Fender American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster Review: Closet Classic

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Vintage guitars are costly as a result of most individuals who play guitar grew up listening to them, seeing them on TV, and dreaming of proudly owning an actual one sometime. This reality has bolstered many manufacturers into the twenty first century, however few as a lot as California’s Fender, whose iconic Stratocaster is probably going the picture you could have in your head whenever you assume “electric guitar.”

The early ’50s and ’60s fashions of the Strat had been inexpensive instruments utilized by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and David Gilmour, however they’ve all however disappeared from the leathery fingers of common musicians and into the tender mitts of collectors.

Fret not—we now have our greatest choice ever to really feel identical to our heroes of the mid-century: Fender’s revamped American Vintage II assortment. With a guitar like the brand new, off-white 1961 American Vintage II Stratocaster simply launched this fall, I can shut my eyes and really feel what Hendrix felt at recording studios within the early Nineteen Sixties (albeit right-handed). There’s vintage-spec paint, neck, frets, pickups, and {hardware}; the brand new (previous) mannequin sings with the identical depth however with out the identical ability from my fingers. It appears like hopping again to the previous each time I plug in my cable.

Vintage Specs

Photograph: Fender

There’s a purpose why obsessed purists will solely play the classic stuff, and that’s why Fender has recharged its classic reissue twice prior to now decade, now designed to span extra eras, extra devices, and to be extra year-specific (relatively than decade-specific) in its choices. These adjustments don’t simply broaden the road, they assist with interval accuracy—not like among the imprecise homages we’ve seen from Fender and others prior to now, with fashionable specs and classic specs blended in to provide the better of each worlds.

Unlike previous guitars, which borrow one of the best of a number of years, the American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster is a devoted copy of the guitars that rolled off the road in that 12 months (with higher high quality management). You get primarily precisely what Hendrix did if he purchased it from a store in New York City that very same 12 months: a pleasant brown hard-shell case, the off-white guitar with mint inexperienced pickguard, and a tremolo arm. Nerds will know that Hendrix’s pickguard would have been inexperienced due to the colour bleed-through on the three-ply white-black-white guard. This pickguard, made with higher plastic, is simply coloured to match the classic look.

You do, nonetheless, get precise brown clay dot inlays on a stunning rosewood slab fretboard, and the guitar is completed in era-correct nitrocellulose lacquer, so it’ll break in over time, like a baseball glove. The lacquer is not fairly as skinny because the stuff used on the unique guitars to my eyes, however that is probably as a result of the unique materials is simply too poisonous to be authorized. In any case, it has not one of the plastic, perfect-forever end from Fender’s different fashions that purists say don’t really feel or vibrate the identical of their fingers or on their bellies.

Another vital issue is the 7.25-inch fretboard radius, which is rounder than the fret aspect of most fashionable guitars. I discover that this makes it simpler to play chords on the Vintage II Strat, however more durable to play quick notes and bends up excessive. It additionally offers the neck a springier, faster really feel whenever you bend strings, no less than to my fingers.

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