A Closer Look: BRAND NEW Fender American Professional II Telecaster
Published on 11 November 2020
It has endured the longest.
It has never gone out of style.
It is the primary choice for countless artists in all genres of music.
It is the Fender Telecaster and right now, it’s the best it has ever been.
As you’ll no doubt have seen already, Fender have recently unveiled their brand new American Professional II range of guitars and basses. Years of player feedback and exhaustive prototyping have resulted in what we regard unambiguously as the best ‘standard’ range that Fender have ever delivered.
The range as a whole share a suite of newly-tweaked features, all designed to improve the playing experience and the sound for everyone who picks one up. We’ve looked at the Stratocaster already (if you missed it, click through to read our Fender American Pro II Stratocaster blog), so today it’s the turn of the immortal Tele! We’ll see what sets this version apart from all others, whilst having a good ogle at the stunning new finishes!
V-Mod II Pickups
A guitar is only as good as the pickups on it, we reckon. They are the transmitters of tone from your fingers, through the timbers and into the pickup before being delivered to your amp and then (hopefully) your audience! It’s a delicate alchemy to get right, and especially so when we are talking about one of the three most famous guitar designs in existence! Guitarist’s ears can be super-critical, and Telecasters really need to sound like Telecasters, otherwise what’s the point?
Thankfully, Fender’s Chief Engineer, Tim Shaw, is something of a pickup master. His out-of the-box ideas concerning pickups have successfully brought authentic voices to Fender’s various brands over the years, and his previous V-Mod pickups were a star turn during the last iteration of the American Professional guitars. His secret was to use different magnets within each pickup, based purely on the sonic outcome (and not on received ideas on what sounds ‘vintage’ and what doesn’t). He also experimented with differing the strengths of each magnet, adjusting his recipe incrementally until the resulting tone-gumbo brought each guitar to life. The results spoke for themselves, but the idea here was to make them even better!
Now, Fender are keeping tight-lipped about just which magnets are being used in which models (hmph!) but we are unofficially going to guess that Shaw has gone for a blend of Alnico II and V for the Tele units. Whatever he has done, the American Pro II Tele sounds exactly as you’d hope. You can definitely tell that this is no Strat, from the initial cut and twang to the greater (sharper?) level of sustain and...well...attitude that is offered up! Teles have always been punchier than their little brothers, and the American Pro II model continues that trend. It’s as bold or as subtle as you want it to be, with a degree of control and expression available that take this guitar far above the heights of comparable models from elsewhere. You’ll hear your touch, you’ll respond to volume changes (more on that soon) and you’ll love the flexible-yet-blatant Tele tone that issues forth from this instrument.
Push/Push Series Control
Yes, this common post-purchase modification is now built in! We love that! Ok, so some of you may not quite follow why the series wiring option is a great thing, so please let us explain. Pickups are normally wired in parallel, so that each pickup goes to the guitar’s output separately. Series wiring connects the ground of one cable to the hot wire of the next, in a line. On a two-pickup guitar like a Telecaster, the series wiring comes into play when the middle (in-between) setting is selected on the 3-way blade. Positions one and three will be as normal, but the middle position will give you both pickups at once, with tons more volume (i.e. hotter output), more midrange and less top end.
Quite like a humbucker, in other words.
Now, it is not technically a humbucker at all, but our ears hear a very similar result. From a two-pickup Tele? Yes please! This feature is accessed via a push/push function on the tone control. Simply give it a tap to engage the series wiring, and tap it again to turn it off. Lovely.
This is a very simple yet amazingly effective feature that’s present in all of the new Fender American Pro II instruments. The volume knob, when turned down, retains more of the guitar’s top end signal. This is normally lost as the volume is wound down, so it’s great to have this function built in, retaining your tone! If you want to darken your sound a little, well, that’s what the tone control is for!
Top Load or String Through Bridge
End all debate on whether ‘top loaders’ (bridges with holes on the top for the string to pass through without ever touching the body) or more standard through-body stringing is better by having access to both within the same instrument! Again, it’s a very simple notion, but hardly anybody offers this as an option, so we are more than happy to see it included here! Stringing the body across the top theoretically changes the tension of the strings, as well as the overall tone and sustain. Try both ways for yourself and see what you find! You’ll certainly prefer one way over the other, and the beauty of this guitar is that it offers you both options without having to modify any parts.
Deep ‘C’ Neck with Rolled Fingerboard Edges and a Sculpted Heel
With guitars, necks are crucial elements. They are deciding factors in whether you ever even take to a guitar or not, so it’s a most important element to get right. Fender know this and have noticed the recent trend toward more substantial neck carves, so have thusly designated the ‘Deep C’ profile as being the one for the American Pro II range. On a Telecaster, that’s about as perfect as it gets! Having a little more to hold on to befits the attitude of the Telecaster, with its ‘trusty wrench’ vibe. The Deep C is no ‘boat neck’: it’s a slightly more girthy take on their modern C, so it’ll never be off-putting to guitarists weaned on skinny shred necks. It may, in fact, correct some bad habits, if we may be so bold!
The edges of the fingerboard have been carefully hand-rolled to remove unwanted sharp angles on the top sides. 22 Narrow Tall frets reside on the business surface, and Fender’s usual 25.5” scale length and 9.5” radius apply here, too. The neck is finished with Fender’s new ‘Super-Natural’ satin process, with a glossy finish to the face of the headstock.
Taking a page from the design book of the Fender Ultra Series, the new American Pro II Telecaster has a sculpted heel area where the neck joins the body, in order to better fit the shapes our hands make when traversing those high fret areas! It’s a subtle but very welcome consideration, and makes those fretboard flights of fancy all the more appealing with less obstacles to contend with!
New Colours and Pine Bodies
Yes, the new colours! Which is your favourite? Is it that wonderful Dark Night? Or maybe the bright Miami Blue? The American Pro II Telecaster is available in ten finishes, some with Maple fingerboards, others with Rosewood. Solid colours, metallics and lovely bursts are all available. Some finishes are a bit of both!
Now, you may not all be interested in the wonderful new colours, and Fender get that! So, old favourites like 3 Colour Sunburst and Black are still available for those of a more traditional disposition.
Not only that, but certain options are actually available with Pine bodies instead of the usual Alder! Look out for Roasted Pine and Sienna Sunburst finishes if you want the Pine bodies. Each Pine body has been treated to the process of ‘torrefaction’ in order to remove all moisture from the timber prior to it being used as a guitar body. Torrefaction makes the wood stronger, lighter and more resonant, so definitely give one a shot alongside an Alder bodied Tele and find out which you prefer!
It’s been a very long time since Fender have dropped the ball with a new range of instruments and the American Professional II series is not going to change that fact any time soon! We got really excited when we started hearing about these guitars, and that excitement grew to fever pitch once we got our hands on them! Really, we’re were impressed with the new Telecaster, and think you will be, too. Fender innately understand what makes the Telecaster so useful, rewarding and ‘moreish’ as an instrument, and they’ve poured that understanding into a guitar that really blows the competition out of the water.
Pick your favourite colour, find an amp, and prepare to remember just why you love playing the guitar so much.