex truss rod, narrow-tall frets, 25.5-inch scale length, and Graph Tech TUSQ nut and bridge pin material.
I’M GOING THROUGH CHANGES
Now, this is a serious instrument with a serious pricetag, which becomes very apparent when you pick it up. It feels very high-priced and it’s great to see that Fender is really serious about this instrument rather than phoning it in. It’s made in Corona, California, and every element is very carefully considered. The playability is incredible, using a modern deep C-shaped Telecaster neck rather than making you battle against a more traditional acoustic guitar neck. You’ll be inspired to try chord shapes that might break your fingers on a traditional acoustic.
It’s great fun cycling between the various guitar voicings available on the acoustic engine. The success of the system is that it captures the resonance of the instrument’s body via the internal sensor, as well as the brightness of the pick attack and string noise through the undersaddle element, then processes it through whatever magic is at work to impart those different acoustic guitar types. And the sensor means you can get really full-bodied percussive sounds by tapping on the guitar body; great news for modern players who take a more orchestral approach to the instrument.
And then there’s a magnetic pickup to give you the vibe of double-tracking acoustic and electric guitar tones, which is great for adding more complexity to your sound and filling up the musical space, particularly in a smaller band. One bummer is that you can’t send the electric and acoustic guitar sounds to separate amplification sources. Hopefully this is something Fender will address in the future, because while it’s a great system right now, it could be made better and more flexible in the future.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The only thing stopping this instrument from being the ultimate acoustic-electric hybrid is the lack of separate outputs for the acoustic and electric voices. But the electric voice is designed to blend well with the acoustic sound through whatever amplification setup you use, so unless you want to combine ultra distorted metal tone with acoustic guitar, you’ll be alright. In every other way this is a flawlessly constructed (if a little weird- lookin’) instrument that is consistent with Fender’s legacy of innovation.
• Tele-style neck
• Mahogany body and neck
• Fender and Fishman preamp
• Graph Tech nut and saddle
• Six-in-line headstock
• Gorgeous acoustic voicings
• Sweet Tele bridge pickup sound
• Comfy neck
• No stereo output
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