Gear Review: New Fender Electric Guitars

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Squier 40th Anniversary Series

For the 40th anniversary of the Squier line of instruments, Fender went all-in with updated versions of the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, Jazz Bass, and Precision Bass. These models are offered in the Gold Edition (referring to the hardware) or the Vintage Edition, featuring aged chrome. For review, American Songwriter received the Squier 40th Anniversary Gold Edition Telecaster in Sherwood Green Metallic finish.  

The gold hardware is a real eye-catcher as are the Pearloid block inlays in the fretboard. The white neck binding on the Indian laurel fingerboard sets this guitar apart from others, and the neck is glossy and plays fast. The vintage gold anodized aluminum pickguard is cool to the touch and eyes, and it is thick. This Squier Tele is loaded with Fender-designed alnico single-coil pickups which sound crisp and clear, more like a vintage instrument. The bridge is the vintage-style 3-saddle traditional. The body is constructed from Nyatoh wood, so it is light but still resonant. The neck plate on the back of the guitar designates it as a 40th Anniversary Squier. At $599.99 street, the Squier 40th Anniversary Gold Edition Telecaster guitar isn’t just targeting beginning and intermediate players.

JV (Japanese Vintage) Modified Series

Fender’s new JV (Japanese Vintage) Modified Series contains a ’50s Stratocaster, ’60s Stratocaster, ’50s Telecaster, and a ’60s Telecaster. The Japanese-crafted guitars from the ’80s are now highly sought after and valuable. Fender has recreated our favorite features with these new models. For review, American Songwriter was sent the Fender JV Modified ’60s Custom Telecaster guitar in Firemist Gold finish.  

One of the key features that Fender matched to the original is the satin finish, thick, soft “V” neck profile that feels so great when you’re playing it. The Telecaster gives you more tonal choices, thanks to a four-way selector for the pickups and a push-pull tone knob for out-of-phase sounds. The pickups are dual vintage-voiced single coils with just the right amount of twang. The bridge is the standard Fender 3-saddle vintage-style with brass saddles. The guitar body is constructed of basswood with the standard maple neck and rosewood fretboard.  The white binding on the front and back of the body gives this Telecaster a classy and vintage look. Playability-wise and sonically, this is one of the best Telecasters I have played in a long time. Fender did an incredible job of bringing back this popular era of JV guitars. At $1,349.99 the Fender JV Modified ’60s Custom Telecaster isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than trying to find a clean example of an ’80s version, and this guitar is amazing!

Nile Rodgers Hitmaker Stratocaster

As songwriters and artists, we all would like to achieve one hit song in our lifetime. Nile Rodgers has worked with many of the top music artists in the world including Diana Ross, Madonna, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Chic, and Duran Duran. Besides Rodgers, the only consistent element that all these artists share is that Rodgers used his favorite Fender Stratocaster with them dubbed “The Hitmaker.”  

Everything about this guitar and the case it arrived in screams luxury and style.  Rodgers’ original guitar was used as the model for this signature Stratocaster.  Major differences from standard models include a 1960s-style alder body that is smaller than most Strat bodies, giving it a bit more treble tonality. The neck is a one-piece maple with a ’59 profile with medium-jumbo frets that are very comfortable in your hand. Even the three single-coil pickups in The Hitmaker are voiced to match Rodgers’ original guitar that we have heard on countless songs and albums. Instead of the traditional vibrato that most Strats feature, this guitar has a hardtail bridge which is considered to provide more sustain and resonance with the body mass.  

As a player, I was pleased to see that The Hitmaker features vintage-style Sperzel satin locking tuners which helps make strings easier to change and stay in tune better. Rodgers’ logo is imprinted on the back of the headstock and the neck plate is stamped with The Hitmaker. As a producer and A-list musician, Rodgers’ guitar is designed for a professional-playing musician and it delivers. When you open the Fender hard-shell case that comes with the guitar, “The Hitmaker” is embroidered into the top, so you know what you are preparing to play. This is an incredible guitar that will probably become your No. 1 player for all the right reasons. If Rodgers can help sell over 500 million records with a guitar like this, maybe we can achieve one or two? 

The Olympic white finish, silver pickguard, and speed knobs make a major statement on this guitar. Priced at $2,599.99, the Fender Nile Rodgers Hitmaker Stratocaster is higher than your average American-built Strat, but the unique features this guitar and Rodgers’ input brings to the instrument make it worth the price. The Hitmaker plays and sounds incredible. Who knows? Maybe it will be on your next hit album.

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