Whether us guitarists know it or not, we are addicted to the mysteries of wood.
What makes a guitar sound good? It’s a combination of things, but tonewoods are a big part of the spell. And yet there are no hard and fast wood rules - only likely characteristics - and we’ve all played guitars that sound great because they nail the mysterious recipe, regardless of the size of their price tag. Which leads us to this Fender.
You’re probably thinking ‘£160? Absolute entry-level’. And it is indeed the entry model of the new Classic Design series, but check those low expectations. We like the whole ’hog look here, but the high gloss certainly didn’t get the memo about the current taste for guitars with understated looks that could look at home on a Delta porch. Still, Dust Bowl vibe be damned, because pick the CD-60S up, and it really starts to charm.
There was a time when a first guitar meant a rite of passage through the feared Valley Of The High Action. Fender says no to that. Intonation here is great out of the box, though not too low to make us wary of alternate tunings. We try some out and there’s no unwanted rattle and hum in D# (as a general rule, this is good to try if you want some heavier bottom-end as well as slightly slinkier string tension). There’s a little buzz on the top string in DADGAD, but we’re pleased to find Fender’s tuners here are pretty smooth in adjustments.
But sound is where this dread delivers the goods. The mid-character of mahogany is certainly here, bringing some meat to a brightness usually associated with spruce tops (remember what we said about no hard and fast rules with tonewoods?). The result is something that’s genuinely inspiring to play and chimes in chord work.
For young players still physically growing, we wonder if a larger-bodied dreadnought is the best place to start, but there’s certainly satisfying gains and investment to made in the bottom-end tone from this deeper traditional all-rounder design. Bass notes are strong and defined rather than boomy, which offers benefits for fingerpicking.
The term ‘beginner instrument’ doesn’t really fit with today’s standards in the acoustic sector as manufacturers get more out of tonewoods for less cost to us. And this is a guitar that proves it. Why should new players settle for just okay when they need to be comfortable and inspired? But there’s no reason why this dreadnought wouldn’t be a good addition for anyone else, too.