Hands-On Review:Fender New Standard Series

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A lot more guitar or bass for your money

By Jimmy Nichols


A lot more guitar or bass for your money

Raise your hand if you don’t want a guitar or bass that plays, looks, and sounds better. Yeah, it’s pretty much a no brainer. So players everywhere—and Fender fans specifically—should be happy with the new, freshly upgraded Standard Series Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazz Bass, and Precision Bass guitars from Fender. From the frets to the pickups, Fender has advanced the quality of the Standard Series. While still hand-built at the Fender factory down in Ensenada, Mexico, they now have a few choice improvements.


Fender has always been about producing a quality instrument for the working Joe and Jane. Way back in the ’50s and ’60s when Leo was cranking out design after inspiring design, his goal was building guitars and basses that were as easy to own as they were to play. And even though today’s Fenders are seen in the hands of music stars on stages around the world, you can usually buy the same model and play it yourself. With these Standard Series upgrades, that’s more true than ever.


Made for players


The addition of medium-jumbo frets gives the Standard Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazz Bass, and Precision Bass a more modern feel and makes them easier to play. Made from traditional, smooth nickel-silver, these are the same frets installed in American Series Fenders. All the Standard series axes also now receive a healthy layer of noise-killing paint shielding in the body cavities. Combined with shielding tape applied to the pickguards and body cavity covers, it will ensure performances are a lot quieter. The Standard Series Telecaster now comes with souped up pickups for a hotter signal and a bolder voice more suited to modern music styles.


The Fender Stratocaster has received a significant new piece of equipment for 2006: a redesigned tremolo block. This thicker bridge block increases sustain and tone by providing a more stable point of contact between the guitar and the strings. And finally, every Standard Series Fender will now include a gig bag, so you won’t be forced to immediately shell out more cash for a case or carry your axe around in that cardboard box it shipped in.


A sweet new Strat


When I got the new Standard Series Strat out of its nicely padded gig bag to check it out, the highly polished, lustrous Chrome Red finish really wowed me. Along with Electron Blue, it is one of the expanded color offerings for all Standard Series Fenders. Both colors feature deeper, richer tones based on the classic Fender red and blue finish offerings. When I picked the Strat up it was instantly comfortable and familiar feeling. The fast shape of the neck, combined with the new medium-jumbo frets, made it practically effortless to noodle my way up and down the neck and unleash a barrage of power chords.


Even without the guitar plugged in, I could immediately hear the difference in sound the bigger bridge block makes, but it’s hard to describe exactly. After a few other guitarists and I played it and an old model Standard Strat for a while, we reached the consensus it didn’t necessarily make a huge improvement in any one area, but it felt like there was more of everything. More attack, more sustain, more resonance, and more tone with a slightly thicker quality. The best part is that when you do plug in, all those qualities are magnified and it makes you want to play more just because it sounds so kickin’. It makes the tremolo feel a lot more stable, too. When I sat down in front of my computer to record a few riffs, the lack of hum made it obvious the new shielding paint really works.


All in all, the changes made the Strat easier to play and improved the sound while cutting down on noise. It’s simply a better-playing, better-sounding Stratocaster than the old Standard Strat. It’s a great set of upgrades for current guitar players and all the guitarists who will pick up a Standard Series Strat in the future. It’s still the classic Strat, just with a few choice enhancements. And I’m sure the improvements carry out just as well in the other Standard Series instruments, so aspiring Telecaster, J Bass, and P Bass players will be just as pleased. With these upgrades, the Fender is raising the standards for electric guitars and basses everywhere.