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Fender American Professional II Stratocaster HSS & Telecaster review

Fender freshen's up its US line with some new finishes and spec for the jobbing guitarist

  • £1599+
  • €1755+
  • $1499+
Fender American Professional II
(Image: © Future / Neil Godwin)

Our Verdict

The American Professional II Series is reassuringly familiar yet manages to add subtle pockets of innovation and a fresh new look to Fender's flagship US models.

Pros

  • Quality tones.
  • Subtlety improvements yield very pleasant results.
  • Push-push switch increases functionality.
  • Nice finishes.
  • Fun to play.

Cons

  • The Tele's bridge saddles could do with notching.
  • Roasted Pine might be divisive.

It is only four years since Fender replaced the American Standard Series with the American Professional Series, but such is the speed of evolution in the electric guitar market, we are now presented with the second generation of Am Pro models.

The American Professional II Series is very much evolution over revolution. Here we have new finish and switching options, a more designed heel contour for improved upper-fret access. All well thought out, considered and welcome appointments. The question is whether it was all worth it. 

If you are looking for a radical contemporary take on the Fender canon, the American Ultra range remains the lineup for you. Alternatively, a more cost-effective US-built Fender comes by way of the American Performer, while those of a mind to consider Fender's design powers having peaked by the 60s have the American Original Series of vintage-inspired models to choose from.

Here, we'll take a look at the Am Pro II HSS Stratocaster in Roasted Pine and a rather dashing Telecaster in Mercury.

American Pro II Stratocaster HSS

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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The Roasted Pine Strat comes in a clear-coat natural finish that shows off plenty of the wood's grain. Pine is a traditional building material for Fender but has only really come back on the scene due to the difficulties in sourcing ash. A beetle infestation, rising swamp waters, all conspire to make supplies difficult to secure. If you want ash on a 2020 Fender, you'll probably have to pony up for a Custom Shop model.

As for the pine, the roasting process deepens the colour. This is a handsome piece of tonewood. The roasting also might sway those who think kitchen furniture when they think of pine – soft kitchen furniture at that. 

The staggered-height modern from the original Am Pro Series remains, while the rest of the hardware has been improved. There is a cold-rolled steel block in the new two-post bridge design to enhance sustain and top-end response. The blocks that were previously used were cast and typically coated in resin, and it was a common aftermarket upgrade to replace them.

As for the pickups, it is out with the V-Mod HSS and in with the V-Mod II single coils and a Double Tap humbucker that comes with a push-push switch on the tone control for a single-coil mode. It's clever how Fender has arranged the coils in the HSS, with the mismatched coil covers giving it the look of a regular single-coil Strat.

American Pro II Telecaster

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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

First of all, two thumbs up for the new Mercury finish. A muted Silver Burst in all but name, this Tele wears it well on an alder body. As with the Strat, the hardware has been changed, with a newly designed bridge that can be configured as a top-loader a la Jimmy Page or through-strung, and featuring a bridge plate with side walls that have been paired down so it is more ash-plate than ashtray.

Take a closer look at the saddles. They are compensated, with the height adjustment screws buried in the saddle to make a smoother platform for your picking hand. Similarly, the outer ends have been smoothed off and are shaped a little like a bullet truss road adjuster.

Here we have V-Mod II pickups and, again, a push-push tone control to allow you to run both pickups in series when you are in the mix position on the three-way lever. The controls are dome-topped knurled knobs.

Performance and verdict

Both guitars have a maple, modern ‘deep C’ profile, bolt-on neck that is exceptionally comfortable in the hand, with not too much meat as to put off the contemporary player raised on slimmer builds. The Tele neck is slab-sawn, the Strat’s one-piece maple neck and 'board is rift-sawn.

The Am Pro II models have largely a similar feel to their predecessors, but the rolled fretboard edges add a touch of luxury. The finish on the neck is not going to gum up on you either. It is very nice to the touch.

Factory setups are tip-top on both guitars, slinky, easy enough without being ridiculous. This is the working player's guitar, after all, so it is only right that these should be so player-friendly.

Also consider...

Best Telecasters: Fender American Ultra Telecaster

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender American Ultra Telecaster
The American Ultra Telecaster has a very classy modern build with more than a hint of Fender's showing off about it. From the tones, the playability to some of the coolest new Fender finishes we have seen, there is a lot to like.

Fender American Ultra Stratocaster
All these Ultra features tools at your disposal add up to a really impressive and versatile Strat, and that’s the standard we’d expect for this money.

Fender American Performer Stratocaster
The American Performer has just enough playability and extra tonal options to make it worth spending that little bit more on a US-model over its Mexican-built rivals.

Tone-wise, the Strat is sharp, detailed and bright. With the tones on 10 you've got a real bite there, with plenty of travel as you back it off, and in doing so, bringing to light some more vintage voices to play with. We like the push-push control. There's a good matching of output between the single coils and the split 'bucker.

It's always a little bit of a shock when you shoulder an HSS Strat and strike a power chord on that bridge humbucker. You expect the sharpness and the treble, but then the power and the width hits you. It is one bright humbucker but you can always take some of that treble off – much easier than having to brighten up a dull guitar. The tone controls are not there for decoration.

As for the vibrato, it's stable, lightweight and has a nice response. It holds up well to light use, with a very well-cut push-fit arm. This is an addictive Strat. It's difficult to put it down.

The Telecaster is no different. Pleasingly, its neck pickup has a touch of the Strat about it, albeit with a less upfront attack. It takes some of the high end off allowing the midrange to shine. This is where the bridge pickup really excels, balancing that sharp-elbowed quality with a midrange that reveals itself as you take some of the tone back.

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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

In the mix position, the series switch reveals a wider voicing for the Telecaster, which is a neat alternative to the stock neck and bridge options, and it's a tone that works well with overdrive, or when rolling back the volume to clean it up. 

As with the Strat, don't be afraid to use the volume and tone controls. An unaccompanied Tele bridge pickup can be abrasive; in a band context it is often vital. Find your sweet spot should be a breeze. 

It's not perfect. We wished the saddles were notched to help sanitise the string spacing but this is a quirk of Tele design and hardly a deal breaker.

Do these Am Pro II models make their predecessors obsolete? Hardly. But that's not really the point. The aesthetic refresh and new features are Fender's way of keeping the series relevant, to make it the go-to for pros and serious amateurs alike who seek a high-performance US Fender build. Mission accomplished.

MusicRadar verdict: The American Professional II Series is reassuringly familiar yet manages to add subtle pockets of innovation and a fresh new look to Fender's flagship US models. 

The web says

"Is roasted pine the new ash? Impossible to say on the evidence of a single guitar, but listening to this Strat in comparison with both alder and light ash references, it’s definitely in the right ballpark and perhaps sits between the two."
Guitarist

"Will we see first-generation American Professional owners queueing up to trade in their instruments with the quasi-religious fervour of tech nerds waiting in line for the latest smartphone launch? Probably not. But a series of intelligent upgrades have made these guitars even more versatile, enhanced the playing experience and broadened their already vast appeal."
Guitar

Hands-on demos

Guitarist

PMT

Guitar

Specifications

Fender American Professional II Telecaster

Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: £1,599 / $1,499 / (inc case) 
  • ORIGIN: USA 
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway solidbody electric 
  • BODY: Alder 
  • NECK: Maple, modern ‘deep C’ profile, bolt-on 
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”) 
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43.25mm 
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white dot markers, 241mm (9.5”) radius 
  • FRETS: 22, narrow tall 
  • HARDWARE: Nickel/chromed-plated strings-through-body or top-load Tele bridge with three compensated brass ‘bullet’ saddles and six-screw mounting, Fender standard cast/sealed staggered tuners 
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 55mm 
  • ELECTRICS: 2x Fender V-Mod II single coil Tele pickups, 3-position lever pickup selector switch, master volume (with treble bleed) and master tone with knurled dome-top knobs 
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.65/8.03 
  • OPTIONS: See ‘Colours & Woods’ box 
  • RANGE OPTIONS: The roasted pine-bodied Telecaster is priced £1,649 / $1,549 , the same as the new Tele Deluxe 
  • LEFT-HANDERS: We can expect a left-handed Strat, Tele and Jazzmaster early 2021 
  • FINISHES: Mercury (as reviewed). See ‘Colours & Woods’. Gloss urethane body and headstock face, ‘Super-Natural’ satin urethane neck back’

Fender American Professional II Stratocaster HSS

Fender American Professional II

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: £1,649 / $1,649 (inc case) 
  • ORIGIN: USA 
  • TYPE: Offset double-cutaway solidbody electric 
  • BODY: Roasted pine 
  • NECK: Maple, modern ‘deep C’ profile, bolt-on 
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”) 
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43.2mm 
  • FINGERBOARD: Maple, black dot markers, 241mm (9.5”) radius 
  • FRETS: 22, narrow tall 
  • HARDWARE: Nickel/chromed-plated 2-point synchronized vibrato with bent steel saddles and pop-in arm and cold-rolled steel block, Fender Standard cast/sealed staggered tuners 
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm 
  • ELECTRICS: Fender V-Mod II DoubleTap humbucker (bridge), V-Mod II single coil Strat (middle & neck), 5-position lever pickup selector switch, master volume (w/ treble bleed), tone 1 (neck & middle), tone 2 (bridge) w/push switch coil split and aged white plastic knobs 
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.45/7.59 
  • OPTIONS: See ‘Colours & Woods’ 
  • RANGE OPTIONS: With an alder body the Strat HSS costs $1,549 / £1,599. The standard three-single-coil Stratocaster follows the same pricing as the 
  • HSS LEFT-HANDERS: As above 
  • FINISHES: Roasted Pine (as reviewed). See ‘Colours & Woods’. Gloss urethane body and headstock face, ‘Super-Natural’ satin urethane neck back’
  • CONTACT: Fender