Ordering Ultra Luxe Tele from Sweetwater vs Fender.com?

slouchphobia

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Hey, new and not super experienced here, only been playing about a year with lessons. Can't seem to find any definitive answer on this from googling.

I currently just use a 92-93 MIM Strat that was just sitting unused in a relative's basement for forever and I've been wanting to switch to a MIA tele for several reasons (i.e. really would rather just have a fixed bridge vs this decked strat, not sure I love the strat arm contour or any arm contour, want something a bit higher quality than an old MIM).

I've been eyeing the ultra luxe tele largely because of the SS frets (and also S1 switch). I'm the type of person that would really like to dial in a setup and then really focus on one instrument for a very long while rather than owning multiple and switching around, and I am hoping that SS frets would prolong the life of a good setup without having to get fret work done for even longer than usual. This has nothing to do with money, I just really value the idea of needing as little future handiwork as possible other than string changes/seasonal truss rod adjustment, etc, stuff that is easy to do at home and doesn't need a luthier.

I'm eyeing the 2 tone sunburst finish (appearance isn't a super big issue for me, but I do like this one a fair bit better than the surf green), which I have reserved for an estimated May delivery on Sweetwater. That being said, I've been seeing it go in and out of stock the last few days on fender.com. Is there any advantage of waiting for the Sweetwater one in May? Discounts are the same at each site. I'm kind of swayed by the 55 point inspection on Sweetwater, and after the layoffs at the fender plant and the weird quality issues reported for the american vintage II line, I'm kind of skeptical of getting something through fender directly without a sweetwater check. As I'm somewhat new, I am worried I won't know everything to look for and was thinking sweetwater would be a good quality gate. Is this dumb?

As a side note, I was able to try the Ultra Luxe strat neck and I liked how it felt. Seemed like the fret ends, although very round/smooth, were definitely noticeable going up and down the neck, but I assume that is something I would get used to. It wasn't like sharp/pokey or whatever, just you could definitely tell they were there. Maybe more experienced players have insight on this as well.

Does anyone have any advice about any of this? Would be greatly appreciated.
 

bobio

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I have never bought directly from Fender so I cannot speak to their return policy.
I have bought amps, pedals, guitars and countless accessories from Sweetwater.

Sweetwater will take the guitar back if you don't like how it smells :)
It was years ago, but they even cross shipped an American Standard overnight to me when the one I ordered had a small blemish.
They just told me to keep one and send the other back. :cool: I have been a loyal customer ever since and have NEVER regretted it.

045.JPG
 
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ReverendRevolver

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Where are you located?

Buying new, I'd want to hit up music stores and physically touch a guitar if I'm spending that much. (And I never have...).

I greatly admire the path you're aiming for. I was a much better player when I had 2 good guitars and 2 good amps. Bonded (melded?) More.
The sound of the guitar you get through the amp you intend to use will have monumental weight to your plan working. So the feel of the guitar and sound of the pickups are important variables that you'll want to get a grip on physically, in person, to know for sure.
You're going to need some idea of what amp you're running too. A $1000 guitar and a $1000 amp are always going to sound better than an $1800 guitar and a $200 amp. The amp is half the instrument, you just (hopefully?) Don't have to touch it as much as the guitar.
 

DrBeezus

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I've bought direct from fender a few times. You'll get an untouched guitar still sealed in the box like it was when it was finished and packed. What you won't get is the same customer service like sweetwater if something goes wrong. But you'll get a guitar that was handled and inspected. So you need to take into account how much those small differences mean to you.
 

Fretting out

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For what it’s worth my experience is that the 55 point inspection is more of a formality than an actual inspection

Meaning they eyeball it for about a minute say “eh that looks okay” and then sign the card

Others may have had more luck but I bought a guitar that had a tone pot that didn’t function and cut out, would have easily been found if they did the inspection
 

slouchphobia

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Where are you located?

Buying new, I'd want to hit up music stores and physically touch a guitar if I'm spending that much. (And I never have...).

I greatly admire the path you're aiming for. I was a much better player when I had 2 good guitars and 2 good amps. Bonded (melded?) More.
The sound of the guitar you get through the amp you intend to use will have monumental weight to your plan working. So the feel of the guitar and sound of the pickups are important variables that you'll want to get a grip on physically, in person, to know for sure.
You're going to need some idea of what amp you're running too. A $1000 guitar and a $1000 amp are always going to sound better than an $1800 guitar and a $200 amp. The amp is half the instrument, you just (hopefully?) Don't have to touch it as much as the guitar.
Yeah, I'd love to play it too, but nowhere has these in stock that I've found. Closest I've gotten is an ultra luxe strat, also got to try another bound tele to get an idea of how that would feel. I'm close enough to Chicago that a day trip there would be really easy, but I hadn't seen any of these in stock there last time I checked.

I have a good enough amp for what I do, I'm not super concerned with "perfect tone" or anything, so any sort of telecaster-ish sound is good enough for me. It is more about the longevity of the guitar and the feel of playing it. I'm significantly less worried about the sound than the build quality and the feel.
 

arlum

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How and how often do you play your instrument? Will it be the only guitar of a touring musician or one that gets played at home, with friends and possible shares play time with other guitars you own? SS frets won't reduce the need for setups. The frets themselves just last longer. Most of my guitars use the regular type frets and I usually go multiple years between crowning or leveling and maybe a dozen years or so before considering a refret. The S1 switching does add some nice alternative voices. I've purchased from Sweetwater multiple times with no issues.
 

StoneH

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I've only returned to playing in the last year, but in that time, I have purchased a CV50s Telecaster and Washburn acoustic. I was really nervous about buying a guitar without playing it, but I took a chance. Based on my good experience with Sweetwater and the quality of the guitars purchased, I am awaiting delivery of a Martin 000-18. It is still a leap of faith, but the return policy makes all the difference.
 

slouchphobia

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How and how often do you play your instrument? Will it be the only guitar of a touring musician or one that gets played at home, with friends and possible shares play time with other guitars you own? SS frets won't reduce the need for setups. The frets themselves just last longer. Most of my guitars use the regular type frets and I usually go multiple years between crowning or leveling and maybe a dozen years or so before considering a refret. The S1 switching does add some nice alternative voices. I've purchased from Sweetwater multiple times with no issues.
It would ideally be the only electric I would play. I have an acoustic I am satisfied with and I play about 20 percent of the time, but the rest would be this thing, which is kind of why I want the frets to last a bit longer. I just know from experience that my personality suits getting really familiar with one thing rather than having a bunch of options. Obviously if I get it and I absolutely cannot mesh with it I would return it for a loss of shipping cost, but I don’t really anticipate that.
 

ReverendRevolver

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Yeah, I'd love to play it too, but nowhere has these in stock that I've found. Closest I've gotten is an ultra luxe strat, also got to try another bound tele to get an idea of how that would feel. I'm close enough to Chicago that a day trip there would be really easy, but I hadn't seen any of these in stock there last time I checked.

I have a good enough amp for what I do, I'm not super concerned with "perfect tone" or anything, so any sort of telecaster-ish sound is good enough for me. It is more about the longevity of the guitar and the feel of playing it. I'm significantly less worried about the sound than the build quality and the feel.
In light of what you're looking for, I'm not certain the stainless steel frets are that huge of a factor. Unless you have incredibly acidic sweat (and you'd know by now on the strat if you did), the frets on another US tele will likely last 15+ years of constant playing.
Someone who has been gigging since the middle 00s might chime in and correct me, but I know people on here have ran decades gigging a specific US fender and talked about a refret around year 20.
Have you considered the (mostly instock) Ultra series? Different nut, same neck specs. The headstock aren't painted, and this is a deal breaker for me on offsets, but not teles.
But MF and others have Ultras in stock. (They may also have luxes).
 

MaxPower93

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Here is something to consider. Buy a subscription to fender play on fender’s website. You’ll get 10% off your purchase. Oh and I’ve bought several directly from Fender. No issues at all. I did have to return a squier bass that wasn’t double boxed. Fed ex destroyed it on its journey from California to Ny. Customer service took it right back no cost to me, sent the replacement out 2nd day air so it would get to me quicker. They also sent me a free t shirt and a $30 store credit. This was during the lockdown boom when they couldn’t keep anything in stock either. So nothing but praise from me. You get candy from Sweetwater though. The 55 point inspection is kinda a joke in my opinion. I’ve bought a few guitars from them. Everyone of them needed a set up except a Vintera tele I got. I don’t think management gives them much time to complete it
 

Tenderfoot

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I bought an FCS NOS Telecaster from Sweetwater that appeared to have been a return/demo. I called my service engineer and explained the situation and send pictures to support my claim. I requested the replacement be send unopened in the condition that Sweetwater received it from Fender (as long as there was no damage to the Fender Shipping Box).

Within a few days I received the double boxed replacement with an unopened (Fender) box. Sweetwater had FedEx pick up the guitar I was returning at no cost to me. Was told by my service engineer not to worry about waving the 55-point inspection and if I was to find something needing attention, they would be more than happy to take care of the issue.

Fender consumer relations will work with you on warranty issues, but it can be a long-drawn-out process. On both an FCS Tele and 65PRRI it took over one month to get the warranty claim approved and repairs made. Sweetwater most likely will be faster in getting any warranty issue resolved.
 

Killing Floor

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Can you order a stock guitar from them ?
I’ve bought small parts and a neck and the service was fine. I’ve bought Mod Shop instruments but they have no returns.
 

SampsonRustic

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Personally I wouldn’t choose a new guitar simply because it has SS frets, so many other factors that I would care about first, and you really have to play an insane amount to wear down frets faster than you need a regular setup anyway. Neck size and shape is the most critical to me. Even if you can’t try that specific model near you, I would try several different ones and take note of the neck shape and depth at 1st and 12th fret, then using the shape you liked the most find a guitar that matched that profile.

Secondly while I think we all like the idea of buying 1 lifer guitar, the reality is that being a newer player your tastes are even more likely to change as you get a better idea of what you like. This also brings resale value into consideration if that’s a concern, as the ultra luxe seems to lose value pretty quickly due to the trendiness of the features (seeing used ones for $1800+ for example)

Thirdly, since this will be your first telecaster, I strongly recommend keeping your sights on something “standard” as the core telecaster guitar is a thing of beauty and I think most folks (my guess) end up gravitating towards the original design over time :) - especially if you do keep it for decades, the ultra lines do somewhat change with the times, while a classic is “forever” - painted headstock, contoured body, noiseless pickups, all non-classic features) - which means you just should really want those features if you’re paying almost used custom shop territory)

Fourth, sweetwater is infinitely better to deal with than fender because you can pick the actual guitar and choose the lightest weight one they have. I absolutely recommend calling the sales engineers and asking them to help you pick the best example. I would actually (gasp) order from GC before fender just because of the amazing 45 day return window…
 
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gkterry

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Sweetwater! You can actually pick the guitar from available stock if they have more than one in stock. The advantage is you can pick the weight of the guitar-which matters to some of us. If the guitar has a transparent finish you can pick the one with the most pleasing grain.

Not to mention, you will have your own individual sales person who will communicate with you and you can communicate with him for suggestions or assistance in ordering. Also, their return policy is superb and easy to accomplish a return.

No question in my mind.

Another store to consider is Chicago Music Exchange, especially if you can make the trip to their store. They pay what I consider fair prices on trade-ins and have a HUGE in-store stock. I have found them to be an excellent place to purchase from also.
 

Wallaby

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I agree with this.

And it is most definitely not a setup. All the little things that add up like nut slot height, frets level, crowned and polished, relief being optimal, pickups adjusted - those things will be up to you.

For what it’s worth my experience is that the 55 point inspection is more of a formality than an actual inspection
 

AquariumRock

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A couple of things:

One, I’ll add my voice to those praising Sweetwater. They are my first choice for gear every time. Never had a bad experience, and I’m confident enough after my interactions with their people that any bad experience would be rectified.

Two, consider how long you’d be willing to wait for your new guitar. I wouldn’t have a qualm going through Fender directly if the wait was going to be too long for me. As said, the 55 point inspection is more of a one final once over that they do. That being said, every guitar I’ve gotten from Sweetwater has even in good condition, packaged well, and I’ve been overall happy with their service. Even if the inspection thing is a bit of a gimmick.

Three, those dates aren’t always accurate. I inquired about the new JV Modified telecaster back in October. Sweetwater was sold out, as was Chicago Music Exchange. On CMEs website, they give an estimated back in stock date, and there’s was in March. I emailed my Sweetwater guy and asked if that was when they’d get them back in, too. He said that sounded accurate and there was a chance they might get them a little before March but it was still going to be a wait. Then like three days ago, beginning of December, I got another email about them getting the JVs back in stock. So a good three/four months ahead of time. I had already gotten a different guitar in the interim so it wasn’t as exciting as it otherwise would be, but I appreciated it all the same. So maybe consider that.

All in all, if I was in your shoes, and I was sure about the guitar I wanted, I would probably go through Fender vs waiting 6 months. Though that time could also serve as a nice cooling off period— how sure are you about the Ultra Luxe? That’s a lot of coin for a guitar that isn’t necessarily super beloved by everyone. Not to say that you should consider anyone else’s opinion or anything, but the UL is almost a niche guitar in the word of telecasters.

If I had that money burning a hole in my pocket I’d take a trip to GC and run the racks. The world is your clam at that point with stock guitars. You might find that one little weird guitar that just calls your name. Just my three cents.
 

ponycar

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Welcome to the forum. Some good advice has been posted. Since you are near Chicago I'd call around and try to put hands on if possible. If not I would want to know the weight. I would want to get the finish that appealed to me the most with a guitar in that price point.
The nut width on the guitar that you're looking at is wider than some more vintage spec Fenders. Personally that is appealing.

I am a strong advocate for stainless steel frets. They could last the life of the guitar. Some people can groove regular frets in a year. Try to enjoy the quest for your guitar.
 

JDB2

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A little late here but I’d like to make a couple of points, being the prior owner of an Ultra Luxe Tele that I ordered from Sweetwater.

First, depending on your playing style I believe SS frets may absolutely be worth considering as a factor in choosing a guitar. My regular American Ultra Tele that I purchased in 2020 with ordinary nickel frets already has visible flattening of the crowns on the treble strings in areas of the neck where I tend to bend while playing lead, in particular. It is already scheduled for a SS refret, because I hate the way the tone and playability decreases over time as the crowns wear and I don’t want to be paying a tech over and over to make it right, and eventually refret anyway.

Second, the Ultra Luxe Tele that Sweetwater shipped me in 2021 following a months long preorder had several quality control problems despite their 55 point check. I shipped the guitar back to them twice to try to resolve the issues and eventually had them refund me. They were great about it, but they had no other Ultra Luxe Tele in stock to send me so I was out of luck. I write this not to trash the quality control of Fender, as things can always happen, but only to point out the Sweetwater won’t necessarily catch issues before shipping. I wasn’t really that sad because I actually prefer the tone of my American ultra, even though the Ultra Luxe was gorgeous and had wonderful SS fretwork.

Finally, keep in mind that the Ultra Luxe Tele you want could be reaching the end of its production lifecycle, so if you wait until May for one, and then it has problems, you may or may not be able to ever get another new one to replace it.

As I recall, Fender’s return policy was pretty good, as long as you act quickly and keep the guitar in saleable condition, but I’ve never used them so I don’t know how it works in practice. But if you have your heart set on that particular guitar you might seriously consider buying it from Fender now, while they are still available, just in case you get a lemon like I did.
 




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