Despite being well over half a century old now, for many players, the Telecaster will always represent the pinnacle of electric guitar design.
With an arguably less flashy, more workmanlike image than the curvaceous lines of the Stratocaster, and a raunchier set of basic tones, it’s also one of the few electric guitars that excels in virtually every musical setting imaginable, barring perhaps extreme metal, without fitting new pickups.
From the Squier Affinity range, right up to the Custom Shop Time Machine models, Fender makes a Tele for every pocket. As you might expect, the American Vintage ’52 Tele is largely a slavish reproduction of the guitar that started it all.
Fender tries to ensure that each guitar in its American Vintage series feels like a special package. On flipping open the catches on the attractive tweed case, apart from the fruity aroma of nitrocellulose and the plush orange of the case interior, we are greeted by a generous complement of ‘case candy’. Along with the guitar itself, you get an assortment of goodies.
A rather short leather strap of US origin, guitar care kit and a vintage style lead are accompanied by, in this case, a slightly ill-fitting ashtray bridge cover, a modern six-saddle replacement bridge and a capacitor and wiring diagram for converting the guitar to a more modern specification… but more on that later.
On removing the ’52 from its case, the nitrocellulose lacquer has that familiar aroma and slight stickiness, although initial impressions are that the butterscotch finish applied to the one-piece ash body is just a touch too dark in hue and too thick and glass-like to really capture that vintage vibe in the way that the Custom Shop Time Machine Fenders do.
That said, an NOS Nocaster will set you back £2099, so therein lies the difference. If you like the aged look, then the only answer that doesn’t involve sandpaper is to distress it the old-fashioned way… by gigging the hell out of it! So, rather than evoking the worn-in comfort of your favourite pair of jeans or an old leather jacket, there’s something a little stiff and new about the immediate feel of this guitar.
The ’52’s vintage profile frets are immaculately fitted with no sharp ends, yet the gauge of the fretwire seems a fraction fatter and a little closer to medium than some we’ve encountered. But there are plenty of impressively vintage-accurate features and the attention to detail is apparent in the choice of slot rather than crosshead screws, even down to the neck bolts and tuner screws.