What is it?
Call it the shock of the new, which can be bracing in guitar culture where we are used to incremental changes and the careful evolution of design. But the Acoustasonic? That was the guitar world's hoverboard moment; a jolt to remind us that the future has arrived.
But we have lived with the Acoustasonic Tele for a year and it now feels part of the Fender lineup. The Acoustasonic Strat comes along in a time in which our expectations have evolved. We've seen the Acoustasonic idea in practice, liked it, and why not, indeed? Give the Fender Stratocaster the treatment to see if it, too, has the
Our first impressions with the Acoustasonic Strat would suggest that Fender is fast-perfecting the Acoustasonic recipe. It has an immediately impressive acoustic voice. If it lacks the depth and power of a full steel-string acoustic it nonetheless has a three-dimensional tone profile that belies the avant-garde design.
That noise is projected from the newly designed donut soundhole (aka the patented Stringed Instrument Resonance System), just one element of radicalism in practice here.
The build is, by now, getting a little familiar. Like the Tele, we've got a full-scale Fender, with a mahogany neck carved into a deep C profile. This is bolted-on to a body comprising mahogany on the back and sides and an inset solid Sitka spruce top.
The silhouette is typically Strat-esque but this one is strung with acoustic strings. The bridge is an acoustic-style ebony bridge with compensated Black Tusq saddles.
Like the Tele, we've got a master volume control and five-position lever Voice Selector. There are five pairs of voices (A and B) that you can use individually or blend together via the Mod control. The active electronic circuit is charged via USB and offers a lot of potential.
Performance and sounds
The Acoustasonic is reassuringly lightweight. We can't think of another Strat we have played that weighs anything close to 2.32kg (5.1lb). It's one svelte pup. Unplugged, it might lack a little volume but there's a midrange midrange character to it that sounds inherently musical, and you would get good results from mic'ing it up.
The neck is exceptional. The deep C profile is the same as those of Fender’s Professional series, but the fingerboard radius is marginally flatter. While the feel requires a little more brawn (the Acoustasonic ships with a set of Fender Dura-Tonecoated phosphor bronze 0.011s) to bend and play leads, the feel is still very much electric.
Players how like heavier strings on their electric will take to it like a duck to water.
As for tones, well, that one is wide open and it ultimately depends on what you plug into. When we played the Acoustasonic Strat through an AER combo, it was pure acoustic gold. Positions 4 and 5 on the controls gave us classic dreadnought and fingerstyle acoustic tones. There are smaller body voicings that are huge.
Position 3 presses the top pickup into action, adding an extra dimension, an ambience that's sure to please contemporary acoustic fingerpickers. Rhythmic taps and percussive raps on the soundboard come across as organic and musical.
Position 2 offers some nice hybrid tones, excellent for the stage, but in the acoustic setting, the Acoustasonic Strat is exactly that.
• Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster
The first of its kind is an unpretentious acoustic/electric hybrid offering plenty value and playability and a mix of classic electric and acoustic tones. You've got to try one.
• Taylor T5z Custom
The T5z is still a highly visionary design for the creative player wanting to merge electric and acoustic sounds.
Played through an electric rig and the Acoustasonic can take to all kinds of styles. It's ideal for blues and country, rock. Throw a little fuzz or drive pedal in front of it and the Acoustasonic Strat really comes alive.
You'll find a bit more heft to the tone than with a regular Strat, but there is a little less sustain. Dial in some hot and throaty break-up and it makes a truly exceptional option for slide players.
It is nice to find that the Acoustasonic Strat sounds as good in the upper registers as it does when fretting chords and playing rhythm. But maybe we should have expected that given that it wears both sides of its acoustic and electric personalities well.
Sure, we are not shocked by the Acoustasonic idiom, not having played it. But even still, it does feels like a paradigm shift for guitar design. It makes sense in your hands, and yet it feels novel, as though a whole new world of musical possibilities has been opened up.
The bridge pickup through an electric rig is fun and games, especially with some raw heat from an overdriven amp. The lightweight electro-acoustic experience is a winner, too, playing to the compact form of the Stratocaster's strengths.
The acoustic tones are of course a little quieter but they are mighty convincing when amplified. We would have liked a compensated saddle to add plain third string, and a neck pickup while we are at it.
Maybe these will feature in future revisions. What we have in our hands right now is a clever hybrid between the steel-string acoustic and an electric guitar profile loaded with well-designed electronics. This charming and innovative new take on an electric guitar classic is hard to put down.
MusicRadar verdict: Fender' might just have designed the future for hybrid electro-acoustic designs, with this Strat a lightweight, high-performance instrument that will persuade you with tones and feel.
The electronics feature knobs for master volume and a Mod control that blends the voices you have selected via the five-way blade-style switch.
The headstock features an etched Fender logo.
Here we have Micro-Tilt adjustment to finetune neck pitch, which is a handy feature when you are dealing with an acoustic-style bridge. The neck join is typical Fender – four screws and a heelplate.
The Acoustasonic Strat has a mahogany neck, carved into a modern ‘deep C’ profile a la the American Professional series. The ebony fingerboard has a 305mm (12-inch) radius.
The input jack also houses the USB charge point. One charge should last you 20 hours of playing time.
The web says
"Over the past couple of decades, the guitar market has become haunted with the ghosts of well-meaning attempts to merge the acoustic and electric worlds. Few have had as much potential to endure as this."
- PRICE: £1,749 / $1,999.99 (inc gigbag)
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Double-cutaway, solidbodysized electro-acoustic
- BODY: Mahogany (hollow) with inset Sitka spruce top
- NECK: Mahogany, modern ‘deep C’ profile, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- TUNERS: Fender standard cast/ sealed staggered tuners
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Black Tusq/42.8mm
- FINGERBOARD: Ebony, white dot markers, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, narrow/tall
- BRIDGE/SPACING: Ebony w/compensated Black Tusq saddle/53.5mm
- ELECTRICS: 3-pickup configuration: Fishman under-saddle transducer and bridge plate body sensor, Fender Noiseless N4 magnetic. master volume, Mod knob, 5-way Voice Selector lever switch. Single mono output with USB battery charge
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2.32/5.1
- OPTIONS: Colour only
- RANGE OPTIONS: The American Acoustasonic Telecaster (£1,749)
- LEFTHANDERS: No
- FINISHES: 3-Color Sunburst (as reviewed), Black, Dakota Red, Natural, Transparent Sonic Blue – satin matt polyester to body; satin urethane to neck and headstock
- CONTACT: Fender