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Fender Noventa Series review

Soapbar P-90-style pickups give Fender's most-loved electric guitars a new voice. Here we put the Strat and the single-pickup Tele through their paces

  • £799+
  • €899+
  • $999+
Fender Noventa Series
(Image: © Future / Neil Godwin)

Our Verdict

The Noventa series presents a fun, inspiring reimagining of classic Fender guitar design and might just convert those who feel regular Strat and Tele single-coils are too thin for their needs.

Pros

  • Familiar feel, superb playability.
  • Fresh tones that sound different but not too weird.
  • Both offer versatility from a stripped-back format.

Cons

  • Not for purists.
  • A synchronised tremolo on the Strat would have been a cool option.

MusicRadar Verdict

The Noventa series presents a fun, inspiring reimagining of classic Fender guitar design and might just convert those who feel regular Strat and Tele single-coils are too thin for their needs.

Pros

  • + Familiar feel, superb playability.
  • + Fresh tones that sound different but not too weird.
  • + Both offer versatility from a stripped-back format.

Cons

  • - Not for purists.
  • - A synchronised tremolo on the Strat would have been a cool option.

Fender Noventa Series: What is it?

With so many iterations of the classic Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster forms, it was only a matter of time before someone had the brain wave to strip them down and deploy newly developed P-90-style electric guitar pickups for a no-fuss rock ’n’ roll machine. 

Mexican built, affordable but not cheap, easy on the eye, the Noventa series calls to mind models such as the Cabronita Telecaster, which augmented the time-honoured template with a pair of Gretsch-y Fideli'Tron pickups, and there’s something very appealing about seeing such electric guitar design iconoclasm in the flesh.

Here we have one Telecaster in Vintage Blonde – butterscotch by another name – and a Strat in Daphne Blue. The single-pickup format of the Telecaster a minimalist might call back to its pre-Tele model, the Esquire, but with its cut-down pickguard, covering just the lower horn of the guitar, there’s something even more primal about it.

Fender Noventa Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The Strat feels even more radical, reimagined with a pair of Noventa soapbar pickups at neck and bridge positions. The pickups of course draw attention to themselves, and we do wonder whether they would have looked better with plastic coverings to complement the three-ply mint green and black pickguard, but maybe this is what Fender was wanting all along – all eyes on the pickups.

These are the USP here. After all, we are looking at a relatively conventional build otherwise, with both Tele and Strat featuring solid, two-piece alder bodies, with bolt-on maple necks and maple fingerboards. 

Both have satin-smooth finishes and while the Strat has a slightly slimmer ‘Modern C’ profile than the Tele’s more palm-filling ‘60s C’, there’s not that much difference in the feel between them. Across the synthetic nut, we’ve got 42mm, 51mm at the 12th fret, and a very uncontroversial 9.5mm fingerboard radius.

Fender Noventa Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The throw-and-go hotrod vibe continues to the hardware; the Strat is fitted with a six-bent-steel-saddle hardtail bridge, the Tele with a cut-down ashtray-style bridge with three compensated brass saddles. Both are strung through the body. 

Tone-wise, played unplugged before those Noventa pickups are engaged, the bold ring of the Telecaster sounds very much on-brand, and it is intriguing how this will translate through a guitar amp.

These Noventa models come fitted with the same vintage-style six-in-line tuners we have seen on the superlative Vintera series, while the Telecaster borrows a little design flourish from vintage P-Basses, housing its volume and tone pots on a metal control plate. 

Meanwhile, the Strat’s volume and tone controls are joined on the pickguard with a three-way pickup selector switch, with black knobs and switch tips matching the pickup covers.

Fender Noventa Series: Performance and verdict

Feel-wise, both Tele and Strat are like old friends, very familiar. The satin-smooth necks ensure there won’t be any gumming up when you perspire, but Fender keeps this matte effect in the back office so to speak; both the headstock and the fingerboards have a gloss polyurethane finish. 

In the hand, the Telecaster’s neck hints ever so gently at a V profile and is exceptionally comfortable. While the Strat does feel a little more modern, a little more zip, both are superbly slinky, benefitting from a more-than-playable factory setup. Where things get weird – and by design – is when the amplifier comes into play.

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Fender Vintera 60s Modified Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender Vintera 60s Stratocaster Modified
These guitars are hugely valid, whatever they’re now called. They remain go-to choices for players on a budget and we’d suggest there’s enough refinement and build quality that’ll surprise many sniffier punters. 

Fender Cabronita Telecaster
Spirited, endlessly playable and extremely difficult to put down, the Cabronita is a Fender unlike any other, and thankfully, one most of us can afford.

These might have familiar names on the headstock but good luck getting a sound of them that would betray their designation in a blind sound test. No chance. The Noventa series seems to dare you to go straight for the overdrive pedal and that’s a good place to explore the Telecaster’s charms. 

It has always been the great primitive guitar design but with the extra meat of the Noventa soapbar pickups, it has a density and a weight to its sound. The curled lip of rock ’n’ roll twang, the trebly articulation, that’s there, especially with the volume and tone on 10, but there’s a brawny heat to the Telecaster that deserves a double-take of the headstock. Rolling the volume back, those pickups clean up nicely, and like the best single-pickup guitars, there are plenty of sweet spots to be had.

By comparison, the Strat is, well, at the bridge position, it’s all but a carbon copy of the Tele but the extra two positions greatly expand your options. 

Fender Noventa Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Everything we could say about the bridge pickup’s versatility should you go looking for it can be reprised for the neck pickup and the mix position. That said, it’s difficult to tear yourself away from the neck position. It is just so musical, so vocal, and shows up very well with a little drive on the amp. The middle position has a little more of that chewy, nasal midrange that really comes alive with a gritty tube amp.

Clean things up and you have the benefit of single-coil definition with extra heat and width – tones that can only be enhanced with spring reverb and tremolo, or by the three-dimensional voodoo of slap-back echo. 

Punks, indie players, classic rockers and off-script blues players will love these two. Fender fans will love the feel, and the familiar touchstones – 25.5” scale, bolt-on maple necks, playability – but everyone will surely get a rush from hearing something so unexpected, yet so musical coming out of the speaker. 

MusicRadar: The Noventa series presents a fun, inspiring reimagining of classic Fender guitar design and might just convert those who feel regular Strat and Tele single-coils are too thin for their needs.

Fender Noventa Series: The web says

The Tele is bonkers good with a small set of pedals into a simple amp. And if you’re not a neck-pickup person, it’s all you could ever need – especially if you’re canny with the controls. But with the superb extra tones the Strat delivers, it wins the ‘head’ decision. Whether the Tele might steal your heart, of course, we’ll leave to you.
Guitarist

Fender Noventa Series: Hands-on demos

Guitarist

PMTVUK

Andertons

Alamo Music Center

Cream City Music

Fender Noventa Series: Specifications

Fender Noventa Stratocaster

Fender Noventa Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: $1,099 / £849 (with Deluxe padded gigbag) 
  • ORIGIN: Ensenada, Mexico 
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway  solidbody electric 
  • BODY: Solid 2-piece alder 
  • NECK: Maple, 4-bolt neck join, satin urethane finish with gloss urethane headstock facing 
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”) 
  • NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic bone, 42mm  
  • FINGERBOARD: Glued-on maple, with black dot markers, satin urethane finish, 241 mm radius 
  • FRETS: 21, medium jumbo 
  • HARDWARE: Hardtail Stratocaster bridge with through-body stringing, recessed jack socket 
  • TUNERS: Vintage style 6-a-side, chrome/nickel plated 
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52mm  
  • ELECTRICS: 2x Noventa soapbar pickups, single volume and tone controls, 3-way selector WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.3/7.27 
  • OPTIONS: Pau ferro fingerboard on Crimson Red version 
  • RANGE OPTIONS: Noventa Tele (as reviewed), Noventa Jazzmaster with 3x Noventa pickups (£899) 
  • LEFT-HANDERS: Not yet available 
  • FINISHES: Daphne Blue (as reviewed), Crimson Red, Surf Green

Fender Noventa Telecaster

Fender Noventa Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: £799 / $999 (with Deluxe padded gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: Ensenada, Mexico
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway solidbody electric
  • BODY: Solid 2-piece alder
  • NECK: Maple, 4-bolt neck join, satin urethane finish with gloss urethane headstock facing
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
  • NUT: Synthetic bone, 42mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Glued-on maple, with black dot markers, satin urethane finish, 241 mm radius
  • FRETS: 21, medium jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Cut-down Telecaster bridge with through-body stringing, early P-Bass style control plate
  • TUNERS: Vintage style 6-a-side, chrome/nickel plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 55mm
  • ELECTRICS: 1x Noventa soapbar pickup, single volume and tone control
  • WEIGHT (KG/LB): 3.5/7.7
  • OPTIONS: Two-Tone Sunburst version has Pau ferro fingerboard
  • LEFT-HANDERS: Not yet available
  • FINISHES: Vintage Blonde (as reviewed), Fiesta Red, Two-Tone Sunburst
  • CONTACT: Fender