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Fender Player Plus Telecaster: a classic tone for a new generation

The Fender Telecaster is an electric guitar archetype. Can the new Player Plus model bring this icon to a new breed of guitarist?

Since the early 1950s, the Fender Telecaster has been emblematic of the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of rebellion. With the Player Plus series, the Telecaster (as well as other titans like the Stratocaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass) has been reshaped to appeal to a new generation of rebels.

In light of the pandemic, artists have turned toward digital platforms as a way to engage with audiences with more enthusiasm than ever before. And with the Player Plus Telecaster, Fender is aiming to give this new vanguard what it needs: a new sound (and an old sound, if they want it), a new look, and versatility of tone. Does this guitar tick all those boxes?

Fender Player Plus Telecaster

First impressions

It’s a bit cheeky to call it a ‘first’ impression: everyone knows this iconic shape. And yes, gaze upon this Tele and it’s very familiar — the single-cutaway, the two single-coil pickups, the three-way pickup selector, one knob each for volume and tone, and the same headstock shape your granddaddy saw when he was was knee-high to a grasshopper. It’s Classic Coke: why mess with it?

To appreciate its innovations, you need to get up close. The ‘Noiseless’ logo on the pickups bode well — single-coil noise can really suck the vibe out of a recording session. The push-pull operation of the tone knob is a harbinger of interesting tonal adventures. The modern bridge and locking tuning machines exude solidity and professionalism.

Fender Player Plus Telecaster

On picking the guitar up, the balance feels assured, but light and comfortable, especially in a sitting position. The modern “C” neck (with satin finish) has a decidedly different feel from the familiar “U” shape. Coupled with the 12″ radius Pau Ferro fretboard (that’s populated with 22 medium jumbo frets), it’s an incredibly smooth ride that should satisfy the Tele’s core constituency of country twangers, as well indie rockers, bona fide shredders, and everyone in between.

Coming in four different finishes, the ‘Silver Smoke’ is undoubtedly the most striking. This gradual black to white fade is a head-turner that’s replicated in different ways across the Player Plus lineup in ‘Belair Blue’ (a midnight azure that fades into a light aquamarine) and ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (cocktail aficionados will know what I’m talking about).

Fender Player Plus Telecaster

Sonically speaking

Being a successful model for multiple generations, the Telecaster has one of the most recognisable voices of all electric guitars. So can the Player Plus pull off all the classic Tele tones we know and love?

Yes. And then some.

The look and the way it feels in your hands is all class. Thankfully, the sound does nothing to dissuade you of that notion. Switched to the neck pickup, and the Player Plus Tele is sonorous and sweet, allowing the character of the resonant character of the alder body to shine through. Switch over to the bridge for all your Chicken Pickin’ needs, as well as a brash character for lead work.

The middle position combines both pickups to give you that dulcet bottom-end with a serious amount of chime — enough brilliance to cut through any mix, whether you’re playing melodies or bashing out barre chords. And owing to those Noiseless pickups, you won’t be dealing with any debilitating single-coil hum, no matter what configuration you favour. Sure, introducing noise to the signal chain with pedals or plugins is a possibility, but you can be assured that the guitar won’t be contributing to it!

Fender Player Plus Telecaster, MXWLL

Tug the tone pot upwards, however, and you’ll find out why this ‘Player’ comes with a ‘Plus’. This switch wires the pickups in series, giving the volume a noticeable boost and more bottom-end power. Incorporating this system in such an elegant, easy-to-access way is a boon, especially if you’re taking this guitar on stage and you need that extra grunt for a lead line. It adds a completely fresh tonal character to an already versatile guitar, one that players of all styles will come to appreciate.

Fender has been in the game for many a decade and has the good sense not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they’ve ingeniously invited a whole new cohort of guitarists into its well-established family: offering up the best of the company’s pedigree, while giving them the tools to push the boundaries of guitar tone and recreate it in their own image.

The Fender Player Plus series is out now. Head over to the Fender website for more details.