The Facts Jack
There was a lot of hype when we first heard about the new Fender American Special Strats and Teles – the series sounded good: American made, classic design, Texas Special pickups and less expensive – so what’s the catch? We set our own Jason Jones, Matt Christenot, and Matthew Khomsi to the task of checking these out from stem to stern. Here’s what they had to say:
Jason: Aesthetically pleasing, the American Special series was a sensible move for Fender. These give you many pro features with cost effective attributes that, all in all, create a great instrument for a reasonable price. Borrowing the gloss Urethane finish from the American Standard series, and incorporating Fender’s most popular pickups, the Texas Specials, the American Special series functions as a sort of hybrid of the Standard series produced in Mexico, and the American Standard series that was rehashed in January 2008. It also draws from the Highway 1 series (with its Greasebucket tone circuit) that preceded it. It addresses, in its revisions, some of the aspects of the Highway 1 that were less popular (most notably, the matte finish).
In regards to the neck, one of the cost effective scale-backs is in the truss rod, which is more akin to the Standard series. They also have the satin urethane finish on the back of the neck as on the American Standard, but not the rolled fingerboard edges nor the gloss finish fingerboard. They feature a really comfortable medium/slim “Modern” C neck and jumbo frets which, combined with their 9.5″ radius, make for a quick playing instrument that feels modern, yet traditional. They have a number of slick color schemes too (with more rumored to be on the way). The Telecasters and the HSS Strats have black pickguards, adding a touch of style and uniqueness.
Tonally, the Strats have a great, full tone with plenty of warmth in the neck position, spank in the bridge, and all the prerequisite ducky-ness you would expect from the 2nd and 4th positions. The Teles, when in the neck position, have a warm, yet articulate tone, balanced and usable, and the bridge provides all the power and twang you’d expect from a stock Telecaster. Out of the box they are well set-up, with a low action without buzz and a very smooth feel, thanks to the satin finish on the neck.
All in all, it is what it is – a series of well-built instruments containing the essence of the guitars they represent, laden with features that warrant their price. Would have been great to have a hard case, but the deluxe gig bag is nice. They’re priced at a level that gives you a professional-level instrument at an intermediate price.
Matt C: Overall the American Special Strat has a nice playability because of its slim neck profile and the fact that the neck is lightly finished rather than caked on. This feels like one step closer to the American series. The Texas Special pick ups are a nice touch too. This is a great choice for folks wanting an American but really want to save some cash.
Brian: The weight is really nice – I think they made good choices with the wood. It’s inexpensive, but it feels like quality materials. The neck profile is really nice – great playability.
Matthew K: The finishes on these are great – I think it’s a steal. An American made Fender with a high gloss finish for $799? A steal. I think the neck is great too – feels great and is easy to play.
Fender raised more than a few eyebrows last year with price changes, but they’ve made real amends with this American Special series. This is a great guitar, straight up. Texas Special pickups, well-built with quality finishes, a synchronized trem system on the strat, and a great, comfy neck. And it’s made in the USA – a few more jobs is all good news in our book.