Fender just launched an incredibly innovative take on the iconic Telecaster guitar, and it could solve a problem musicians have been facing for years
- Fender just launched its new Acoustasonic Telecaster, a combination of acoustic and electric guitar.
- The Acoustasonic Telecaster is based on the Telecaster electric guitar, Leo Fender's first proper solidbody instrument.
- I was impressed by the Acoustasonic Telecaster after a short playing session.
"Acoustic, electric and everything in between" - that's how Fender described its new Acoustasonic Telecaster, launched on Tuesday.
The Telecaster name is iconic: it was the first proper solidbody electric guitar that Leo Fender designed and marketed. With its stablemate, the Stratocaster, and alongside Fender's lineup of amplifiers, the Tele created the early sound of electrified country and rock 'n roll. Famous players include Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer, and Chrissy Hynde.The Tele has always appealed to acoustic-guitar enthusiasts looking to go electric, and now those folks have a new instrument to capture the best of both worlds.
There have been Acoustasonic Telecasters before, semi-hollow affairs with Tele looks that could emulate acoustic tones; "Acoustasonic" is also the name for Fender's line of acoustic-optimized amps. But with new Acoustasonic Telecaster, which retails for $1,999, Fender has taken the unusual genre of the acoustic-electric guitar that can model numerous acoustic sounds while preserving electric capabilities to a new level.
"Our objective was to develop an acoustic guitar for contemporary artists," CEO Andy Mooney said in a statement. "The end result of our three-year R&D exploration met all these criteria and exceeded our most optimistic expectations with the launch of the American Acoustasonic Series."
Fender vice-president Billy Martinez walked me through some of the Acoustasonic Tele's numerous features at a media event a few weeks ago. For starters, the instruments are gorgeous. Finishes range from natural, black, sonic gray to surf green and sunburst, and the fretboards are cut from distinctive pieces of ebony. The guitar is fully hollow, with a soundhole, so you can actually play it purely acoustically without the sophisticated onboard Fishman/Fender electronics.
Blissful playing and extreme versatility
The tone itself comes at you from two sources, which together showcase how Fender has sought to fuzz the line between acoustic and electric guitar. An "acoustic engine" provides abundant versatility, with models based on, for example, a classic big dreadnought shape for strumming and bluegrass-style flatpicking, as well as a 00-inflected, smaller flattop that takes well to finger picking. I whacked out two different renditions of a simple 12-bar blues in the key of A to test the guitar's chops and was dazzled. The variations are accessed via a five-way selector switch and a pair of knobs that will be familiar to any Tele player. (One of these is a "Mod Knob" that permits the Acoustasonic Tele's effects to be blended.)
A noiseless pickup allows the guitar's electric side to enter the fray. In this mode, the Acoustasonic Telecaster can be run through effects pedals to add a vast array of sonic colors. I gave it a whirl with one of Fender's new pedals, the Pugilist Distortion, and richly enjoyed the outcome. This guitar is pretty, but it can snarl with the best of them.
The idea with the Acoustasonic Telecaster was to create a fine instrument for the amateur guitarists, but also to solve a problem routinely faced by gigging, professional musicians. A set might entail acoustic and electric moments, requiring guitar changes, so a musician has to travel with multiple guitars and sometimes even different amps and pedalboards.
The Acoustasonic Telecaster solves this problem by being a superb jack of all trades. The acoustic tones are so authentic that they could be emanating from a Martin D-28, while the electric bite of a classic Tele is present in force. I could strum out a low-key three-chord number, then throw a switch and twist a knob to veer into crunchy rifflandia.
Contemporary players are going to love this thing. It continues Fender's recent flood of new products, from revamped versions of its famous lines to a new range of acoustic guitars and a fresh portfolio of effects pedals. With the Acoustasonic Telecaster, Fender has essentially taken everything it knows, everything it has learned, and everything it wants to do, and put it all into an innovative product that references the company's past while charting a path to its future.