Australian Guitar - - Reviews - BY PETER HODG­SON

Fender’s Clas­sic De­sign se­ries of acous­tic in­stru­ments hits that sweet spot be­tween cost and per­for­mance. These aren’t the cheap­est en­try-level in­stru­ments, nor are they the kind of gui­tars that you need to buy their own plane seat for. They’re all as af­ford­able as they can be while still in­cor­po­rat­ing ‘in it for the long run’ fea­tures like solid tops and su­per com­fort­able necks. Fender sent us four in­stru­ments from the enor­mously ex­pan­sive 22-model se­ries to check out: the CP- 140SE Par­lour, CT-140SE Trav­eller, CN-140SCE Ny­lon and CB-60SCE con­cert bass.


All Clas­sic De­sign in­stru­ments have a spe­cial slim ta­per neck for player com­fort. In the case of the CB-60SCE acous­tic bass, that neck is ex­panded out to bass scale length – it’s a good one to start with here be­cause it shows us that these necks can be su­per com­fort­able re­gard­less of string count or scale length. This bass has a solid spruce top (which will sound bet­ter and bet­ter as the in­stru­ment ages) and ma­hogany back and sides. The body is a con­cert size, which isn’t too un­wieldy, and gives you sur­pris­ingly full low end and clear tre­ble de­tail.

You’ll most likely want to boost this one’s char­ac­ter by hook­ing it up to a de­cent am­pli­fier. There are con­trols for Vol­ume, Bass, Mid­dle and Tre­ble to help you set­tle into the mix, which is very easy to do since it’s such a pleas­antly voiced in­stru­ment re­gard­less of whether you plug in or go acous­tic. It’s also very in­ter­ac­tive: pick with your fin­gers and you’ll get a deep dubby tone, but add some fin­ger­nail and you’ll re­ally hear the ex­tra tre­ble. The dy­namic range is very broad, too, from the soft­est brush of the string to the most solid pick strike.


Think of the CN-140SCE as a ny­lon-string gui­tar, not a clas­si­cal gui­tar. The dif­fer­ence is that clas­si­cal de­signs tend to have very wide fret­boards with broad string spac­ing, whereas this feels more like a steel-string acous­tic with the softer feel and sweeter tone of ny­lon strings. Re­mem­ber in the ‘90s how ev­ery sec­ond song on the ra­dio had a vaguely fla­menco-sound­ing gui­tar solo? This will do that for you with no prob­lems, but it’s also great for jazz and ‘ surfer dude’ styles. It has a solid cedar top with a rose­wood back and sides, while the in­built preamp has Vol­ume, Mid­dle, Tre­ble and Bass con­trols. If all clas­si­cal gui­tars played like this, we’d prob­a­bly hear a lot more ny­lon string out there. Just don’t say that the clas­si­cal gui­tar luthiers out there, be­cause they tend to be very tra­di­tional and they’ll come af­ter you with a saw.


The smaller size of the Par­lour gui­tar favours the midrange, which is great for help­ing these gui­tars to be heard in a mix as clearly as the y are felt. Whereas a dread­nought might strengthen the low end and add some zing to the top, a Par­lour will cut right down the mid­dle with a pleas­ant, mu­si­cal ‘honk’ – that is, when they’re well-made. Thank­fully, this gui­tar is and plays great thanks

to its comfy neck and rolled finger­board edges, and it re­wards play­ers who ex­plore broad chord voic­ings all over the neck. The string spac­ing is also great for fin­ger­pick­ers who like to pluck out a melody on the high strings while run­ning a bassline and chords on the rest.


Fender has never made a travel-sized gui­tar be­fore. This one is com­pact – al­though based on an Au­di­to­rium shape – and has a shor ter scale length of 23.5 inches, hit­ting the sweet spot where porta­bil­ity and tone in­ter­sect. It’s per­fect for play­ers with smaller hands – or just f or those who want a gui­tar they can more eas­ily take out and about – but it has its o wn unique tone, too, with sim­i­lar midrange to the Par­lour but tighter bass and sweeter highs. Put a mi­cro­phone in front of the CT-140SE and it be­comes a great record­ing gui­tar, be­cause you don’t need to do a whole bunch of pro­cess­ing to help it fit into a mix. Younger play­ers will def­i­nitely ap­pre­ci­ate the easy-to-play neck, but this doesn’t feel like a begin­ners’ gui­tar.


These are just four ex­am­ples of gui­tars from Fender’s Clas­sic De­sign se­ries; ul­ti­mately, there are cur­rently 22 to choose from, in­clud­ing plenty of dread­noughts (with and with­out cut­away), sev­eral very nice 12-strings, a num­ber of all-ma­hogany in­stru­ments that are es­pe­cially eye-catch­ing, a few left-handed mod­els, and a few es­pe­cially gor­geous con­cert mod­els. They’re all dif­fer­ent enough that you can re­ally zero in on the per­fect Clas­sic De­sign model for you, yet they all take the same ap­proach to build qual­ity and, in par­tic­u­lar, that su­per comfy neck shape with the rounded fret­board edges.

Which­ever model you set­tle on – and we en­cour­age you to check out as many as you can in per­son, as they all have their own dis­tinct char­ac­ter­is­tics and ben­e­fits for dif­fer­ent play­ing styles – you can rest as­sured know­ing that you’re go­ing to get a truly great-play­ing gui­tar that will go easy on your fret­ting hand whether you’re a be­gin­ner or an ex­pe­ri­enced player. And the solid tops found on most mod­els will en­sure that you have a gui­tar with a sound and ex­pres­sive­ness that will grow and change along­side your own play­ing over the years.

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