A modern take on Fullerton shapes and a blend of Fender and Gibson attributes strikes a sweet middle ground.
A stylish alternative to classic Fender profiles that delivers sonic versatility. Great playability.
Split-coil sounds are a little on the thin side. Be sure to place it on the stand carefully!
Fender Player Plus Meteora HH
After many decades of sticking with flagship body shapes, Fender spent the last several years getting more playful via their Parallel Universe collection. The Meteora, however, is one of the more significant departures from those vintage profiles. The offset, more-angular profile was created by Fender designer Josh Hurst and first saw light of day as part of the Parallel Universe Collection in 2018. Since then, it has headed in both upscale and affordable directions within the Fender lineup—reaching the heights of master-built Custom Shop quality in the hands of Ron Thorn, and now in this much more egalitarian guise as the Player Plus Meteora HH.
Body profile and humbuckers aside, the Meteora is very much a Fender, with a bolt-on neck, 25.5" scale length, and that iconic headstock profile with spaghetti logo. Even closer examination reveals an impressive array of features that make it an extra-impressive instrument for the price, and a cool alternative to traditional Fender offerings.
The Mexico-built Player Plus Meteora HH comes in three finishes—cosmic jade, Belair blue, or silverburst (as seen on our review sample)—all of which help the guitar cut a dashing figure on stage.The body is made from solid alder, a go-to Fender tonewood since the late ’50s. Lightweight stocks of this timber have been getting harder to come by in bulk, and perhaps as a result the review guitar tips a little toward the heavy side at around 8.4 pounds. Then again, the Meteora’s body is bigger than, say, a Stratocaster, which adds a bit to the weight. Forearm and ribcage contours enhance playing comfort significantly, and the guitar balances surprisingly well on the lap (almost certainly one of Hurst’s design mandates). The sharply sloped lower bout, however, makes it tricky to lean against an amp safely. Keep that in mind before you turn your back on it.
The neck is fashioned from a single piece of maple and 22 medium-jumbo frets are arrayed across the 12" radius fretboard, which measures 1.685" at the synthetic-bone nut (Belair blue and cosmic jade versions feature a pau ferro fretboard). The neck is carved in Fender’s popular “Modern C” profile, which feels great in hand, and the overall ergonomics are aided by a nicely rolled fretboard edge. The single-action truss rod can be adjusted at the headstock, which is home to Fender’s deluxe sealed locking tuners and a modern roller string tree for the first and second strings—all of which means you can use the two-post synchronized tremolo with a little more peace of mind. The return-to-pitch capabilities are impressive.
Though the fresh body profile may be the initial draw for many, the electronics—and the possibilities they enable—will probably seal the deal for a lot of prospective customers. They certainly make the guitar a lot of fun to explore. The relatively new Fireball humbuckers look a lot like smaller Fender Wide Range pickups. Under the covers, though, they are pretty standard PAF-style humbuckers, with adjustable pole pieces in all six positions of each coil, though half of these are inaccessible with the cover on.
This pickup recipe makes the Meteora a world’s-your-oyster kind of performer.
And while the name implies that the Fireballs are hot, the specs are similar to medium-wind alnico humbuckers, with the neck reading around 7.24k ohms DC resistance and 4.0 henries inductance, and the bridge measuring 7.68k ohms and 4.5 henries. The pickups are wired through a 3-way toggle switch on the upper horn, with a master volume and dedicated tone controls for each pickup below. The volume knob also functions as a push-button switch to split the coils of both pickups.
Tested through a Friedman Dirty Shirley Mini and 2x12, a tweed Deluxe-style 1x12 combo, and a Neural DSP Quad Cortex into the studio monitors, the Player Plus Meteora HH reveals a fairly traditional and even vintage-leaning sonic range that contrasts with its moon-shot looks. The not-too-hot humbuckers sound clear and open and generate relatively little amp breakup at modest volumes, which I’d say is a good thing, as it enables a wider range of touch sensitivity than high-gain humbuckers usually allow.
This pickup recipe makes the Meteora a world’s-your-oyster kind of performer. With a cranked amp, lead channel, or overdrive (in this case a Tsakalis Six and Wampler Tumnus Deluxe), the Meteora produces sizzling power-chord and rhythm sounds and singing lead tones with ease, with rich, articulate cleans at the ready when I backed the guitar volume down. It’s hard to gauge how much effect the maple neck and alder body have on the humbucker voicings. But expect the Meteora to sound better balanced and crisper compared with the average PAF-equipped instrument. There’s very little mud and the coil-split tones are nice and jangly—although, as with many split humbuckers, they’re a little on the thin side without a booster or compressor engaged. Still, they do the trick, and add another useful arrow to the Meteora HH’s already packed quiver.
Players in love with unconventional looks who enjoy a twist on traditional PAF-style sounds will find a lot to like in the Player Plus Meteora HH. The guitar packs a wide range of clean-to-mean tones, offers easy playability, and is made super versatile by tone controls and coil-splitting options that dramatically expand its tone palette. Dual humbuckers mated to a 25.5" scale is always a cool proposition, and the Meteora’s marriage of Fender and Gibson attributes is a great way to split the difference.
Fender Player Plus Meteora HH Demo | First Look
A blind horse wouldn’t be impressed, but this beautiful, double-horned instrument with one-of-a-kind engravings helped make luthier Tony Zemaitis famous.
Though they never reached the commercial success of some of their peers, the Faces have no doubt earned a place as one of the seminal rock ’n’ roll bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Combining influences as varied as instrumental funk à la the Meters, traditional folk music, and a heavy dose of rhythm and blues, the Faces brand of rock ’n’ roll can be heard in some way or another in the music of countless bands that followed. After the Faces folded in 1975, all five members went on to continue making great music, but their chemistry together was undeniable.
A huge part of their unique sound and stage presence came from the unusual instruments often employed by bassist Ronnie Lane and guitarist Ron Wood. Anthony Zemaitis was a British born cabinet-maker-turned-luthier. His guitars’ distinctive metal tops, often with elaborately engraved designs provided by Danny O’Brien, can be seen with some of the era’s most legendary guitar players, but it was his connection to the Faces that really put Zemaitis’ instruments on the map.
Engraver Danny O’Brien’s handiwork on the heel plate and control cavity covers are on display in this view of the bass’ back.
The bass pictured here was one of his earliest custom designs for Ronnie Lane. Though all of Tony’s designs are one-of-a-kind, this stands out as a bass guitar truly unlike any other we’ve ever seen. This instrument has a chambered body with a neck-through design and features a 6-screw heel plate purely for cosmetics. The hollow chambers on either side of the neck block were stuffed with cotton to eliminate feedback below a laminate-wood carved top. The distinctive “suit of cards” inlays along the 32"-scale neck would become a signature of Ronnie Lane, but this is perhaps the earliest example of that motif on one of his instruments. Both the headstock and end of the fretboard are delicately carved into a crown-like pattern, perhaps drawing inspiration from mandolins and lutes of the previous century. The controls are two tone dials with on-off switches for each, plus a master volume—with a missing knob—on the upper body. Every piece of metal, from the pickup surrounds, knobs, tailpiece—even the heel plate and control cavity cover—have been intricately engraved by O’Brien. This is as much a work of art as it is a unique instrument with an inspiring tone.
Ronnie Lane is hardly the most famous name associated with the Faces, but it could be argued that the spirit of the band was largely due to his influence. His love of folk and country music even left its mark upon early Rod Stewart solo records on which Lane and his Faces bandmates played a large part. This bass was with him for early Faces performances and could easily have been used on some of these classic recordings, including the albums First Step and Long Player.
This headstock has flourishes fit for a king—possibly of clubs.
There are numerous iconic photos of the band onstage where this bass can be seen, but its value goes well beyond pure memorabilia. Zemaitis instruments hold a special place in the evolution of guitar design, and the masterful engravings of Danny O’Brien are unmistakable. The sad loss of Ronnie Lane to multiple sclerosis in 1997 makes this instrument even more special. The wear and tear he put on the bass and the music he made with it are part of his lasting legacy.
Eventually this bass found its way to a pawn shop in the southern United States, where its second owner purchased it, unaware of its famous history. The bass was played locally from the late 1970s until about three years ago, when that owner passed away, leaving the bass to his cousin. His research over the past few years led him to realize the provenance of the instrument in his possession, and he ultimately confirmed his findings with us at Rumble Seat Music in Nashville, where this legendary instrument is now proudly offered—a perfect example of the kind of rock ’n’ roll artifact we love!
Equipped with noise reduction and noise gate modes, the Integrated Gate has a signal monitoring function that constantly monitors the input signal.
In order to solve the unnaturalness at the time of sound interruption, which was a problem of conventional noise gates, it is equipped with a signal monitoring function that constantly monitors the input signal, such as peaking and attenuation of the input signal, by using a CPU. The optimum output level is controlled while monitoring the waveform. Even with the Integrated Gate connected, the sound quality does not change, and in order to convey the original sound of the guitar or bass to a device connected after this unit, the circuit through which the audio signal passes is completely analog. Free The Tone took extra time to study the sound quality and complete the design. You can feel the fundamental difference from the sound quality of conventional noise reduction and noise gates.
- Equipped with Noise Reduction and Noise Gate modes. You can select the operation to suit your purpose.
- Equipped with input impedance select switch (Hi-Z/Lo-Z).
- Control by MIDI signal (Control Change Number) is possible (effect on/off only).
- Equipped with Free The Tone’s original HTS (Holistic Tonal Solution) circuit.
Integrated Gate carries a suggested retail price of $228.00, and is available now through our North American dealers listed at: www.freethetone.com.