Fender Amer­i­can Orig­i­nal ‘60S Tele­caster

FENDER RE­PLACES ITS AMER­I­CAN VIN­TAGE REIS­SUE SE­RIES WITH A FRESH TAKE ON WHAT A GUI­TAR IN­SPIRED BY THE IN­STRU­MENT’S GOLDEN ERA CAN BE.

Australian Guitar - - Contents - BY PETER HODG­SON

Fender is al­ways tin­ker­ing with their prod­uct lines to make sure they’re keep­ing pace with the cur­rent de­mands of mod­ern gui­tarists, while also of­fer­ing some­thing for those who want some­thing tra­di­tional. The new Amer­i­can Orig­i­nal se­ries is the suc­ces­sor to the hugely pop­u­lar Amer­i­can Vin­tage Reis­sue line, in­cor­po­rat­ing pe­riod-ac­cu­rate sound and style with sub­tle up­grades in playa­bil­ity and elec­tron­ics. The se­ries in­cludes a ‘50s Stra­to­caster, Tele­caster and Pre­ci­sion Bass, a ‘60s Strat, Tele, Jazzmas­ter, Jaguar, P Bass and Jazz Bass, and a ‘70s Jazz Bass (we wouldn’t be sur­prised if they add a ‘70s Strat to the lineup in due time).

The Amer­i­can Orig­i­nal ‘60s Tele­caster is in­stantly iden­ti­fi­able as a ‘60s-style in­stru­ment, with its body bind­ing, rose­wood fin­ger­board and vin­tage-style hard­ware with three bridge sad­dles. The body is made of alder with a lac­quer fin­ish that will age and wear just like the orig­i­nals, and all the ex­act body and neck curves are re­pro­duced. The neck shape is a pe­riod-ac­cu­rate C-shape straight out of the mid-‘60s, and the hard­ware is faith­ful right down to the string trees. In many ways, this could sim­ply be a Tele from the ‘60s brought for­ward in time.

YOUR BEST YEARS

But un­like the Amer­i­can Vin­tage Reis­sue se­ries, which re­pro­duced the specs of spe­cific years, the Amer­i­can Orig­i­nal line is a lit­tle more gen­eral, pick­ing and choos­ing the best fea­tures from a range of dif­fer­ent years and up­grad­ing cer­tain specs as ap­pro­pri­ate. The pick­ups are Pure Vin­tage ‘64 sin­gle coils, which are specif­i­cally voiced to re­pro­duce the sound and per­for­mance of pick­ups made in that par­tic­u­lar year. And while the neck it­self has that mid-‘60s carve, the fin­ger­board ra­dius is 9.5 inches, no­tice­ably flat­ter than the 7.25-inch ra­dius of a true vin­tage Tele. This change makes for much eas­ier string-bend­ing, and it pre­vents notes from ‘fret­ting out’ (chok­ing into si­lence on the up­per frets). It’s also more com­fort­able for speedy play­ing, al­though not as flat as the necks you’ll find on a ded­i­cated shred ma­chine. The frets are Vin­tage-Tall pro­file too – higher than the ac­cu­rate, but kind of clumsy vin­tage-style frets on my ‘62 Stra­to­caster reis­sue. Fender of­fers this model in three fin­ishes: Three-Colour Sun­burst, Fi­esta Red and Lake Placid Blue. They all look gor­geous in per­son and will look even bet­ter af­ter a few years of wear. There are no other fin­ger­board wood op­tions for this model, so if you re­ally need a maple fin­ger­board, you’ll want to go for the Amer­i­can Orig­i­nal ‘50s Tele­caster – but then you’ll miss out on that sweet bind­ing and the colour op­tions. A vin­tage-style hard­shell case is in­cluded with your pur­chase.

SI­LENCE IS GOLDEN

I plugged the ‘60s Tele into a Fender Twin Re­verb for test­ing, and the first thing that re­ally stood out to me was ex­actly how great the neck pickup is. Tele neck pick­ups are no­to­ri­ously fickle fel­lows – of­ten too dark and in­dis­tinct for many play­ers – but this one nails it with the per­fect level of out­put, de­tail and body. There’s plenty of high-end clar­ity to cut through the low end, and it’s a very sen­si­tive and dy­namic pickup. The bridge pickup, on the other hand, is more fo­cused and nasal, with not a lot of low-end noise. That’s part of what makes

Tele­cast­ers great, of course, and this one sounds a lit­tle more sweet than twangy as a re­sult of the rose­wood fin­ger­board.

The mid­dle pickup se­lec­tion en­gages both pick­ups in hum-can­celling par­al­lel for an al­most acous­tic gui­tar kind of tex­ture. This is an­other de­vi­a­tion from the stan­dard spec of a ‘60s Tele­caster, where both pick­ups would have been of the same mag­net po­lar­ity and wind di­rec­tion. I’ve also no­ticed that the switch­ing seems very quiet: you some­times don’t re­alise how much noise a pickup switch gen­er­ates un­til you use one that doesn’t make a peep.

The playa­bil­ity of this gui­tar is great, but what’s even bet­ter is the way that notes higher up on the neck seem to have a lot of ‘oomph’ to them. I’ve played plenty of Teles where the higher notes sounded thin, reedy and with­out much sus­tain, but hit the 19th fret of the B string, or even the 21st fret of the high E, and you’ll be sur­prised at how full they sound and how long they ring out for. There are prob­a­bly sev­eral fac­tors at play here, a great neck and body fit be­ing the most cru­cial. In fact even just eye­balling the neck joint, you can see that it’s very well made.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

This is a truly great op­tion for Tele lovers – es­pe­cially those whose play­ing leans more to­wards the blues or to rock rhythm gui­tar with lots of ring­ing chords. And if you need more twang, don’t for­get that ‘50s ver­sion.

But per­haps the big­gest stand­out is the very high level of qual­ity: it sim­ply feels like an ex­pen­sive, finely-crafted gui­tar. Es­pe­cially when you con­sider how ob­scenely ex­pen­sive some gui­tars with sim­i­lar specs can run, the Amer­i­can Orig­i­nal ‘60s Tele­caster be­comes a bar­gain. Fender seems to know that there’s a lot of scru­tiny on the qual­ity con­trol of legacy brands th­ese days, and they’ve faced the chal­lenge head-on with some truly great gui­tars that hold up to very high stan­dards.

RRP: $3,499

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