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Overview and Final Score: 6.0
As I alluded to in my gear reviews primer the other day, the Squier Affinity Series Telecaster is one of the best comparisons for a guitar in the 5- 6 range. That’s not a dig on this guitar either, for around $200 you’re getting a solid, if unspectacular guitar that you can rely on again and again to get that Tele spank and Fender vibe. The Affinity Tele is always one of the best “partscaster” candidates too, as it is cheap enough and good enough to hot rod into the Tele of your dream on a budget. Keep your eyes open for a future project doing just that!
It sounds like a Tele, it looks like a Tele, but it costs less than your average Fender Tele. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record here, but the Affinity Telecaster just really sounds, well, okay. The single coils stay true enough to that classic Telecaster slap, spank, and twang making it a great option for country, blues, or classic rock. The issues that suppress the score are nothing new for guitars in this price range; the bass strings are too dark, the high strings are too bright, the wiring is poor leading to poor volume and tone control spread. None of these issues are necessarily deal breakers, they are just things to consider and potentially plan around. Having an amp or pedals with adjustable EQ makes up somewhat for it, and a noise gate to help minimize the buzzy, single coil hum also helps. But overall, if you want Telecaster tone, this thing will take you from Led Zeppelin I to Brad Paisley.
The neck on the guitar is finished just enough to not be uncomfortable to play, but not finished enough to speed up and down with ease. The frets are also decent, not too sharp but no rounded edges or carefully dressed jumbo frets here. The maple neck is stable however, and the guitar was intonated incredibly well out of the box. Furthermore, I was surprised at how well the guitar stayed in tune, similarly priced Squier’s I’ve played before barely held up through a 30 minutes of bends and barre chords. This guitar however, stayed in tune for at least a couple hours every time I played it at jam sessions or just in my room.
Finish and Construction: 5
I purchased my Affinity Telecaster in black with a white pick guard in honor of one of my heroes, Joe Strummer. The finish on the body itself wasn’t too bad, it felt thick and sturdy, and has hardly chipped since I got it. Unfortunately, the guitar came with a few dings and scratches already in the finish, nothing major, but a common occurrence in this price range. As I said before, the neck finish not too bad but far from the nitro finishes or heavy Poly finishes on Mexican and American models. The construction was solid overall and the guitar feels light, balanced, and ready to hit the stage. The only construction issue is the necks could always use a set up or fret work, even if the guitar is intonated well.
Despite all the flaws, these guitars are a great value because of how reliable they are. The mass production of Squier models under the Fender umbrella also helps cut costs and keep quality high despite low costs. And, one again, these are fantastic options to be upgraded as part of “partscaster” build, wire in new pickups, replace the neck, tuners, or nut, and you’ve got a hell of a guitar for less than $500. Despite being an average instrument, I definitely can advise against buying it, especially for beginners and students.