American Special vs Jason Isbell Tele...

BrynC

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2021
Posts
6
Age
52
Location
Montana
Howdy all, and Happy Father's Day (not one myself, but grateful that I've got one:),

I recently stumbled across what (I think) was a pretty good deal on a Jason Isbell tele, and pulled the trigger. I've also got a 2010 American Special tele w/the Texas Special pups in it. Last night I plugged the JI into my practice amp (Fender Super Champ XD), and had a good time getting a feel for both the guitar/neck-feel, and the different tones available from the guitar. Long story short...I love how that guitar feels! The neck fits my hand perfectly, and the light relic-ing succeeds in giving it a broken-in and fast way; really, really digging it.
I then decided to dust off the 'ol American Special for a bit of comparison. I've had that guitar for a few years now, and have always liked it. Still do. But in terms of this A/B, a couple of things stood out to me. First, I really prefer the overall feel and playability of the JI. Both guitars are really nicely set-up, with action on the lower end of the spectrum (my preference), and strung up with 10's. But the Isbell just fits me a little better. Better neck-feel, and I've already fallen in love with how the broken-in lacqer finish feels vs poly...quite noticeable.
But what I'm wrestling with now is how each guitar sounds, and how best to describe those differences. The first thing that jumped out was how much hotter the Texas Specials are than the JI/Tim Shaw pups. Tonal differences aside, they're just louder. Without touching the knobs, and just swapping the guitars back and forth, the AS is just capable of more volume, everything else being equal. I don't think this is a good or bad thing, just something to note as a real difference between the two guitars. If I were playing out, and swapping between the instruments frequently, it might be a touch annoying? At any rate, interesting (to me).
I feel less qualified to talk about the tonal differences between the two guitars/pickup combinations. I'm primarily a bluegrass flat picker, so my ear isn't terribly "developed" to pick up the subtle (or even not-so-subtle) distinctions between these two. I'll keep moving between these guitars over the coming days and weeks (and months and years:), and hope to begin tapping into how these instruments differ tonally, and which one "checks the most boxes" for me.
Sorry for the long-winded ramble...and again, happy Father's Day to all!
 
Last edited:

IrishBread69

Tele-Meister
Joined
Jul 24, 2021
Posts
370
Age
37
Location
England

Congratulations, sounds like you have two great Telecasters now. I hear great things about the JIT here. I remain tempted.

The volume difference could be something as simple as pickup heights. Perhaps lower them slightly on the AMS and see if you can balance them that way.
 

TunedupFlat

Tele-Meister
Joined
May 17, 2022
Posts
355
Age
42
Location
Alberta
The necks on most of the Isbell tele's I have played were their crowning feature.

Some of guys I know with them, swapped pickups more to their liking, and others really dug the sound.

For the guitars that I have that have a volume difference that can not be sorted with just pickup adjustments, I use a gigrig three 2 one, or just a boost/line driver(depends on whether I take a board or not)
 




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