Fender replaces its American Vintage Reissue series with a fresh take on what a guitar inspired by the instrument’s golden era can be. By Peter Hodgson
Fender is always tinkering with their product lines to make sure they’re keeping pace with the current demands of modern guitarists, while also offering something for those who want something traditional. The new American Original series is the successor to the hugely popular American Vintage Reissue line, incorporating period-accurate sound and style with subtle upgrades in playability and electronics. The series includes a ‘50s Stratocaster, Telecaster and Precision Bass, a ‘60s Strat, Tele, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, P Bass and Jazz Bass, and a ‘70s Jazz Bass (we wouldn’t be surprised if they add a ‘70s Strat to the lineup in due time).
The American Original ‘60s Telecaster is instantly identifiable as a ‘60s-style instrument, with its body binding, rosewood fingerboard and vintage-style hardware with three bridge saddles. The body is made of alder with a lacquer finish that will age and wear just like the originals, and all the exact body and neck curves are reproduced. The neck shape is a period-accurate C-shape straight out of the mid-‘60s, and the hardware is faithful right down to the string trees. In many ways, this could simply be a Tele from the ‘60s brought forward in time.
YOUR BEST YEARS
But unlike the American Vintage Reissue series, which reproduced the specs of specific years, the American Original line is a little more general, picking and choosing the best features from a range of different years and upgrading certain specs as appropriate. The pickups are Pure Vintage ‘64 single coils, which are specifically voiced to reproduce the sound and performance of pickups made in that particular year. And while the neck itself has that mid-‘60s carve, the fingerboard radius is 9.5 inches, noticeably flatter than the 7.25-inch radius of a true vintage Tele. This change makes for much easier string-bending, and it prevents notes from ‘fretting out’ (choking into silence on the upper frets). It’s also more comfortable for speedy playing, although not as flat as the necks you’ll find on a dedicated shred machine. The frets are Vintage-Tall profile too – higher than the accurate, but kind of clumsy vintage‑style frets on my ‘62 Stratocaster reissue.
Fender offers this model in three finishes: Three‑Colour Sunburst, Fiesta Red and Lake Placid Blue. They all look gorgeous in person and will look even better after a few years of wear. There are no other fingerboard wood options for this model, so if you really need a maple fingerboard, you’ll want to go for the American Original ‘50s Telecaster – but then you’ll miss out on that sweet binding and the colour options. A vintage-style hardshell case is included with your purchase.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
I plugged the ‘60s Tele into a Fender Twin Reverb for testing, and the first thing that really stood out to me was exactly how great the neck pickup is. Tele neck pickups are notoriously fickle fellows – often too dark and indistinct for many players – but this one nails it with the perfect level of output, detail and body. There’s plenty of high-end clarity to cut through the low end, and it’s a very sensitive and dynamic pickup. The bridge pickup, on the other hand, is more focused and nasal, with not a lot of low-end noise. That’s part of what makes Telecasters great, of course, and this one sounds a little more sweet than twangy as a result of the rosewood fingerboard.
The middle pickup selection engages both pickups in hum-cancelling parallel for an almost acoustic guitar kind of texture. This is another deviation from the standard spec of a ‘60s Telecaster, where both pickups would have been of the same magnet polarity and wind direction. I’ve also noticed that the switching seems very quiet: you sometimes don’t realise how much noise a pickup switch generates until you use one that doesn’t make a peep.
The playability of this guitar is great, but what’s even better is the way that notes higher up on the neck seem to have a lot of ‘oomph’ to them. I’ve played plenty of Teles where the higher notes sounded thin, reedy and without much sustain, but hit the 19th fret of the B string, or even the 21st fret of the high E, and you’ll be surprised at how full they sound and how long they ring out for. There are probably several factors at play here, a great neck and body fit being the most crucial. In fact even just eyeballing the neck joint, you can see that it’s very well made.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a truly great option for Tele lovers – especially those whose playing leans more towards the blues or to rock rhythm guitar with lots of ringing chords. And if you need more twang, don’t forget that ‘50s version.
But perhaps the biggest standout is the very high level of quality: it simply feels like an expensive, finely-crafted guitar. Especially when you consider how obscenely expensive some guitars with similar specs can run, the American Original ‘60s Telecaster becomes a bargain. Fender seems to know that there’s a lot of scrutiny on the quality control of legacy brands these days, and they’ve faced the challenge head‑on with some truly great guitars that hold up to very high standards.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Alder body
• Pure Vintage ‘64 pickups
• Comfortable 9.5-inch fretboard radius
• Accurate vintage body curves
• Vintage-style hardshell case
• Noodle-friendly fretboard
• Outstanding neck pickup
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