I managed to get my hands on one of the new Fender Pawnshop range of guitars today. I just saw them in an advertisement last week and thought I must have a play on these cool retro looking Fender creations. As this is Guitar Design Reviews these are a must review – look at all the design cues Fender have thrown at these things to try and boost new guitar sales – of course that’s what it’s all about! With Fender’s heritage there are plenty of designs from the past to plunder, mix and match to try and hit that special blend that make a winning guitar, a mega selling popular guitar.
Before I get to the actual review let’s look at the new additions to the Fender stable;
- black or blonde (butterscotch I’d call it), maple fingerboards, Tele neck
- humbucker + texas special
- 3 position rotary pickup selector (no tone)
- vol + coil split
- 3 tone sunburst or surf green, both with rosewood fingerboard, Tele neck
- 2 humbuckers
- blend, centre notch
Fender Mustang Special
- blue or red
- rosewood finger board, 1970s Stratocaster style big headstock
- two ‘enforcer’ humbuckers
- 3 position pickup switch (Fender website site is wrong)
- above the humbuckers are coil selector switches to choose either of half of the pickup as single coil or to work as a humbucker – middle position.
- mast vol + master tone
OK, the guitar I played and tested is the Fender ’51. Out of the three it was the most immediately appealing for me. For a strat I really like playing on maple fingerboards. Also I’ve never owned a Telecaster because I think they are ugly planks with a horrible headstock shape! But I have enjoyed playing one, like round at a friends house or whatever, I really like how the neck feels on the ones I’ve tried.
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The Fender ’51 solves one of these problems by substituting the plank single cut body with a nice contoured body. You might not see it mentioned on the Fender website or see from pictures but the body finish, I would call butterscotch rather than blonde, is slightly transparent, so you can see some wood grain through there. It’s a bonny looking guitar the body and neck match nicely in colour terms. Didn’t like the black one though! Perhaps the scratchplate design is a bit of a blot on the landscape, I would like to see the scratchplate designs which didn’t get the OK, must have been fugly?! Also stop thinking of the Telecaster headstock as ugly and limp and think of it as cute and you start warming to the look of this guitar!
I’ve not seen it mentioned on any other site, but these guitars are made in Japan. On the Fender community bulletin board scale of quality perception that is very good;
And I must say the finish on this guitar was beautiful, especially the neck. It’s a glossy maple neck rather than satin so catches the light very nicely in this new state, it is incredibly shiny! I didn’t find it to be sticky, like some people complain about gloss necks, but I’m not a soggy handed type of guy 🙂
It was a very comfortable guitar to pick up and hold, not too heavy or light. The neck feels great, just like on a Telecaster, more compact, nimble and immediate feeling than a Strat. Also the belly cut helps too.
Plugged in (to a Vox AD40) I first tried my favourite clean amp sounds – Fender 2×12 blackface amp model. The neck pickup is a Texas Special, the tone was great, not too understated as sometimes can affect a neck pickup, plenty of cut through. It did sound close in tone to my Strat neck pickup, which I think is a good thing, but with more power than on the standard Stratocasters I have used. It could also chime nicely in arpeggios. Funky sounds were good too. With both pickups selected it gave some very good out of phase tones and you could thin out that tone by splitting the humbucker at the back too. The out of phase sound had plenty of pluck, and was nice and snappy especially when the strings are plucked rather than stroked. The bridge position was very cutting and sharp on clean but the 2×12 Fender blackface is a very trebly amp, it worked nicer with the volume rolled off a bit, but I was just playing alone so in a mix you might want that greater separation.
Changing the amp to a Marshall 80’s rock setting, I played more on the ‘Enforcer’ humbucker, it could really pick up any harmonics and string definition was good, it really worked well for rock riffs; ringing chords, smooth power chords and good sustain, flowing lead lines. I think it would work well with all sorts of rock genre music both lead and rhythm. Changing to the single coil at the neck I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Texas Special managed to keep up with the humbucker, I mean there wasn’t a stark difference in the overdrive levels, just the warmer, more ‘oooow’ tones coming through there.
Overall the sounds were very pleasing and versatile. You can get a lot of fantastic tones from this guitar though your pickup choice and playing style. I was very happy with both clean and overdriven sounds and using different playing styles the guitar responded nicely, this guitar has a good range of light and shade.
If you like the looks I think you will like the sounds and the feel. Fender have done a pretty good job of this guitar mashup. In the UK these cost about £575, which is quite a lot I think, I would be a lot more tempted if they were under the £500 mark.
Stay tuned for more guitar designs and reviews, Mark.