By now, you’ve probably seen the new Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster splashed across pages of websites and guitar magazines such as this one. It’s an instrument that provokes some people, while inspiring curiosity in others. The questions seem to mount as you scratch the surface. I initially wondered about the Acoustasonic’s function and necessity, but as I spent time with the guitar, my bewilderment turned to sureness that Fender has developed something that’s not just new or innovative for the sake of it, but useful for any guitarist in search of a range of acoustic and electric tones in a highly playable instrument.
Of course, the Acoustasonic is not for everyone. No guitar is. Though nearly the same size as a standard solidbody Telecaster—and seemingly similar to Taylor’s T5 series electric-acoustic hollowbody hybrids—in both form and function the Acoustasonic is an acoustic guitar with an advanced electronics package that integrates convincing acoustic and electric tones into a familiar silhouette. The shape will be a roadblock for some acoustic guitarists, but the Acoustasonic—which is a name pinched from one of Fender’s acoustic amp series—has numerous important differences that make it more appealing than similar-looking guitars that Fender has offered.
Pick a note and the top—heck the entire guitar—vibrates much like you’d want from any acoustic, though its natural acoustic output is predictably modest. The body is routed from a single slab of mahogany that’s much more than chambered—it’s hollowed except for a few mounting points for electronics and a lip around the circumference that holds the Lutz spruce top. The Acoustasonic’s solid top is braced and responds acoustically to your picking attack. For a more acoustic feel and vibe, the guitar comes with a mahogany neck, lightly finished so the sensation is more like touching wood than polyurethane. Still, Fender’s classic playability is there and should make this instrument appeal to more than just guitarists weaned on electrics. I’d wager that the Acoustasonic’s ease of use and comfort would appeal to guitarists with small hands, or older players who might find a full-size acoustic body more challenging to use. But even with all of these acoustic touches, you won’t likely see one of these guitars at a bluegrass festival or old-time picking session any time soon.
This Acoustasonic’s soul is found in a network of three pickup systems—a Fishman undersaddle transducer, Fishman Acoustasonic Enhancer, and Fender Acoustasonic Noiseless magnetic pickup—and a processor they call the Acoustic Engine. The output jack delivers acoustic and electric sounds to an amp (acoustic, electric, or both if used with an A/B switch), recording interface, or PA system. Fender co-designed the Acoustic Engine with Fishman, and it uses technology similar to Fishman’s Aura audio imaging. It’s manipulated by three controls: a dedicated volume, a “mod” knob in place of the customary tone, and a five-position switch.
The switch selects between “voice pairs,” which are located at the extremes of the mod knob’s range and can be blended to your ear’s delight. By twisting the mod knob at each switch setting, you can select sounds including a Sitka/rosewood dreadnought or alpine spruce/rosewood auditorium (position 5), Engelmann spruce/maple parlor or Sitka/mahogany dreadnought (position 4), Sitka/Brazilian dread or the Sitka/Brazilian sound blended with a body pickup (position 3), Sitka/mahogany dread or Sitka/mahogany dread blended with electric pickup (position 2), and electric clean and electric “fat” (position 1). All of the flattop acoustic sounds delivered convincingly acoustic tones to the PAs and acoustic and electric amps I played through.
Shifting my thinking to what sounded best for the music led me to have more fun playing the Acoustasonic than the other way around. Your results may vary, but I kept returning to the mahogany dread sound, which was especially sweet and robust, with a heady dynamic richness. (Fender must agree, because it’s the one sound that appears twice in the voice pairs.) Low-end runs on the Brazilian dread setting had the kind of cavernous bottom end that you’d hope for, while the parlor setting’s upper-mids and highs gave it a more intimate feel.
Even with all of the good sounds available from the high-tech electronics, the entire Acoustasonic package is united by the guitar’s genuine acoustic attributes, which gave the playing experience an authentic feel missing from other similar instruments. On the electric side of things, the standard Tele sound was excellent, and the voice pair with the dreadnought sound became another go-to. The solo Tele pickup with the fat sound was the only one that felt processed, so I kept it at the clean setting and instead used an overdrive pedal for heft.
The player who ends up favoring the Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster is anybody’s guess, but it’s likely to be a musician who places a priority on functional, accessible tools. It’s certainly going to find an audience among those who need acoustic and electric tones at the ready and value the Acoustasonic’s looks and high level of comfort. The guitar’s plug-and-play functionality made it great for harnessing the creative spark in the home studio, and having one instrument that can do a whole host of sounds on a gig, whether in the club or at church, is an appealing proposition.
Body Mahogany body, modified Telecaster shape; Lutz spruce top with transverse bracing and “Stringed Instrument Response” resonator; b-w-b top binding and rosette; satin urethane finish
Neck 25.5″-scale mahogany bolt-on neck with “modern deep C” profile and walnut center stripe; 22-fret ebony fingerboard with 12″ radius; two-way truss rod; 1-11/16″-wide GraphTech Tusq nut; sealed-gear tuners, chrome; black anodized aluminum neck plate; satin urethane finish
Electronics Fishman undersaddle transducer, Fishman Acoustasonic Enhancer internal body sensor, Fender Noiseless Telecaster-style single-coil pickup; volume; “mod knob” voice blender; 5-position voice selector; ebony knobs; 1/4″ output jack with USB Mini-A input
Other Ebony bridge with compensated Tusq saddle and GraphTech Tusq bridge pins; Fender Dura-Tone 860CL strings (.011–.052 gauge); Fender padded gig bag; available in five finishes
Made In USA
Price $1,999 (street)
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This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.