Clips recorded with a 2011 Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Multiwatt head.

Few guitars are as historically important as the Fender Telecaster. In fact, you could argue that the stalwart instrument is the most influential guitar of all time. Since its official release in 1949 as the Broadcaster, the Telecaster has been prized and praised for its no-nonsense tones, and simple and elegant design. It’s been used in pretty much every form of music that ever called for a guitar part and spawned countless variations tailored towards players of all walks and musical styles. And while countless electric guitar innovations have come and gone in the 60 years since the Telecaster’s birth, the core Tele’s design has remained relatively unchanged—standing the test of time and flash-in-the-pan musical fads.

To honor the 60 years of the guitar’s life—and its immeasurable impact on music—Fender released the 60th Anniversary Telecaster. But the guitar is more than just a simple vintage-themed reissue. It also feature several modern appointments and refinements that make it an especially sweet playing Tele.

Birthday Tele-bration
The 60th Anniversary Telecaster model screams with vintage vibe and sophistication when you open the guitar’s custom SKB hardshell case. The guitar’s mustard-hued ash body is finished Fender’s nitrocellulose-based lacquer, which is closer in composition to the finishes that Fender used before changing to a nitro overcoat and poly undercoat finish (to increase strength against dings and wear). The ash wood grain was clearly visible through the body’s paint job and the finish felt smooth and glassy underneath my fingertips.

Classic Telecaster appointments include a black pickguard, three-way switching, and volume and tone controls, while the pickups are from Fender’s own American Vintage Series. There are some noteworthy updates that are less than totally obvious—Fender used the popular Delta Tone No-Load tone circuit, which eliminates attenuation issues for brighter, more powerful tones. And instead of using a vintage-correct set of three brass saddles, the Anniversary uses a more tuning- and intonation-friendly six saddle set.

Tele lovers have long understood that the unique feel and shape of the legendary guitar’s neck can be as integral to the tone as its body and electronics are, and the 60th Anniversary features a traditional one-piece maple neck with a 25.5” scale length with more modern features like a 9.5” fretboard radius, medium jumbo fretwire, rolled fret edges and a modern C profile. A traditional four-bolt neck joint kept the neck snug against the body, along with Fender’s Micro-Tilt adjustment feature and a classy-looking 60th Anniversary Edition neckplate.

Sultry Delta Tone
Before I even plugged the 60th Anniversary Tele into a warmed-up Fender Twin Reverb reissue combo, I could almost instantly tell that this wasn’t your average guitar. The guitar’s resonance unplugged was immediately noticeable while I fingerpicked a simple, country-infused riff, with each pluck of the piece’s bass notes causing the neck and body to purr lovingly against my body and fretting hand. In addition, the rolled edges of the fingerboard and superb fret job allowed me to throw in various double stops and bends between each chord, with a negligible amount of resistance from the back of the neck’s finish.

The uncanny resonant qualities of the Tele only got better as I plugged it into the aforementioned Fender combo. Each note sustained and bloomed with a high amount of sustain, something that was uncharacteristic of the guitar—most players have had to rely on compressor pedals to overcome that common ailment. Fender’s American Vintage bridge pickup also scored high points in terms of touch sensitivity and sag, yielding an impressive range of tones as I varied my pick attack from light and precise to fast and strong. The top end of the pickups bit and snarled with quick snaps of pull-offs and Jerry Reed-esque fragmented chord progressions, and backed off with a smooth, detailed purr when I gingerly plucked jazz progressions.

The Fender Telecaster has never had a reputation for being a dull-sounding instrument, yet the Delta Tone’s ability to cut itself out of the circuit added a great-sounding, forceful, punchy bite to the Tele’s natural sting, without being too overbearing or icepicky.

Adding their Delta Tone circuit to the 60th Anniversary Tele was a spot-on decision by Fender. Its ability to completely cut out the tone attenuation is perfect for guitarists looking to put more sass in their tonal strut. DIY’ers have been adding a variation of this mod to their guitars this to their guitars for decades, by paining a thin coat of clear nail polish over the portion of the tone pot’s internal disk (where the tone pot would normally touch at its maximum setting). This breaks the connection between the pot and the circuitry, increasing the volume slightly and adding a fair amount of top end sparkle. The Fender Telecaster has never had a reputation for being a dull-sounding instrument, yet the Delta Tone’s ability to cut itself out of the circuit added a great-sounding, forceful, punchy bite to the Tele’s natural sting, without being too overbearing or icepicky. Since the Tele is already a pretty bright-sounding guitar, I had to keep the Tone control just below its top setting for most of my playing—then roll it back up to max when I need some high end spank on leads and fills.

Dirty Deeds
Dirty tones with the Tele were equally smooth and defined through a 2011 Mesa Boogie Multiwatt Dual Rectifier head. With the amp set to the clean channel and the Push mode engaged, the Tele ripped through like a bolt of lightning, carried along by a creamy midrange and snappy low-end response. Feedback wasn’t an issue until the amp reached more extreme gain settings, but I was content with leaving it in the realm of smooth, slightly crunchy classic rock territory. Again, keeping the Delta Tone-enabled Tone control below its maximum setting was essential to taming the sound, unless I needed a razor sharp top end that sliced through like a hot knife through butter.

Teles from the ’50s tended to have pretty beefy neck profiles, commonly referred to as a “boatneck”. I was a little worried that this particular neck wouldn’t have the same beefy feel as a correct-spec, early ’50s Tele, but it had enough meat on its bones to sit comfortably grab notes, while also allowing me to move up and down the neck with ease. The only amount of resistance I met when I would try to fly up and down the fretboard was against the neck’s coat of slightly sticky lacquer. Whether or not a coated or an uncoated neck makes for the perfect Tele neck has been a debate amongst guitarists since the instrument’s inception 60 years ago. Regardless of the fact that I had very little issues moving quickly around the frets, you’ll need to apply your own judgments in this instance—it’s an intensely personal thing for Tele players, one that can make or break a great playing experience.

The Verdict
Fender’s tribute to one of their most renowned instruments is a fantastic blend of old school, don’t-fix-what-isn’t-broken mentality and current, more reliable technology. The additions of the company’s Delta Tone circuit, lacquer finish, modern C neck shape and six saddle bridge offer even more precise tonal tuning, and the vintage snarl that put the Telecaster—and Fender—name on the map is there in full force. For those players who aren’t keen on a finished neck, the company offers a multitude of other models for consideration. However, for those who want a near-perfect blend of old and new to cure their Tele jones, this one’s hard to beat.

Watch the video review:

Buy if...
you’re after that classic Tele sound with more refined appointments.
Skip if...
only an exact to vintage spec Tele will suffice, or you need an unfinished neck.

Street $1399 - Fender -