A Belated New Tele Day: A Saga For Our Times

Synchro

Tele-Holic
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Posts
694
Location
Tucson, AZ.
I had a nice tax refund this year, and decided that it was time for another Tele. As has been the case with several Tele purchases, I found that I actually preferred the feature set of a relatively inexpensive model, in this case the MIM Deluxe Tele Thinline, an interesting hybrid with binding on the top, but not the back, Fender Noiseless pickups (which were my strong preference) and a Candy Apple Red finish. While I don’t recall seeing these recently on Fender’s website, it is a 2021 serial number and came NOS, from Adorama. I did not expect it to come with a good setup and my expectations were met. It had not been out of its box since leaving the factory in Ensenada. I actually prefer to receive new guitars this way, because I prefer to do my own baseline setup.

So I did. Starting with setting up the bridge, which was absolutely random, being grossly out of intonation, but before I could do that, the OEM strings were the worst I’ve ever seen. Considering that it was never played, and was made in 2021, the strings had to have been pretty awful to begin with. One new set of DR Blues, Pure Blues 9-42 later, I was able to do my setup. I got it playing quite well and loved the nature of the guitar. As planks go, this one had a lot of spank.

Then I plugged it in. Within seconds, it became obvious that there was a wicked hum, which went away as soon as you touched the strings. It sounded like a classic ground problem, so just a few hours into my ownership experience, I undid my setup work and tore it apart to see if the bridge was grounded. As it turns out. the bridge was grounded, but the source of hum was elsewhere. I’ll spare you the details of the troubleshooting, but it turns out that the problem was an excessively long pair of wires from the volume pot to the output jack. Five inches would have been sufficient and this was over 11” long and untwisted. Basically, I had an antenna for detecting EMI. Replacing it with shielded two conductor cable and grounding one end of the shield, took care of the problem. I also used some copper tape and shielded Tele body that was as quiet as my Humbucker equipped Custom Telecaster FMT HH. But it was just a body at this point and I had to reassemble the rest of the guitar.

In the meantime, I had bought a set of Highwood Contoured Vintage (style) Saddles from StewMac. So I must confess to blasphemy, because these are actually Strat saddles, but they don’t threaten to lacerate my picking hand, so I‘m good with it. I reattached the neck, and setup the bridge again. The fretwork was pretty good and I was able to set it up for quite low action without any penalty in sound quality. Actually, the limiting factor was the length of the intonation adjustment screws for the bridge saddles. As soon as a find a slightly longer screw I can actually lower the action of the high E even further without having it intonate flat. Even as if it, the action is excellent.

The Proof Is In The Playing
The sound is pure Tele. I wondered if the high impedance of the Noiseless Pickups might detract from the highs, but this is not the case. This sounds as good to my ear as the Fender single coil, vintage spec pickups I had my first Tele. Currently, I have a set of 9-46 hybrid strings, which gives it good low end, yet makes for easy bending. Eventually, I intend to put Thomastik BeBops, pure nickel, roundwound, round core, in .047, .034, .026 on the bottom three strings with .009, .011 and .016 plains up top, but I want to make sure that I won’t be taking it apart again, before putting on high end strings.

The four way switch is a pleasant surprise, adding a sound that one does not normally associate with a Tele. I’m not sure just how to describe it, but both pickups in serial is humbucker sound, but not necessarily a Les Paul sound. It’s mellow, but powerful. I took this guitar to band practice and found myself using both pickups in serial when I wasn’t going for maximum treble spank.

Overall, this guitar has been a good purchase. The wiring problem was irritating, but simple enough to correct. It plays well and gives me an axe that loves having its strings bent and rewards me with a springy, bright sound. It’s a good Country guitar, sounds good for Blues, and it Rocks. Besides that, the Art Deco looks of the Thinline really appeal to me. The workmanship, with the exception of the wiring, is quite good. I’ve had Fender Custom Shop guitars that had more fit and finish issues.

Here’s a photo of the Tele, during its receiving inspection.

0C23D557-7DF5-4084-A96F-B41FE69E0343.jpeg
 

Sparky2

Poster Extraordinaire
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That's a great read, and an exciting new guitar.

I have always wanted a Thinline Tele, but could never afford one of the American made ones.
That one right there sure inspires a desire for my own quest.

😗
 

That Cal Webway

Friend of Leo's
Silver Supporter
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Nov 16, 2012
Posts
4,653
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Minot
Great review!

I like that the neck is a 12° radius too.
If I ever see one in the wild at a dealer, I definitely will try it out!
 

howlin

Tele-Afflicted
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Aug 19, 2007
Posts
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Who wants to know?
I had one exactly like yours ACCEPT I think it was assembled from parts as it didn’t exactly follow the spec from Fender. All-in-all it was a good guitar and it looked nice. I just couldn’t bond with it. Glad you like yours.
 

Synchro

Tele-Holic
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Posts
694
Location
Tucson, AZ.
Thanks for all of the kind comments, gents. As frustrating as the electrical problems were, the repair was a lot less trouble than sending it back or trying to find someone to perform a warranty repair in a timely fashion. I’ve been playing it a fair amount since it’s rebirth, and I’m quite satisfied.

The Thinline design has long fascinated me. This is my second Thinline, the other being a Squier CV ‘70s Thinline Tele. I own three Teles, the two Thinlines and a Custom Telecaster FMT HH. So out of three Teles, none are conventional Teles.

I used to have an early ‘90s MIM Tele Standard which I modified with Fender Vintage RI pickups. That was the most “conventional“ Tele I’ve ever owned, and it had a top-loading bridge. In 2003, I decided that I wanted a ‘52 RI, but the Custom Telecaster FMT HH caught my eye and I ended up spending a lot less money, but have never regretted the purchase. The Squier was bought from amp builder, Winfield Thomas, and he modified the neck pickup.

That Squier whetted my appetite for Thinlines, and I had planned to build one from Warmoth parts, including locking tuners, Fender Noiseless pickups, a bound top, and a contoured heel. I was ready to order the parts, but the lead time would have pushed the project well into summer. Just for the heck of it, I put “Thinline Tele“ into Amazon and up popped this MIM model that ticked all the boxes and there was one left available from Adorama, so I pulled the trigger. Once again, and typical of every Tele I’ve bought, a less expensive model turned out to suit my tastes just as well, if not better, than the high dollar models.

I‘m still tweaking it a bit. I may raise the action slightly. It’s setup for low action, but I might increase it slightly. Setups are a gradual process for me, and I tend to tweak, then play for a day or two before deciding if I want to do anything else. Apart from the wiring issues, this guitar has been a sweetheart, and easy to setup.
 

arlum

Tele-Afflicted
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Jun 7, 2018
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O'Fallon, MO
That's a beautiful Telecaster. I'm totally with you on the setup of a new guitar. There are only a handful of dealers I trust to set up my instrument, (Wildwood being the best). If I'm buying a true hand built boutique model from a builder then I also trust their familiarity with the model gives them insight on doing a better setup over myself or anyone else. How long did it take you to train the cat to do the arrival inspection? Mine still struggles so much that I'm considering buying another Tegu lizard like the one that did my inspections for years. He never once made a mistake until he bit my wife. Thus .... the cat.
 

Synchro

Tele-Holic
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Posts
694
Location
Tucson, AZ.
Thanks for all the kind words guys. I’m sure enjoying it. It amazes me, the versatility of this little gem.

That's a beautiful Telecaster. I'm totally with you on the setup of a new guitar. There are only a handful of dealers I trust to set up my instrument, (Wildwood being the best). If I'm buying a true hand built boutique model from a builder then I also trust their familiarity with the model gives them insight on doing a better setup over myself or anyone else. How long did it take you to train the cat to do the arrival inspection? Mine still struggles so much that I'm considering buying another Tegu lizard like the one that did my inspections for years. He never once made a mistake until he bit my wife. Thus .... the cat.
I used to live near Wildwood and spent many an hour up there, perusing. They are some great folks.

As for the cat, the usual, four years of college, four years of medical school, a one year internship, then a residency as a Radiologist. Now she can read a Cat Scan, but she can’t sign off on it, because cats can’t write. :)

She’s a natural, but she also seems to prefer inspecting food that enters the house. On occasion, I bring home a salad with strips of grilled chicken. She inspects the heck outta those.


I’d never thought of Tegu Lizard, but I’d bet that they would make good inspectors.
 




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