For many electric guitarists, crossing over to the acoustic realm can be a precarious path. If you learned on an electric, acoustic guitars can seem foreign. And even if you mess around occasionally on an acoustic, there’s a good chance it just never feels quite right – bodies are bigger, necks are fatter, strings are thicker. But with their new California Series, Fender has made the perfect acoustic guitar for the electric player.
The collection, which harkens back to their range of acoustics from the 1960s, boasts a seamless amalgamation of electric aesthetics, features and playability, and the soul and essence of an acoustic.
If you like the sound of acoustic guitars, but playing them isn’t really your thing, we definitely recommend checking out the California Series from Fender.
The California series features three brand new models: the Malibu, which is a smaller, parlour-style guitar; the medium-sized Newporter; and the slope-shouldered Redondo, the largest of the three.
We got our hands on a Newporter Classic, which features a Fender-exclusive body shape, a solid Sitka spruce top, natural solid mahogany back and sides, a Fishman-designed pickup and preamp, matching painted 6-in-line Stratocaster-style headstock, and the best part, a mahogany neck with slim-taper “C”-shaped profile. The Newporter classic comes in two colours, Hot Rod Red Metallic and Cosmic Turquoise – ours was the latter and it looks absolutely stunning.
For the past 70 years, Fender have continually broken the mould and pushed the boundaries of what musical instruments can and should be. And the California Series is a collection of instruments that continues this tradition.
The Newporter is super comfortable, with a tight waist, pronounced lower bout and beautifully curved cutaway, allowing easy access to upper frets (and trust me, you’ll definitely want to explore up there on this guitar).
The body is balanced, offering booming volume and fantastic note articulation, with crisp, pronounced highs and deep, full bottom end. The smaller hips also give it a somewhat scooped sound, which is really interesting.
But the real beauty of this guitar lies in the neck.
If, like me, your biggest gripe with many acoustics is the chunky, cumbersome neck, I implore you to get your hands on one of these guitars. The slim-taper “C”-shaped profile is simply gorgeous. It’s smooth, thin and fast – super easy to play. It makes you approach the acoustic guitar differently. You’ll want to dig in, you’ll want to bend, you’ll want to traverse up and down the neck.
It’s by no means a traditional acoustic guitar – it defies what an acoustic guitar should be, and this is a wonderful thing.
This notion is hammered in when you plug in the guitar. The preamps in the California Series have been specifically voiced for each model, meaning they faithfully carry the guitar’s natural tone and deliver it through your amp.
Plugging the Newporter into a 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb, I was immediately blown away by the warmth and clarity of the tone. I often disappointed by the tinny, lifeless sound that some acoustic pickups can have, but the Fishman really excels. It’s well-rounded, resonant, with a vibrant colour to it.
It was pretty hard not to throw some pedals into the mix playing this guitar (that’s the kind of thing it inspires you to do). Reverbs and delays sound sublime with it. Going into a Big Muff, it became a gargantuan beast (think Kim Deal’s tones with The Breeders). And with some heavy compression and vibrato it went into vintage, warped vinyl territory.
Sure, any guitar can sound interesting through a bunch of pedals, but it’s not something you might think to do (or want to do) with an acoustic. However, there something about the Newporter that makes you want to take it somewhere unconventional.
Fender have really delivered something special with the California Series. If you’re not particularly into acoustic guitars, I definitely recommend giving one a go. And if acoustics are your thing and you’re on the hunt for something different, this would be an excellent addition to your arsenal.
Check out the California Series from Fender here.