|Squier By Fender Classic Vibe Telecaster 50’s
Summary: Finally! An inexpensive guitar that isn’t just a pretty face like many cheapo guitars. This guitar backs up its great looks with great sound and playability!
Pros: Spectacular, lush cleans from the neck pickup. Nothing twangy about this guitar. The bridge pickup is nicely “trebly,” but not piercing at all! The thin, 50’s-style C-shape neck is to die for!
Cons: This is just a minor nit, and nothing to give points off, but the frets are a little small, and with heavy use, they’ll wear down. But hell! At this price, you can buy two and be way ahead of the game!
Price: ~$349 street
Tone Bone Score: 5.0 – Not sure if I’ve ever rated a Fender product my highest rating, but that’s how good this guitar is!
Being the eternal optimist, I’m always looking for ways to turn a negative into a positive. As I’ve gotten older, my back has started to get a bit sensitive, and gigging with heavy guitars can sometimes be – literally – a real pain! So I’ve been looking for a lighter alternative that would give me a good range of sounds, from great cleans to hot grind when I need it, and something that I could comfortably gig with and not worry about throwing out my back. I’ve found the guitar: It’s the Squier Classic Vibe Tele! If you don’t look at the headstock, you could swear you’re playing a regular Fender Tele! But this one has a great sound all its own. After last year’s price hike, I had lost hope that Fender would be able to produce anything that was inexpensive that had decent quality and sound, but I stand completely corrected, especially after the price drop of the Champ 600 down to $149, and now, this little secret, the Squier Classic Vibe Tele.
Fit and Finish
The guitar I played today was so well-made, I could’ve sworn that it was an American Tele. The blonde, vintage finish was luscious, and the 9.5″ radius vintage C-shape neck, with its gloss finish was perfect. No air bubbles, no uneven finish. The frets were well-dressed, if a little small, and I could detect nary a burr or sharp edge. It was obvious that despite this being a “bargain” brand, great care was put into building this instrument. Of course, only time will tell how well this instrument holds up, but from what I can tell from this brand-new specimen, it appears it’ll be be a long-lived instrument.
I also love that black pick guard that provides a very cool contrast to the blonde body finish! Nice!
How It Sounds
I’ve played a lot of guitars – especially “budget” guitars, but one thing that seems to be a common theme among the bargain guitars is that lots of them look great, but plug them in, and they’re less than – ahem – inspiring. This is where the Classic Vibe Tele stands head and shoulder above the rest. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was an American Tele based upon the quality of tones it produces. But unlike its American cousin, this Classic Vibe Tele has a slightly different tone, and that is not a bad thing at all. A lot of this can probably be attributed to the solid pine body. It’s very resonant, and it is not a bright-sounding wood, which probably accounts for the lack of “Tele” twang. It’s there, but it is definitely not as pronounced as I was expecting. Granted, I was playing through a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 2 X 12, which is known for its ample bottom, so that probably could account for the lack of twang. But hey! That is definitely not a bad thing at all!
The neck pickup, when played clean, has a very Strat-like neck pickup vibe. I love that! It’s smooth, and deep, and when slathered with some gorgeous Fender reverb, has a gorgeous, almost ethereal quality where the notes seem to just hang in the air. The bridge pickup adds top-end sparkle, as expected but surprisingly not so much that it sounds thin and tinny. It’s a slightly brighter version of the neck, which makes sense since the two pickups are the same. But quite frankly, I liked playing in the middle selector position where both pickups are engaged. The tone and gain balance between the two pickups in that position is fantastic.
“Balance” is a great way to describe the tone of the Classic Vibe Tele. It sounds and feels balanced; not bright, not deep. Balanced. And the sustain is absolutely breathtaking! I played a song where I comp chords up and down the fretboard with lots of sliding, bending and vibrato, and the sustain and ring that the guitar produced just made me close my eyes and smile. The guitar guy at the store even chided me with, “Aw Brendan, you play so sweetly!” That got a laugh out of me, but luckily he followed it up with, “That sounds so awesome. That guitar… for guys who are in the know with tone, is the one they’re getting. It’s a great guitar at any price” I’ve known this guy for years, and for him to say something like that is pretty profound.
I didn’t get a chance to really get into high gain, as I was in a store and wanted to be considerate of the other customers, but getting into the Drive channel of the DeVille was a real treat, especially with the bridge pickup engaged. I could tell that this guitar, even though it has that vintage vibe, would produce some singing overdrive. Even with the preponderance of pre-amp overdrive I was using, this guitar was a winner for me!
It is absolutely no surprise to me why Guitar Player Magazine gave this guitar an Editor’s Pick in this month’s issue. I first played the guitar at the GP offices a couple of weeks ago, and they told me it had gotten an Editor’s Pick. I didn’t get a chance to really play with it then, but based upon that conversation, I had to try one out. Looks like I’m GAS-ing again, dammit! This is one great guitar! Don’t let the price fool you; instead, let the price guide you. This is truly one of the deals of the century!