Fender has added some new features to a few of its classic instruments and announced the New American Standard series. Here’s a great occasion to come face to face (or body to body) with two of rock’s oldest and dearest friends: the Stratocaster and Telecaster.
For those few who don’t know, the Stratocaster and the Telecaster are kind of the mothers of all electric guitars, with their Gibson cousin, the Les Paul. Created in the beginning of the 50’s by the master Leo Fender, these guitars kick-started the solid body concept (bodies without sound chambers, and therefore solving the feedback problem of amplified acoustic guitars ) and establishing the principles of electric guitar building; to the point where 50 years later, these very same principles are still used by electric guitar builders.
Even if you don‘t take this fact into consideration, both of these guitars are also among the world’s best selling guitars and have of course left their mark on the history of Rock: the Stratocaster: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Ritchie Blackmore, Dick Dale, Mark Knopfler, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rory Gallagher, Eric Johnson… and the Telecaster? It’s Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Buckley, Johnny Greenwood, Joe Strummer, Andy Summers, Muddy Waters or even Steve Cropper…
So of course, when you put your hands on one of these beauties, a whole world of sound comes pouring out of them …. This was definitely the case with last century’s Strats and Teles and, …. it’s still the case with these New American Standards.
Old and New
For 2008, Fender decided to give some of their classic models (Stratocaster and Telecaster on the guitar side, and Jazzbass and Precision Bass on the bass side) a face lift by “upgrading” a few details. You don’t “change” a winning combination, you “enhance” it …
Fender has mainly focused their efforts on the instruments’ resonance and sustain. So there’s a new bridge with improved bent-steel saddles and a copper-infused high-mass block on the Strat (a stamped-brass bridge plate on the Tele) for increased resonance and sustain along the whole body.
Speaking about string vibration: it should be mentioned that Fender has used a thinner finish undercoat that lets the body breathe and improves resonance without compromising the finish of the instrument protected by its varnish. Finally, the neck varnish has also been modified. It’s been tinted for a richer presentation, with the maple or rosewood fingerboard buffed to a high gloss. The back of the neck still has that silky satin finish. The result: comfort has been optimized on the Strat as well as the Tele, all the more so since these guitars have long since earned their stripes for comfort.
Because all jewels must have their boxes, Fender has also changed the case in which its instruments come in. These SKB molded cases look imposing, but turn out to be extremely light and seem to be quite solid. A nice detail: The TSA locks can be opened by security officers using universal “master” keys so that the locks may not have to be cut.
And last but not least, there are new finish options (Blizzard Pearl for both models, Sienna Sunburst for the Strat and Crimson Red Transparent for the Tele). A small detail of course, but if you’re going to buy a guitar, you might as well buy one in a color you like.
Is That All?
Yes, that’s all. Some people will of course find that these changes are too few for these American Standards to be called “New”, while others will just be satisfied to find the essential slightly upgraded. Because, other than the aforementioned details, the shape, the body, and the electronics are exactly the same as the old American Standards who have been proving themselves for decades. Personally, I’m perfectly satisfied with this, and Fender has already shown, with their Strat VG, that they know how to innovate when they want to. It’s all about finding your marks with these classic instruments that have influenced generations of musicians, and accessing those sounds that have made us dream while listening to legendary rock, blues, or even jazz recordings.
In the end, you get totally immersed in the American Standard spirit, so who’s going to complain? The Strat always gets great clean sounds for funk, clapton-like lead guitar, or crystal-clear Gilmour sounds while the Telecaster gets, in addition to its legendary clean sound, that slightly crunchy-dirty sound that makes you dream of playing “Start Me Up” in front of a stadium of screaming people. Here are some audio examples that were recorded on a Spider Valve using a SM 57, an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96, a Yamaha MG10/2 and Cubase SX3…
Just like the “Ferrari or Lamborghini”, “Stones or Beatles”, or “Lennon or McCartney” disputes, the “Strat or Tele” debate has always been one of those big questions of taste. In any event, most Fender lovers will end up getting at least one of each, and who could blame them, especially in view of the fact that their prices haven’t really changed in comparison to older models.
As far as deciding whether these New American Standards are worth it, the answer is a 200% yes. Of course, if you bought an older model a few months ago, don’t worry:, the new features, though all valid, aren’t major. So if you’re thinking about getting yourself a Strat or a Tele, you can rest assured: The Fender sound is there.
[+] Two legendary guitars with classic sound and playability
[+] Nice new cases that are both light and rugged
[+] Sustain Improvements
[+] Neck varnish gives it a nice feel
[-] Nothing really revolutionary, but we weren’t expecting it anway