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Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster and Stratocaster review

Modernised, upgraded, refreshed and quite possibly the greatest Mexican Fender guitars yet, the Player Plus Series has much to offer the budget-conscious pro

  • £939
  • €1049
  • $1099
Fender Player Plus Series
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

MusicRadar Verdict

With a choice of bold and smart new finishes and the high-performance vibe of a flatter fingerboard radius, the Player Plus Series Strat and Tele extends the potential of Fender’s most successful range and offers gigging players an instrument that offers classic Fender tones and the ability to modernise them.

Pros

  • +

    Superb playability, suitable for many styles.

  • +

    Clever updates and still accessible price.

  • +

    Noiseless pickups do kill the hum and sound valid.

  • +

    Rolled fingerboard edges.

Cons

  • -

    Some of the finish options are not for the faint-hearted.

  • -

    Sculpted heels like US counterparts would have been amazing.

Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster and Stratocaster: What is it?

Given the success of Fender’s Mexican-built Player Series, it was only a matter of time before the company revisited it to see how else they could evolve some of their biggest-selling electric guitar designs. 

They could have downgraded the spec and put together a super-budget series, but then that would get in the way of its junior brand Squier’s more high-end models. With the retro-inspired Vintera Series already in place, modernising looked a better bet. 

And so the decision was made to introduce the upgraded Player Plus Series, a range of instruments capable of competing with its most-affordable US line, the American Performer Series while offering plenty of change from a grand.

Introducing a host of fresh finishes and pro-quality updates such as Noiseless pickups and rolled fingerboard edges, the Player Plus Series comprises a Stratocaster, an HSS Strat, a Telecaster, a super-versatile Nashville Tele, an Active Precision Bass, plus four and five-string versions of the Jazz Bass.

Fender Player Plus Series

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Walk into your local guitar store and you will notice them immediately; some of these Player Plus finish options are pretty far out. Tequila Sunrise, Belair Blue and Silver Smoke all showcase a new gradient burst look, and there are new metallic Cosmic Jade and Opal Spark finishes. 

Our review Stratocaster is finished in Opal Spark, and it wears it well, while the Telecaster references a classic Fender colourway and arrives in Aged Candy Apple Red, which if anything looks more apple-y. Other traditional options, such as 3-Colour Sunburst, are available, but with that, the Player Plus Series dispenses with any fixation with Fender’s past. 

Fender Player Plus Series

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

These are modernised takes on two of Leo Fender’s most popular designs. The Strat has a trio of Noiseless single-coil-sized pickups, an alder body with a maple neck that’s carved into an approachable Modern C profile. The Tele shares this tonewood recipe and similarly has a set of Noiseless pickups, arranged as you’d expect them in the neck and bridge positions. 

Details such as the rolled fingerboard edges are welcome but the banner headline for these models is said board’s revised 12” radius and increased nut width (42.8mm), presenting Fender but with an all-new feel – at least for the brand and for those whose tastes have forever skewed vintage. Like the Player Series, the Strat uses the industry-standard rosewood substitute pau ferro for the fingerboard, while our Tele’s is maple.

Fender Player Plus Series

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

It’s only natural that both guitars share some DNA, with the same F-branded rear-locking tuners – another upgrade from the Player Series – and steel saddle bridges. The Telecaster is a six-saddle block design while the Strat is equipped with a 2-point vibrato with steel baseplate and die-cast block. 

The Player Plus range also a few tricks up its sleeve with a control circuit that has a push-pull function to link the Telecaster’s pickups in series, and in the Strat’s case, you can combine the neck with the bridge pickup, and add the neck to the bridge and middle mix position (position 2 on your five-way blade selector) for a total of seven core sounds. 

With an expanded palette of tones, a new look and feel, the Player Plus Series might not be a revolutionary act of redesign but it looks to make tangible improvements and enhance Fender’s presence in that hotly contested market for the £/$800 serious amateur/working pro instrument.

Fender Player Plus Series

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster and Stratocaster: Performance and verdict

Any modernisation of the Telecaster and Strat format, at any price range, is liable to upset the brand purists. But there’s another side to the modernisation question, and it asks whether the Player Plus models go far enough. Taking these in the hand, they certainly feel like instruments of the 21st century, an epoch in which tastes in new builds call for slimmer, zipper necks and medium-jumbo frets.

They are not going to step on Charvel’s snakeskin boots but when presented with a neck this accommodating it is always tempting – especially on a satin-smooth neck – to see how little friction there is when playing lead guitar. The finishes are tidy, the factory setups nice and buttery. With dual-action truss rods and adjustable saddles, it’s easy enough to set these up just how you like it.

Also consider...

Strat vs Tele: Fender Vintera ‘60s Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender Vintera '60s Stratocaster Modified
A retro-inspired alternative to the modernity of the Player Plus Series, and an example of just how impressive Mexican Fenders can be.

Fender 75th Anniversary Telecaster
A 75th Anniversary Tele that serves to showcase Fender’s unerring ability to keep its most-loved designs relevant and at the forefront of guitar culture, with classic sounds, superb feel and once more another finish for the ages.

Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster and Stratocaster

Fender Player Plus Series

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The Strat does as the best Strats do and presents the player with plenty of options. Seven core voices make for plenty of in-between tones and bang on the money precision when you land on positions 1, 3 and 5. That middle pickup remains a fun place to stay when chucking funk, the neck has the bounce that comes with balancing clarity with a little bass, while the bridge pickup is forensic when the volume’s at 10.

In feel and in sound, these are valid updates, typically fun, typically reliable, and definitely worthy of the stage. The modernisation could have gone further; it would have been interesting to have the same sculpted heel profiles that we’ve become accustomed to on the American Ultra and AmPro II series. Though the Telecaster’s belly contour – which really is for the benefit of your ribs – is another welcome update, adding a measure of comfort and another degree of separation from its kin in the Player Series. 

MusicRadar verdict: With a choice of bold and smart new finishes and the high-performance vibe of a flatter fingerboard radius, the Player Plus Series Strat and Tele extends the potential of Fender’s most successful range and offers gigging players an instrument that offers classic Fender tones and the ability to modernise them. 

Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster and Stratocaster: The web says

"These are undoubtedly guitars that reflect how many people are playing today. Not everyone is chasing those vintage tones, man, let alone playing dirty blues in gin-soaked bars. And, frankly, you should be shot if you can’t make either of these sound like a Fender."
GuitarWorld

Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster and Stratocaster: Hands-on demos

Fender

Guitarist

Andertons

Peach Guitars

The Guitar Geek

Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster and Stratocaster: Specifications

Fender Player Plus Series Stratocaster

Fender Player Plus Series

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: £939 (inc gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: Mexico
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
  • BODY: Alder
  • NECK: Maple, Modern ‘C’ profile, bolt-on
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic bone/42.89mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Pau ferro, pearloid dot markers, 305mm (12”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Nickel/chrome-plated 2-point vibrato (with steel baseplate and die-cast block) and steel block saddles, ‘F’ logo rear lock tuners
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: 3x Fender Noiseless single-coil sized humbuckers, 5-position lever pickup selector switch, master volume, tone 1 (neck and middle), tone 2 (bridge) w/ pull-push which adds the neck pickup to position 1 bridge and 2 bridge and middle
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.8/8.36
  • OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: The Player Plus Stratocaster HSS (£979) adds a Wide Range-style covered full-size humbucker at bridge. The Player Stratocaster currently costs £679
  • LEFT-HANDERS: Not currently
  • FINISHES: Opal Spark (as reviewed), 3-Colour Sunburst, Olympic Pearl, Aged Candy Apple Red and Tequila Sunrise

Fender Player Plus Series Telecaster

Fender Player Plus Series

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: £939 (inc gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: Mexico
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway solidbody electric
  • BODY: Alder
  • NECK: Maple, Modern ‘C’ profile, bolt-on
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic bone/42.89mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Maple, black dot markers, 305mm (12”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Chrome-plated strings-through-body 6 block saddle bridge, ‘F’ logo rear lock tuners
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 53mm
  • ELECTRICS: 2x Fender Noiseless single coil-sized humbuckers, 3-position lever pickup selector switch, master volume and master tone (with pull-push switch for series link of pickups) with knurled knobs
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.63/7.97
  • OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: The other Tele, the Player Plus Telecaster Nashville (£979), adds a Strat-style Noiseless pickup in middle position. The Player Series Telecaster currently costs £679
  • LEFT-HANDERS: Not currently
  • FINISHES: Aged Candy Apple Red (as reviewed), 3-Colour Sunburst, Cosmic Jade and Silver Smoke