Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fender Unveils New American Standard Series

The original American Standard ran from 1987 to 2000, where it was replaced with the America Series. There was much controversy about the orignal AM Standards, from the swimming pool route underneath the pickguards on Strats, the the use of veneer tops and backs, covering the multiple pieces of wood use for the body. Plus, the type of wood was often unknown. Poplar and Basswood, perfectly fine woods, were thought to have been used at times. Regardless, the American Standard was a good guitar and was very popluar. I own a 1994 and 1997 Stratocaster and am very happy with them.

The American Series came out in 2001, I believe, and addressed the veneer issue. In Fender ads, they specifically mentioned the use of non-veneered bodies, and changed the much-maligned swimming pool route to be less severe. I own a 2001 Stratocaster, and consider it my main guitar.

The changes from the Fender website:
  • A new bridge with improved bent-steel saddles mounted to a stamped-brass bridge plate for increased resonance and sustain.

  • A new neck treatment—tinted for a richer presentation, with the maple or rosewood fingerboard buffed to a high gloss. The back of the neck still has that silky, comfortable satin finish.

  • A thinner finish undercoat that lets the body breathe and improves resonance.
  • A new Fender-exclusive SKB molded case.

I had a chance to play both the Tele and Strat unplugged. I did not notice much of a difference in the body, but the maple neck was darker. Lately, it seems that Fender is using white maple, almost a light green in some cases. They must have caught on to complaints about that. The new necks have that slippery feel common in vintage reissues and 1970's era guitars. The body has a thinner finish, too, supposedly helping the overall tone.

My impressions were that the guitars felt like my 2001 Strat, and I was not really crazy about a slippery fingerboard. However, none of that detracts from a finely made guitar. It is just my personal preference. The laquered neck is not near as bad as say the Eric Johnson signature Strat or a 52 reissue Telecaster, which I have a hard time with.

Small changes to the guitars have added to a just under $1000 pricetag, too.

I am planning on trying these out plugged in soon, so I can see how they sound. Word around the guitar forums is that they sound fantastic and all of the changes are good.

Whatever the changes, Fender always does a good job on moving forward with old designs. When you look back on the history of Stratocasters, you can see how they have evloved over time. And almost always for the better. Sure, CBS screwed things up during the 1970's. But having grown up during that time, my interest was in the new models, not the old ones. I did not know about all the crap that was going on. I just knew that I was looking at these guitars in awe.

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