What was behind the new Elite guitars? Are they more than a simple refresh? We ask Fender’s VP of product development, Justin Norvell
Why did you feel the need to upgrade the Noiseless pickups to a fourth generation?
“We’re always chasing that perfect combo of a classic Fender sound with no hum. We believe our Noiseless pickups are the best out there, but we also felt that we could make them even better, so we’re always playing with the formula.
“Recently, we tried some completely new construction methods and designs that yielded fantastic results - and rather than comparing and voicing them off the past three generations of Noiseless pickups, we used our American Vintage series pickups and voiced a more classic tone.”
Cold fusion pickups
So, how do they differ in terms of the pickup design?
“It’s an entirely new design. We spent two years in development and dozens of versions to get the right ones.
“There’s a bit of a secret to the formula, but we used separate-pole magnet sets in the coils - which are also sized differently with a smaller bottom coil - and then experimented with different wire gauges between the coils, different gauss strengths in the magnets, until we achieved the optimal combination. It’s all new! New bobbins, new magnets, new everything.”
What are your perceptions of the change in sound?
“A much more open and full sound, with less compression. The response to attack dynamics and rolling off the volume is outstanding - there’s less magnetic pull as well, so the sustain is greater. These truly sound like great benchmark Strat/Tele/J Bass pickups, but with no hum! We voiced them to be musical and smooth with high gain.
“We joke that these are ‘cold fusion’ pickups, that we’ve finally cracked what people have been trying to do for 50 years!”
The new neck shape feels really good…
“When we approached this series, we definitely wanted to evolve the ergonomics and feel of the necks: to make a new shape that was effortless - less work, more play!
“We wanted the well-known Fender C shape down at the nut for chording, but we played around with the shape evolving to a more lead-friendly, flatter shape as you work up the neck.
“We went through about a dozen shapes and then experimented with blending the shapes together for the best feel… We took the tolerance of the heel volute down to mirror the new neck-joint heel, so at the high fret, you don’t have that flattened out part - your hand just can glide all the way up.”
And why lose the long-standing Micro-Tilt adjustment?
“The Micro-Tilt works with top-adjust truss rod nuts, so by going to the new easy-action rod with adjustment at the base, it was out. We felt the benefit of the easier access rod was the way to go.”