What is it?
And now for something completely different, the Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic – an offset oddity from Fender's entry-level brand that boats a reverse Strat headstock, a short 24" scale and sense of general weirdness abound in its design.
In our algorithmically defined digital world, there's something to be said for electric guitar design like this. But of course, if you've just started playing guitar you want more than simply a palliative corrective to homogeneity. It has got to play well and sound right.
Well, the short scale should help with the playability, especially for smaller hands. Compared to the standard 25.5" Fender scale, this is a very manageable proposition. It might make for a rather cramped experience when noodling up the top end of the laurel fretboard but there will be some beginners who will especially enjoy the lighter string tension that comes with this shorter scale.
But that said, you can have too much of a good thing. Before getting down to the nitty gritty on how that relatively generic C profile maple neck feels and how the Atomic humbuckers shape up, we would say that shipping this with a set of .009s writes cheques that the vibrato can't cash. We would size up to a set of 0.010s, maybe higher, just to keep everything in tip-top shape.
As to the build, the Paranormal Super-Sonic has a poplar body – not unlike alder, it is bright, resonant and works well with such bolt-on builds. The reverse Strat headstock is a nice touch, while the finish options are typically impressive, as you might expect from any guitar with Fender DNA flowing through its control circuit.
Speaking of which, that humbucker pairing has a three-way shoulder-mounted toggle for selecting bridge, neck and both pickups, while there are two independent volume controls for each pickup.
Yes, you read that right: no tone controls. Furthermore, and maybe this is all part of the Eerie Indiana vibe at play here, the bridge humbucker volume is mounted closest to your picking hand, with the neck volume furthest away on the control plate. In a sense, this makes sense. But's a bit topsy turvy to our thinking.
But, hey, this is the Paranormal Series, right? And we do things differently around here...
Performance and verdict
In terms of playability, the Paranormal Super-Sonic treads a precariously thin line between super playable and a bit of a faff. It does so on two counts. Firstly, the short scale length, the very proportions of it, make it feel incredibly welcoming, yet players reared on the free range expanse of a regular scale guitar might not enjoy life above the 12th fret.
Secondly, again, we'd size up the strings. A heavier set will make this play a lot easier, even if there's a little more tension on them.
Otherwise, this is strange electric is as charming as it looks. The C profile is wholly uncontroversial, the exception that proves the rule on a guitar that upends design orthodoxy. While some offset builds can feel unwieldy on a smaller frame, this compact enough with a nice balance.
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When you crank the gain up further, you’ll find a high-gain sweet spot somewhere between Iron Maiden bark and Seattle grunge. And that confirms our suspicions that this Jazzmaster is more Crazy Train than Blue Train - but that’s okay by us.
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In the end, there’s enough vintage DNA in this model to make it cool, balanced with a level of modern build quality and playability to make them accessible to all types of player. A guitar for everyone, if you will.
The Atomic humbuckers are another more sober design feature. They have a bit of fight in them, a nice degree of detail that holds up when you've kicked on the overdrive and distortion. The neck pickup had enough treble for articulate chord work, while the reverse-angled positioning of the bridge 'bucker helps add some crispy top end to your lower three strings while taking that sharpness off the top three.
This is not an experimental feature. At least, not in 2020 it isn't. Hendrix's Strat's pickup was angled away from the bridge, as do all right-handed replicas of his original guitars. It certainly works nicely here.
We didn't find as much tonal joy in the middle position, however. With both pickups engaged, the Paranormal Super-Sonic lost a bit of its muscle – but for punk rock skronk and garage psych tones, that could ultimately prove to be a feather in its cap.
After all, this wasn't put on this planet to be play the songbook, to fit in, to conform. No, the Paranormal Series is not about that. It's about having fun, being different, and the Super-Sonic sure is different.
MusicRadar verdict: An off-set eccentric with a reverse headstock, the Paranormal Super-Sonic is a very cool budget electric that strays beyond the usual electric guitar design archetypes. The quirks might be too much for some, but it's definitely got a supernatural charm to it.
The web says
"Those eccentricities mean it may not end up as a main guitar for a lot of players, but Fender has priced it, and the rest of the Paranormal Series, accordingly. It really is tremendous fun to play, especially if you’re into indie, math-rock or noisy shred – we implore you to give it a try."
60 Cycle Hum
The Guitar Geek
Cream City Music
- BODY: Poplar
- NECK: Maple, C shape
- SCALE: 24” (610mm)
- FINGERBOARD: Indian Laurel, 9.5” compound radius
- FRETS: 22
- PICKUPS: 2x Atomic humbuckers
- CONTROLS: Bridge pickup volume, neck pickup volume
- HARDWARE: Vintage-style Synchronized Tremolo, vintage-style tuners
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- FINISH: Ice Blue Metallic, Graphite Metallic
- CONTACT: Fender