Having teased a major product announcement last week with a video trailer promising that you will "never play a Fender the same way again," Fender has launched the American Ultra Series, a premium, US-built lineup that replaces the 2016 American Elite Series and brings a multitude of contemporary features to the table.
Fender describes the American Elite Series as "the most-advanced modern" electric guitar in its catalogue, and here it has made some sweeping changes to enhance playability and performance, with a new D neck profile, updated compound radius fingerboards with "extremely rolled edges", satin-smooth necks, heavily sculpted four-bolt neck joints, treble-bleed circuits and noiseless pickups applied across the series.
Gone, too, is the rotary truss rod adjustment at the bottom of the neck – this has moved back to the headstock.
The body contours have also been revised to make the American Elite Series more comfortable. The American Ultra Series also sees the debut of the Ultra Noiseless Vintage pickups, which as the name suggests offer old-school Fender singlecoil tones without the hum, and the Ultra Noiseless Hot pickups, which run that bit hotter to hit the front end of your amp harder and work well for overdriven styles.
The American Ultra Series Stratocaster HSS is the first Fender guitar to deploy the Double Tap Humbucker, which is overwound so that the pickup volume is matched the middle and neck singlecoils when using the coil-splitter – a little thing that makes a huge difference.
The Precision and Jazz Bass lineup is updated with the HiMass bridge, which looks great and, says Fender, offers "serious sustain, precise intonation and rock-solid tuning stability," plus a redesigned preamp with a three-band boost/cut EQ and switchable active or passive circuits.
"The American Ultra Series is our most advanced series of guitars and basses for discerning players who demand the ultimate playing experience in precision, performance and tone,” said Justin Norvell, EVP of Product at Fender in a statement. “Blending state-of-the-art engineering and nuanced design to provide a high-performance experience for today’s player, American Ultra is the next chapter in Fender’s legacy of cutting-edge innovation. American Ultra has truly been decades in the making and is a result of our tireless commitment to meet the needs of today’s working and touring guitar players looking for a modern feel and tone.”
And, of course, no new series would be complete without some new finishes, and the American Ultra Series is available in Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Texas Tea, Arctic Pearl, Aged Natural, Plasma Red Burst and Ultraburst. Protecting that finish is a custom moulded hard case included with each instrument.
Let's take a look at the series more closely . . .
Fender American Ultra Series Stratocaster £1,859/$1,899
The American Ultra Series Stratocaster features the new "Modern D" neck profile, with the revised, flatter compound fingerboard radius running 10-14". This is a subtle change from the more typically Fender 9.5" but this, allied to the medium-jumbo frets, lends Fender's top-line instruments a more contemporary feel, and it's a world away from the '50s period 7.25" fingerboard radius that the vintage purists might prefer.
While the American Ultra Series is unmistakably Fender, there is an acknowledgement here that this is about moving Fender's designs forward. Elsewhere, the American Ultra Series Strat has the "Ultra Satin" finish on the neck, so it won't gum up on you, a bodywood choice of alder or ash, maple or rosewood fingerboards, three Ultra Noiseless Vintage Strat pickups with a five-position blade switch and S-1 switching on the master volume that, at the touch of a button, adds the neck pickup to the bridge, bridge/middle, and middle pickup.
Other cool things to look out for are those foil Fender headstock logos, Fender locking tuners, and a bone nut. A two-point Deluxe Synchronised Tremolo with pop-in arm completes the look, while finish options include Aged Natural (ash bodies), Plasma Red Burst (ash bodies), Ultraburst, Arctic Pearl, Mocha Burst, Texas Tea and Cobra Blue.
Fender American Ultra Series Stratocaster HSS £1,859/$1899
The American Ultra Series Stratocaster reprises the same features as the Stratocaster but is equipped with the Double Tap Humbucker in the bridge position. For those looking to play rock and metal, this might be the one – especially when you take into account those new compound radius fingerboards, the medium-jumbo frets, and the sculpted four-bolt neck joint that waves you on up for upper-fret showboating.
Finishes are largely same as the singlecoil Stratocaster.
Fender American Ultra Series Jazzmaster £1,959/$1,999
Replacing the Elite Series Thinline Telecaster, the American Ultra Series Jazzmaster sees the world's most iconic offset electric take on a truly modern feel while retaining that certain je ne sais quoi that makes it such a much-loved guitar. Much of that is to do with the switching system, which is equal parts arcane and hugely useful, while pair of Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazzmaster pickups give the guitar that gnarly hot tone.
As to that switching system, allied to the slide switch for phase circuit, with roller pots for neck and bridge pickup volume in the phase circuit, this Jazzmaster has S-1 Switching in the master volume for series/parallel, and two tone pots, one each for bridge and neck pickups.
The American Ultra Series Jazzmaster is available in ash or alder bodies, with maple or rosewood fingerboards, and a choice of finishes comprising Cobra Blue, Ultraburst, Plasma Red Burst or Mocha Burst.
Fender American Ultra Series Telecaster £1,859
Fender's workhorse electric is still full of Tele tone, with Ultra Noiseless Vintage Tele pickups in the neck and bridge, and the same six-saddle style Tele bridge as the American Elite Series. But, again, as with the Strats, you've got the 10-14" compound radius fingerboard, the satin-smooth necks, the extra body and neck heel contouring to enhance your lower back's happiness and the upper frets' accessibility.
There are knurled flat-top nickel chrome knobs for volume and tone, with S-1 Switch in the master volume activating a series wiring option, which will sound a little like a boost, a little fuller.
Again, body woods are alder or ash for the Plasma Red Burst and Butterscotch Blonde finishes, and there are a variety of pickguard colours to choose from: one-ply black on, naturally, the Butterscotch Blonde finish; three-ply mint guards on Ultraburst and Mocha Burst finishes; three-ply Aged White on the Cobra Blue finish; three-ply White on the Arctic Pearl finish; three-ply Aged White Pearl on the Plasma Red Burst; and Silver Anodized on the Texas Tea finish . . . A veritable cornucopia of looks for Fender's new flagship Tele.
Fender American Ultra Series Precision Bass £1,959
As with the guitars, the American Ultra Series Precision Bass enjoys a new Modern D neck profile, with rolled edges, satin-smooth finish on the back and that high-gloss headstock with gold foil Fender logo. And on that headstock you'll find a set of Fender F-branded, light-weight vintage paddle keys with tapered shafts.
Bodywoods options include alder for the Arctic Pearl and Mocha Burst finishes and ash for the Aged Natural and Plasma Red Burst finishes. The American Ultra P-Bass has a similarly sculpted heel and revised contouring, a 34" scale, compound 10"-14" radius fingerboard, and the newly designed HiMass bridge.
Pickups-wise, you've got a split-coil Ultra Precision Bass in the middle position and an Ultra Jazz Bass in bridge while the new active/passive preamp with three-band EQ should give you plenty of options for sculpting your tone.
Fender American Ultra Series Jazz Bass £1,959
The American Ultra Series Jazz Bass shares many of the updates as seen throughout the line. So expect the Modern D profile, the new 10"-14" compound radius fingerboard with rolled edges, the sculpted heel and satin neck finish – oh, and that HiMass bridge. But bassists who have long coveted the Jazz Bass won't be disappointed in that it still retains its classic look and tone.
There are the block fretboard inlays, either in white or black pearloid depending on the fingerboard material being rosewood or maple. There are two Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazz Bass pickups in neck and bridge positions, with classic Jazz Bass plastic knobs controlling master volume, pan pot (to select pickups), three-band boost/cut EQ and a mini-toggle switch for active or passive circuits.
As with the P-Bass, bodywood options comprise ash and alder, with finishes including Cobra Blue, Ultraburst, Texas Tea, Aged Natural and Arctic Pearl.
Fender American Ultra Series Jazz Bass V £1,999
With the American Ultra Series Jazz Bass V, the spec is the same as Jazz Bass but with, well, an extra string, and thus a five- instead of four-saddle HiMass Vintage Topload bridge, and there some different finish options, with Mocha Burst, Ultraburst, Aged Natural, Plasma Red Burst and Arctic Pearl available.
- See Fender for more details on the American Ultra Series.