Fen­der Cal­i­for­nia New­porter

A well-priced West Coast acous­tic won­der

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS -

With fun­da­men­tal de­sign traits that have proved to be in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful since the 1930s, is it any won­der that the word tra­di­tional is so closely as­so­ci­ated with acous­tic gui­tars? And if it ain’t broke… but as brands seek to at­tract new play­ers to their wares, some­times they need to of­fer some­thing fresh.

Fen­der are cer­tainly do­ing that with the look of its new Cal­i­for­nia se­ries. Three new shapes are on of­fer with three dif­fer­ent spec op­tion lev­els in an ar­ray of atyp­i­cal acous­tic colours (and not a nat­u­ral fin­ish in sight) giv­ing a dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent slant on ev­ery­thing that’s gone on be­fore.

This New­porter is the mid-size body in the se­ries, an au­di­to­rium with a shal­lower body than a dread­nought. That could well prove more tac­tile for those switch­ing from elec­tric. The Player edi­tion rep­re­sents what is by far the most af­ford­able op­tion of the three on of­fer, with the Clas­sic and Spe­cial re­tail­ing at more than twice its price on the street – one fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­ing the back and sides here are lam­i­nate.

Our Cham­pagne fin­ish is cer­tainly a dif­fer­ent kind of state­ment for an acous­tic, and a lit­tle more clas­sic than some of the more vi­brant blue and red hues of­fered elsewhere in the range. It’s dis­ap­point­ing to see some small flaws and runs where the fin­ish has been ap­plied on the top on our test model, though, and not some­thing we’re used to from Fen­der. But most eyes will be drawn straight to the neck, and it’s an in­ter­est­ing talk­ing point.

A six-a-side head­stock on an acous­tic?! What a time to be alive! Fen­der have done this be­fore, of course, and it might be a turn-off for some, but for this se­ries it makes sense vis­ually as well as when you get to grips with the mod­ern ma­hogany C-shape neck. It’s a slim taper and it won’t feel un­fa­mil­iar to Fen­der elec­tric play­ers.

This is a mid-voiced gui­tar for an all-rounder shape. The lows aren’t deep but it’s a bright and lively tonal­ity. And, un­like the lower-key Fish­man Soni­tone sys­tem we see on a lot of acous­tics, the com­pany’s preamp here has con­trols mounted out­side the body with a handy bass knob to boost the bot­tom-end that’s ef­fec­tive in prac­tice, though you’ll need a preamp pedal or acous­tic amp to coax more earthy tones from this piezo.

The pri­ce­point is key here, because it makes the New­porter a vi­able op­tion for live elec­tric play­ers look­ing for some­thing to play a few acous­tic num­bers or even acous­tic sets with, or in­deed any­one else search­ing for some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent to start learn­ing. And for that it’s a wel­come ad­di­tion to the acous­tic gui­tar’s story.

Rob Laing

A six-a-side head­stock? what a time to be alive!

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