Fen­der eOb sus­tainer stra­to­caster

If you think sig­na­ture mod­els are just van­ity projects with a scrawl on the head­stock, meet an em­i­nently playable artist-spec’ d gui­tar with in­fi­nite ap­peal...

Guitarist - - Contents - Words Ed Mitchell Pho­to­graph Olly Cur­tis

it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble that you could en­counter and fall in love with the new Fen­der EOB Sus­tainer Stra­to­caster with­out re­al­is­ing it is, in fact, an artist sig­na­ture model. The face be­hind the ini­tials is Ra­dio­head guitarist Ed O’Brien and his new gui­tar is the best Fen­der sig­na­ture project since Johnny Marr set about re­design­ing the Jaguar.

Made at Fen­der’s Ense­nada plant in Mex­ico, the EOB fea­tures an alder body play­ing host to a flaw­less Olympic White polyurethane fin­ish, three-ply white/ black/white scratch­plate and that clas­sic ‘syn­chro­nized’ vi­brato. The bolt-on 10/56V maple neck fea­tures a flat­ter-than-vin­tage 241mm (9.5") ra­dius maple ’board, 21 ‘nar­row tall’ frets and a, mostly, satin ure­thane fin­ish. Only the head­stock face is glossy.

One of the most pop­u­lar neck pro­files re­quested on Fen­der Cus­tom Shop mod­els, the 10/56V is nowhere near as porky as the U pro­file fea­tured on ’54/’55 mod­els, yet it car­ries more heft than the slim C necks found on late 50s and 60s Strats and Te­les.

Back at the body end, you may have no­ticed that the clas­sic re­cessed jack socket is miss­ing. Back in 1983 Fen­der

launched a Strat model sans the re­cessed jack and one of the tone con­trols; on that oc­ca­sion the tweaks were in­tended to cut costs. Here, the jack­plate has been re­lo­cated to free up some valu­able real es­tate on the EOB’s body for the chunk of cir­cuitry that pow­ers the on­board Fer­nan­des Sus­tainer sys­tem. Yep, the EOB of­fers the prospect of in­fi­nite sus­tain from its Fer­nan­des-branded neck pickup. It’s joined by a Sey­mour Dun­can JB Jr sin­gle coil-sized hum­bucker at the bridge and a slightly over­wound Fen­der Texas Spe­cial in the mid­dle slot. So, this is a high spec gui­tar, but the only thing it doesn’t come with is a load of rock star ego. Even Ed O’Brien’s John Han­cock doesn’t ap­pear any­where on his gui­tar.

Feel & Sounds

Ed O’Brien has used a black Fen­der Eric Clap­ton Sig­na­ture Stra­to­caster, retro-fit­ted with a Fer­nan­des Sus­tainer, since 1996. That gui­tar has a V-pro­file neck mak­ing his choice of the 10/56V shape for his EOB model a no-brainer. The V pro­file is ac­tu­ally quite sub­tle and it morphs into a C shape as you ap­proach the 12th fret mak­ing it supremely com­fort­able to nav­i­gate. We like Strats with fuller necks as it seems to off­set the lack of grunt from the bridge pickup.

Of course, the EOB has a hum­buck­ing JB Jr in the bridge po­si­tion so there’s more weight in the tone here any­way. The JB Jr is bright and punchy when played clean and grows bolder when you ex­pose it to some over­drive. It’s fuller bod­ied than a reg­u­lar Strat bridge pickup and that girth is also present in the mid-po­si­tion Texas Spe­cial and the Fer­nan­des unit which acts as a reg­u­lar neck hum­bucker when not in sus­tain mode. All the clas­sic Strat sounds are

Hit a long string slide, let it sus­tain in Nat­u­ral mode, then flick to Har­monic and lis­ten to it slowly be­gin to squeal

there, they’re just a bit fat­ter ’round the mid­dle.

The Sus­tainer is wired to a pair of switches, and a ro­tary ‘in­ten­sity’ con­trol which oc­cu­pies the space where the sec­ond tone knob on a reg­u­lar Strat would be. The first switch is an on/off. Flick it on and the five-way pickup se­lec­tor switch is by­passed; sud­denly it’s all about the Sus­tainer. The sec­ond switch selects be­tween three Sus­tain modes: Nat­u­ral, Mix and Har­monic. Nat­u­ral sim­ply sus­tains the note or chord that you’re play­ing. Har­monic pumps out a feed­back-style high-pitch note. Mix is a blend of both.

Ed uses the Sus­tainer to pro­duce oth­er­worldly synth-like sounds which we agree sound awe­some. That said, we love what the sus­tain does for real gui­tar stuff. It’s in­cred­i­ble for slide. Hit a long Ge­orge Har­ri­son-es­que string slide, let it sus­tain in Nat­u­ral mode, then flick to Har­monic and lis­ten to the note slowly be­gin to squeal. Do the same while play­ing reg­u­lar lead. It’s a blast. Try your hand at some pedal steel bends. If you add in a vol­ume pedal and a splash of re­verb, you’ll get some au­then­tic old school sounds. The thing is like an Ebow on steroids.


Chef Gor­don Ram­sey will tell you that ev­ery recipe should have a hero, the one in­gre­di­ent that dom­i­nates a plate. Ap­ply­ing that the­ory to the EOB, the Fer­nan­des Sus­tainer should be the undis­puted cham­pion here. In fact, it shares the win­ner’s podium with that su­perb 10/56V neck pro­file. You see, bells and whis­tles aside, the EOB is just a damn good Strat and as such has the po­ten­tial to snag pun­ters no mat­ter what noises they like to make. To para­phrase an old Ra­dio­head song, any­one can play Ed’s new gui­tar.


2 There’s no sig­na­ture on this gui­tar but Ed O’Brien has in­cluded a ‘Flower of Life’ de­sign on the neck plate. The dis­tances be­tween the spheres rep­re­sents that be­tween whole and semi-tones, ap­par­ently

3 The Sus­tainer might be the head­line act but there’s plenty of oomph from the Sey­mour Dun­can JB JR ’bucker This Strat was born at Fen­der’s plant in Mex­ico. The build qual­ity is as high as we ex­pect from the home of af­ford­able mod­ern clas­sics like the Cus­tom Shop de­signed Baja Tele­caster

6.The EOB comes spec’d with the highly de­sir­able 10/56V bolt-on maple neck. The pro­file runs from a sub­tle V at the top nut to a C at the 12th fret and be­yond 6

4. Ed O’Brien’s new baby is fit­ted with a Fer­nan­des Sus­tainer pickup. This vi­brates the strings for in­fi­nite sus­tain and the sound is pumped through the amp by the bridge pickup 5. The usual Strat jack­plate has been dropped in favour of Sus­tainer switches: an on/off and a three po­si­tion mode switch for Nat­u­ral, Mix and Har­monic set­tings 4


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