Fender Baja vs American Special

krautcat22

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Hello tele fiends!
I'm new here. Hello to all!

I keep my MIM Player tele at my friend's place, where we have our rehearsals. That's why I need another tele for my home. If my home doesn't have a tele, it's not a home. ;-) So I'm on the lookout for another (previously owned) tele.

My question: I have to choose between buying a Fender Baja Telecaster, or an American Special. The latter one is a bit more expensive (50 euros), but that's not a big deal. So, which one should I choose?

What I don't really care about:
- 4-way switch (I can install that myself, if the need arises)
- shape of the neck (C or V)

What I care about:
- RWRP would be nice (not a must-have, though)
- fret quality is important to me (rounded edges etc.)
- I need at least a 9.5'' neck radius
- no thick poly finish, please!

As for the pickups, anything that is well-balanced and sounds different from the Fender Noiseless pickups I currently have, is fine by me.

So, which way should I lean?

Thanks!

EDIT: the Baja Tele is as good as new, the Special has some slight wear
 

Cosmic Cowboy

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Welcome. Seems like either one would work. If money isn't the issue, in my experience...American Fenders are a cut above.
 

boris bubbanov

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For me, the Baja wins because the American Special fretwire size is essentially the largest fretwire FMIC offers (except for Yngwie signature model, etc.) Larger than optimal, at least for me and larger than what you have now with your current MIM.

The body finish thickness on the Baja is too bad, but honestly you won't notice while you play and so who cares? However the Baja pickups are not RWRP (they couldn't be, and still have the 7 way pickup selection choices - not feasible). American Special as shipped, is RWRP but there, they failed to add the 4 way switch so you don't get 60 cycle noise cancellation in Series. Just the Parallel noise cancelled position, as stock.

I have 7 Bajas, all wired stock and Zero American Specials. I guess that says it all (for me at least).
 

G.Rotten

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Hello tele fiends!
I'm new here. Hello to all!

I keep my MIM Player tele at my friend's place, where we have our rehearsals. That's why I need another tele for my home. If my home doesn't have a tele, it's not a home. ;-) So I'm on the lookout for another (previously owned) tele.

My question: I have to choose between buying a Fender Baja Telecaster, or an American Special. The latter one is a bit more expensive (50 euros), but that's not a big deal. So, which one should I choose?

What I don't really care about:
- 4-way switch (I can install that myself, if the need arises)
- shape of the neck (C or V)

What I care about:
- RWRP would be nice (not a must-have, though)
- fret quality is important to me (rounded edges etc.)
- I need at least a 9.5'' neck radius
- no thick poly finish, please!

As for the pickups, anything that is well-balanced and sounds different from the Fender Noiseless pickups I currently have, is fine by me.

So, which way should I lean?

Thanks!

EDIT: the Baja Tele is as good as new, the Special has some slight wear
I guess it depends on what your sound is.

I have a Hwy 1 Telecaster and a 60's Baja. I know the Hwy 1 isn't an American Special but they have the same or at least similar necks and I have a couple sets of Texas Specials.

Both necks are great but the Baja is smaller with vintage tall frets and the Hwy 1/American Special with the jumbo frets.

For me, I prefer the jumbo frets and Texas Specials but the Baja has a more vintage sound and feel with a little more playability.

Both guitars are high quality and both have their own following.
 

KokoTele

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The finish on either is similar. On the thick side for those used to paper thin old nitro finishes, but not so thick as to be a problem. Quite honestly, unless you chip it, you'll never notice.

The Baja does not have a RWRP pickup. I don't think that the American Special does.

The fretwork will be fine on either of them. Depending on age and use, either one would probably benefit from some fretwork by a good tech or luthier.

The neck profiles will be different. The Baja has more of a vintage feel and either has a soft V or chunky U shape. The American Special has a more modern shape. The Baja has medium-jumbo frets, and I think the AS has jumbo jumbo (tall and fat).

The sound will be different. The Baja has an ash body and Twisted Tele pickups, which are vintage-ish, with a little more output and a little bit of Strat flavor. The AS has Texas Specials, which are hot and midrangey, on an alder body. I'd expect less definition and sparkle out of the AS.

My #1 Tele is a Baja with a set of Lollar pickups that I had made to my spec. I could have or make just about anything I wanted, and I haven't found one that made me want it more.
 

unixfish

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I was looking at both of those guitars when I bought my first Tele. The Baja won because of the neck shape, which I have since fallen out of love with. I would probably still have the special.

If you were a bit closer, I would sell you my Baja. :cool:
 

rghill

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Get best of both worlds like me, a Hwy 1 body with a Baja neck! I also have a Baja. A friend has the American Special with the Lake Placid Blue body, a beautiful guitar.
 

bettyseldest

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I can't work out from your question if it's the 50s or 60s Baja you are considering. Both necks are highly regarded here. They are significantly different in profile and whilst you say that you are not bothered by the profile, the 50s, which I and many others adore, has plenty of haters. Whatever the question, my answer is generally 50s Baja, but I would strongly advise that you try before you buy.
 

boris bubbanov

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Bettyseldest is right - the necks on the 50s and 60s Bajas are very different. The 50s is thick, very chunky C that trends towards a Boatneck or Soft V. I think FMIC called it a V to make sure everyone knew, it has no U or D shape - no excess shoulder at all.

The 60s Baja neck is fairly slim but thicker IMO than a typical MIM Standard. But it does taper and so is fairly thick above the 12th fret.

FMIC switched the Highway One/American Special product over from non RWRP A3s halfway through the 2000s to too hot RWRP A3s and by the time the American Special comes, these are Texas Specials and these are all RWRPs. Pickups in the Am. Special are fine - the last version of the Highway One had awful pickups.
 

krautcat22

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I'm buying secondhand, so my choices are limited. The Baja is the 50s one (unless there are 60s Bajas with maple fretboards). It's practically unplayed.
The AS has some normal wear, but nothing too serious.

I'll go check out the Baja tonight. If the neck feels right, I'll probably just take it home with me.
As for the price: what would be a reasonable price, considering its near-perfect condition? Just to see if I should negotiate with the seller... :)

Thanks for the input, guys!
 

krautcat22

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However the Baja pickups are not RWRP (they couldn't be, and still have the 7 way pickup selection choices - not feasible).
I didn't know that. I thought RWRP wouldn't interfere with any pickup selection options, and you'd still get the hum cancelling when using the 'traditional' bridge+neck configuration...
 

boris bubbanov

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I didn't know that. I thought RWRP wouldn't interfere with any pickup selection options, and you'd still get the hum cancelling when using the 'traditional' bridge+neck configuration...
I hear you. Before I asked around, I thought the Baja had RWRP pickups but was just incredibly noisy because of all the wires and all the switch points and solder joints. Then I asked some guys here, precisely what to do the check for RWRP and they showed me. And someone here described installing some No-Casters (RWRP) straight into an existing Baja and what a buzzing mess that was.

And this is why when I assemble my own "Baja" projects, they have the 4 way switch and not the out of phase stuff - because I absolutely would value hum canceling over the out of phase features. If you polled everyone here, the out of phase stuff would be said to be a gimmick, by most.
 

krautcat22

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I hear you. Before I asked around, I thought the Baja had RWRP pickups but was just incredibly noisy because of all the wires and all the switch points and solder joints. Then I asked some guys here, precisely what to do the check for RWRP and they showed me. And someone here described installing some No-Casters (RWRP) straight into an existing Baja and what a buzzing mess that was.

And this is why when I assemble my own "Baja" projects, they have the 4 way switch and not the out of phase stuff - because I absolutely would value hum canceling over the out of phase features. If you polled everyone here, the out of phase stuff would be said to be a gimmick, by most.
Got the Baja!

A few points, after 20 minutes of playing/testing/enjoying:

- I don't care about out-of-phase (as I already knew beforehand)
- I might convert the switch to a 'regular' 4-way switch, if feasible, and check if I can change the polarity (+wire switching) of the bridge pickup, so I'll have RWRP. For the moment, noise is within acceptable limits, even with distortion.
- The poly finish on the back of the neck is fine for now, but let's see what happens in sweaty summertime.
- Vintage machine heads. I love vintage machine heads!
- The neck pickup is great! Definitely better than the one in my Classic Player.

To be clear: for the moment, I won't change a thing. I always take a few weeks to appreciate a guitar on its own merits...

Am I happy with my purchase? Oh yes! :)
 
Last edited:

Blues Twanger

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I am a fan of the Specials but I also prefer the larger frets. Both have great necks, I find the Baja fuller but the Special has better fretboard edge roll, both contributing to comfort in different ways.
 

KokoTele

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Congrats on the purchase! Sounds like you got a great guitar.

FWIW, I don't find the glossy poly gets sticky with sweat the same way nitro can, but to each their own. It's easy to satinize it, which helps tremendously.
 




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