ABC World News Tonight’s “Made in America” series has made a visit to Fender’s Corona, California manufacturing site to chronicle Fender Musical Instrument’s USA roots. The piece includes some of Fenders best known players AND the folks that build all those great guitars. Rich Macdonald, Fender’s Executive Vice President welcomes the news show’s host, David Muir to the Corona, California Welcome Center and teaches him at least one chord to play on a Strat.
Of course, Fender makes guitars in Mexico, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea and other countries, too. But that part wasn’t mentioned in the news piece.
Check out the video below to see the whole segment. Fender has a new CEO (again, 3rd one in a year), new marketing staff headquartered in Burbank, California, and a new emphasis on the almighty BRAND. So, this national news puff piece couldn’t come at a better time.
From time to time TDPRI Members will submit a review on their favorite Telecaster. Normally, those end up in our Review section. But… not always. We’ve ask Norwegian TDPer, Sindre Bremnes to let us publish his loving review of his Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster as our first “Guest Review.” Sindre has submitted a pretty complete review of his guitar and one that really shares his admiration for the instrument.
Do you have a favorite piece of gear that you want to review and see it published on TDPRI? Is so, just email email@example.com and let us know what you have in mind. We’d love to hear all about it.
Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster
Two-tone sunburst, serial number MX 14473727
Tested through Roland JC-120, Laney LC-30II and Mesa/Boogie Subway Blues
Three-piece ash body. Not the prettiest wood, quite uneven growth patterns. Joints more visible on the front than the back. Finish is glossy, but looks and feels good. No dipped-in-plastic feel or look. The appearance would have benefited from more black in the two-tone sunburst, and the transition between colours is somewhat uneven in places.
Neck is very well made from quality maple, with a high amount of radial ray flecks. Subtle V-shape, neither chunky nor slim. Finish is again glossy, which might not appeal to everyone. Shredders and people with sweaty hands might want to dull it down.
Metal parts looks decent, but the bridge plate is crude and has tool marks. Probably intentional, to mimic 50s style bridges. Tone and volume knobs are not in vintage style, and the difference in appearance between the S1 equipped volume knob and the plain tone knob might trouble purists.
The plastic pickguard looks cheap and significantly lowers the visual appeal of the guitar, in my opinion. It is also warped at the edges where the screws have been overtightened, and has a whitish spot at the lower edge. It generates static electricity, and attracts dust. It is sad that Fender chose to skimp on this part. Will be replaced.
Weight is 3.7 kilos (8.2 pounds). The variance is weight on these guitars seems to be big, lumber consistency might not be a priority for Fender on this series.
Very nice neck. The V shape is very good for players who like to keep the thumb on the bass side of the neck instead of wrapped around it. The frets none-vintagey fat, but nicely polished and even, without sharp edges. The guitar feels very responsive and resonant, and may be well suited to fingerpicking and subtler styles.
Decent setup out of the box. Strings a bit low, but neck has optimal amount of relief (in my opinion). Intonation a bit off on B and E strings, easily fixed. Neck pickup might be a bit high.
The unamplified sound is great. No odd resonances, very crisp, direct and clear sound. It is easy to hear it is a Telecaster before plugging in.
Amplified it guitar sounds fantastic. Incredible sustain, well-defined attack. A distinct, lovely bloom to the tone, typical of a high-end bolt-on. The overall tone is very full, rich and smooth, I would characterise it as elegant and refined. This guitar sounds good on everything, its voice speaks clearly even through a noisy and boxy-sounding Mesa/Boogie Subway Blues.
The bridge pickup is quite a bit fuller and somewhat bassier than the average vintage unit. A smooth roundness to the tone, no icepicks here. But the midrange is well behaved, and amplifier tweaking brings out the twang. With the tone reduced, an excellent throaty sound is achieved, very nice with overdrive.
The neck pickup is treblier than expected from a Telecaster. With tone on full, weâ€™re almost in Stratocaster territory, but the fuller bass and quicker response makes it clear that this is Leoâ€™s firstborn. Rolled down a little, and with a slight volume reduction, the neck pickup comes close to a vintage Telecaster neck pickup. Further tone reduction, around halfway, gives a very good traditional jazz tone, in combination with mid boost on the amp.
The neck and bridge in parallel position is less sparkly and mid-scooped than usual, this might not be the ultimate guitar for chicken-pickers or treble junkies. But it is very good for ambient music, and will work well with modulation effects.
Neck and bridge in series is much louder than the other settings. Very clear and fulltoned and not at all muddy. Excellent for string harmonics, and a welcome extra boost that makes this instrument more modern and versatile than a vintage Telecaster. It could be argued that it lacks a distinct character and tonal focus, but with a little or a lot of overdrive/distortion, it is a very useful sound for blues and many kinds of rock. You wonâ€™t suddenly have a PAF humbucker on your hands, but a nice approximation. With tone rolled almost all the way down and decent amounts of overdrive, something resembling Claptonâ€™s woman tone is to be had.
Neck and bridge in series out of phase may be the least useful pickup selection. Very bass light and extremely nasal, though loud and penetrating. Not enough sparkle for funky rhythm. But in a high gain context it has its uses, a dirty, grungy solo tone is achieved through the overdrive channel of the Laney LC30. With less distortion, but more mids dialled in on the amp, it makes a loose Peter Green approximation. The tonal balance is uneven in this setting, the low strings are extremely hollow and devoid of bass, but the higher strings retain more of their tone.
The last setting is neck and bridge in parallel out-of phase. A capacitor is used to filter out the bass frequencies of the neck-pickup, leading to much less cancellation of bass frequencies. This gives a sound reminiscent of position two or four on a Stratocaster (or a duck with a cold). But the firmness of the bass (it is bassier than the series out-of-phase setting) and distinct attack does not sound Stratish. This position has the opposite problem of the series out-of-phase, the bass strings sound less hollowed out than the top strings. And there might be too much lower mid to the tone to be really effective for the stuff people use the inbetween-positions on a Strat for.
It seems odd that the pickups do not have reverse polarity, which would make the two-pickup settings hum-cancelling. But hum is not at all problematic, at least not for living-room playing. There is some static noise. A better pickguard and some shielding will fix that.
The volume control has the usual uneven taper, treble loss at low volumes is typical. Tone control works well all the way down.
The S1 switch seems well made, but a loud pop is sometimes generated when pressed. A potential problem in loud live situations.
Fantastic value for money. A few minor gripes, mainly on cosmetics, does not change the fact that this is one of the best Telecasters Fender makes. For the price, it is simply unbeatable.
Here’s Fender’s Allen Abbassi demoing the Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster:
We don’t know if someone told Dave Grohl to “break a leg” before he took the stage in Gothenburg, Sweden, but that’s exactly what happened. After falling 12 feet, Grohl’s fibula snapped “like an old pair of take out chopsticks.” Now that the Foo Fighters’ European tour has been cancelled, perhaps guitarist Chris Shiflett will spend some time with his country side band, the Dead Peasants. Just in time, too, because Fender is releasing two new colors for the Chris Shiflett Telecaster Deluxe.
Originally out in Arctic White, Black and Shoreline Gold will now be added to the mix. Modeled after his original ’72 Telecaster Deluxe, the Shiflett Tele features a rosewood fingerboard (12″ radius) with medium jumbo frets, a 6-Saddle vintage-style Strat string-through-body hardtail bridge, plus CS1 and CS2 humbucking pickups. Street price: $699.
For more, head over to Fender. And check out the sounds right here:
Guitarists often want the things they don’t have. You might own the most amazing Tele, but wouldn’t a second one with humbuckers be nice, too? You’ve got a great digital delay, but there’s just something about a vintage Echoplex. Another thing we crave is the sound of a cranked amp at bedroom level. It’s like searching for Bigfoot—does it even exist? Well, Zeppelin Design Labs of Chicago thinks it has cracked the equation with the Percolator, a 2 watt tube amp, available as a head with optional speaker cabinet, or a combo. We sat down with company co-founder Brach Siemens to find out more.
What kind of tube is in the Percolator?
We use the 6AF11 Compactron tube, which was developed by GE in the early 1960’s to compete with the rising popularity of transistors. The idea behind Compactrons was to pack as many active sections into one bottle as possible. One Compactron could take the place of several tubes, which made them the tube equivalent of an integrated circuit. The tube we are using in the Percolator was originally designed for various parts of a color television circuit. But tubes eventually did become obsolete in televisions which left large stockpiles of unused Compactrons in warehouses. We acquired a large batch of these tubes which allows us to re-purpose a piece of tube history and create a unique sounding little amp.
How does the Percolator circuitry compare to say, a Fender Champ?
A Fender Champ uses two tubes for the audio signal: one dual triode (a tube containing two triode gain stages), and one power pentode to drive the speaker. That’s the exact same tube arrangement as the Percolator, except it’s all packed in one bottle. Obviously the types of triodes and pentodes are different which necessitates different values of supporting components, but the tube arrangement is the same. But just because they have the same topology doesn’t mean they are similar sonically. The Percolator has much more of a high-gain sound than the Champ.”
What tones did you have in mind while making the Percolator?
I started shaping the tone to be a little on the darker side. I did this because for a guitarist playing by themselves, which is how I envisioned this amp mostly being used, I tend to prefer the lows emphasized a bit, creating a fatter sound.
The Percolator is also available as a kit. What kind of skills do you need to assemble it?
To build one of our kits the most important skill you need is to be able to read and follow directions. You also need to be able to solder electronic components to a circuit
board, use some basic hand tools, and be able to use a multimeter to measure voltage, resistance, and continuity. If you want to build any of the wood cabinets for the head, combo, or speaker cabinet you need some basic woodworking skills. It’s not as hard as it might seem. I think kids as young as 13 could do a fine job, though they may need some supervision or assistance. All the instruction manuals are available for download from our website so anyone potentially interested in our products can look though them to see if it’s a project they would like. All the products are also available “ready to play” for those not interested in building a kit. As far as we know, that makes us unique amongst kit manufacturers.
Your company is called Zeppelin Design Labs. Are you worried about Led Zeppelin coming after you?
Ha! Believe it or not, I never thought about Led Zeppelin when naming this company. A while back I stumbled upon an amazing website that had tons of pdf files of old science magazines from the early 1900’s. One of the articles I read was about these new “flying machines” (called zeppelins) which would soon allow passengers to get from New York to Chicago in 6 hours! It was a fascinating article, especially when you consider how magical and spectacular this technology must have seemed to the original readers. So when trying to think of a name for this company that would convey the original wonderment of vintage technology the word “Zeppelin” came to mind.
So, what does the Percolator sound like? After firing it up, I got great Clapton-esque tones right out of the box. Backing up on the volume brought back some cleans, but honestly, it’s more fun cranking it full blast. Think crunchy leads rather than articulate rhythm parts. One very fun use—a singer/songwriter friend invited me to back him up at a coffee house gig. Normally, I’d bring my Martin, but this time, I took the Tele and the Percolator. I’ll tell you this much—we got more tips with the Percolator!
Here’s what it will set you back:
Head — $259 unassembled/$349 assembled
Combo – $339 unassembled/$489 assembled
Speaker cabinet— $89 unassembled/$149 assembled
(The speaker is an 8″ 25-watt, 8 Ohm Jensen C8R)
You can check it out in action here:
For more info, head to Zeppelin Design Labs—and tell ’em TDPRI sent you.