I think I just found my favorite Telecaster of all time. I don’t want to send it back to Fender…
Overview & Final Score: 9.4
A recent addition to Fender’s Vintera line, the new Road Worn series bring a slightly less egregious form of relic’ing to the table for vintage Tele fans. This Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster is all the right sorts of broken in, with a warm, comfortable U-shaped neck, vintage tall frets, and just the slightest amount of checking, buckle rash, and paint chips. Featuring a Nitrocellulose Vintage Blonde finish, this Alder Mexican-made Telecaster is by far the most genuine take on a vintage Fender I have ever played. The Maple neck and fretboard hold 21 frets, with simple black dot markers, and a synthetic bone nut as well. Classic Tele wiring and controls power the Vintage Single-Coil Hot Tele pickups that Fender has crafted, and they are certainly hot indeed. A 3-saddle vintage bridge holds the strings through the body on one end, as they meet typical Fender Vintage-style tuners on the other. There’s not much to dig into here, Fender just made another awesome vintage spec’d Tele, except so far the only difference I can tell is that this one really feels and sounds 70 years old (and that’s a good thing).
This is straight up the sweetest sounding Telecaster I’ve ever played. Yes, I loved the Professional II Tele I recently reviewed, but this is better at a being a real, classic Tele than that one was. Fender made this just a carbon copy of a ’50s Tele and it works wonderfully for me. The pickups are true to their name, and very warm with high output but not “modern” sounding whatsoever. When I plugged this Road Worn ’50s Tele into my cranked Vox AC15, it came alive and really displayed why Tele’s are the most versatile guitar out there. Obviously it does Jimmy Page stuff, but it was a joy to go from “Whole Lotta Love” to The Clash’s “London Calling” or U2’s “A Sort Of Homecoming”. For me, I want my guitars to cover all the music I love with just a few pedals or volume/tone knob tweaks. I’m so enthusiastic about this beat up MIM Telecaster because it does all of that with ease and sounds so close to a far more expensive American model than I expected. Each pickup option is totally useable, with the neck never getting too muddy and the middle position never sounding too thin. Sure, there are some of those ice pick highs that old Fender’s get (and the Pro II Tele removed), but for my musical tastes, those just work.
Normally, I find the playability to be the one big issue that Mexican-made Fender’s have. The Player Series Mustang 90 needed a few tweaks, and so did the Lead III. Surprisingly enough, this Telecaster did not have any of the issues I had with other 2020 MIM products. This Vintera Road Worn Telecaster even has the same single, low string tree as the others, which has always been a source of playability issues in my eyes. Sure, maybe I just got lucky and they sent me a diamond in the rough, but the Fender Telecaster that I unboxed and reviewed exhibited almost perfect playability, much to my surprise. Fretwork was impeccable and what really won me over was the broken in feeling of this guitar, it was never sticky up or down the neck, and the frets felt like they just fit my hand wonderfully. Likewise, the action was great and the tuning stability was shockingly great as well even with the sharper break angle over the nut due to that low string tree. I don’t know, something just feels magic about this guitar and I’m very impressed with this high end work from Fender’s Mexican plant. Simply put, this feels like an American Fender from long ago and you cannot tell it is MIM in origin.
Finish & Construction: 10
This is arguably the most subjective part of this review, as I’m a huge fan of the lightly relic’d finish job done by Fender. I know relic guitars are in right now, so some may be extremely sick of seeing them, but this is not a heavy relic or highly distressed guitar. Relic job aside, it is really hard to not love a blonde Tele with black pickguard, it’s just such a classic guitar design, especially with the Maple neck. Everything about this Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster reminds me of the things I look for in other guitar brands. Or to better explain, I feel like this guitar is what I would compare all other Telecaster-style guitars to when I’m reviewing them. Rock solid construction, reliable tuning and hardware, everything is here to make this a reliable Telecaster. If I was to keep this guitar, it would be an essential part of my rig without a doubt, and #2 to only my beloved MIM HSS Stratocaster. Make no mistake, I would prefer this to most, if not all, $2000+ guitars I’ve reviewed.
There is two ways to look at the price tag on this Vintera Road Worn ’50s Tele. Some will say it is too much for a Mexican Fender, and others will pick up the guitar, plug it in, see how amazing it is, and then realize it is far closer to a USA-made product than your standard MIM guitar. I fall into that second category, and think that paying a premium for this MIM Fender would prevent me from ever having to shell out more to get a “real” Tele. That’s because this is a “real” Tele, in feel and tone. With guitar prices rising, I’d take this over a new Professional II Telecaster or Ultra Telecaster, because this is the classic, simple electric guitar that I prefer to more modern spec’d options. Those guitars may have better spec sheets, and work better for a more modern player, but I’m a punk rock guy through and through, and this guitar will continue to get high praise from me. This is great value for the price and could be someone’s main guitar for decades and decades.
Good for: Country, Blues Rock, Garage Rock, Pop, Gigging Musicians, Light Relic Fans, Any Telecaster Fan, Funk, Versatility