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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Have you ever tried a vintage Fender? How did they compare?

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by soma89, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. Syd Lennon

    Syd Lennon TDPRI Member

    Aug 21, 2016
    I've noticed with vintage guitars that most of the magic isn't in the tone but the playability. There's a really noticeable "worked-in" feeling that makes it seem like it should be more of a guitar than modern productions, but then when you plug it in you're not always guaranteed to have a tone that matches the awesome way it feels in your hands. Vintage electronics are easy to reproduce but copying the way wood ages and settles and wears over decades is impossible, so there isn't a huge difference between vintage and modern but then there is.
    StrangerNY likes this.

  2. TheletterJ

    TheletterJ Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 13, 2014
    Rochester, NY
    I've NEVER played any guitar built before the early 1990's and I feel like I'm missing out. Just once I'd like to plug a '62 Jazzmaster or 50's Strat into a Vintage Vox AC30 and experience the total package.

    Or maybe a '52 Tele into a vintage 5E3 or blackface Deluxe.

    I think if I ever do it'll be sweet and spark a GAS unlike any GAS I've ever experienced.
    t guitar floyd likes this.

  3. Bill

    Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    I've played many vintage Fenders and own four: a '52 and '66 Tele and a "56 and '63 Strat...

    So here's the overall deal. Not all vintage Fenders are brilliant and many probably never were. Same thing for new ones. But the good older ones have more "personality" for lack of a better word, and become a real partner in your playing. I have never played a Custom shop Strat that was as good as my Strats for instance. I had an American '57 reissue Strat and while it felt similar to my '56, plugged in it had no where near the chime or harmonic richness. My 1996 '52 Tele reissue doesn't sound anywhere as nice as my original '52.

    Overall, I think there's a good middle-of-the-road sound and excellent quality to new Fenders. And many of them feel outstanding. But I just don't care for the sound of most of them. I tend to play clean or mild overdrive. Jazz to blues tones, so that's where I'm coming from.

    But lest you think I'm a vintage-only snob, I'm a huge fan of some of the cheapest Fenders. I have a 2005 Squier '51 and a 2007 hardtail Bullet Strat that are both wonderful guitars. I think the cheap guitars sometimes have their own personality and you just have to learn to work with them. For instance, I usually assume the neck pickup has the richer sound. But on the Squier '51, the neck pickup is OK, but the guitar sounds much deeper and fuller when I add in the bridge humbucker. Then the guitar sounds like a Gibson with a neck humbucker. It comes alive. And I like the sound of my Bullet Strat more than the Custom Shop Strats I've tried.

    So go figure.
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  4. Major Gruber

    Major Gruber Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 24, 2012
    Colombes France
    That's very true. Do you know what Jimi Hendrix answered to the question "why do you play right handed guitars?" He answered: "because they make more of them, so you get more chances to find a good one…" That's exactly what he's talking about.
    They're all made of wood and there's a random convergence of factors that can make a big difference and when these factors apply to a old one, there's a sort of multiplication of the qualities. The age of the wood is an advantage by itself, but I think there can be a human factor too. A good guitar that is well played for a long time can get better by this action. I really believe that the vibrations of a good tone subtly fashion something through the guitar structure. That's more a belief that a scientific statement, but I think that some of the guitars that really "sing" have taken advantage of a long time in hands that make them sing. Everybody knows that a guitar can be improved by playing, so this effect on a longer term, older wood and older metal parts crossed by electricity can produce enchanting results. But there are amazing old ones that haven't been played much too. There are many different subtle ways in the long story of a guitar that can result by the grace among random factors, I think (it's love that makes me speak like this ;) A fantastic vintage is a living mystery, like a wise old man…

  5. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

    Mar 11, 2009
    Sand Land
    I'm 68 years old and picked up my first guitar at 15 so I guess it goes without saying that for many years all I played was Fenders that are now vintage. Even after 50 plus years if you blindfolded me and had me play two similarly equipped and set up vintage and new Fenders I couldn't tell you which was which. Leo designed these guitars to be about as simple as it gets with the result that they are also about as similar to each other as it gets. I'm convinced that the rest of all of this hoopla comes from the desire to believe that each of us has a guitar that is in some way special. The problem with that is that Leo never meant for one example to be more special than another. What he was shooting for, and achieved, with his design concept was great guitars that could be produced cheaply and consistently. Of course collectors and certain purists will scoff at this notion. Oh well.

  6. Major Gruber

    Major Gruber Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 24, 2012
    Colombes France

    …and easy to service and change parts. Sure, this is known facts. The thing is that you do your best according to this objective year after year and in the end items have different personalities. I don't have the same experience as yours, I owned 12 tellies in ten years from new to 1951, they all had in common this Telecaster character, but none of these sounded the same, even unplugged, and the feeling while playing was incredibly different. Changing the neck for instance can give you a completely different guitar, different sounding, different feeling. I restored a 67 than was really not bad and I was about to sell it when I decide to try to purchase another neck before taking decision. I found a really cheap worn one of the same month and year (actually) and since I set it on it, it's my absolutely favorite and I'm selling the other Tellies I had left, including a very good player 56 (actually, this 67 drove me to discontinue a constant survey on I've been performing for 10 years, I had found my telly). Vintage are all different. But being interested in these variation might depend on the kind of relationship you have with the instrument. Players are even more different from each others than guitars are. Maybe you are a neat technician that don't focus too much on the instrument to get your playing right. I don't call my a purist, I just look for my own sonic happiness because I only know to play instinctively and the response of the guitar influences a lot what I'm doing on it. Oh well ;)
    71Tele and t guitar floyd like this.

  7. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

    Mar 11, 2009
    Sand Land
    ^^ You make some valid points and I'm not saying that there aren't subtle tonal differences from one Tele to the next, but like you said, a preference for a given difference is very much a personal thing. My objection is that purists tend to take arbitrary differences and attribute what they think are the good ones to vintage instruments and what they consider to be the bad ones to everything else when in fact there is no benchmark reference as to what is a good tone and what is not.

    My only other observation is that from the time I began playing guitar up until the advent of the internet I don't remember ever having had a discussion about one Tele sounding better than another. In those days we weren't looking for "the" Tele, we were just happy if we had a Tele and no one seemed to be displeased with the one they had nor did they envy any one elses. Go figure.
    4telecaster4, Flakey and StrangerNY like this.

  8. zeke54

    zeke54 Tele-Holic

    Sep 13, 2011
    central calif.
    My first Fender was a '57 Esquire I got when I was 15 in 1969 , it had been refinned badly , but to me it was the greatest ! It had been played a lot to say the least , but it played great and sounded great . A couple years later I bought a '57 Tele , it felt and sounded completely different and I did not really bond with it . It sounded thinner and had the V neck , which the Esquire did not . The Tele appeared to have had limited playing on it which goes along with the " dogs don't get played " theory . In the mid '70s I bought a '63 Strat , which again had obviously been loved a lot , and it was a great guitar like the Esquire . Couple years later I acquired a '62 Strat , it was a good guitar too , but again , the '63 was the queen in all aspects . Someone else may have felt the opposite that I did , but to me it was obvious that old didn't necessarily mean great . I've played a lot of new Fenders since then and like everyone else has said , some are winners , some are not . Some have felt as good or better than my favorite Esquire and that '63 Strat , but again it's about personal preference . Z54

  9. Flakey

    Flakey Friend of Leo's

    I've owned mostly vintage Gibson electrics and archtop Epis. What is now considered a vintage CBS Fender were new when I owned them and I find are consistently nothing special at best. I have a very good friend that owns a vintage guitar store in town and have access to many "holy grails" with a stop by the store or a phone call to other friends. Like others have posted, I'm amazed at how inconsistent vintage guitars were made (largely hand made you know...always better. Yeah right!) But in this situation and during my 40 years of playing, taking apart and working on guitars I've learned this, 1) The best guitars are being made today. 2) With the technology we have and the research and knowledge guitar geeks such as ourselves have accumulated, we can duplicated any expensive vintage guitar we want at a much affordable price either through by thru specialized vendors (Rutter, Musikraft, etc.) or through one's own skills. So in affect each player has their own idea of guitar mojo and now they can create it for themselves. It doesn't necessarily require laying out huge money to get that. Heck it can be found in a Squire if it trips your trigger.

  10. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Feb 14, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    It's a crap shoot. I had a friend that had a 50's something Strat he got from his uncle that always felt like a dog to me. And it was trashed too, finish stripped, stainless steel guard...he eventually had it refinished but it never felt or sounded superior to my 16 year old 2000 American Series to me.

    My teacher has a beat looking 64 Strat that's a great guitar. My old bass player has a 67 Tele that's light as a feather, since he had it refretted it's a wonder.

    I prefer older Fender amps though.
    Chicago Matt likes this.

  11. Amby

    Amby Tele-Holic

    How do the pickups compare with todays?

  12. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Tele-Afflicted

    The pickups on my '66 are very different from all of my newer Teles. The bridge pickup has all of the snap that you'd expect, but without the 'Buchanan factor' - the tendency to put out too much high end. Just enough highs to cut, not enough to pierce eardrums.

    And the neck pickup almost sounds like a Strat pickup to my ears - more of an open sound with a little quack, not the totally dark tone of my other Teles.

    The '66 sounds enough like my newer ones that you'd know it was a Tele without seeing it - but different enough to be really noticeable when you A-B them.

    - D
    Owenmoney likes this.

  13. gitarjoe

    gitarjoe Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2003
    truth be told, I own 2 vintage teles that are 100 original. I think they are the best sounding guitars I own. I have 2 custom shops that are vintage specs and sound great as well. I don't know if its just my mind playing games. But the vintage stuff speaks to me more clearly.

  14. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Feb 26, 2014
    South London UK
    I tried a 66 Tele stripped with rosewood board a while ago in a shop/

    I really liked the neck and board especially the worn feel with rounded finger board edges and well polished frets.

    It was quite heavy, not as resonant as modern upper end teles and the pups were weak. I wasn't tempted, but I would have made an offer for the neck by itself;)

    Just one example of course. But I reckon marrying an original neck with something like an MJT or equivalent body would be a great way to build. And yes, something I'm thinking about. Anyone done that?

  15. Chicago Matt

    Chicago Matt Friend of Leo's

    Aug 23, 2014

    I haven't tried a vintage neck on a more modern instrument, but I am a believer in swapping out parts on Fenders to get what you like. That's how Leo designed them after all.

    To speak to the original point of the thread, I used to think that vintage was always better, period. I've owned many vintage Fender guitars, mostly Strats, some great some not. Looking back I realize that I formed the "vintage is better" opinion in the 70's and never questioned it much thereafter. The early 70's were not good days for Fender (or Giibson) in terms of the quality of their products, so I think my assessment was backed up by reality at the time. But now I feel completely different about it. As others have said, two examples of the same model and year of guitar (or neck) can be very different, vintage or not. Unless you are a collector, it's more about finding an instrument (and amp) that sounds and feels great to you, making it your own, and then learning how to use its voice to express what you want. Fortunately today, great playing and sounding instruments are in abundance and you don't have to pay an arm and a leg.

    These days I take a very utilitarian view. My two guitars that get played the most are a 2005 Clapton Strat with a Squier CV 50's neck bolted onto it, and a 2013 CV 50's Vintage Blonde Telecaster. The Clapton is stock except for the Squier neck which happens to play (and sound) just right for me. The CV 50's Tele now has noiseless pickups, Gotoh modern 6 saddle bridge, treble bleed circuit, and electrosocket because that's what works the best for me. I love both guitars and they do what I want as well as any I've owned. Anything I don't like at this point is just an indication that I need to practice more. :)

  16. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Feb 26, 2014
    South London UK

    "2005 Clapton Strat with a Squier CV 50's neck bolted onto it"

    Wow! That's a surprise... when I tried a Clapton Strat the neck was the thing I liked most about it.. shows how we're all looking for slightly different takes on classics :)
    Chicago Matt likes this.


    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    And this is exactly how I found the '94 MIM Black Label "Squier Series" Strat that I still own.

    It came in red, white and black. I wanted a white or black. But, as fate would have it, the red one out performed any of the dozen or so.

    I never even plugged it in. I based my decision strictly on feel of the instrument. Could any of the other ones be set up better and swayed my decision? Maybe, I just wasn't willing to take that chance.

    With replacing tuners, electronics and pickups(with help from Rob and Fezzter). It sounds and plays just as well as any Strat I've played to date.

  18. Chicago Matt

    Chicago Matt Friend of Leo's

    Aug 23, 2014
    Yeah, I know. Just never bonded with it. I do miss the 22'nd fret occasionally, but the Squier neck is just great for me.

  19. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    That's the way to do it. With mine the OEM pickups were overwound and muddy. A used set of Fender OVs fixed that. :)

  20. Tedzo

    Tedzo TDPRI Member

    Jul 1, 2016
    Northern California
    It's all about the '53 Blackguard, although not 100% original, sings like a bird. When I grab the 'baseball' neck, my socks roll up and down and the ax feels so natural.....wouldn't trade it for anything else. Some of these are overpriced, so be careful. Oh, BTW, once you are a good player, you can make any guitar sound awesome.

    Neck Date.jpg
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