What is it?
It is one of Leo Fender's greatest electric guitar design triumphs that the Fender Telecaster can be dressed up and customised six ways from Sunday and still capture the imagination of the guitar playing public.
Each passing year, we see new takes on the classic workhorse. Some, such as the American Professional II Telecaster applies the subtly modernistic touch to its design, with a sculpted heel, noiseless pickups. Others, such as the Mexican-built Vintera series roll back the years to offer a vintage-inspired guitar at a contemporary price point.
Today's review model takes the '70s CBS era Telecaster Deluxe for inspiration. It is part of a high-end limited run of Road Worn Vintera models on which there is a little subtle relic'ing and the finish is coated with nitrocellulose, just like their American counterparts.
The Telecaster Deluxe could lay claim to having evolved most dramatically from the original template. With its dual-humbucker pairing, individual volume and tone pots for each pickup, it was launched in an age where the warmer tones of Fender's rivals Gibson was dominating the burgeoning rock scene.
Arriving in a choice of Daphne Blue or Olympic White, the Vintera Deluxe has an alder body, a bolt-on maple neck that's carved into a ’72-style medium C profile. It has a nut of synthetic bone and 42mm width, a chrome-plated Strat-style hardtail bridge with through-body stringing, and F-stamped vintage-style tuners.
As per the original Deluxe models, this Vintera Deluxe has a slightly flatter 9.5" radius fretboard with 21 medium jumbo frets. For many players, that offers an easier ride for string bends – though it won't be the last player-friendly feature here. The satin-smooth neck gives the Vintera Deluxe a very slinky feel, while the weight – 3.56kg (7.85lb) – feels bang on.
Performance and verdict
There is a Custom Shop vibe about the Road Worn Vintera series. When you open the gigbag, you'll be forgiven for thinking that this is a pre-loved instrument. The nitro coating has a nice matte finish. The three-bolt set-up for affixing the neck to the body is very 1972.
This being a '70s-inspired model, there is a big paddle Strat headstock and the black pickguard extends from the shoulder where the three-way pickup selector switch is located right down to the control knobs. You could see it is expecting some trouble; after all, what is a Telecaster if not an electric that can take a little punishment?
• Fender American Pro II Telecaster
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.
• Fender Vintera 50s Telecaster Modified
But as your gateway to the world of vintage (and modified vintage) Fender, 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 are enough refinements and build quality that’ll surprise many sniffier punters.
The Wide Range humbuckers were designed by Seth Lover. To distinguish them from the pickups he made for Gibson, the polepieces were split. Rather than all sitting six-in-a-line, each coil has three adjustable polepieces and three hidden. With four screws mounted at each corner of the pickup, they are easily adjusted should you want them to sit parallel with the strings.
Compared to older Telecasters, the '70s Deluxe models had a generous belly cut that enhanced their comfort. Though it stopped short of adding a contour by the forearm or anything overly modern. Build quality is exceptional. There's nothing to quibble with the fit and finish, even if we have liked a little more lustre in the nitro coating.
Having revoiced the Wide Range pickups for their return, Fender has put together an instrument capable of bright and clear clean tones that thicken out and bloom nicely when you dial in some overdrive. If you needed a Gibson-esque tone, well, at a pinch and in the mix, the Vintera Deluxe would certainly fool enough of the people most of the time.
What's really neat is how it balances that dual identity. It still feels like a Tele. There are those 'tweener tones that Fender does so well. And yet, roll back a little off the tone, hit the mix position and you've got that creamy goodness that Clapton et al dined off throughout the '70s.
For the money, the tones and range of them are superlative. Of course, you could save a few bucks and go for the un-relic'd regular edition Vintera '70s Tele Deluxe. They, too, have the same pickups, the 6-Saddle Strat-style strings-though-body hardtail, the same neck profile, and come in a variety of fresh finishes – Lake Placid Blue, Vintage Blonde, Mocha – that look the bee's knees.
Typically, the relic'ing is the preserve of the Custom Shop. Again, it's nice to have this option for a grand or thereabouts, gigbag included. Besides looking cool, it means you don't have to wait with bated breath for that inevitably disappointing day when you put the first ding on the guitar's finish.
Perhaps that is closer to the spirit of the Telecaster anyway. Right? It's a tool, a hammer. You play it hard, it gets beat up, the cycle continues and it just keeps looking better.
MusicRadar verdict: The Road Worn Vintera '70s Telecaster Deluxe performs a neat trick in pulling off the Custom Shop look at a very reasonable price, but beyond the aesthetic, those Wide Range humbuckers make for one supremely versatile tone machine.
The web says
"Whether you like or don’t like the matt-finish treatment and all-but-bare neck, we’d guarantee you’ll be bowled over by the guitar’s superb sounds and impeccable behaviour. And, weirdly, while Daphne Blue is perhaps our favourite Fender custom colour, it might just work better in Olympic White. It’ll likely street for under a grand, too, so what are you waiting for?"
- PRICE: $1,099 / £1,099 (inc gigbag)
- ORIGIN: Mexico
- TYPE: Single-cut solidbody electric
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple, ’72-style medium C profile, three screw w/ Micro-Tilt bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic bone, 42mm
- FINGERBOARD: Maple, integral to one-piece neck, black dot inlays, 241mm (9.5”) radius
- FRETS: 21 medium jumbo
- HARDWARE: Chrome-plated Strat-style hardtail bridge withthrough-body stringing, ‘witch hat’ knobs, Fender vintage-style ‘F’-stamped tuners
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
- ELECTRICS: 2x revoiced Fender Wide Range humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector, individual pickup volume and tone controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.56/7.85
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: Other Vintera Road Worns include the 50s Telecaster and the ’50s and ’60s Stratocaster – all $1,099 / £999
- LEFT-HANDERS: Not at present
- FINISHES: Daphne Blue (as reviewed), Olympic White – aged nitrocellulose
- CONTACT: Fender