GearMusic

gear up: the fender acoustasonic player telecaster

January 31, 2022

When Fender dropped arguably one of the most innovative guitar designs in recent memory, the American Acoustasonic, people were divided. Was it an acoustic for electric players or an electric for acoustic players? And while some weren’t sold on it, some of its harshest criticism wasn’t the design or the sound, but not being able to wrap their heads around spending $2000 for a hybrid guitar. So why not get two pretty good guitars for that price? Despite the outcry, the American Acoustasonic sold out. Emboldened by their success, Fender released Stratocaster and Jazzmaster models. Still, many expressed that they’d be more interested if it were cheaper. Fender took notice and released a more affordable version late last year, the Acoustasonic Player Telecaster.

If you’re not familiar with Fender’s American Acoustasonic line, they are an innovative design that looks to bring the sound of electric and various acoustic guitars together in one body. Not to be confused with an acoustic-electric or a hollow body electric, the Acoustaonic puts ten different body shapes and tonewood combinations at your fingertips. It features a lightweight body, the innovative Patent-pending Stringed Instrument Resonance System (SIRS) that allows for an acoustic sound to come from such a thin line body, and three Fishman pickup systems: Fishman Under-Saddle Transducer that acts as its Piezo; Fishman Acoustasonic Enhancer, which allows for percussion; Fender Acoustasonic Noiseless™ magnetic pickup which gives it an electric sound. All for $1999, although new models have come up with different woods that have seen the price go above $3000.

The new, more affordable Player Acoustasonic goes for a more refined version than its Jack of all trades cousin without sacrificing much. It maintains the same excellent build and specs. But, construction is Mexico, and it has lost a few sounds, a Fishman pickup, and some color options. Is $800 enough of a discount, or are the changes too many?

The Guitar
When you hold the Acoustasonic Player Telecaster, you will have difficulty distinguishing the American from the Player. They both have resonant mahogany bodies and Spruce tops. The frets, neck shape, radius, and TUSQ nut are the same. The only difference material-wise is the Player fretboard is Rosewood and the American is Ebony.

But that isn’t where the $800 discount comes from or there would be a lot of angry former Fender fans. So, the first significant change was manufacturing. Like many in Fender’s Player line, the Acoustasonic Player Telecaster is made in Mexico. Many Fender fans will tell you it has been cranking out some guitars that are coming exceedingly close to the American-made ones. Also, made in Mexico brings some discounts in terms of an hourly wage and the process. So while the quality is terrific, Mexican factories tend to automate more of the methods where their American counterparts have more actual hands on the guitar. But the difference in quality has been negligible as Fender has opened a factory in Ensanada to crank out the Acoustasonic Player series.

Another discounted area was the electronics. The American had a base of 10 sounds which you could achieve by utilizing the 5-way switch and then A/B the tone nob. You could then draw more sounds out by blending the sounds and even adding percussive elements through the Fishman Acoustic Enhancer pickup. The Player goes for a more streamlined approach with the guitarist starting with a base of 6 sounds; hence the 5-way switch goes down to only three, and you A/B the tone knob for the other sounds and can still blend. Unfortunately, the Acoustic Enhancer pickup was removed, so achieving those percussive tones isn’t as easy. The American also had a rechargeable lithium battery, and the Player goes with a 9V. I don’t see it as a downgrade. Anyone who has had to mess with their phone charger will tell you, the last thing you want to do is be fiddling with a charger when you need to charge something. And the Lithium gave you 20 hours of playing compared to the 9V gives you 22 hrs per Fender.

The Sounds
The Player Acoustasonic’s slimmed-down offerings might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I welcome it. It gives you more than enough to work with, and it does them all well. With the A-side of the acoustic channel, you get a mahogany, small body guitar sound, ala OOO or parlor guitar. Perfect for finger-picking and lead stuff. The B-side gives you a Rosewood Dreadnaught, which opens up cowboy chords, strumming, and that lovely warm bass. Thanks to the SIRS, the Player Acoustasonic pretty much nails the parlor and does a decent job with the dreadnought despite the slim body. If I had to be nit-picky, I’d say it might not be as “resonate” on the low end as a true dreadnought, but that would be the slim body. The Middle – which Fender has dubbed their Lo-Fi channel, you get that Piezo sound that most guitarists who own or heard an acoustic-electric guitar. The Lo-Fi Crunch setting is like the Piezo driven almost to break up. Kind of a Kings of Leon inspired, country/rock tone. Last is the electric channel powered by the magnetic noiseless Tele pickup. And it gives you Telecaster. It might not give you that exact one you’re hearing in your head, but it gives you a good Tele sound. And the Tele driven tone is just that. Tele with a bit of drive on it. Thanks to Youtube, we could fudge the percussive sounds by using the Piezo and tapping a bit harder. It won’t give you that Babyface ‘When Will I See You Again’ thump, but it’s workable. All in all, a good grouping of sounds that are all useful to play and experiment.

Also, note that The Player Acoustasonic has a pre-amp as it emulates the acoustic and driven sounds, so it is at its best with a D/I, PA, or acoustic amp, especially with the Lo-Fi channels. I think the electric channels allow you to get away with an electric amp, but something with a clean channel is what I’d recommend.

Perspective
The biggest question is, where does the Acoustasonic Player Telecaster live in my guitar life? I don’t have a vast music showroom and often, being a guitar player is like Genie in Alladin “infinite guitar options, itty bitty living space.” So when I get a guitar, it has to be something I love, an upgrade, or unique. For example, I have a Yamaha HSS Strat. I have fallen in lust with other HSS strats, but I still have that one. I recently bought a Fender Aerodyne SSS. Why? It’s different. Now I have my eyes on a Player Plus HSS, and when/if they get a color I like, the Yamaha is being sold. So when it comes to the Acoustsonic, what box does it check? To me, the Acoustasonic series doesn’t replace an electric or an acoustic. It does its thing and gives you options along the way. It’s an interesting tool to add to the arsenal. It’s like having a strat with different configurations, but this gives you even more flexibility. Especially as a singer-songwriter, you have just sounds at your fingertips that you don’t have to jump up and switch guitars if you even have that option. Especially for a generation of new players coming into the marketplace that have been raised having one device that does several things, This is the guitar equivalent.

The Verdict
Is it an acoustic for electric players, or is it an electric for acoustic players? It’s not either of those. The Acoustasonic Player Telecaster is a good-sounding guitar that gives you a toolkit to spark your inspiration. It’s a guitar for the modern player who shoegazes and Lo-Fi’s, streams, and edits on their cellphone while answering a call and reading their email on their watch, while they tell Alexa to change the channel and turn off the lights. Multi-function makes things easier and easier sometimes gives your brain the space to get inspiration. That’s not to say that it dismisses the older generation of guitarists that champion sound and playability. The Player Acoustasonic Telecaster does all of these. It is a multi-generational guitar that can speak to everyone, depending on what they’re looking for. It shines in looping, mixing, recording, writing, and just playing for yourself. I enjoy that it’s a little thinner, so it isn’t as loud as acoustics when playing inside. I think it would work at an intimate gig. I don’t believe it shines if you’re in a band or certain situations. I think you don’t get that low rumble of a dreadnought. To my ear, the Lo-Fi just sounds like a Piezo. I am not a fan of the Piezo Crush channel. Acoustic strings make it a little harder to play it like a genuine Telecaster, bends, and such. I think $1199 it’s still pricey, but I also think it’s worth the money if you have it. I think it can be a worthwhile investment if it inspires you. I like the sounds, and it plays beautifully. The model I played felt great right out of the box. It was a good experience, worth the cost of admission.

SPECS
Price: $1199
Body: Hollow mahogany body with Stika spruce top and SIRS soundport
Body Finish: Satin Matte
Color: Butterscotch Blonde, Brushed Black, Shadow Burst, Arctic White
Neck: Bolt-on Mahogany
Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
Neck Shape: Modern Deep C
Neck Finish: Satin Urethane
Radius: 12″
Frets: 22, Narrow-tall
Scale Length: 25.5″
Nut Material: TUSQ
Bridge: Modern Asymmetrical
Tuners: Fender Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered
Pickups: Under-Saddle Piezo/N4 Magnetic
Controls: Master Volume, “Blend” Knob, 3-Way Switch

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