Perfection is an elusive, mostly impossible ideal. But damn, the Fender Telecaster comes close. Beautiful, balanced, stable, malleable, versatile, and tough-as-nails—it succeeds fantastically as a tool of musical expression and as a landmark of industrial design.
But one of the most unsung, even paradoxical, aspects of Telecaster’s intrinsic design integrity is its capacity for evolution. Like a line of calligraphy, the simple, elegant Telecaster’s intent, attitude, and sound can be transformed with the addition of just a few elements.
Whether Leo Fender was the driver of change, or the much-maligned bosses of the CBS era, Fender consistently grasped the blank-slate essence of the Telecaster—enacting changes that would stoke creativity and prompt fiery debate. And by the time the mid ’70s rolled around, the Telecaster (which began life as the one-pickup Esquire and was briefly called the Broadcaster) would morph into the original bound Telecaster Deluxe, the Thinline, the two-humbucker Thinline and Deluxe, and the single-coil/humbucker hybrid Custom.
Fender’s ambitious, sprawling new Vintera series, which includes the three Telecasters reviewed here, traces the evolutions spanning the Telecaster’s birth in 1950 and the early ’70s. And a casual scan of the new Vintera offerings underscores that there’s more to this series than a few new vintage paint colors. The standard Vintera guitars mark a return to vintage specs like a 7.25" fretboard radius and period-correct pickup magnets. But the series also includes the Vintera Modified guitars, which mate vintage styling to modern Fender modifications like S1 phase switching and a 9.5" fretboard radius. All told, there are seven Telecasters in the Vintera line.
We would have loved to play every Vintera instrument, decode their specs and secrets, and discuss their merits for the benefit of you, the reader. In the end, we kept this review to just three models—the Vintera ’50s and ’60s Telecasters and the ’70s Telecaster Custom. These guitars piqued our interest—first because they mark a return to many vintage specifications at a very accessible price, but also because the Telecaster was the vehicle for some of the most interesting changes of the vintage era.
While choosing the right Vintera guitar will be labyrinthine for some, at day’s end the series’ expansiveness means a load of tone options and a super-fun way to explore your own neck shape and pickup preferences. We trust this Telecaster-centric scratching of the Vintera surface will lend a little insight into the design differences behind Fender’s new trove of affordable classics.
Watch the First Look: