Fender Coronado Review
The arrival of a shiny red guitar is always exciting—especially when it’s a reissue of long-neglected model that’s become increasingly interesting to players and collectors: Fender’s thinline Coronado II.
Fender first offered Coronado hollowbody models in 1966 in response to the Grestch and Epiphone guitars whose popularity surged thanks to the Beatles and other British Invasion acts. Roger Rossmeisl, a luthier previously associated with Gibson and Rickenbacker, designed the series, which featured single- and dual-pickup guitars (with and without tremolo) arms, a 12-string, and a bass.
Coronados were strange mash-ups—fully hollow guitars with bolt-on necks, Fender-style headstocks, and DeArmond pickups. They were also—at least relative to Fender’s other successes—a commercial flop.The instruments were prone to squealing at high volumes, which discouraged rock guitarists from playing them. Meanwhile, most jazz guitarists viewed the bolt-on assembly as inferior (though jazz/R&B great Phil Upchurch was a Coronado endorser and made good use of its bouncy, elastic vibrato.)
Coronados were discontinued in 1972. But despite their quirks—or maybe because of them—they have since been embraced by left-of-center rockers like Graham Coxon of Blur and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo. Vintage Coronados have crept up in value, and now Fender has added this dual-pickup Coronado II to its Modern Player Series.
Bound and Blocked
The new Coronado looks a lot like the original. It’s got a double-cutaway, laminated maple body with bound f-holes. The 25.5" scale rosewood fretboard has pearloid block inlays and white binding. There are four skirted amp-style knobs. The trapeze tailpiece has a wooden inset with a script F cutout. Our review model is candy apple red, though the instrument is also available in 3-color sunburst, black, and black cherry burst, though not in the original Antigua Burst (the smoky finish Fender adopted to conceal unintentional burn marks caused while installing binding), or Wildwood (created by injecting dye into trees prior to harvesting).
The reissue departs from vintage in at least one important way: There’s a solid alder center block to negate the feedback problems associated with the originals. The new model uses a modern Tune-o-matic-style bridge, and has truss rod access at the headstock. Also, a black pickguard replaces the original white or gold. (It would have been cool if Fender had preserved the black finish found on the headstock faces of the earliest examples, as well as the nickel hardware, which, unlike chrome, can develop a complex patina.)
Our Coronado is decently built overall. The neck sits snugly in its pocket. The binding is flush with the body. The nut and bridge saddles are cleanly notched. However, the fret ends are sharp—not ideal for a new instrument, though easy and inexpensive to fix. The body’s glossy polyurethane finish also suffers from a discernable orange-peel effect.
Balanced and Bold
At eight pounds, nine ounces, our review model is on the heavy side for a semi-hollow guitar, and heavier than an original, though it balances nicely in seated and standing positions. The neck has a medium C-shaped profile that Stratocaster and Telecaster players will find familiar and comfortable.
Sharp frets notwithstanding, it’s a pleasure playing the Coronado unplugged. The sound is lively and woody. The action is agreeably low, facilitating barre chords and single-note lines in all registers, though the bolt-on design makes it a little harder to access the upper frets than on other thinlines with set necks.
The Fideli’Tron™ pickups are a definite improvement over the original electronics. These moderate-output humbuckers (which debuted in Fender’s Cabronita Telecaster) capture the chiming brilliance of a single-coil pickup with less of the noise. The pickup selector is a standard three-way switch. Plugged into a Fender Blues Junior, these pickups have good clarity at all settings, not to mention a nice sponginess. So it comes as no surprise that the Coronado excels at smoothly fingerpicked country-and-western and twangy rockabilly. (Too bad, though, that Fender doesn’t yet offer a trem tailpiece option.)
On the neck pickup with the tone dialed back, the Coronado delivers a reasonable approximation of an archtop box. But the neck pickup can bark rudely yet musically when you dial in some amp grit. The center block does indeed discourage feedback, except at the ultra-high-gain settings that make most semi-hollow guitars squeal.
With the Coronado II, Fender revives a curiosity that’s been out of production for over 40 years. The new guitar captures the spirit of the original while addressing key shortcomings. Despite occasionally sloppy fretwork and finishing, the Coronado is a cool, idiosyncratic guitar that delivers robust tones and covers wide stylistic ground.
Watch the Review Demo: