One of the most anticipated guitar lines of 2020, did my pick of the Paranormal series meet expectations?
Overview & Final Score: 7.6
It feels like forever ago that I wrote this article about how excited I was for the Paranormal Squier’s to hit the market. Finally, they were released and I was able to order one from Fender.com, opting for the Graphitic Grey Super-Sonic after watching Nick Reinhart rock one for years on YouTube. This reverse offset guitar body also sports a reverse headstock in the classic, large Strat design. A super fast, narrow C-shaped neck features a surprisingly smooth and glossy finish with vintage-style Fender tuners. A poplar body sits below the Maple neck, with two Squier Atomic Humbucking pickups with an interesting wiring diagram. Instead of a master tone and volume, the two knobs are volume pots for each pickup. This lets you blend them in different ways in the middle position of the 3-way switch or even do the Tom Morello stutter effect when rolling off one of the two positions. The vintage synchronize tremolo seems to have a surprisingly large block as well, with a classic Fender Strat wiggle stick.
This is my first encounter with Squier’s Atomic Humbuckers but I’m actually pretty impressed! Squier’s Super-Sonic boasts a surprisingly well above average sound, with hot, high output pickups. It reminds me a little bit of the Fender Lead III, with a glassy, crunchy tone out of the bridge position. The neck gets muddy pretty quickly, but if you mess around with the treble on an overdrive pedal you can cancel a lot of it out. It’s actually great that there is no tone knob because rolling it off would make these pickups super muddy and thick.
The bridge is meant for alternative rock sounds through and through. Playing Nirvana, Harvey Danger, and early Foo Fighters is both easy and a complete joy on this thing. Personally, I even had real fun using it for punk stuff from The Clash, Iggy Pop, and similar bands. It isn’t the most crystal clear pickup, but it takes drive really well and pushed my Vox into some nice crunch tones. Overall, it’s one of those guitars that is just really fun to plug in and play, even if it lacks some premium features. Plus, the two volume knobs makes the middle position so versatile, there is a lot to like here for $350!
I knew there had to be one catch. Squier’s Paranormal Super-Sonic will just not stay in tune. I haven’t even tried the whammy bar because this thing is slipping out of tune so quick without it. It’s a real shame too because the neck feels way more Fender than Squier. I think slapping another spring in the bridge and changing strings will cure it, but it loses a big chunk of points for that instability and it is just not gig ready as is. The gloss finish on the neck with the narrow radius makes it such a player though, really with some work this guitar would be a world tour ready. Fret work was also surprisingly well done, and this guitar really feels far more like a nice MIM Fender than any Squier I grew up playing. Certainly in the vein of the really nice Classic Vibe Squier guitars.
Finish & Construction: 8
Aside from the tuning issues, everything on this guitar seems airtight. The finish on the body is gorgeous and relatively spotless, and I’m absolutely in love with the way they built this neck. The pickups are well adjusted and the pots actually feel way more sensitive than expected. It really is a guitar that feels more suited for the $500-$700 range in all around build quality, I’m really happy with it. The quirky looks and design certainly don’t hurt either and this checks so many boxes for me when it comes to a budget guitar. This would have been a near perfect designed guitar if I didn’t have to address the tuning stability.
Squier’s Super-Sonic gets even more praise when it comes to value. It’s a cool looking, unique, eye catching guitar that fits in almost any budget. It can definitely be a great second or third guitar for a more experienced player, especially with a price that makes “impulse buy” territory. To be someone’s main guitar, especially a beginner’s, it needs some TLC to address the tuning from either yourself or pro. But it sounds great, looks great, and feels like a far more expensive guitar which is 8/10ths of the fight for me. While I really love the guitar as is, I’m also super interested in what could be done to modify this guitar. Higher quality pickups? Locking tuners? There are some really attractive options here. Overall the Paranormal Super-Sonic is an inspiring guitar that makes me pick it up every time I walk by.
Good for: Garage Rock, ’90s Alternative Rock, Grunge, Players Looking For Something Different, Vintage Oddball Fender Fans