Introducing the Fender Ultra series

Now, this is probably gonna sound like an advertorial but it’s not: I’m just really excited about these guitars and I can’t hide how psyched I am.

So.

Fender has been on a big overhaul binge lately, re-examining their guitar lines from top to bottom, leading to things like the Vintera series (which replaces the old Standards) and the American Original line. A little while back the American Deluxe series was reimagined as the Elite but now that line has been replaced by what I can only describe after a media preview participated in last week as the ultimate iteration of high-end Fender guitars for the modern player. 

If you’ve ever thought to yourself ‘I like Fenders but I wish they had the kind of high-end playability features of, say, a Charvel or a Suhr,’ well, that’s what the American Deluxe and then the Elite series have been and you’ve been totally sleeping on it! But the Ultra series takes this to a whole new level, re-examining and redesigning everything about the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, P Bass and Jazz Bass to meet the standards of pro players. The neck joints are super-comfortable with unprecedented upper fret access; the necks have a new shape – a ‘Modern D’ which is the same depth as Fender’s classic C shape but with higher, squarer shoulders which ultimately make it feel smaller and easier to get your thumb around for those Hendrix chords; there’s a new satin neck finish formulation that will have you gliding all over the fretboard with ease; redesigned fifth-generation noiseless pickups including a hotter pair of single coils just for the HSS model Stratocaster; gorgeous new finishes… it just goes on and on. 

The press release is below which will take you through all the details, but what really excites me about the Ultra line – apart from the blue HSS Strat and the Mocha Burst Tele – is the overhaul to the Jazzmaster. New noiseless pickups and that super-fast neck mean we’re going to hear sounds and techniques coming out of a Jazzmaster that we’ve never heard before. Traditional Jazzmaster players are going to find the playing experience opened right up for them, while players who might not have considered a Jazzmaster in the past because of their playability are now going to discover tones and textures that they haven’t used before, without the limitations a more traditional Jazzmaster might place on their playing. 

So here are my favourites from each of the model/finish combos, followed by the press release.

Stratocaster HSS in Cobra Blue
Naturally there’s a SSS Stratocaster as well but this is pretty dang hot, especially when you see how the finish catches the light. The image at the top of this story will give you more of an idea of how Cobra Blue really looks.

Telecaster in Mocha Burst
Again you’re not really gonna get a full appreciation of this colour until you see it reacting to an environment, but once you do you’ll fall in love.

Jazzmaster in Ultraburst
All the Jazzmasters look great in their respective colours but Ultraburst is like the perfect Fender three-colour sunburst.

Precision Bass in Aged Natural
Fender has added a slight tint to this finish so it looks like a natural bass that’s done some livin’, minus any kind of relic treatment.

Jazz Bass in Texas Tea
Another colour that looks different depending on the lighting and viewing angle. From a distance it might look black but once you move it around you’re gonna see all sorts of interesting shades coming at you.

Jazz Bass V in Plasma Red Burst
I mean… just look at it! Isn’t that just one of the finest-lookin’ Jazz Basses you’ve ever seen?

FENDER® LAUNCHES NEW AMERICAN ULTRA SERIES INTRODUCING STATE-OF-THE-ART ENGINEERING, ELECTRIC GUITAR DESIGN OF THE FUTURE

American Ultra Delivers Industry Firsts: The Only “Modern D” Neck For Guitar and Bass, New Body Contours and Ultra Noiseless™ Vintage and Hot Pickups For Enhanced Playability

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (November 5, 2019) — Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) today announced the launch of the American Ultra Series, the most-advanced modern guitar from Fender. An evolution of American Elite – Fender’s premier electric series that launched in January 2016 – the Ultra Series boasts all-new modern features, state-of-the-art craftsmanship and nuanced design. Luxurious, sleek and cutting-edge, this series sets a new industry standard for precision, performance and feel with Ultra Noiseless pickups and Fender’s fastest-playing necks. Created for a wide range of today’s highly-skilled modern artists, session and working guitarists, this series also offers a new body design and contours – a pivotal moment in Fender history, decades since the last significant alteration to the iconic Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster body shapes.

Since 1946, Fender has embraced artist and player feedback as the core driver of its process, leading to decades of subtle yet crucial innovations. These thoughtful changes in design and technology can’t always be seen by the naked eye, but are meaningful to artists who crave products that evolve with the times. As younger players create new sounds, meld existing genres and push the limits of what a guitar can do, Fender products also continue to evolve.

“The American Ultra Series is our most advanced series of guitars and basses for discerning players who demand the ultimate playing experience in precision, performance and tone,” said Justin Norvell, EVP of Product at Fender. “Blending state-of-the-art engineering and nuanced design to provide a high-performance experience for today’s player, American Ultra is the next chapter in Fender’s legacy of cutting-edge innovation. American Ultra has truly been decades in the making and is a result of our tireless commitment to meet the needs of today’s working and touring guitar players looking for a modern feel and tone.”

Inspired by Fender’s never-ending pursuit to equip players with the best tools to create, record and perform music, American Ultra is Fender’s most advanced series of instruments – providing the ultimate in precision, performance and tone. The series answers the call from discerning players looking for modern advancements to help them create at the highest level. One of these elevated features is the all-new “Modern D” neck with a compound-radius fingerboard, smooth American Ultra satin back finish and extremely rolled edges. The result is a neck that’s slim and fast – yet ergonomic and comfortable – for blazing solos and easy comping without sacrificing tone and resonance. Other key features include:

New body contours: For next level comfort and playability, Fender redesigned the body contours of its most iconic models for the first time in decades. New back body curves offer hours of gigging comfort while a super-sculpted neck heel gives players unparalleled access to the upper register of the fingerboard, resulting in better accessibility and comfort. 

Noiseless pickups: American Ultra instruments feature two types of innovative new noiseless pickups: Ultra Noiseless™ Vintage pickups deliver authentic Fender single-coil sound – without hum. Ultra Noiseless™ Hot pickups offer modern performance and classic tone so you can launch your amp into overdrive. 

HiMass™ bridge: With lots of metal, lots of mass and a cool modern look, the HiMass bridge on American Ultra basses delivers serious sustain, precise intonation and rock-solid tuning stability. 

Double Tap Humbucker: The American Ultra HSS Strat features a brand-new Double Tap Humbucker with an overwound coil to ensure matched volume between pickups in coil split mode.

Redesigned preamp with active/passive switching: A redesigned preamp on American Ultra basses features three bands of active boost/cut for sweeter highs, focused mids and lots more usable bass. For a more traditional tone, the redesigned pickups can also be used in passive mode. 

New colours: American Ultra instruments are available in a variety of colours, including: Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Texas Tea, Arctic Pearl, Aged Natural, Plasma Red Burst and Ultraburst.

Advanced electronics: All American Ultra guitars feature a treble-bleed circuit to preserve high-end response at any volume – plus advanced wiring options that activate different high-performance features depending on the model.

Models include (Australian recommended retail prices): 

American Ultra Stratocaster® – $3,899.00

American Ultra Stratocaster® HSS – $3,899.00

American Ultra Telecaster® – $3,899.00

American Ultra Precision Bass® – $3,899.00

American Ultra Jazzmaster® – $4,099.00

American Ultra Jazz Bass® – $4,099.00

American Ultra Jazz Bass® V – $4,299.00

For detailed specs, additional information on new Fender products or to find a retail partner near you, visit www.Fender.com. Join the conversation on social media by following @Fender.

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ABOUT FENDER MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS CORPORATION:

Since 1946, Fender has revolutionized music and culture as one of the world’s leading musical instrument manufacturers, marketers and distributors. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) – whose portfolio of brands includes Fender®, Squier®, Gretsch® guitars, Jackson®, EVH® and Charvel® – follows a player-centric approach to crafting the highest-quality instruments and digital experiences across genres. Since 2015, Fender’s digital arm has introduced a new ecosystem of products and interactive experiences to accompany players at every stage of their musical journey. This includes innovative apps and learning platforms designed to complement Fender guitars, amplifiers, effects pedals, accessories and pro-audio gear, and inspire players through an immersive musical experience. FMIC is dedicated to unlocking the power of musical expression for all players, from beginners to history-making legends.

Fender American Design Experience Goes Online

I Heart GuitarOne of the absolute coolest things about my visit to Fender a few years ago was checking out the Fender American Design Experience, a section of the Fender Visitor Center in Corona, California where you could go in and select the parts to build your own personalised guitar or bass. It’s not quite Custom Shop but certainly more personal than a regular production guitar. And now Fender has taken this experience online, allowing you to configure your own Strat, Telecaster, Precision Bass or Jazz Bass from a wide range of options, then have the guitar built and sent out to you all for a pretty dang affordable price. You can make your own design from scratch or use various artist-designed models as your jumping-off point. I used the Configurator to whip up a 65-influenced Strat with Texas Special pickups and a left-handed neck. Oh and I also made a little tribute to the Frank Zappa/Jimi Hendrix Strat in its ‘pre-restored’ configuration. And a tribute to David Gilmour’s #0001 Stratocaster. And a Richie Kotzen-esque Strat. And a couple of SRV-ish ones (one with a rosewood fretboard, one with maple). And a red, humbucker-loaded vintage/modern hybrid something-or-other. And a sunburst-and-gold Telecaster. And on and on. Here they are, followed by the press release.

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Read More …

MUSIKMESSE 2012: Fender upgrades American Standard line

Fender has just bumped up the quality of its already awesome American Standard series, with new features including Fender Custom Shop pickups, aged plastic parts and even a new player-friendly comfort carve on the back of the American Standard Telecaster. Check out the new American Standard Stratocaster with Custom Shop Fat 50’s single coils in the pic above. Nice. Check out the American Standard guitars here and basses here.

Andertons are offering killer deals on outgoing pre-2012 American Standards, if you’d like to pick up a bargain!

Fender Select Series. Including the coolest Telecaster ever

ARGH! Look at that Telecaster third from the left. It’s… it’s perfect! Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a bigger pic of this beauty.
In unrelated news, I’m selling a kidney. Going rate is whatever the street price is for a Fender Select Telecaster.
PRESS RELEASE

INTRODUCING FENDER® SELECT SERIES GUITAR AND BASS MODELS

Finely crafted U.S.-made models represent a new pinnacle for Fender production instruments

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.  (Jan. 3, 2012) — Fender is very proud to introduce its new top-of-the-production-line best: the Fender Select series. Designed as “Select instruments for select individuals,” the five guitars and two basses in the series are true players’ instruments that put more than six decades of Fender experience and expertise on outstandingly appointed display and bring a wealth of high-end features and elegant design options to discerning musicians everywhere. With choice tone woods, figured tops, strikingly beautiful finishes, figured and quartersawn maple necks with compound-radius fretboards, specially voiced Fender Select pickups that deliver masterful tone, and other first-rate features, the U.S.-made Select Series presents Fender’s finest selection. Read More …

NAMM 2010: 50th Anniversary Jazz Bass

So who’s a sucker for a good Jazz Bass? I know I am. The only thing cooler than a Jazz Bass is a Jazz Bass with the big ‘ol bridge cover and block inlays. Well thanks a lot, Fender: you just made saving up for my next trip to the US so much more difficult by announcing the 50th Anniversary Jazz bass.

From Fender.com:

The Fender Jazz Bass guitar was first delivered to the world in 1960. If the Precision Bass® was a muscle car, the new Jazz bass was a sports car, and it proved incredibly popular with bassists of all styles worldwide.

Although remarkably unchanged since its introduction half a century ago, the Jazz Bass did see a very gradual succession of subtle design refinements over the course of the past five decades. Accordingly, our limited edition 50th anniversary Jazz Bass is a truly distinctive instrument in that it boasts design touches from several periods in Jazz Bass history, including ’60s-era lacquer finish, headstock logo, chrome bridge and pickup covers; ’70s-era thumb rest and bridge pickup positioning; and modern-era high-mass bridge and graphite neck support rods.

Comes in a deluxe black hardshell case containing cable, strap, polishing cloth and collectible 50th Anniversary Jazz Bass brochure.

REVIEW: DiMarzio Area J bass pickup set


DiMarzio’s Area J set is designed to sound as close to original J bass pickups as possible, but in a humbucking configuration to remove any background noise. Nobody likes excessive noise at the best of times but this is especially important today where bass distortion and biamped rigs seem so much more common than any other time I can think of. Who wants to plug into a multi-amp rig of doom, spend hours dialling in punchy clean low end and a growly, distorted treble, only to have the whole thing overwhelmed with 60-cycle hum? No-one, that’s who.

I installed the Area J set in my Fernandes Jazz Bass copy. It’s a great instrument with a very playable neck and an authentic natural tone, but the stock pickups were a little lacking in character. They were also noisy as all get-out despite extensive and very high quality shielding throughout the electronics and pickup cavities. See?

As you can hear from that sound clip (with both pickups at full volume), the bass didn’t exactly sound awesome with the original pickups… especially because there was a ground hum that needed to be repaired. It was there when I got the bass and I hadn’t had a chance to fix it yet. But if you can listen past that problem, you’ll hear a bass that has definite Jazz Bass character, but is a little one dimensional.

Installing the Area J set was extremely easy. After unsoldering each original pickup and lifting them out, it was simply a matter of sitting the Area Js (the back unit is slightly longer than the front one) on top of the pickup shielding plates, screwing them down, soldering the red wire of each pickup to the centre tag of its respective volume pot, soldering the green and gray wires to the back of the pot, then joining the black and white wires together and shielding them off. While I was in there, I diagnosed the cause of the ground hum – a broken wire from the tone control to the output jack. The pickup set came with a little instruction leaflet (also available for download on the DiMarzio website) which, in addition to a simple text outline of how to remove the old pickups and install the new ones, includes a couple of alternate wiring methods which take further advantage of the pickups’ humbucking nature. I just went for the standard Jazz Bass wiring. I left plenty of wire for future experiments with push-pull pots and the like, and plugged in.

The bridge pickup is bright yet warm. By itself the sound is clear but not sharp – especially suited to that classic Geddy Lee sound, where you want to jump out from a mix and leave some low-end real estate for the drummer and rhythm guitar to occupy. This pickup seems to respond especially well to playing with the fingers, especially when you get a little bit of nail involved for some clarity and definition. The neck unit sounds fuller and rounder than the bridge, which makes it useful for John Paul Jones-style fingerpicked lines around the 7th-12th fret region. The lows are not overwhelming, and the high end is smooth and clear.

Here’s a Rush-sounding clip using the bridge pickup:

Here you’ll hear the bridge pickup panned hard right, the neck pickup hard left, and both pickups (blended 100% neck, 70% bridge) in the middle:

Here’s the neck pickup, both as a main bass part and as a lead instrument (with unhealthy amounts of compression and a smattering of delay to play up a vintage vibe):

And finally here’s a big ol’ distorted demo – a little bit Chickenfoot, a little bit Audioslave:

After much messing about I found my ideal Jazz Bass tone with the front pickup at 100% volume and the rear one backed off to about 70%. This gave all the fullness of the front one but with a little more definition, especially when using a pick. I also really like the sound of this particular ratio when run through heavy distortion with the amp’s treble wound back a bit for that growly Billy Sheehan kind of tone. Billy’s tone is a lot more complex than this, of course, thanks to the special pickup layout of his DiMarzio-loaded Yamaha Attitude basses and the particulars of his amp rig, but the Area J set can get you somewhere in the general area thanks to its clear tone and lack of hum. You won’t get those hi-fi bass-and-treble-boosted slap tones without further processing, but you’ll get great natural jazz, soul, R&B, blues, classic rock and metal sounds with ease.

LINK: DiMarzio.com

Thanks to DiMarzio for providing this pickup set for review. Thanks also to my 3-year-old son who wanted to help me, so I talked him through typing the colours of the pickup wires.

NEW GEAR DAY: DiMarzio Area J bass pickups

Just got a new set of pickups for the Fernandes Jazz Bass I wrote about a while ago. The stock pickups are already pretty cool but they’re a bit noisy which won’t do when I start piling on the gain for some of the rowdier stuff I write. The Area J pickups are designed to sound like vintage J Bass pickups without the hum. Awesome.

Here’s what DiMarzio says:

Been waiting for a bass pickup that sounds like a vintage J Bass® pickup and cancels hum? Your wait is over. Bass pickups are usually described with aggressive terms such as “amazing punch” and “thundering lows”, but that’s not the sound of vintage J Bass® pickups. They’re all about warmth, sustain, and a clean, singing tone. The Area J™ captures all of those qualities. It is not loud, but it has a very focussed attack, so it has power where it counts – at the center of the tone. The lows are very clear and clean, and the highs are both smooth and open-sounding. We’ve reduced the magnet-pull, and included 4-conductor wiring to allow both series and parallel humbucking modes.

I’m going to record some clips of the bass before and after the new pickup installation so you can hear the difference, so keep an eye out for that.

CLICK HERE to buy the DiMarzio DP249 Area J Neck and Bridge Pickup Set from Musician’s Friend for $109.95.

10% Off Value Brands at Music123.com (coupon: VALUEME, exp: 8/31)

NEW GEAR DAY: Fernandes Jazz Bass

Check it out! I recently picked this up when a friend asked me to do a little repair on it before selling it on eBay. After about 20 seconds of playing the bass I determined two things:

1) it was just a simple grounding problem, and 
2) I wanted it!
So I looked up the average used price online and made an offer. Then Mrs I Heart Guitar offered to make it a combined anniversary/late Valentine’s Day present, once again cementing the fact that I’m the luckiest dude alive.

The bass is made in Japan and apart from the headstock it seems like quite an accurate Jazz Bass copy. There’s something about this bass that is very playable, and it has that great warm, round sound that got me addicted to Jazz Basses when I first heard John Paul Jones. I’d still love to get a G&L L-2500 5-string some day, and the review I posted on that model the other day was a reflection of my G&L G.A.S attack, but this Jazz Bass sounds perfect for a lot of the stuff I’m working on right now.

CLICK HERE to see Fernandes Jazz Basses on eBay.