One of the world’s biggest guitar makers opens its doors to the public for the first time ever with a new Visitor Center and factory tours—a symbol of the musician-friendly leadership new CEO Larry Thomas hopes to bring to the company.
“I’m the first musician to run Fender,” CEO Larry Thomas told me proudly after the cameras had stopped rolling on
our private tour of the company’s new 8,600-square-foot Visitor Center. Though not quick to discuss himself—it was
the first time he’d shifted focus from the new facility during our visit—it’s clear that leading Fender from a guitarist’s perspective
is important to Thomas. And opening the Visitor Center and public factory tours was one of the first big projects
on his radar. Thomas, who worked his way from salesman to CEO at Guitar Center prior to taking the reigns at Fender in
2010, told us that this is just the beginning. “We now have over 500 products in R&D … we’re working to get to market
so much quicker than ever before,” he explained.
Though Thomas’ statements are resoundingly forward-looking, the company remains grounded in the legacy created by the past. This is evident in the Visitor Center, which serves as a tribute to the designers, luthiers, musicians, and songs that made Fender famous throughout the past 60 years.
The center opened on September 19, 2011, following two nights of grand opening celebrations. The first night was a party thrown for Fender’s employees and their families. More than 2,000 people attended—including Eddie Van Halen and Steve Miller—and enjoyed a night of live music headlined by Los Lobos. The second night was a sneak peek for media and VIPs. Fender players like John 5 and Duff McKagan mingled with guitar-industry notables like Phyllis Fender, Janie Hendrix, and Seymour Duncan, while Dave Mason, Raphael Saadiq, and Buddy Guy with 12-year-old protégé Quinn Sullivan provided the tunes. Fender even had a surprise preview of new Eric Clapton signature amps on hand.
Now that the center has opened to the public, visitors to Corona, California, can stop by any weekday, except Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and take in the sights and sounds of Fender heritage with no admission charge. Every guitar hanging on the wall can be played in an amp-filled sound room, and visitors can even design their dream guitar and have it built in the very factory they tour. The factory tours, offered at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., are also free, but visitors must be age 9 or older and be wearing closed-toe shoes to participate.
While we’ll have to wait and see what comes of Fender’s beefed-up R&D, the Visitor Center is here now—and it’s bound to become a Mecca for guitarists. Enjoy this look inside, then watch our video tour,guided by CEO Larry Thomas, along with a tour of the Fender amp factory (not open to the public) and demos of thenew Eric Clapton signature amps.
1. As you enter the Visitor Center, you are immediately greeted by a wall of Custom Shop replicas of some of the iconic instruments used by the musicians who put Fender on the map: Buddy Holly, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore, David Gilmour, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Kurt Cobain.
2. Across from the Fender Legends entrance is the Fender Hall of Fame. Plaques pay tribute to the most influential people and bands in Fender’s history, including the company’s founders and notable company employees over the years. The white Strat in the center is signed by all of the living Hall of Fame members.
3. The Birthplace of Innovation wall displays photos of the early factory as well as informational tidbits. We particularly loved the lower-left photo of an employee demonstrating the strength of Fender necks by standing on one balanced between two chairs. In a small theater at the opposite corner of the facility, visitors can view a loop of four films that provide a closer look into the company’s early days and influence.
4. Immediately to the right of the main entrance is a tribute to Leo Fender encased in glass. It’s packed with early Fender-built instruments and candid photos of the man who built the company. (Inset) One of Leo’s first ever instruments, a lap steel baked in his oven.
5. Visitors to the center could spend all day trying out different guitar-amp combinations in the sound room, which is packed with nearly every guitar and bass amp Fender offers. There are a variety of Fender, Jackson, Charvel, Gretsch, and EVH models in the room (including some lefty versions!), but visitors can bring any of the display guitars in for a test drive as well.
6. For anyone who has wished they could customize every option to create their dream Fender, the company has answered that request with the American Design Experience. Inside, visitors can feel and choose different neck shapes and wood configurations, see a wide variety of finish options, and select the pickup-pickguard-switching configuration of their choice. The guitars are ordered right then and there, put into production, and delivered to the buyer’s home in less than a month. The flame maple Tele on the bench serves as one of the examples of what can be ordered.
1. The farthest wall of guitars features examples from Fender’s many American series—along with explanations of the difference between American Vintage, American Standard, American Deluxe, and American Special lines—and photos and posters representing associated musicians. The top third of every wall lists songs written or recorded with Fender instruments, from the early days of rock onward.
2. There are a few displays of Fender signature artist models, which, like every guitar not encased in glass, can be picked up and played by visitors. This wall features John Mayer, Robert Cray, Eric Johnson, and Jimmie Vaughan Strats, a GE Smith Tele, a Sting Precision Bass, and a Roger Waters Jazz Bass. Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Mark Knopfler instruments are in the glass display case.
3. In addition to the signature models hanging on the walls, the main floor has standing displays for artists in all genres, like this tribute to The Boss. Fender amps are also on display throughout the main floor, with playable versions in the sound room.
4. Previewed first at the Fender Visitor Center events, this 5-watt Eric Clapton Vibro-Champ is one of three new amps bearing Slowhand’s stamp of approval. The line features the 12-watt Tremolux and the 40- watt Twinolux. All three are handwired and feature tube-bias tremolo circuits and a switchable power attenuator, per Clapton’s request.
5. The EVH brand has Wolfgang guitars on display, in addition to this painstaking replica of Eddie’s most famous axe. The 2007 Custom Shop replica has every detail, down to the year of the quarter and the loosely hanging trem bar.
6. The Visitors Center does not limit the displays to Fender instruments. Also included are displays of the other brands under the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation banner, like this wall of Jacksons. The models on display include production and artist signature models, as well as Custom Shop renditions like the replica of Randy Rhoads’ Concorde V.
7. Of course, if visitors want to leave the center with something to remember the trip by (and can’t afford that dream guitar just yet), Fender has plenty of swag to choose from. Shirts, books, art, strings, cables, and other accessories are among the items visitors can take home with them.
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Handcrafted by a small team, Solstice prides itself on perfect setup and playing action, stability, and longevity.
Solstice Guitars just introduced a reimagined update to its custom-T design, previously called the Transit. Now known as the Tellurion, this guitar includes a thoughtful set of new attributes. Designed to be customized, the new Tellurion features include:
- New 3D Neck Joint
This dimensional neck joint utilizes a shaped pocket that locks in place with a 3-bolt system. More surface area, more coupling, more strength, longevity, and tone.
- 24-Frets Standard
The new neck joint & cutaway redesign make for an easy reach. 24 frets are now standard on all
- Neck Reinforcement
Twin carbon fiber rods and a modern double-action truss rod produce incredibly stable necks. Rod access is now up at the headstock.
- Hardware & Electronics
Professional components and hardware are by Gotoh. Includes hand-wired switching circuits and pickups by Lollar, Duncan, Dark Moon, or TV Jones.
The Tellurion is made with 3 tone chamber options:
- Fully chambered, semi-hollow (with or without f-hole)
- Half chambered, bass side (with or without f-hole)
- Half chambered, treble side (no hole)
A solid body option is also available using the highest graded super-light swamp ash.
Handcrafted by a small team, Solstice prides itself on perfect setup and playing action, stability, and longevity. With a base price of $2400, the new Tellurion offers high-end value with a host of intuitive options for the most demanding players.
For more information, please visit solsticeguitars.com.
Fender honors the indie-legend with signature pickups and accessories.
Fender announces the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster Pickups, an ode to one of alternative music’s most prolific shredders. Throughout Dinosaur Jr’s twelve album discography and his rich solo career, Mascis has established himself as one of guitar playing’s most tone-savvy and ferocious players.
At the heart of his genre-defining, nearly four decades-long legacy is the Fender Jazzmaster. Not only does the bold and angular design of the Jazzmaster lend itself to a player as subversive as Mascis, but there is no instrument that sounds quite like it. That is, until now.
Compared to the tones on the Fender J Mascis Signature Telecaster and the Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster, Mascis notes,“The new pickups have a sweeter more vintage sound,” and as his hopes for what people might feel when they test out the new pickups, J Mascis adds, “I hope they feel like playing their guitar, ideally they could make a song that could be my new favorite record!”
Key Features Include:
- Neck Pickup: 7.27K and Bridge Pickup: 7.31K DC Resistance
- Neck Pickup: 3.6 Henries, Bridge Pickup: 3.7 Henries Inductance
- Enamel-coated magnet wire delivers warm vintage-style tones
- Alnico 2 rod magnets for warm, sweet output
- Flush-mount pole pieces produce even string response
- Installation hardware include
Exploring the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster Pickup Set | Artist Signature Series | Fender
The pickups are being released as part of a larger collection of signature J Mascis Accessories which include J Mascis Magenta Flower Strap, J Mascis Yellow Burst Strap, J Mascis Coiled Instrument Cable and J Mascis Dinosaur Jr. Pick Tin.
For more information, please visit fender.com.
Charvel unveils its new collab with guitarist Marco Sfogli.
Charvel unveils its new collaboration with PFM and Icefish guitarist Marco Sfogli. To pay homage to a guitarist whose sonic capabilities seem to know no bounds, Charvel has sought out to create a signature instrument as limitless as the player who inspired it. A pair of active EMG SA single-coils in the middle and neck positions effortlessly evoke classic Stratocaster bell tones, while an EMG ‘89 bridge humbucker provides a powerful bite. The signature model’s bolt-on maple neck has received a unique “caramelized” heat and drying treatment that imbues the wood with a warmth and comfort that is usually unique to expensive vintage instruments.
- Alder body with quilted maple top
- Scalloped lower back bout and cut heel
- Bolt-on maple neck with graphite reinforcement, 22 jumbo frets, and Luminlay side dot inlays.
- EMG SA single-coil neck and middle pickups, EMG ‘89 humbucking bridge pickup.
- Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking tremolo bridge system
- Five-way blade pickup selector, tone control, and volume control with push/pull coil splitting capabilities for the bridge pickup.
Marco Sfogli Presents His Signature Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HSS FR QM
- Signature S1-style guitar designed in collaboration with Marco Sfogli
- Classic alder body with an unmistakable California sound
- Quilt maple top for added tonal depth and a premium look
- For more information, please visit charvel.com.