Squier Affinity Telecaster Deluxe: The Best Cheap Tele Yet?

Fender and Squier’s latest foray into affordable guitars is seemingly another rousing success despite some muddy pickups.

Cost: $279.99 from Fender.com, Amazon.com, and Reverb.com! (some affiliate links)

Overview & Final Score: 7.4 out of 10

Announced earlier this summer, Squier’s Affinity range has been rapidly expanding to include more and more classic models at budget prices. While the Affinity Jazzmaster took the offset world by storm, I was more interested in the double humbucker set up of the Affinity Telecaster Deluxe.

A Poplar body is covered by a gloss polyurethane finish, with Burgundy Mist and Charcoal Frost Metallic featuring Indian Laurel fretboards contrasted by the classic Black finish with a Maple fretboard. The necks are the classic Fender C-shape, with 21 medium jumbo frets and a synthetic bone nut.

Two ceramic humbuckers power this LP-killing Tele, with each pickup assigned its own tone and volume control. The three pickup switch also allows for some wonderful Morello-like stuttering if you shut the volume down on one pickup. Fender and Squier also made this guitar with a string through body construction, which is a nice feature if you plan on modding this into a higher end instrument. You can think of the bridge as your standard Fender hardtail bridge, with six adjustable saddles and a classic chrome finish.

Sound: 6.5

For an Affinity series instrument, these pickups are quite pleasant, if not a bit plain. You know exactly what you’re getting here, a loud humbucker that will only sound as good as you EQ it. I did notice that it sounds considerably better through high end amps and amp sims, compared to my cheaper practice amps. But the Tele Deluxe is a bit muddy overall, especially when playing clean.

It’s not too dissimilar from the Donner Tele copy I recently reviewed, though these pickups certainly have a touch more character than those did. On the other hand, they did come alive with overdrive and gain pedals stacked on top, so you can definitely apply this guitar in a variety of situations and still get quality sounds.

The big advantage here is the tone/volume controls for each pickup, which provides a lot of flexibility for such an affordable guitar. You can dial in some subtle yet interesting mixes of the two pickups when in the middle position. As you might expect, this guitar thrives for loud, rock music and the adjacent genres (punk, metal, pop). You shouldn’t expect such pristine cleans, though the neck pickup does have a good bit of body to it, even if it is a touch too muddy for me.

Playability: 7

The feel of that C-shaped neck was a pleasant surprise for me. It’s thick, but not too thick, sort of in that classic Telecaster way that many players have grown to love through the years. On the back of the neck, the finish is thin and smooth, a nice contrast from the thick polyurethane on the body. I found the fret edges and tuning stability to all be slightly above average and certainly useable without any major tweaks. There was barely any fret buzz, with only a few frets popping up from time to time as troublemakers. Cheaper Teles always have better tuning stability than cheap Strats because of the obvious bridge discrepancy, and this one was no different. However, the string through body does add a bit more of a premium feel to the neck, with plenty of tension and resonance, even when played acoustically.

Finish & Construction: 7

There was a slight issue with how FedEx handled this guitar, in the sake of transparency, but it was clear the massive crack in the finish was not Fender’s fault. So that blemish aside, this is a solidly built instrument! I really like the look and feel of the Affinity Telecaster Deluxe, because it sacrifices some superficial, premium specs for feel, fit, and reliability. The finish is a bit thick, but is offset by how light the body of the guitar feels. It’s not overwhelming in any which way, but it is unmistakably a great candidate for modifications or a pickup swap. It’s another case of an instrument having “great bones”, so that it can grow alongside you. No matter how “cheap” any of the hardware or electronics may feel, they get some points for being very easily replaced.

Value: 9

Squier’s Affinity Telecaster Deluxe scores off the charts here, as it is simply greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not a perfect instrument, but it lacks any sort of flaw that makes it unplayable. It’s fun, accessible, and could easily be tweaked into a gigging monster with a new set of electronics and some upgraded tuners. This gives it a broad range of potential user as well, from beginners on their first guitar to pros who need a backup instrument, gigging instrument, or a DIY project for these cold winter months. While I generally hold the Affinity series guitars to be the “average” score for guitar reviews (5-6 out of 10), this Tele Deluxe is a notch above and a great product to check out in late 2021 or early 2022!

Good for: Rock, Punk, Blues, Les Paul Fans, Budget Telecaster Fans, DIY Mod Projects, Gigging Musicians

Published by Matt Dunn

Guitar and music journalist for Ultimate-Guitar.com and Guitarsforidiots.com as well as a contributor for Guitarniche.com and Stringjoy.com. Reach out to talk about guitars, commission a partscaster, or ask for a review.

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