Fender Elite – the next step in the evolution of the guitar
Fender guitars are synonymous with popular music. Maintaining their position as one of the most revered and widely used brands in music, evolving their equipment to suit the modern musician whilst keeping one foot firmly in their deep rooted history, Fender refuse to be ignored.
The new Fender Elite series marks yet another step in their evolution, offering up an ergonomically pleasing range with superior noiseless pickups as well as a host of other great additions. We spoke to Nick Sharples, Marketing Manager at Fender, about the new Fender Elite range revealed at NAMM 2016.
Could you please give a brief introduction to the new Fender Elite series?
The Fender American Elite series is brand new for 2016 and it replaces the American Deluxe series.
This is the pinnacle of performance in the Fender range – it is as high as you can get without going up to the custom shop. There are some really interesting new features, and most of the really cool new features are common to both the Strat and the Tele.
What are the key new features on the Elite Stratocaster?
On the Stratocaster, the most obvious thing is the much bigger cut away asymmetrical heel, quite a departure for Fender, still 4 bolt, but obviously shaved right off which gives us much easier access to the higher frets. The deluxe had a little bit taken away but this is a much bolder scoop.
Can you tell us a little about the new neck design?
It retains the compound radius neck and it starts at 9.5 and ends at 12. So the neck fattens out for faster playing down towards the pick-ups and thins for more chord work towards the headstock. What’s different with these is that the back of the neck changes shape. You start with a comfortable C which is a standard Strat, but as you go further down the neck flattens and becomes a D shape, so you’ve got a comfier thing to hold on for the chords, but as you travel up, its flatter which makes it easier to hit the notes.
The string posts on the tuning pegs have been updated too, right?
Correct. Towards the headstock, we’ve done away with the tall string posts because it has locking tuners. The only point of the high post is so you can wind the string round and round, but of course on these you don’t need to. So by reducing the length of the post it increases the angle of the strings and gives better sustain and tone.
What about the pickups and pots?
The Stratocaster retains the S1 switching from the American Deluxe series, and this takes you from series to parallel which gives you a whole series of tones. The pots are actually rubberised as well – perfect for those who want to tweak the volume whilst playing, because it is less likely to slip.
But probably the main feature is the pickups.These are 4th generation noiseless pickups. Fender have had 3 attempts at this in the past and they’ve gotten incrementally better up to the N3’s on the American Deluxe – these we think are a significant step forward. It’s a true single coil sound – it’s got all of that zing but without that hum that you can get on the older instruments.
What about the Telecaster?
The Elite Telecaster pretty much shares all the features I’ve just mentioned, same compound radius neck, same C-D. And again the 4th generation noiseless pickups make an appearance.
But I think on the Tele’s, the binding is quite an eye catching feature, for example the one with the black body and white binding is something we’ve not done in the past, only on the FSR’s I believe. My personal favourite is the butterscotch with the black binding.
There’s also a Thinline Telecaster which shares all the features I’ve previously mentioned, but with one really important difference. The newly designed bridge which is called the “suspension bridge”. Because this is chambered it has a centre block inside, and within the wood there’s a slot that the bridge sits in, it’s held by the tension of the string.
I suppose the main point is that there’s no screws, which would normally create focal points for the transfer of the vibrations. Because there’s no screws and because all the metal touches the wood the transfer of the vibrations to the wood and the air inside the chamber is improved. That’s the cool tweak on the Thinline.
Are you targeting certain types of guitarists with the new neck?
Not particularly, it’s the best of both worlds so all guitarists will be able to get something out of it. Certainly these features will appeal more to people who do solo up high, but it will also aid playing chords. It’s a modern professional instrument for the modern player. If people want the true vintage replica we have those too, but this is the latest evolution of the Strat and the Tele, the most modern versions so far.
How do the Elite guitars fit into the Fender history?
The Stratocaster and the Telecaster have been around since the 1950s, and they’ve been continually improved, but we still sell Tele’s and Strats that are pretty much identical to how they were built in those days. It’s very hard to think of another industry where you can buy something off the shelf that hasn’t changed since 1954. It’s really unique, you can’t buy cars that are the same!
What else has Fender got to offer for 2016?
Fender has something for everyone, we’re best known for the Strat and the Tele but in the Fender range now we have three platforms – Standard, Vintage and Deluxe.
Standard is the Strat. When Eric Clapton used to walk into a shop 30 years ago and say “Fender Strat please”, the question was “Do you want black, white or red?”, the standard is what that has become – the icon. The modern classic are the standard Strats. If you want more modern features, technology and innovation you go to the Deluxe, or if you prefer the good old days and you want it beaten up and you want it exactly like it was in 1959 or 63 you go the Vintage route.
Do you see one model becoming more popular than the others?
It evolves over time. I think Teles are having a good time at the moment, but I think the Stratocasters are the best-selling overall. So we’re quite lucky to have those. And of course the Fender Jazz and Precision basses, two of the most iconic basses of all time. The new line of those are scheduled for an April release with similar features.
Thanks to Nick at Fender for his time. To view the new Fender American Elite Series visit the Dawsons Website.
Lee Glynn is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Liverpool, England. After moving to the UK from Perth, Australia, Lee enjoyed a successful career as guitarist in Liverpool based rock band Sound of Guns. After releasing two albums, a myriad of EPs / singles and touring extensively around the world for 6 years including stops at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival, as well as the coveted Reading & Leeds Festivals, Lee decided it was a time for a change of scenery.