In this series of “mini-reviews” I’ll be looking at news and general gear that I recommend for recreating David’s tones. First off is a glance at the popular Classic Vibe guitars from Squier.
I’ve received a lot of questions about these guitars and I’ve had the chance to try most of them. I must admit that I’ve never had any “wow!” experiences with Squier but I know many of you have and are using Standards and Affinitys as your main guitars with much success.
The Classic Vibes are essentially the cheaper version of the Mexican/Japanese Fender Classic Series with a couple of additions. I’ve chosen the 50s and 60s Stratocaster and the Telecaster Custom for this review.
This model is specially intriguing as it’s offered in an Olympic White finish with an gold anodized pickguard. Sounds familiar? Yes, it looks very much like David’s #0001 Strat! The guitar feature a super light alder body, a comfortable and easy play 9.5″ C-shaped maple neck and three Fender Custom vintage style alnico 3 single coils with a typical 50s bright mid boosted tone.
This Stevie Ray Vaughan-ish 3-colour sunburst with a tortoise shell pickguard is actually a very nice Strat with a great 60s look and feel. The guitar feature a super light alder body, a nice 9.5″ C-shaped rosewood neck (looks surprisingly good with no sings of open pores or dry wood) and three Fender Custom vintage style alnico 5 single coils that’s a bit hotter than the 50s Strat producing a typical scooped mids 60s tone. Definitely my favourite of the Strats.
Although the name is a bit misleading – a Telecaster Custom actually has a Fender neck humbucker, this is a Custom Telecaster – I was especially interested in this model since I have a lovely CIJ ’62 Custom myself. The guitar feature a 3-colour sunburst alder body with a lovely binding (taking you right back to Animals and Dogs) a 9.5″ C-shaped rosewood neck and two alnico 3 Tele single coils. To be honest I both enjoy this one and got a bit disappointed. It doesn’t feel anything near a Fender ’62 Custom reissue with its super glossy finish, thin neck and ultra light body but it both plays and sound surprisingly nice on its own.
Although it seems that Fender and Squier has finally managed to produce quality guitars covering the classic designs I can’t help but wonder if it’s good enough. Compare the Classic Vibe guitars to a similar price range from Epiphone and I’d definitely go for a Les Paul Standard or SG 400. In my opinion you’ll get a much better guitar that undoubtedly will stand a lot more abuse and wear. The reason for this is that I feel that although the Classic Vibes look great there’s no doubt that Fender/Squier has cut some corners to minimize the price. The thin necks and ultra light bodies makes these guitars sound a bit flat and not as rich and balanced as their Mexican and Japanese counterparts. The pickups are actually quite OK – I assume they’re the same as featured on the MIM Classic Series – but I’d replace them for something much better like Fender Custom Shop 69 or Duncan SSL1 or SSL5 for the Strats and Fender Custom Shop Texas Special for the Tele. The super glossy polyester finish also makes the guitar look a bit cheap – a strange choice because the overall finish and assembly is very good.
The Classic Vibe guitars are a great alternative for tight budgets or your first visit to the Fender world. If only I could get a classic Strat for $500 when I was 13! I think my final conclusion will be that I’m not overly excited but I wouldn’t be surprised if I one day got one of the Stratsâ€¦