Of all of Leo Fender’s designs, the Telecaster is arguably his finest work. Simple, robust and full of punch — it’s an instrument that has been heard on countless recordings. Flash forward to today and Fender has reinvigorated the iconic instrument within their new American Professional series. But the question remains: is this a step in the right direction for the behemoth brand, or are they simply treading water?
This Telecaster is part of Fender’s latest American Professional series, which essentially supersedes the company’s long-lived American Standard range. The whole Fender range is along for the ride in this upgraded collection, including Strats, Jazzmasters, and Jags. Finishes are refined to hark back to classic Fender eras (the sparkling seafoam green of the review model calls to mind a vintage hotrod finish), while being enriched with modern appointments that work together to improve playability across the board.
Case in point, the latest ‘modern deep C’ shape fretboard. The strings are almost comically easy to bend into a wail, making for a very playable neck. A guitar’s fretboard is often the hardest element to get acquainted with on the instrument, but if you’re happy with minimal resistance and a light action — this is the Tele for you. Compensated brass saddles across the bridge are a more than welcome touch for a guitar of this calibre, and lend a subtly vintage vibe to it. While it may not be instantly noticeable, they offer the instrument more sustain too. Regardless, if you prefer a more contemporary option, a modern bridge is included in case you’d like to switch it out.
The frets themselves seem a little clunky to work across, and could probably use a more refined dressing. However, this is far from the end of the world. For the most part, the guitar is a breeze and a pleasure to play with. Aesthetically, the guitar looks an absolute treat. While vintage purists might cringe at the sight of heritage colours mixed with a maple fretboard — in this instance, it really does work. Elsewhere within the range, you’re able to choose from a selection of new colour ways including Sonic Grey, and Antique Olive. It’s a healthy reminder that the American Pro series isn’t a trite reinterpretation of the past, but is actively trying to bring something new to the table. Although the finish on both the body and neck is expertly applied, but may be a little thick for some tastes.
Now, the big question: how does it sound? Long story short, like a Tele. The neck pickup is beefy and warm, if perhaps a tad flat. In saying that, no-one in their right mind is really buying a Tele for the front pickup. You’re after that twangy bridge pickup sound, in which this bad boy delivers in spades. Loaded with bite and snarl, it’s impossible not to bust out some chicken pickin’ with a guitar like this. Springy and responsive — it's everything you want from a Tele. The team at Fender have really nailed their approach on this one. Of course, the middle pickup is also a classic Tele sound, and the American Professional provides a sweet, quacky tone that shines when played clean, as well as working well for percussive rhythms and funk.
For players looking for a true-to-vintage interpretation, you'd be more suited looking further into Fender's range. However, if you're after a little old world charm coupled with modern playability and reinvigorated design, this might just be the axe for you. Plug it in, add a hearty dollop of spring reverb, turn it up, and you're good to go. It's a Tele after all. Don't over think it. It's what Leo would have wanted.
Hits and Misses
Finish looks particularly striking
Comfortable fretboard makes for an easy-playing instrument
Fretwire may be a little obtrusive for some