Fender Elite Guitars – Do Noiseless Pickups Finally Measure Up
In this video, we have Damon from Fender introducing and promoting the Fender Elite Series of Teles, Strats, and Thinlines. It’s obvious that Fender put a lot of thought and engineering prowess into these guitars. Even with all the well thought out improvements, the ultimate question remains, do their new generation of noiseless pickups deliver on the promise of tone that measure up to their finest vintage instruments. Well, you’ll really never know without playing one of the Fender Elites, but Damon puts forth some convincing arguments.
Hey, everybody, it’s Damon here from Fender at Gear4music here to show you the amazing new 2016 Elite guitars.
Fender Elite Guitars – A Push for Modern Design and Technology
When we think about Fender, we have a very proud history going right back to the 1950s and a lot of people love the vintage thing. A lot of people love a vintage reissue instruments and the Custom Shop Time Machine guitars. But also, there’s a huge swath of us who want absolutely the most bang up-to-date, latest evolution of the classic designs whether that be a Tele, or a Strat, or P Bass, or Jazz Bass. So this year, we have completely revamped our top-end American guitars and we’ve come out with the brand new Elite Series. So, what you see here are all the things that Fender have learned since the 50s about making these iconic marks, whether it be, as I say, a Strat or a Tele. So I’m going to have a chat with you about all the features what makes these guitars So great, and So playable, and so very useful as well. All these great player-centric upgrades that people asked for through the years.
Fender Elite Telecaster – Improvements Beyond the Pickups
So, this obviously is a Telecaster. So, this is the 2016 Elite. So, I’ll run through the features first of all. I’m going to turn this around. You can see here we have the belly cut. Okay, one of the things that people always said about Teles, if you play them for a long period of time, because it’s a very slab body, it maybe isn’t as comfortable as it might be. So this here sits right in there; very, very comfortable, especially if you’re playing long sets, playing for a long time. We have the latest generation of noiseless pickups. This is something that we at Fender have been working on for a long time. So if you play anywhere where there’s any kind of electronic interference, you’ll always get that buzz, that hum. We’ve been searching for many, many years for that elusive tonal Nirvana which is essentially a vintage sounding single call pickup that has no hum, no buzz. We’re sitting here, obviously in a studio with cameras, and lights, and screens and it’s completely silent, which is fabulous. So, wherever you’re playing or recording in the studio, you get none of that 60 cycle hum and they sound killer as well. They sound like proper vintage pickups. Milled stainless steel bridge saddles there, great tone, great sustain. At the other end, we have locking tuners. Obviously, very important when we get to the Strat. One thing about these guitars, which you can’t actually feel, but you can if you come into Gear4Music and try them out, is the necks on these guitars feel absolutely incredible. So, what we’ve done is we’ve gone for a compound radius. All that means is it gets wider and flatter as we go from the bottom into the top end. So, a standard nine and a half inch here, like you get on an American Standard guitar, right up to 14 inches at the top here. So, it gets really wide, really flat. So, if you do your shreddy stuff, really easy to do, really easy to bend as well. There we go, a little bit of Gilmore there for you. Now, the other thing that we’ve also done is we’ve changed the feel of the neck at the back. So just as the radius gets wider and flatter, the neck actually gets slightly deeper as well, as you get to the top end. So we go from like a standard modern C shape here, to a much deeper, I won’t say much deeper, but you know, you can feel it in your hand here, almost like kind of mid-60s D-profile neck. So, a lot of meat when you get up past the 12th fret. Again, it feels super comfortable and it adds to the sound. You know, the more actual mass there is in the neck, generally, the better a guitar will sound. The other thing, once again I’m going to flip it over for you very quickly, fully cut off all access heel joint here. So, we’ve done this before with it slightly curved off at the edge, started with the Jeff Beck guitars. But as you can see here, it’s completely rounded off, so, as I like to say, for pure, unfettered access to the dusty end. So, if you’ve always fancied to Tele, but you’ve always thought, “I can’t quite get right up to the top of the neck”, it’s absolutely perfect and it’s obviously the same on the Strat as well. Also, you can adjust your truss rod here, at this end of the neck, which is very simple, very easy to use and that’s something evolution from like the Charvel Guitars and the EVH Guitars, so it makes the guitar very easy to set up. Finally, the other thing, they all have is the S1 switch which you probably can’t see and it’s called the S1 switch. S stands for stealth, so you can’t see it. So, there’s not lots and lots of, you know, little switches and stuff all over your guitar, but essentially, it’s on the volume control there. You push it in and it gives you other more tonal options which you will hear in a second. On a Tele it just works in the middle position puts the two middle pickups in series as a humbucker. So, it’s big, and it’s fat, and it’s humbucking. OK, so that’s an overview. These features are common to the Strat as well; so, locking tuners, the neck profiles, jumbo frets, all of that stuff. So what it does is it adds up to a guitar that looks modern, feels modern, stays beautifully in tune, but tonally, you’d still get some of that Classic Vintage Fender style tone. It’s the ultimate evolution of this particular type of guitar. So if you’re looking for something that sounds great, it’s quiet, it doesn’t buzz and it stays in tune, the Elites are exactly the guitar for you.
So we’ll have a little play now; clean first, then dirty, and then, I think, very dirty, again, so you can hear how fantastic these pickups are. So, it’s the real vintage kind of tone. Bridge, OK, that’s the bridge. We love that. Okay, two together, a killer for funk. Obviously, Teles aren’t just for country. You can use them for anything, anywhere, any time you need a clean guitar sound. I just think Tele’s brilliant. And then the neck pickup – imbued with that lovely, classic, pluminess of the neck pickup. So it’s all there, all the spank, or the jangle, or the clarity that we know and associate and love from a Tele. So, what I’m going to do now is go to a kind of a medium gain thing, just crank it a little bit more so you can hear how these latest generation N4 noiseless pickups sound with no hum and no buzz. So that’s the middle pickup. So, that’s the two pickups together, middle position, normal. Now if I press the S1 switch, you can hear much fatter, much broader, more mid-range, still retaining that inherent tonality that we love from the Tele. So, now let’s go all out. Let’s really drive it and see how it sounds. We found you know, traditionally, people always think of Teles as being country guitars. You know, clean guitars. But a guitar like this will do everything from jazz to blues, to funk, to country. We have a lot of modern metal bands, a lot of punk bands, that kind of stuff, that use Teles. Super versatile! Now, that’s pretty cranked. So, there we go, fantastic. Right from spanky, sparkly cleans, all those things that we associate a Tele with, right through to much heavier modern sounds. The new 26 Elites really will do it all. So, what going to do now is we’re going to move over to a Strat and let you have a look and listen to that as well.
Fender Elite Stratocaster – Would Jimi Play One
So all the things that I talked about with the Telecaster are the same with the Strat. So, we’ve got stuff like really high quality woods for the bodies as well. Don’t forget, it’s probably the most important thing is the quality of the wood. So, these are all two piece bodies as well, just like the Tele. Let’s talk about the neck because one of the things about these is they’re so playable. There so easy to play. They feel fantastic. So, we have the compound radius neck. Again, 9.5 down at the bottom. So, great for playing chords. Then as we go up, it gets wider, and wider, and wider, and flatter, and flatter, and flatter. Eric Johnson was one of the first people that we worked with to put compound radius fretboards on Strats because he loves him when he’s up here. So, it gets really, really wide, 14 inches by the time you get to the top; really wide, really flat, great for bending. Okay, and also, just the same as with the Tele at the back, the neck kind of gets deeper and chunkier as we go up as well. I’m kind of hoping you guys can see here it’s got absolutely amazing flame on the back of this neck here. It’s a thing of beauty. So, once again we have locking tuners which is more important, obviously, on a Strat because we have the tremolo bridge. We have the proper milled stainless steel bridge saddles. So, really hard, loads of sustain, just sounds really good. Now, other things. We have the noiseless pickups. I spoke about this before, but these are the N4 4th generation of our new noiseless pickups. So, we’ve been looking, we’ve been trying, and trying, and trying and develop, continue developing, these pickups. So, they are more noiseless, they create less noise, but they retain the tonality of a vintage style guitar. We’ll have a play with it in a minute and you’ll be able to hear that. Jumbo frets, mother-of-pearl inlays, laser-cut silver leaf logo, we’ve got their brand new design string tree.
So, every single part of these new Elite guitars has been worked on. The R&D guys have just thought, “How can we make it better? How can we develop it? How can we make it sound better? How can we make it play better? Stay in tune more?” All these things are what exactly, what goes into these guitars. We have the truss rod adjuster at this end of the neck – really, really easy. We just done it. Just gave the neck a little tweak rather than having to take the neck off. You know, it just makes it very, very simple to set up. Again, I’m going to flip it over. You can see the all access heel joint. You know, we at Fender are very aware of what everybody everybody’s doing, so the compound radius necks, the all access heel joint, these are all things that modern players have asked us to do, that they wanted us to do, and that’s exactly what you see now on the Elites. We also have, I find this quite exciting, these are actually new knobs, would you believe? So, you can’t see it, but I’m telling you, these are new cut speed knobs. So around the outside, it’s actually kind of squishy rubber. So, when you’re playing in the heat of battle and you’re on stage, and you’re hot, and you’re sweaty, and you’re trying to grab your tone controls, or your volume controls, yeah, you won’t slip because it’s actually a little bit of rubber around the outside. That might sound like a small thing, but that’s the whole point of the Elites. It’s every tiny little detail has been worked on to give you the ultimate playing experience. Again, we have, which you won’t be able to see is the S1 switch, the stealth switch in the volume control. When we move on in a second to do some playing examples, I’ll show you how that works because, essentially, you have your normal 5 way switch, which is all single coil tones, obviously, and then when you push the S1 switch which combines the Strat pickups together in series to create humbuckers. So essentially, you know from a bridge single coil to a bridge humbucker. And again, this one has a beautiful flame top. I’m hoping you can see that. So, you know the Elite Series strap is the ultimate modern development of the classic Stratocaster guitar, and also, locking strap locks as well. Strap locks so it won’t fall off when you’re playing. All of these things, you know, all these things are the stuff that players, pros, over the years have asked Fender to do. So we’ve had a good look at it. I guess what we better do now is have a little listen. So, just remember these are the brand new, latest generation of the noiseless pickups. So, we’re hoping we’re going to get no buzz, no harm, no extraneous noise, just classic, pure, Fender tone. So, I’ll have a little play clean, and you can have a listen.
Straight away you can hear it. Sounds like a proper Fender Stratocaster. What I’ve done there is engage the S1 switch, put these two in series as a humbucker. So, suddenly we can go from classic Fender Strat tone to much fatter, much more mid-range, which I’m going to change the settings on the amp now and go for some kind of medium gain sort of stuff where this will become even more apparent. So, let’s crank it. Let’s get a kind of a medium, grainy kind of classic rock blues sound I guess. So, that’s the bridge on its own which you can hear loads of, cartloads of bite. Now, if I push the S1 switch, much fatter, much warmer. Okay, neck pickup. That’s great instantly. You’re into kind of classic, medium gain, blues stuff – no hum, no buzz. So all the classic tones are there. The amazing thing about these pickups is they respond to your picking dynamics, which before noiseless pickups, didn’t tend to do that. So, I play gently. Yeah, and it’s completely silent. So, I hope you can hear, you know, to me, having played thousands of Strats, that absolutely nails the tone completely, and again, in a studio with lights, and monitors, and cameras there’s no noise at all. So now, let’s go even more heavy, more gain, and see how that sounds. It’s remarkable! Killer tone, absolutely no hum, no buzz. Okay, I’m gonna put the S1 switch in. If we roll a little bit the top end off as well, it’s a very, almost an unoffending light sound. But that’s what the S1 switch does, allows you to combine your single coils into like big, mid-range, gnarly humbucking tones as well. So, if you’re looking for a guitar that will cover every possible tonal base. if you work in the studio. if you gig. you do loads of different stuff. and you need everything from spanky clean funk things, country things, any beautiful clean sounds, right through to what we heard there, you know then, one of these 2016 Elites will do exactly that.
So, you’ve seen and heard the Elite Strat. This is obviously three single coils with the S1 switch, but these are also available HSS with a humbucker in the bridge, and it’s not just any humbucker, it’s Fenders brand-new Shawbucker. So those of you who know who Tim Shaw is, legendary American pickup guru who designed that humbucker specifically for us and that’s what you’ll find on the HSS version. It sounds killer, like a slightly overwhelmed path, but still loads of clarity loads of definition. So three single coils also available HSS. The two single coiled Tele which we’ve looked at.
Fender Elite Thinline Telecaster – Clear and Great Sustain
There is also the fantastic Elite Thinline Telecaster which has got to be one of the best looking guitars that I have seen for a very long time. So the only difference there, it’s got a brand-new decoupled bridge the R&D guys have created. So, to my mind, you get a little bit more sustain, but still with all that classic jangle and top-end. The fact that it, that it’s a Thinline, it has an F hole. It just gives it just a little bit more top-end, almost acoustic using the top end of it. So, if your normal Telecaster is not giving you quite enough clarity or you want more cut, more bite, more jangle, then the Thinline will do that for you.
Elite Series Guitars – Meeting the Historical Standard
So there you have it. That is the overview of the brand-new 2016 Fender Elite series guitars. The Strats, and the Teles, the Thinline, and HSS available. If there’s anything else that you want to know any information if you want to see some great photos make sure you go along to the gear4music website where there’s everything that you could possibly need.
So my name is Damon from Fender. Thank you very much for watching. Now, I’m gonna play us out on the Elite Thinline Tele.