Guitars: Fender Tele vs alternatives


I’ve been saving for a good long while, and behaved really incredibly well in guitar purchase terms. It’s 15 years since my last - now that’s discipline!

I am wonderfully drawn to a Fender American Vintage 52 Telecaster.

But - it seems there are lots of alternatives. Including, of course, the Fender upsell to “Custom” (which is wrenchingly expensive). But Suhr “Classic T” and so one … any thoughts, gang?

Money is not no object. But I could be tickled gently upwards from the 52. If they throw me a free regular Tele!


Oh my. Guitars are evil in their gravitational pull. I, too, have long harbored a desire for a vintage '52, kee-rist, who wouldn’t? But, are you talking about one of Fender’s “vintage-d” guitars? Where they pour horse piss on the body or whatever to make it look like it’s 60+ years old, or is it the Real Deal Holyfield?

Way back (mid 90’s), I wound up buying a bone-stock Tele and over the years I’ve modded it with Texas Twang pickups and…uh…I think that’s it. I loved it then (as did the lovely Japanese ladies of Okinawa, where I bought it), and it still sounds and plays beautifully. I didn’t buy the vintage 52 back then b/c I didn’t have anywhere near the cash for it, so I can’t offer an opinion on how it sounds or plays.

Did you happen to check ebay for some other good deals on vintage teles?


I don’t know, the last time we went to a used instrument store, they had a Rickenbacker that was trying really hard to make me take it home. Sweet FSM, I think this is the one:

I kinda still want it. I’d have to give up my beat up old Strat, though. I would in a second without a tiny hint of remorse, if I found this and had extra cash to burn:


Oh, when you buy a guitar, the cash does not burn. It transforms.


They have this American Vintage range. Salespeople are telling me it’s nigh on as good as the custom shop stuff - they’re (theoretically, from their viewpoint) chucking away a pile of moolah by telling me this.

And it has all the bad things - chunky neck, sharp pickups, hard to access truss rod, heavy - all the bad things.

But it sounds WONDERFUL.

Edit: it’s NOS - New Old Stock. I can’t go for the fake and costly vintaging, it just don’t ring my bell. This 52 Tele is as if fresh off the line in '52. Amaze.


When I bought my second acoustic guitar, I remember walking into the music store because it was hot outside and I was waiting for the bus. All I had to do was pick up the instrument and start playing it, and it felt like I’d already owned the guitar for years but holy shitballs did it sound better than anything I’d ever owned. So despite being a poor student, I laid down just about everything I had and walked out with it right then.

Which is to say, when you’ve found something that both clicks with your inner Hendrix AND the money is there, it might be time to take the plunge. But if you need another reason (from wikipedia):

Muddy Waters (1913–1983) helped build a bridge between the blues and rock with his "walls of electrified sound," played on his red '57 Telecaster.[50] Until 2010, Fender sold a Muddy Waters Telecaster, one of the guitars in its Signature series.
But I'm an enabler, sooo....

You folk are lucky :confused: my trip to a guitar /music shop tends to go along these lines:

  • walks to the wall of guitars;

  • looks for the left handed guitars;

  • find two, maybe three if I’m lucky;

  • they are all terrible :disappointed:


Make sure you try it out a few times on different days, and preferably using your own amp. If the guitar doesn’t feel right it might be hard to reliably make it sound good.

Its really hard to tell the difference between the fender american vintage 64 and the american vintage 52 on paper, (I’d argue that its hard to tell the difference in a blind sound test.) but if the build quality is the same and both guitars are equally good looking, then there really shouldn’t be too much of a difference in sound, (A tele sounds like a tele and a strat should sound like a strat), but its the feel of the guitar that’s going to make a difference when playing.


Thing is, my every day guitar is and old thick necked acoustic, that has actually developed a great, agile sound over the … 30 years I’ve had it. It’s hard to play - so everything else feels great!

If you listen to this 100 times you’ll hear the difference!


Ultimately this is why I buy different instruments. It’s why I play a fender jazz instead of a precision, because I like the sound.


My first guitar was a tele. I really did not like the neck. My strat’s neck is narrower, but still not as comfortable as a Gibson for me. I dig the Rickenbacker, but realistically it will be a Les Paul or SG that will allow me to let go of the old strat. Good luck in your hunt.


If I had more space and money was less of a concern, I’d want a 52 Telecaster. It’s not highest on my list right now. But it’s pretty high. :slight_smile: *bad influence*

And there is nothing quite like buying exactly what you want…


There are so many choices, that’s how I’ve ended up with 14 guitars.

A '52 reproduction in blonde is about as solid as they get. But you have to put out a few cigarettes on the finish to make it authentic.


I felt that way about a Yamaha acoustic that I found at Best. It was a student model, but still more than I could afford at the time.

(Full disclosure: I was never much of a guitarist)


Yup. The guitarist in my old band has sung this sad song since we were kids. Every trip to Guitar Center yielded the same row of four lefty Strats, one lefty Les Paul, and a lefty P-Bass. Nowadays he just rolls the dice and buys his guitars online, since actually getting into the same zip code to play one before he buys it is simply impractical. That said, he’s quite happy with his Schecter.[quote=“IronEdithKidd, post:11, topic:78553”]
My first guitar was a tele. I really did not like the neck. My strat’s neck is narrower, but still not as comfortable as a Gibson for me.

I owned cheap Mexican/Korean Strats at first, all of which sucked hard until someone gave me a Korean Squier Strat that was somehow intonated exactly the way I liked it. I replaced the bridge single-coil with a George Lynch Screamin’ Demon humbucker that fit into the single-coil space, and for the first time I was playing a guitar that actually sounded good to me. I still have that guitar, and probably always will. I never felt the urge to buy a better one until a year or two ago. I did buy myself a $400 Tele at one point, but for me Teles are for very specific use-cases, and not something I’d play in 90% of the songs I like. I sold it to a buddy of mine, and it promptly got stolen from his garage, regrettably.

I’m a big humbucker fan, and always wanted a nice Gibson. Never could afford an Explorer or proper SG, but I eventually got myself an Epiphone ES-339 Pro. Semi-hollowbody like the old ES-335, but smaller… like the size of a Les Paul, only lighter. And with coil-split pickups for tonal versatility on those rare occasions when I might want a single-coil tone. I love this guitar.

But then I found something I wanted even more. I’m a huge Malcolm Young fan, and I’d dearly love to own a Gretsch Jet Firebird like his. But once I discovered the existence of the G5265 Baritone, I had to have one. (Recognize this baby, Badassers?) I kinda wish the pickups were a wee bit hotter, but man… I love playing this thing.

And then there’s the Tennessee 5-string in my avatar photo. Anybody want it? It’s really pretty unplayable, and suitable only for hanging on the wall, unless you want to start a Cheap Trick tribute band. One of you guys wants to come over to Pasadena, you can have it. Your SO will kill you. :wink:


Thing is, it seems Gibson is taking hits from all sides on quality. They basically have the custom shop stuff for infinite $, or utterly questionable quality in the regular range.

For example - 2015 Les Paul Standards had robo-tuners, and when they stopped working for whatever reason, you could not tune the guitar. They’ve now added a bypass - but dumb dumb!

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