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In a similar fashion to the older Stratacoustic, Fender use their groovy new Sonoran SCE – part of their California Series – to redefine what a steel-string electro-acoustic guitar can be. One of the more affordable on our chart of the best sub-$500 acoustics, the Sonoran SCE instantly shows off the great looks Fender are known for – but what else is on offer?
Whether it’s the cool color scheme or the iconic Stratocaster headstock, the Sonoran SCE couldn’t be confused for anything other than a Fender! It just oozes cool vintage vibes, with classic Fender finishes including Surf Green, Candy Apple Red, and Lake Placid Blue, among others. But it’s also typically Fender in terms of playability, as this acoustic guitar genuinely plays like an electric – fast and smooth.
The glossy maple neck features a comfortable slim soft C shape, with a rosewood fretboard and 20 frets, which are easy to get to thanks to the deep cutaway of the body. The dreadnought body itself is made with solid spruce on the top, with laminated mahogany back and sides, which is a great ‘best of both worlds’ compromise. This is all covered in a colorful glossy finish, with the headstock matching the body color. The body comes together with protective multi-ply binding, while decoration includes a cool checkerboard rosette and vintage-inspired pickguard.
This electro-acoustic is fitted with the Fishman Isys III pickup and preamp system, which is a common addition on guitars in this price range, for good reason – it’s a great system! It features a simple control panel including volume, 3-band EQ, and a built-in digital tuner.
Electronics aside, the Sonoran SCE includes a set of sealed vintage-style tuners with plastic tuning keys – these are simple stock tuners, but do a pretty good job. There’s also a rosewood bridge with compensated saddle, a bone nut, reinforced strap buttons, and a set of D’Addario strings. There is no case included, but as this guitar edges on the more affordable side of the sub-$500 category, it’s not really a criticism.
Acoustically the Sonoran SCE sounds great – relatively full and rich, with a good balance in tone thanks to the contrasting spruce and mahogany build. Through the Fishman system, the tone retains quite an organic sound, and the versatile controls allow for a good amount of sound shaping. Hard to fault for the price.
While Fender aren’t famous for their acoustic guitars, the Sonoran SCE is a model that could change that. It won’t be for everyone, but the super smooth playability out of the box, the rich sound, and the all-round awesome retro looks, make it a solid choice for all abilities.