The Telecaster is known to all to be a workhorse guitar, capable of handling any musical situation imaginable. The American Elite Telecaster is no exception to this, and has become even more versatile with Fender’s latest iteration of updates. It’s impressive to see how far the humble Telecaster has come after all these years with all its stocky charm intact.
The American Elite Telecaster might be one of the best consumer-grade guitars Fender have ever made to this date. This unit consisted of a Thinline single-bound body of ash, accentuated with a clean white stripe on the face edge. The feather-light body is finished with what Fender calls “Champagne” (an eye-catching combination of Olive Green mixed with Sonic Grey), topped off with a pearloid pickguard. Strap lock buttons come preinstalled on this Telecaster, with the corresponding locks and hooks tucked away in the gorgeous moulded hard case. A chrome volume and tone knob adorn the guitar with a special no-load pot for the latter. On settings 0 to 9.9, the tone control behaves just like a traditional tone knob. However, when wide open on 10, it’s completely bypassed from the signal chain, allowing more of the pickup to shine through.
Chord work on the lower frets and faster runs higher up felt natural and comfortable, thanks to the transitional neck shape and compound radius fretboard. The locking tuners performed admirably and kept tuning to an impeccable standard, even on the most abusive of bends. A point of interest is the American Elite Telecaster’s new suspension bridge, exclusive to the Thinline variant. Aesthetics-wise, it’s a combination of old and new – it utilises a vintage three brass barrel setup, but is hoisted upon a propped metal tray with an incredibly small footprint. The strings now go through the bridge instead of the body, Tune-o-matic style. Fender claims this new bridge uses a screwless mount to increase vibration transfer, maximising both sustain and response. While I’d personally prefer a classic ashtray, this new bridge breathes both modernity and evolution into the tried and true Telecaster, and is a welcome addition overall.
I was blown away by both pickups on this guitar. Guitarists have long debated the tradeoffs of noiseless pickups, arguing that the hum cancelling technology stole the single coil’s sparkle and charm. Thankfully, neither of these qualities have not been lost in Fender’s fourth generation of noiseless pickups. The front pickup offers plenty of warmth and almost dips its toes into Strat-like territory in the mid to high frequencies. Cross over to the bridge, and you’ll find all the famous calling cards of the Telecaster; a lovely balance of twang, jangle and low end, now with reduced hum and buzz. The middle selection of both pickups in parallel was a pleasant surprise. Typically considered as an overlooked and often unloved pickup position by many Tele players, the slightly out-of-phase tones sounded wonderfully sweet to the ear. With the S-1 switch engaged, the pair morphed into a veritable humbucker with plenty of sonic grunt and girth. Each pickup configuration handled all manner of gain extremely well, and preserved their tonal characteristics and harmonic overtones with ease. These might be some of the most impressive pickups Fender have ever put into one of their guitars, bar Custom Shop material.
Overall, Fender has knocked it out of the park with the American Elite Thinline Telecaster. From its faultless build quality to its flight-ready hard case, this is a guitar built to stand the test of time. Did I mention how great the pickups are?
Hits and Misses
Fantastic sounding pickups
Excellent build quality
No-load tone knob