By Mark Goldenberg
Fender’s recent American Acoustasonic series, which includes Telecaster and Stratocaster models, is known for its smart integration of acoustic and electric sounds. The latest addition to the line, a Jazzmaster iteration, is a sleek, comfortable, stylish, and versatile instrument. Made in California like its siblings, this guitar has the iconic offset body style of its solidbody electric ancestors but is really a different animal altogether—and a true pleasure to explore.
Beautifully Designed and Executed
The American Acoustasonic Jazzmaster is quite a looker, available in five attractive finishes: Arctic White, Natural, Ocean Turquoise, Tobacco Sunburst, and Tungsten. The guitar’s comfy body is made from mahogany, with a Sitka spruce top and a polyester satin matte finish. Clearly designed with high performance in mind, the 25.5-inch scale mahogany neck has a 1.6875-inch GraphTech nut, an ebony fretboard with a 12-inch fretboard radius, and 22 tall, narrow frets. In terms of electronics, the Jazzmaster is outfitted with a new Tim Shaw–designed humbucking pickup (Fender Acoustasonic Shawbucker), paired with a Fishman piezo/internal body sensor electronics system, controlled by a five-way pickup selector switch and master volume and mod knobs.
The review model arrived with a deluxe padded gig bag with large compartments, inside of which there’s a pocket for a set of strings, a removable pouch for picks, capos, pencils, etc., and even a spot for a business card. Case candy includes an owner’s manual, humidifier, truss rod tool and instructions, and a card that directs one to play.fender.com for a 30-day trial course of free guitar lessons.
Our test Jazzmaster was really well put together, with an impeccable fit and finish, a seamless neck-to-body joint, and level frets with very smooth ends. The finish is faultless throughout; the sunburst, fading from a reddish brown at the outer edges to a warm orange in the center, is perfectly applied, and the matte urethane on the neck and body feels smooth and almost unnoticeable. All of the hardware is top notch as well—the toggle switch and control knobs feel solid, and the tuning machines are tight and precise.
A Happy Medium
The Acoustasonic Jazzmaster’s neck shape is reminiscent of the classic 1960s Fender profile, with a moderate C shape that has a gentle taper as it heads toward the body. Electric players will feel right at home here; acoustic players might find it a bit on the narrow side, although it is so comfortable that after a short period of play that won’t be much of a concern.
I was very impressed by the guitar’s setup. The factory .011-gauge strings are a great fit, a happy medium between an electric and acoustic playing feel—although I won’t be doing any whole-step bends on the wrapped G string until I can get back to the gym. Likewise, the offset body is very comfortable to hold. It feels a bit bigger than, say, a Telecaster, and when seated, the player might find that neck seems a hint far to the left, but not enough to cause any worry.
As with the other Acoustasonic guitars, the Jazzmaster has a center hole in its chambered body. The acoustic sound, while fairly quiet compared to a typical steel-string acoustic guitar, has a nice low end and mid resonance to it. Perhaps owing to its larger body, it’s warmer and fuller than that of the Acoustasonic Stratocaster I recently checked out. In any case, I practiced unplugged on the Jazzmaster every morning for a few weeks, and it was certainly loud enough and quite pleasant to play that way.
You can access a wide range of tonalities quite easily on the Jazzmaster, with its relatively simple interface. The mod knob acts as a blender between the two available sounds in each of the five selector positions. Though there are ten discrete sounds available, this knob allows for myriad shadings in mixing the available presets. Put simply, the guitar delivers a stunning range of both acoustic and electric tones.
Here’s a brief rundown of the available sounds: Position 5 (towards the neck) has two voices. A, with the mod knob turned counterclockwise, is a rosewood dreadnought, deep, with a bright top end; B, a mahogany slope shoulder, is warmer, with great clarity for flatpicking. 4A is a mahogany jumbo, terrific for strumming, while 4B is a mahogany small body, which is fairly midrange forward. I got some very cool sounds by blending these two mahogany voices together, and I really liked the response when I fingerpicked with the smaller body voice.
3A is a rosewood auditorium model, the most contemporary-sounding, tighter and brighter than the other voices. 3B adds a body sensor pickup to the auditorium sound, making the guitar’s top available for percussive tapping. I also liked the way it added fullness and presence to the sound when played conventionally.
2A is lo-fi piezo sound, and Fender is not kidding with this designation. It’s a cool, gnarly effect and even gets more so when 2B, with its grit and crunch, is dialed in. Get out your pedalboard—this sound is primed for some creative processing. 1A is the humbucker fat/semi-clean voice, and 1B is the same pickup with overdrive added. Both of these voices are great—warm, clear, and punchy—and they are fantastic going direct, no electric guitar amp necessary.
In fact, I auditioned the Jazzmaster in my studio going straight into a UAD Apollo Quad and found all of the above sounds very natural and inspiring. Even without using an amp simulator, the guitar’s humbucker sounded stellar. I ran through the UAD Fender ’55 Tweed Deluxe simulation and it was awesome, not unlike playing though a classic combo amp.
The Bottom Line
I thoroughly enjoyed bonding with the Fender American Acoustasonic Jazzmaster. It really delivers both as a perfect couch companion for practicing and as a multipurpose tool for the stage or studio. With great versatility, excellent build quality, comfortable playability, and superior sonics, this guitar would be a fantastic addition to anyone’s guitar arsenal.
BODY Mahogany body, modified Jazzmaster shape; solid Sitka spruce top with Stringed Instrument Response System (SIRS) resonator; polyester satin matte finish
NECK 25.5″-scale mahogany bolt-on neck with modern C profile; 22-fret ebony fingerboard with 12″ radius; two-way truss rod; 1-11/16″ GraphTech Tusq nut; sealed-gear tuners; satin urethane finish
ELECTRONICS Fishman undersaddle transducer; Fishman Acoustasonic Enhancer internal body sensor; Fender Acoustasonic Shawbucker pickup; master volume control; “mod knob” voice blender; five-position voice selector; 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 Coated Phosphor Bronze strings (.011–.052); Fender deluxe gig bag
MADE IN USA
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PRICE $1,999 street