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While Fender may not have invented the solid-body electric guitar, the company has played, by far, the largest role in popularizing the instrument around the world. From the handful of models in the first few catalogues to the dozens of different instruments the company produces today, Fender guitars have always been known for their pure, clear sound and outstanding durability.
The Telecaster is no exception — in fact, this is the model that started it all! Leo Fender’s first mass-produced guitar immediately struck a chord (no pun intended) with players across different genres; the rise of the Tele coincided with the surge of rock and roll and the development of country and other newly electrified styles of the time. The Telecaster’s popularity has continued into the modern era thanks to its versatility, durability, and great sound.
With the Player Series Telecaster, Fender aims to bring the fundamental components of the Telecaster into a package that’s more accessible to players on all different budgets. The end result is a streamlined version that maintains all of what makes the Tele so popular while adding a couple of thoughtful improvements for modern players. Is it one of the best electric guitars under $1,000? Let’s break down the details and see how it stacks up!
The Telecaster’s simple slab body took the guitar world by storm when it was first introduced in the early 1950s. On this model, it’s made of alder — a tonewood Fender loves for its balanced palette and clear, bright response. The single cutaway gives you access to all 22 frets along the neck.
Speaking of the neck, the version on the Player Tele is made from maple and shaped with Fender’s modern “C” profile. It’s not too thick (and a far cry from the “U” necks of the very first vintage Teles!), but there’s enough depth here to satisfy players in a wide variety of genres. Bending and fretting chords are no problem with this instrument.
The Player Series Tele comes outfitted with either a maple or a pau ferro fretboard — the finish color you choose determines which tonewood comes on the fingerboard. Maple is a fast-playing wood, with plenty of top-end sparkle and snap to accentuate the Tele’s chiming trebles. Pau ferro, on the other hand, plays more like rosewood, with a bit of extra depth and emphasis throughout the lower midrange and bass. No matter which wood you pick, the fretboard is shaped to a 9.5″ radius; this is curvy enough to make fretting chords easy but a little flatter than some vintage Fenders, in order to keep you playing fast up and down the neck.
At first glance, the Player Series Tele looks just like almost every other Telecaster model in Fender’s catalogue — there are two single-coil pickups, with the traditional lipstick cover on the neck and the slanted bridge pickup built into the chunky tailpiece. However, these pickups offer their own unique sound that incorporates some vintage aspects while remaining optimized for modern players. In fact, the pickups on this guitar were specifically designed and built for the Player Series models!
Outside of the pickups, simplicity has always been the name of the game with Telecaster electronics setups. The Player Series is no exception. You’ll find a three-way pickup selector switch on the chrome plate below the bridge, along with knurled knobs controlling your master volume and master tone. It’s a streamlined setup that’s extremely intuitive yet provides a wide spectrum of tonal possibilities.
In the hardware department, the Player Series Tele hews closely to traditional Telecaster designs, with one major exception: the bridge. Rather than the three-saddle design found on vintage Telecasters and many other models in Fender’s lineup today, the Player Series uses a set of six block-steel saddles. Some players claim that the extra metal adds a bit of resonance and sustain to your sound, while others simply prefer the classic look of the vintage design. Either way, the Player Series borrows the string-through body design that Teles have used since their incarnation.
A complement of standard Mexican Fender hardware rounds out this axe. You’ll find 22 medium-jumbo frets along the neck, with a synthetic bone nut and a set of six die-cast closed Fender tuners on the headstock. These tuners aren’t locking, so they’ll need periodic adjustments to make sure your instrument stays in tune — but considering the price, they do a pretty good job.
The Player Series Tele looks the part, but can it deliver the iconic Tele sound? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding “yes.” This axe emphasizes clarity with its smooth, bright tonal palette. There’s plenty of spank on offer, but it doesn’t veer into the tinny or shrill territory that many cheap pickups often do.
There’s also a surprising amount of low-end on tap with this guitar, particularly when you switch to the neck pickup. Telecasters aren’t known for being the most bass-heavy guitars, and this is more “tight and controlled” than “booming and heavy,” but it’s still a refreshing alternative to treble-heavy budget instruments.
If you overdrive your amp, the Player Tele responds beautifully; it retains that classic twang while providing a beefier, more muscular distorted sound. It’s perfect for styles like country, blues, classic rock, and indie.
The Player Series Telecaster is an affordable option that’s surprisingly refined. With a price tag that comes in well under $1,000, Fender has managed to pack in an outstanding amount of features without sacrificing build quality. This is a versatile enough instrument to make a great purchase for players in almost any genre.
For more info about the Fender Player Series Telecaster, click here.
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