Ratings

Pros:
A visceral, immediate vintage Telecaster experience. Fantastic neck. Beautiful chiming bridge pickup tones.

Cons:
Polyester finish seems a bit thick. Finish on neck can feel relatively sticky.

Street:
$899

Fender Vintera ’50s Telecaster
fender.com



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Vintera ’50s Telecaster

In strictly visual terms, you could argue Fender never improved on the first Telecaster. With 1-ply pickguards and maple necks, they are exquisitely simple and highlight the instrument’s super-elegant, minimalist lines. I’ve always had a preference for Fender’s ’60s rosewood necks, especially on the Telecaster. But it’s amazing what a few weeks of having a maple-neck Vintera ’50s sitting around the house, basking in afternoon sunlight, can do to alter such biases. The shiny, lacquered neck looks just right and the warm maple hues highlight the perfect curves and proportions of the Telecaster headstock and body. Call me a convert.

The Vintera ’50s neck isn’t just visually appealing, though. It’s built around an early-’50s U profile that may feel startlingly fat by modern standards, but it is ergonomically satisfying, to say the least. I noticed a lot less hand fatigue after an hour than I experience playing slimmer Fender necks. It also fills the hand in a way that compels you to dig deep into bends and creatively wrestle with the guitar. It isn’t what most folks would call a “fast” neck. But if there was any impediment to fretting hand mobility, it had more to do with the gloss finish than the girth.

If you’re not hung up on the neck’s thickness, you’ll likely end up inspired by the playing approaches it seems to invite. On one hand, the inherent stability of the fatter neck provokes physical, roughneck interaction with the instrument. On the other, there is something about its heft that makes languid, melodic picking and chording feel easy and inviting. If you think you know big Fender necks, or primarily associate ’50s-style Fenders with deep-V profiles (which can feel positively alien to the uninitiated), you’ll be well served by putting aside preconceptions and checking out this alternative.

On the output side of the equation, the Vintera ’50 is a thrill. If you were a producer and needed the raw, unadulterated sound of primitive rock guitar on a track, it would be hard to top the bright, biting, and concise sounds of a ’50s-style Telecaster bridge pickup plugged straight into a loud Fender combo amp. (It’s little wonder that maple-neck Telecasters appear so often in photos of the Wrecking Crew at work—Tommy Tedesco’s rosewood 1960 model aside.) But the 7.1k-ohm bridge pickup is much more than just bright. The alnico 2 magnets impart a warm glow around transients that can be effectively softened further through guitar tone and volume attenuation. The 5.4k-ohm neck pickup is much more mellow, and it’s easy to understand why hard-rock players often replaced this pickup with PAF humbuckers and Firebird pickups in the ’60s. But I loved its soft, pillowy voice for soul rhythms and subdued melodic counterpoint. The combined pickup voices, meanwhile, impart an almost acoustic-like airiness that enables you to play jangling and strummy accompaniment without being too bossy.

For players who find the Vintera ’50's' graceful, understated simplicity too simple, the ’50s Vintera Modified Telecaster with slightly hotter pickups, a lovely soft-V satin finish neck, and super-versatile series/parallel and S1 phase switching is an excellent alternative and a superb guitar by any measure. But it’s hard to beat the visceral, electric sensation of direct, main-line connection that you get from the ’50s Vintera Telecaster. I love this guitar.

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