Will Fender’s new, shiny take on the Tele live up the high standards we expect in 2020?
Check out my “60 Second Guitar Review” for Ultimate-Guitar.com
Overview & Final Score: 9.1/10
The Fender Professional II series has long been speculated as an upcoming announcement ever since the American Professional line was stripped from the interweb. Sweeping changes were coming, with new Pine bodies, replacing Ash, and some catchy new finishes. The “Dark Knight” finish I was sent for review was by far my favorite, and nicely contrasted the Maple neck and Rosewood fretboard. Fender’s Pro II guitar features 22 narrow-tall frets, a Deep-C neck, alongside a sculpted neck heel. Even better, the neck has rolled edges for premium playability and comfort. Staggered Fender tuners and a vintage 3-saddle bridge are pretty much the only familiar features you’ll find here. Upgraded pickups, Fender’s new V Mod II Tele pickups, add a bit of sweetness with less harsh highs. Another new tweak, the tone control is push-push for parallel/series switching in that middle position with both pickups on. For such a timeless and well known guitar, there are some interesting changes in this Professional II line!
The Pro II Telecaster’s calling card is the sonic possibilities and sound quality. It’s made to be a gigging warrior, providing modern and vintage sounds to suit whomever picks up this wonderful Tele. Personally, I don’t think there is any sound change with the switch in tone woods, with all the classic Telecaster tones pouring out of this guitar. Snappy chords and arpeggios in the bridge, smooth country twang in the neck, it’s all there. Instead, it’s nice to highlight what isn’t there, which is some of the ice pick highs of Fender bridge single coils. They definitely warmed up the new V Mod II pickups, giving them a bit more of full tone while still sounding distinctly Fender. I was a big fan of the series/parallel push-push pot because they really thickened up the two pickups in series, which provided a much more humbucker-like tone than you’ll find in any other Fender Tele. Overall, it’s incredibly diverse and all the changes they made to the classic Telecaster sounds are for the better. With the Fender Telecaster having had a million words written about it, let’s just dive into the sounds I did get out of this killer new guitar.
While the sounds that come out of this guitar are probably my favorite feature, the upgraded playability is a close second. The rolled edges make a very noticeable difference compared to other Tele’s I had just played. For me, Tele’s always have thicker necks than Strats, which has me favor them for more rhythm work or garage rock-style playing. On the other hand, I always think of the Strat as perfect for more technical work like John Mayer or John Frusciante, but this Tele firmly felt like it could fill both needs. The sculpted neck heel is subtle, but does help get a few more high frets into an easier position. Action and tuning stability were just great out of the box, even without locking tuners. This Fender Professional II guitar showed up from across the country fully in tune, just madness. When you put it all together, there were pretty much no red flags, making this a supreme option for live musicians.
Finish & Construction: 9
Really the only controversial feature is the Pine wood bodies on this new flagship series from Fender. Pine is simply not as durable or strong a wood as Ash, however Ash is getting harder to responsibly source. And to be fair, the first Telecasters designed by Leo Fender were made of Pine. So these guitars may take a bit more of a beating, as in get an extra scratch or dent, but really shouldn’t have too many serious concerns about build quality. The finish on the other hand was killer, so many of the new colors in the Fender Professional II line are worth the price of admission. “Dark Knight” was and still is my favorite, looking like a reverse burst with the darker blue moving into the body. Likewise, the finish work was perfectly done with no marks or errors. Hardware, quality control, everything was up to the standard I would expect from American Fender guitars.
The more guitars I review, the more I realize that a lot of these American Fender guitars aren’t priced all that high. $1500 sure isn’t affordable, but it’s honestly pretty fair for a guitar of this quality, especially with more and more guitars in this quality range costing $2000+ in today’s market. Gibson, Ibanez, and pretty much all the boutique companies that are trending right now will set you back more than this Fender for a similar product. Fender has tweaked the Tele to be uniquely modern, especially in the playability department. I’m going with my gut that this is a lot of guitar for the money, and will squarely fit into almost any player’s rig. New finishes, upgraded pickups, there are a lot of cool changes Fender made and all they did was raise the price by about $50? Yeah, no price raise would have been nice, but guitar prices are skyrocketing at the moment so context is everything. Overall, if all the Pro II line guitars are like this Tele, then Fender’s new flagship line is a big winner in my book.
Good for: Country, Classic Rock, Gigging Musicians, Pop, Versatile Players, R&B, Pretty Much Anything!