Fender Standard FSR Telecaster
It exceeds lofty expectations
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 8-27-2012
When returning to guitar playing after a 30-some year layoff I decided to get the Fender Telecaster I had always wanted. Back in my working band days I had played a Telecaster several times when sitting in with another group and liked it so I decided to fulfill that wish this time around. I know that this Telecaster is made in Mexico but the budget just did not allow me to go the big-buck route. Despite the Mexico thing this Telecaster plays and sounds very nice.
The Fender Telecaster has an ash body and maple neck, both of which came nicely finished. The body has the butterscotch coloring with a bunch of clear to match the neck. This is also the first coated fretboard I have owned but it turns out that I like it and it doesn’t wear out immediately as I thought it might.
My Telecaster comes with the two single-coil pickups, medium jumbo frets, cast/sealed tuning machines, and a 3-saddle strings-through-body bridge. Nothing fancy but the end result is a very nice guitar that has the country twang along with some surprising rock-friendly mid-range power. And despite the modest price you can crank this Telecaster up and it stays virtually silent which suggests higher end electronics.
The neck has a 9-1/2” radius that seems to fit my hand nicely. The overall shape of the neck below the fretboard is very comfortable and lets your hand move around easily. The bridge is typical Telecaster in that it has three saddles, each carrying two strings. I checked the action and curve of the strings with a gauge and the saddles were set up to match the 9-1/2” radius perfectly. I would find out later that setting the intonation apparently was not on the schedule for this Telecaster but I was able to get that dialed in easily with a digital tuner. No harm – no foul.
Switch Plate Switch
For some reason Fender decided to reverse the still traditional switch plate so that the three-way selector is at the rear of the body and the volume/tone controls are up front. I suspect they did this to make volume swells easier. Because my Telecaster experience in the past was sporadic I have no ingrained preferences so Fender reversing the switch plate doesn’t bother me so I left it alone.
The volume/tone controls have the familiar knurled metal knobs. The other good news is that they put those knobs on responsive pots that actually work, something I was concerned about at this price point. But, no problems - the pots are quiet and effective.
Before actually getting my modestly priced Telecaster I was a little concerned about the quality of the tuning machines. Again, Fender has it covered with smooth, stable tuners that seem to hold tune very well. I hang my Telecaster on the wall between plays and have yet to find it to be out of tune by more than a tweak when I come back to it a few days later. Simple temperature changes account for the tiny tuning corrections needed.
Plugging the Telecaster into my little Fender GDEC-3 amp produced no bad surprises as the sound is everything I had hoped for and more. It certainly has the super crisp Telecaster sharp-edged twang but can still produce gutsy mid and bottom range tones from chords near the nut. I was happily surprised with this mellow, lower power capability that is a nice companion to the stereotypical twang.
The neck feels small and plays fast (for me) yet seems to want to make clear sounds when my unpracticed fingers aren’t so deft. Even though the neck only has around 0.004” relief at the 12th fret even I can play buzz free unless I get stupid with the pick, which I have been known to do from time to time. Everything from bar chords to single string picking just feels easier to me on the Telecaster.
I know the reversed control strip really bothers Telecaster cast purists but this is my first one so it really doesn’t bother me. The last thing I need is to complicate my playing with trying to do simultaneous volume swells so I continue to set things and then play. For those more proficient than I, and that covers most of you, having the volume knob so handy could be a good thing.
The only issue I have had with this Telecaster was the intonation being surprisingly far off as it came out of the box. From the start I noticed that things like open D’s at the nut just sounded “off” but I initially blamed that on my 30-some year layoff. Eventually I realized something was wrong and confirmed that when I checked the intonation. I have an electronic tuner so making the needed adjustments was simple, even with the three-saddle tailpiece. I was able to balance the intonation across the strings well enough to forgo bending the saddle screws to cant a saddle or two.
The Fender Standard FSR Telecaster cost me just a tick under $500 (4-10-2012) and is easily worth the money to me. It is a nice playing, great sounding guitar that has the expected super twang and way more in terms of mid-range tone.
The overall finish and appearance is first rate everywhere I look. Despite my occasional binge playing and storing my Telecaster on the wall of my office the finish has survived intact which should indicate it is pretty tough as well. A spot of polish now and then and my Telecaster always looks good even when I don’t have time to pick it up.
If you like the sound of the Telecaster the Fender Standard FSR version could be a good investment to satisfy that need. I would have no problem playing this Telecaster on stage (If I had that much practice) as its sound capability is more than up to being projected through an audience.
Have a comment on this review? –Email Me!