AF’s Weblog

November 8, 2011

Fender Pawn Shop ’51, ’72 & Mustang Review

In the USA, pawn shops will exchange money for anything having more or less value, either a watch or a hi-fi system or the ukulele your grandpa brought home from his holidays in Hawaii back in ’53. These pawn shops are the modern version of Ali Baba’s cave. They are packed with all sorts of things — especially musical instruments, like guitars. You’ll find more or less famous brands, as well as all kinds of instruments repaired with spare parts by their former owners. Fender imagined a product range with this pawn shop spirit in mind. It includes instruments made up of parts from different products in Fender’s catalog from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and even later, e.g. for the Pawn Shop Fender ’51.

This new range was first presented at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt (Germany) back in April 2011. All three instruments in the range (Pawn Shop Fender ’51, Pawn Shop Fender ’72 and Pawn Shop Fender Mustang Special) are manufactured in Japan and sold in a deluxe gig bag.

Pawn Shop Fender ’51: Squier ’51 Revisited

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

In 2004, Fender’s small cousin Squier was already offering a guitar that was very similar to the Pawn Shop ’51: the Squier ’51. Both instruments have basically the same features, except for the hardware and electronics. Both guitars combine a Telecaster neck with a Stratocaster body. The latter is made out of lime and is rather thin on the Squier. On the contrary, on the Pawn Shop it is made out of alder and is rather thick.

Innovations on the Pawn Shop Version

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

The C-shape neck and fretboard are made out of one single piece of massive maple. The polyurethane-type finish feels comfortable right away. The cutaway of the Stratocaster body gives very easy access to very high notes. The neck has a 25.5″ scale length and a modern 9.5″ radius. It features 21 medium-jumbo frets, Kluson Vintage machine heads and the same strap pins as on 50’s and 60’s Telecasters. The string-through-body gives more sustain to the instrument. The hard-tail Stratocaster bridge clearly recalls the spirit of the 70’s. The single-ply pickguard has a very smooth and round shape and is made out of white plastic. It certainly contributes to the very sleek look of the instrument. However, the plastic quality of the pickguard is a bit cheap.

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

All the hardware is chromed. The control plate with two controls comes from a Precision Bass. You get a push-pull master volume knob and a three-way rotary pickup selector. Position 1 = bridge pickup; Position 2 = neck + bridge pickups; Position 3: neck pickup. There is no tone control, but hardly anybody uses this knob today, right? For my taste, the position of the volume setting is a bit “off axis” regarding the position of the right hand, especially if you use volumes swells.

May the Tone Be With You!

Pawn Shop Fender ’51

The Pawn Shop Fender ’51 is equipped with a Texas Special single-coil pickup on the bridge and a Fender Enforcer humbucker on the neck. You can split the coils of the humbucker using the push-pull function of the volume control. The combination of both pickups produces an original and very interesting tone. The humbucker sounds quite fat. It is useful for big Tom Delonge (from Blink 182) rhythm parts and the like . On the other hand, the Texas Special single-coil pickup in neck position brings more delicacy to your sound range. The split function of the humbucker pickup is very useful: the tone moves away from the “sound-wall” style and gets a clear and transparent character recalling the first position of a Stratocaster or a Telecaster.

Now let’s take a look at the other models…

A wide palette of sound colors

Fender Pawn Shop Mustang Special

The range of sounds provided by the Mustang Special is extremely rich and versatile. In clean mode, the sound of the Enforcer “Wide Range” pickups is amazing. The bridge pickup provides you with twangy and very colored sound options. With the reverb of a Fender Deluxe amp, you have everything you need for surf music. Add an overdrive pedal (without any other effects) and you’ll get very thick rhythm sounds. From jazz to rock to country and very fat sounds, everything is easily possible. The differences in sound color between positions is obvious. If you’re looking for a guitar capable of matching almost any music genre, I strongly recommend this Mustang Special. The street price (about $800) is perfectly justified by the high-quality finish. The beauty of the body’s lacquer is dangerous. If at all, we could reproach the intuitiveness of the guitar in comparison to the other Pawn Shop guitars, which are really “plug ‘n’ play”. You will indeed have to try all combinations provided by the toggle switch and the three-way selectors if you want to enjoy all sound possibilities offered by this Mustang Special.

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Pawn Shop 51, 72 and Mustang Guitar Reviews

Advertisements

February 28, 2011

Fender Blacktop Series Review

Instead of launching the umpteenth reissue of a catalog instrument, Fender decided to innovate by mounting high-output passive humbuckers on a new series called Black Top. This new product range includes a Telecaster, a Jaguar and a Stratocaster equipped with the same pickup combination based on two humbuckers. The Jazzmaster gets a more original pickup combination with one humbucker (Hot Vintage Alnico Bridge Humbucking Pickup) and one P-90 in the neck position.

The Sonic Boom!

Originally, the humbucker pickup was invented by Gibson’s engineers to suppress unwanted noise by electrically and magnetically linking two single-coil pickups in series and out of phase. From the “practical” standpoint, guitar players know the properties of such pickups: a powerful, round and warm sound. As a consequence, humbucker pickups are the best solution for distortion sounds. Fender has a strong personality due to its single-coil pickups that provide a crystal-clear sound (they can be heard on many legendary rock albums). However, they could never really take the lead in the humbucker market — controlled by Gibson since the 1950’s.

Design

 

Fender Blacktop Series

The series is entirely produced in Fender’s factory in Mexico. All bodies are made out of alder with bolt-on maple necks with 9.5″ fingerboards and 22 medium-jumbo frets (except for the Jazzmaster). By standardizing the design and finish Fender can actually lower the price to a MSRP of $450! Most models are available with two different fretboards: maple or rosewood. The latter gives a warmer, rounder and more precise tone. Considering the price, we guess that the bodies are not made out of premium-quality wood but rather out of two or three glued pieces of wood. Just being realistic: with such prices, you cannot expect to get the same resonance as from a massive-wood, one-piece body. All guitars have a perfect skin: a polyurethane varnish with a faultless glossy finish. The neck finish is the same as on the Classic Reissue Series. It is very thick and protects the wood perfectly, providing excellent grip and optimal playing comfort while allowing to quickly access every point of the neck. The truss rod adjustment is accessible on the top of the neck, which is a modern and very convenient feature. The nickel/chrome hardware and the tone and volume knobs on all models recall the look of Fender amps. We must admit that this is a very original idea but it won’t be everybody’s taste.

 

You’re In the Army Now!

Let’s take a look at all new recruits of the Black Top Series.

 

Fender Blacktop Series

The look and sound of the Stratocaster is pretty well accomplished. The combination of the Candy Apple Red finish and the three-ply Mind Green pickguard looks wonderful and make the guitar a real eye-catcher. Two other finishes are available: Sonic Blue or Black with rosewood or maple fingerboard. The guitar has two Hot Vintage Alnico Humbucking pickups with chrome covers, a volume control, a tone control, a vintage-style tremolo, and a five-way toggle switch.

Position 1: full bridge pickup The sound is powerful and rich. It’s perfect for aggressive but precise rhythm parts.

Position 2: inside coils of the the two humbuckers. The response is hollow in the mid frequencies, the sound is lusty but not too wide.

Position 3: bridge and neck pickups in series. The low-frequency band is softened so that the mid range seems to be boosted, resulting in a flat and massive character.

Position 4: outer neck pickup. The most interesting sound among the five available. You get that unique Stratocaster sound without the sharpness.

Position 5: full neck pickup This setting produces too many lows, which results in a very heavy timbre. The tone is too heavy for rhythm parts but interesting for lead guitar.

Now let’s have a closer listen…

Conclusion

 

With the Black Top Series, Fender offers a very wide range of sound variations and finishes. The four different guitars use surprising pickup combinations! And their playability is almost perfect! The jewel of the family is the Jazzmaster, which is a really nice guitar aesthetically speaking but also provides a spicy expressive sound. The price in stores ($450) is very appealing and will surely attract guitar players who want a Fender without going broke.

Advantages:

  • Finish quality
  • Originality
  • Unbeatable value for money!
  • The Jazzmaster is especially appealing
  • Versatility of the Stratocaster

Drawbacks:

  • No gig bag
  • The Telecaster is a bit disappointing
  • Jaguar without a tremolo bridge

To read the full detailed article of the series with all sound samples see:  Fender Blacktop Series Review

November 15, 2010

27 Acoustic Guitars Tried and Tested

Whenever you choose a guitar you might first fall in love with appearances, but also, and above all, you cherish its sound character. Six-string fans sometimes don’t have the opportunity to listen to many instruments under good conditions. AudioFanzine is well aware of that and decided to record 27 guitars using first-class gear…

Welcome to the big acoustic demo trial-a-thon!  Thanks to your favorite website (that’s Audiofanzine of course 😉 , you can now listen to 27 acoustic guitars played in finger picking style and with a pick: from the most prestigious instruments to the most affordable, all body shapes, famous and renowned models as well as runner-ups.

Everything was recorded and filmed at the facilities of the “Rock & Chanson” music school. We used a pair of DPA 4011 (cardioid, large-diaphragm condenser) microphones, one pointing to the 12th fret and the second one to the bridge, plus a DPA 4006 (omnidirectional, large-diaphragm condenser) microphone as room mic. Both DPA 4011s were connected to an al.so MP-2 preamp while the DPA 4006 fed an al.so MP-1 preamp. The audio interface used was an RME FireFace 800. The signal wasn’t EQed or compressed.

Here is the first one of 27:

To see all 27 videos please visit:   27 Acoustic Guitars

July 9, 2010

Fender American Special Telecaster Review

What’s left to say about the Telecaster? It’s contribution to the world of popular music is without doubt. For those still in the dark, some of the music history’s most memorable riffs were concocted on this divine piece of wood: “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones “I’m a Man” by Muddy Waters, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, and “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen…

Even if the overall Telecaster shape has not greatly evolved since its conception in 1949, Fender cleverly knew how to modernize its model to adapt to changing musical fashions.  In addition, Fender needed to try to cope with, as best as possible, the burning needs of musicians who embraced technology.  Consequently, it’s not that easy to figure out what’s available from Fender considering how many versions of this model there are. There is something for all tastes and all purse sizes!  Between the Reissues, the Classic Series, the Custom, and Squiers, the Custom Shop Designed and so on, we find ourselves faced with a plethora of guitars with prices ranging from affordable to sick or even more in some cases …

A Body to Die For…

Unveiled for the first time at the 2010 NAMM show, and available to the public since January 2010, the “American Telecaster Special” is available in only two colors: “Olympic White” (the model to be tested) or “3 Color Sunburst”, both with a black three-ply plaque (black / white / black) and 8 nuts.  The alder body has a contour based on the body shape of 1970s’ Telecasters.  The gloss finish is urethane type.  For those unfamiliar with the world of guitar craftsmanship, urethane finish is widely used now on most electric guitars.  It is very thick and very resistant to shocks.   Only problem, it does not leave much room for the wood to breathe.   The color “Olympic White” is reminiscent of the original color of the first Telecasters in the early 50s. Like all American Standard models, adjusting the neck with Truss Rod screwdriver will be at the head of the instrument in front of the saddle.  Not aesthetically pleasing to my taste, but oh so handy!

The neck has a “C” profile with a pitch of 25.5 inches (648mm) and it has a radius of 9.5 inches (241 mm).  One piece only, the neck is of solid maple wood without an attached fingerboard.  22 jumbo frets adorn the neck.  Its finish, satin, is applied in very thin layers. Yes, comfort is optimal.  While ordinarily I do not like this type of finish, I must confess that this finish’s soft attribute is very graceful.  As a result, the hand glides and strokes the full length of the neck effortlessly.  Dare I say that we found almost the sensation of nitrocellulose lacquer worn out by time and polished by the countless hand strokes while playing over the years.   To see how it will age, and whether or not the neck finish remains velvety, only time will tell.  The Fender motifs  is of Fender Vintage Seventies style.  The guitar is fitted with 009/042 string gauges, but deserved a 10-46 pulling power to purge out everything it has in its stomach. The “Fender Standard” mechanics play their part, but in any case I cannot guarantee a perfect pitch if you start to torture the guitar with the most diabolical “bends”!

Now let’s strip the guitar…

Conclusion

This new American Special Telecaster guitar today shares a lot of traits with its cousins “Highway One” models, “Reissue Classic”, and finally, the famous “American Standard Series” fer-de-lance catalog mark hailing from the city of Fullerton.  Its ergonomics is simple, its finish clean, it is light weight with perfect mass load distribution. What else can we ask for with the price tag of $1099 for an instrument born and raised in the USA?

If you are looking for a Telecaster with a more “roots” sound in the same price range, move over to the more affordable Baja model, or the Classic Series models, both made in Mexico featuring pickups which offer more sonic dearth. If you opt more for a guitar with a less typical “retro” sound, then you’ve come to the right place.

Advantages:

  • Fender Deluxe Case
  • The price is very affordable for a USA made
  • Reliability
  • Quality pickups
  • Finish

Drawbacks:

  • A lack of color choice (only two)
  • No hard case (probably to reduce costs)

To read the full detailed review with sound samples please see:  Fender American Special Telecaster

March 19, 2010

Santa Cruz 1929 Series 000 Acoustic Guitar

To see more great guitar gear videos visit us here at our video vault!

February 4, 2010

[NAMM 2010] Fender Custom Relic Shop Guitar

Watch this and other videos/news from NAMM 2010 here.

July 6, 2009

Fender Road Worn Series: Well-worn or Worn-out?

Introduction

What’s an impatient guitarist to do when looking for a guitar that’s been worn and aged through years of playing and gigging, but who doesn’t want to wait for time to do its thing? Two options: buying an old used guitar or a “Relic” which, like some jeans, is new, but artificially worn-down. Like the series Worn Road that we are testing today …


Guitarists such as Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Strummer have embedded in our minds images of used and abused guitars with faded and worn-down varnish, oxidized hardware, and rusty pickups. It’s not surprising therefore that many guitarists have come to seek out old looking models such as these, and having a Stratocaster with numerous chips and dents and worn-down varnish has become very “hip”. Objectively, however, the main reason why many artists in the past sought out these beaten-up guitars was the price. Often bought second hand in pawnshops for a few dollars due to their condition, they were a good choice for “great sound” at a lower cost.


Like pre-worn and torn jeans it has become all the rage to have a guitar bearing the marks of time. And because beat-up 60’s Stratocasters have become scarce and/or unaffordable, Fender is now offering, through its custom shop, “Relic” reissues, which come fresh out of the factory with that beaten-up look. The Relic series provides you with a new quality custom shop guitar, but with a look of having been around on the scene for years.


Before trying out one of these “relics” from Fender’s custom shop, I was very skeptical about the whole concept: Factory made chips and dents on the body?…, I can do it very well myself, thank you. Yet when by chance I came across a 60′ Relic Stratocaster, it became clear that the guitar was more than just a gimmick! It’s very subjective of course, and will vary from one guitarist to another, but I found that this guitar seemed to have a little extra something to it, and provided the “feeling” of a vintage guitar, although in this case the “vintage” part was illusory. The aging process seemed so successful that I wondered for a few minutes if it was a reissue or an original before learning that it was a Custom Shop model recently issued. Custom Shop models nevertheless come at a price: sailing blithely in 2500 € / 3000 € for these models, all hand-made by the Custom Shop.

Fender then decided to make the “relics” more accessible by launching the Worn Road series. The concept is simple: made in the Mexican Fender factory, they’re put through a “Relic” phase, but still done hand during construction, and all at a price around 1000 euros. Let’s see if the feeling of playing on a museum piece is still present on theses Road worn relics?

Conclusion

To tell the truth, I’m undecided. These Road Worn guitars are somewhat more expensive than similar models with a standard Mexican finish (classic series or classic player). The “relic” finish will cost a few hundred dollars more, which is logical since it calls for additional work. However, this treatment is only about the visual aesthetic and doesn’t influence the sound, where there is, of course, no objection, since it’s the classic “Tex-Mex” sauce. All that’s left is the look and feel.

The finish is really excellent and made with attention to detail. Nothing is left to chance, either in the varnish, hardware or plastic, you get the impression of playing on a 30 year old axe! Moreover, one of the advantages of these guitars is that the worn aspect brings out a different attitude when compared to a new guitar. Even if the instrument is, in fact, new, you’re less liable to treat it like you’re afraid of scratching it and will therefore feel more comfortable with it from the start.

For those of you who have never had one of these artificially aged guitars in your hands, I suggest testing one in a store, but try and leave your preconceived notions at the door; you might be surprised!
Positives:

  • Quality of Relic finish
  • Tex Mex Pickups
  • Workmanship
  • Affordable
  • The feel

Drawback:

  • Relic finishes very similar models tested

To read the full detailed article see Fender Road Worn Series Review

March 9, 2009

Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster & Jaguar Guitar: The Test

The Parable of the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar
Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster & Jaguar: The Test

In the beginning, Leo created the Telecaster. Keith and Bruce were happy. On the second day, Leo created the Stratocaster. Jimi and Eric were in ecstasy. On the following days, Leo created the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar, which, although intended for jazz, found followers within the surf music scene of the 60s and the rock music scene of the 90s. Today we’ll be testing the 2008 edition of these mythical guitars …

A Little History Lesson …

Jaguar

The history of these two models is not trivial. In 1958, Leo Fender, father of the famous Telecaster and Stratocaster, decided to take advantage of his reputation and try to seduce jazz guitarists with a model logically called the Jazzmaster. With a rosewood fingerboard, a floating vibrato, new pickups, and a warmer sound than the Stratocaster, Leo thought he’d please jazzmen at the time. Unfortunately, its tendency to feedback prompted them to ignore it. However, the Jazzmaster began to interest groups in the surf movement like The Ventures and The Fireballs. Leo, always on the lookout, took advantage of this interest and came out with a model specifically designed for the surf music scene in 1962: the Jaguar. With a shorter scale (24 inches), single coil Stratocaster-type pickups, 22 frets, a spring-loaded rubber string-mute, and a notched side plate that made it less prone to interference, it was the ultimate surf guitar. Unfortunately, the surf music scene went out of fashion in the 70’s and production of Jaguars and Jazzmasters was stopped in 1980.

These models were then set aside for a few years until indie rock bands in the early 80s such as Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine saw in this guitar (which was affordable at the time and gave ample feedback), a good way to satisfy their experimental sound cravings. By strumming the strings behind the bridge they could get a unique chiming sound as well as produce sympathetic resonance due to the low break angle over the bridge. Following this rediscovery, the Jazzmaster and Jaguar were reintroduced into the Fender catalog in 1986 with Japanese 1962 Reissue models.

2008 saw the birth of the “Classic Player” series, made in Mexico and at relatively affordable prices. To celebrate their 50th anniversary a “revision” was in order … This test will be of a Jazzmaster, a Jaguar with single coil pickups, and a Jaguar with Humbuckers.

Dos

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Chevalet et vibrato

It’s difficult to to be picky when confronted with these guitars! They look and sound great and are a joy to play. The only criticism that can be made by Jazzmaster/Jaguar traditionalists might be about the changes made to the bridge and tremolo location. While they facilitate adjustments and improve intonation to some extent, they slightly change the original character of these models . But for an average price of around $900, Fender delivers high quality guitars. Yes, they’re made in Mexico, but hold their own when compared to certain more expensive models. It’s a good reason to take the plunge and buy one of these mythical guitars!

Look
Finish
Neck
Pickups
Intonation
Price
Changes that bring the guitars up to date …

… But slightly change their original character
I’m hooked. I want one now!

Photos : Denfert

To read the full detailed articled see:  Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster & Jaguar Review

December 16, 2008

Video Test: Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals

A small demo showing 3 Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals (Volume/Tone, Phaser, and Fuzz/Wah) in action and how they sound.

Source:   en.audiofanzine.com

November 10, 2008

Test: Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals review

Classics Live Again
Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals: The Test
Though not as well known for their pedals as they are for their guitars and basses, Fender has been making classic pedals for more than 50 years. Following the recent re-issue of the Fender Blender Custom pedal, Fender decided to launch a range of new classic-inspired stompboxes with some vintage tones and looks. Let’s take a closer look….
 
Vue générale

The Fender Classics – Reissue Pedals include the Fender Blender (octave/fuzz), a Volume, a Volume/Tone, a Phaser, and the Fuzz-Wah pedal. In this test we’ll be taking a look at all of the above with the exception of the Fender Blender.

At first glance these pedals look vintage: robust, big, and heavy! And they are heavy! Though made in Korea, there’s nothing cheap about these pedals. If you buy all five you’ll probably have to end up getting them their own separate pedal board. Just incorporating one or two into your existing pedal board will require some measurement and planning. But in look and feel, they certainly live up to their vintage counterparts.

As for packaging, there’s the strict minimum, but in style. They each come in a chic black velour stocking-like cover, complete with an embroidered Fender logo (It would look great next to the fireplace for Christmas if you don’t use it for anything else). The only other thing in the box (besides the Styrofoam) is a catalog of the other pedals in the collection. There’s no manual, and you don’t need one. It’s basically intuitive plug-and-play.

There’s a minimum of knobs on all of the pedals with an emphasis on foot controlled parameters. The Fuzz/Wah and Volume/Tone feature clever dual action treadle plates that not only rock forwards and backwards like a traditional wah-wah, but also move from left to right. And the Phaser has a big back-lit rate control knob, that alternately illuminates blue and red at the same rate as the phase shifting, that can easily be manipulated with your foot.

Let’s take a closer look at their ergonomy and see (and hear) how they sound.

Conclusion
Made in Korea with Californian know-how, these vintage re-issue pedals give the best of both worlds: quality products at a relatively inexpensive price. They might not have many fancy settings or adjustments but they definitely deliver the goods. They do however have a somewhat fancy look to them with all that shiny chrome; all except the Phaser, but the Phaser has that cool synchronized back-lit dial. Though they’re heavy and bulky, they do look, feel, and above all, sound vintage. There are a couple of details or features that could have been done differently and one or two downsides, but on the whole they’re a great addition to anyone’s pedal collection. And considering that they’re fairly inexpensive for such quality Fender products, there’s not much of a reason not to run out and test and eventually buy one, if not all.
 

 Price
 Solidity
 Sound – especially the Fuzz and the Phaser
 Nice look – Chrome or Back-lit dial
 Expressiveness with two-way control (Fuzz/Wah & Volume/Tone)
 Volume pedal transparency
 Smooth pedal action

 Weight and bulk
 Phaser noise 
 Tricky switch-stomping and difficult volume-level switch access on the Fuzz/Wah
 Tone variation on the Volume/Tone a little too narrow

 

Read the full review of the Fender Classics re-issues pedals on Audiofanzine.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.